A curious thing about the MSI MEGA PC is that you can use it as a digital AM/FM receiver right after you buy it. An optical drive added, you can listen to Audio CDs and MP3s. By pressing the Hi-Fi button at the top left of the front panel or on the remote control you can switch this mode on even without installing the CPU, memory and hard disk drive.
This is possible thanks to the modified power-supply unit that caters power to the hungry devices: radio-tuner, AC’97 codec, optical drive, LED display/remote control unit, and the special-purpose BlueBird VL+ chip from Silicon Emotions that is responsible for controlling the system and realizing the functionality of this mode.
This controller is specifically designed for decoding audio files of MP3/WMA/ACC formats without a help from the central processor and for accessing the ATAPI/IDE channel bypassing the chipset’s South Bridge. Besides that, it can be used as a controller of a card-reader. The BlueBird VL+ can autonomously decode media-files from the optical or hard drives or memory cards, but the MEGA 865 only employs it for working with MP3 CDs. This may be due to the limitation imposed on the HDD file system (FAT16/32 only), or because the engineers were unwilling to make the system logics even more sophisticated.
Curiously, when you press the PC-mode activation button without having the CPU and memory installed, the system hangs up and you can only revive it by disconnecting power and connecting it again. This trick is described in the documentation, though.
The remote control is untypical for a barebone; it is light and thin, working on a small 3v lithium battery. It seems to be overloaded with buttons at first sight, and many of them work only with the TV-tuner, supplied optionally. The control worked rather badly, but maybe we were just unlucky to get a defective or damaged sample.
The frequencies of AM/FM stations can be recorded into the receiver’s memory (6 slots) like in any mini-system. They can be then called up either from the front panel or from the remote control. There are four presets of the graphics equalizer (Normal, Pop, Classic and Jazz) and SRS stereo enhancement available.
During Audio CD or MP3 playback, you can enable shuffle, track replay or disc replay. All these settings can be selected either from the remote control or from the front panel: the volume control is then used as an input device.
The MEGA 865’s LED display pleases the eye with its bright and rich colors. Unfortunately, it is segmented and thus limited in its capabilities. For example, it doesn’t display the name of the MP3 composition (from the ID3 tag), and doesn’t even show you the name of the reproduced file. Overall, in spite of the big size, the display only provides a bare minimum of information. They didn’t even realize that primitive bar spectrum analyzer, widespread in music boxes. On the other hand, contrary to the first versions of the MEGA PC, this display works in the PC mode, too. It can be made to show the info about the media-file playback as well as about the temperatures and fan speeds, although this ability is not documented (MSI PC Alert must be installed). The display cannot be turned off.