The TS mini looks not unlike modern nettops but it couldn't be made too small with its two 3.5-inch HDD bays. Its dimensions are 9.2 x 20.2 x 24.3 centimeters (WxDxH) and it is meant to stand upright so that its ventilation system took the cool air from below and drove it through the hard disks, past the chipset and CPU heatsinks and out through the two 50x15mm fans at the top. You can try to lay it down, but you have to devise new feet and make sure the temperature is normal then.
The external surfaces are all made from plastic. The sides are all black and glossy while the top panel is silvery and has a vent grid. The bottom panel is a fine metallic mesh. The rubber feet keep the TS mini steady on any surface.
This server has but only one button which turns it on. You can find it on the top panel. At the bottom of the front panel you can see two-color LEDs that report the status of the server, two HDDs, and LAN.
External devices, power and LAN are all connected at the back. The back panel offers six USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a power connector. There is also a hidden Reset button here.
Interestingly, the TS mini even has a VGA port but it's hidden behind the I/O shield. It must have been implemented to comply with Microsoft's Windows Home Server requirements.
We like the exterior design of the TS mini, yet its glossy surfaces may prove to be rather unpractical. Its dimensions are also larger than those of dual-disk ARM/PPC-based models. That’s because the TS mini has to have large heatsinks on the chipset and CPU.
The TS mini server is based on the Atom platform including an N280 processor, a 945+ICH7 chipset, and 1 gigabyte of DDR2 SDRAM. The memory is installed as a SO-DIMM, so you can increase its amount if necessary. There is an extra chip for eSATA ports, Marvell 88SE6121. The network interface is based on a PCIe chip from Realtek.
Interestingly, the TS mini can be transformed into a regular computer if necessary as there is a VGA port of the chipset-integrated graphics core at its back panel below a plastic sticker. This computer would only lack an audio controller, but you can connect an external sound card via USB.
The system is cooled by two fans with automatic speed adjustment. The CPU and chipset are equipped with rather large aluminum heatsinks. The TS mini is not very quiet and can hardly suit a bedroom.
The exterior plastic panels conceal a robust metallic chassis. To replace or add a hard disk you have to take off one of the black panels, undo three screws and extract the HDD bay.
The single inconveniency is that you have to use a flat rather than cross-point screwdriver. HDDs are secured in their bays by means of a lock and thumbscrews.