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AOpen MiniPC review: AOpen MiniPC

The clone that comes closest to the nearly flawless Mac Mini, AOpen's MiniPC Duo MP945-V would be easier to recommend if it hit the same price point as Apple's pocket-size box.

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a semi-regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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The silver-and-blue case is about the size and shape of a stack of CD jewel cases, measuring just 6.5 inches square and 2.3 inches high. The top is slightly bowed, not flat like the Mac Mini, and the front panel has a power button/indicator light and an eject button for the slot-fed DVD burner. It's not as elegant as the Mini but not garish by any means.

7.0

AOpen MiniPC

The Good

Not much bigger than a Mac Mini; speedy Core Duo CPU; multiple video output options.

The Bad

More expensive than the Mac Mini; BYOKMM (bring your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor); only two USB ports; no remote control; not much in the way of bundled software.

The Bottom Line

The clone that comes closest to the nearly flawless Mac Mini, AOpen's MiniPC Duo MP945-V would be easier to recommend if it hit the same price point as Apple's pocket-size box.
Innovations such as water cooling and quad-SLI have turned gaming PCs into space-hogging giants. But some Media Center PCs have taken the opposite route, shrinking to sublaptop proportions. The positively petite has won the affections of many and inspired copycat systems such as the Blueado m5e and the AOpen MiniPC Duo MP945-V. AOpen has offered Mac Mini clones before, but this is the first one to harness the power of Intel's Core Duo processor, giving it specs very similar to Apple's little white box. They're so similar, in fact, that it makes it easy to compare prices; curiously, AOpen's $899 clone actually costs about $100 more than the similarly configured Mac Mini. But if you're looking for a Windows Media Center experience in a Mac-Mini-size box and would rather avoid the complexity and expense involved in setting up a dual-boot system using Boot Camp, which would require purchasing a Windows XP license, the AOpen MiniPC Duo is about as close as you can possibly get.

Besides a standard DVI connection on the back (the system includes a DVI-to-VGA adapter), you'll also find what AOpen calls a Multi-TV output, which is a dongle connection with S-Video-, composite-video, and component-video outs. Three audio jacks provide standard mic-in, line-in, and line-out connections, with one jack doubling as an S/PDIF out.

With only two USB 2.0 jacks on the rear panel and no PS/2 connections, once you plug in a USB mouse and keyboard, you'll be out of room for peripherals (except for a single rear FireWire jack). While plugging a USB hub into such a tiny system sort of undermines the whole aesthetic, it's the only way you'll be able to add components such as a USB TV tuner.

Thanks to its 1.67GHz Intel Core Duo T2300 CPU, the same dual-core processor as the Mac Mini Core Duo, the AOpen MiniPC Duo MP945-V manages to turn in impressive scores for an ultra-small-form-factor PC. It scored 6 percent faster than both the Mac Mini and the similarly small Blueado m5e, which has a 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760, on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 application benchmarks. That's close enough to be almost statistically insignificant, but it is technically faster than the Mac Mini, a point sure to irk Mac fans everywhere. With similar benchmark scores, the AOpen's size advantage gives it an extra edge against the otherwise excellent Blueado system.

While the MiniPC Duo is easy to pick up and take with you, you'll need a few accessories to complete the experience. The system doesn't include a monitor or speakers, or even a mouse and keyboard. Bundled software is also slim, limited to a few media apps such as PowerDVD. Thanks to the included DVI-to-VGA-and-DVI adapter, you can power two monitors at once, and the system includes a Wi-Fi antenna that screws into the rear panel. We would have liked to see a Media Center remote at least, if not a wireless mouse and keyboard set.

Warranty coverage varies because AOpen sells to resellers and wholesalers instead of directly to the public, but the company includes a professional-looking, detailed 50-page instruction manual that covers the hardware's main features, and the AOpen Web site offers downloads of manuals and drivers.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

AOpen MiniPC Duo MP945-V
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.67GHz Intel Core Duo T2300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated Intel 945G graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Fujitsu MHV2080BH 80GB Serial ATA 5,400rpm

Apple Mac Mini Core Duo
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 64MB shared memory; Seagate ST98823AS 80GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm

Blueado m5e Media Center
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; 200GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm

Polywell MiniBox2 939NP
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+; Nvidia Nforce 430 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB integrated Nvidia GeForce 6150; two WDC WD2500KS-00MJB0 250GB 7,200rpm SATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce 4 RAID class controller (RAID 0)

Shuttle XPC G5 1100
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 (PCIe); WDC WD200JS-22MHB0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

7.0

AOpen MiniPC

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 8Support 5
laptop
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