Micro PC M-Series

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  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • Small and quiet
  • equipped with a TV-out port.

Cons

  • No internal expansion
  • poor 3D graphics performance.

The Micro PC puts a new twist on the PC: it's small, quiet and not beige. It's aimed at people who want to use email, browse the Web and do low-level 'office' tasks, but don't require the power of a full-blown desktop system.

This neat little package delivers the core functionality of a PC without the bulk and noise associated with a traditional desktop system. The 15.7cm by 14.6cm by 4.5cm system unit contains a fully functional Pentium III or Celeron-based PC, with a 24X CD-ROM drive, a TV-out port, a 56Kbit/s modem and an Ethernet network connection. We were supplied with a 866MHz Pentium III version with 128MB of RAM, but CPUs up to 1GHz and RAM up to 256MB are supported. The machine uses notebook-style construction to pack this into a box which, although unlikely to win any design awards, would still look at home next to a cable or satellite TV decoder.

The Micro PC's notebook heritage is evident in the SODIMM memory slot and slimline removable drive bay, which could be fitted with a DVD-ROM drive instead of the 24X CD-ROM drive if required. It also has an external power supply. There is a small fan in the system unit, but noise levels are well below the average desktop PC with its two or three fans.

The system's TV-out port allows you to use your TV instead of a monitor, although you'll need to get the correct cable for your TV's AV inputs. You'll also have to connect it to your stereo or AV decoder if you are planning to use it to view movies. There's an infrared port at the front of the unit, which will allow you to use a third-party remote control unit or infrared keyboard, should you choose to buy either.

As you'd expect with a compact unit, there are no internal expansion slots. If the Micro PC doesn't do what you want it to, USB is your only real expansion option. The single SODIMM slot also limits the memory capacity, and means you'll have to remove the existing 128MB module to fit a larger one.

Two USB ports at the rear of the unit complement the parallel and serial ports. Most of the connectors are on the rear panel or towards the back of the side panels, with the exception of the Ethernet port. This is quite far forward on the left-hand side, and if you use a network -- for a broadband Internet connection, for instance -- the cable will be clearly visible.

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Don't expect ground-breaking performance from this PC, as it's simply not designed to be used for demanding tasks. In particular, the integrated graphics chipset delivers fairly low performance and has no dedicated video RAM -- instead, it uses a configurable amount of system memory. This means that the Micro PC is an unsuitable platform for playing 3D games.

The unobtrusive Micro PC is well suited to use in the home, where it can be employed to play DVDs, do email and browse the Web. Just don't expect it to replace the PlayStation.

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