There's no doubt that computer mini-systems have become very popular during
the last year. Yeah, giant computers are no longer the head of the show. Today
I'm going to take a look at the barebone system called the MSI MEGA 651 X48 PC
which looks most like an audio system at first glance. The main attraction of
the MEGA 651 PC is that it's allowing normal music and MP3-coded CD/DVDs to be
played without having to start the PC. There's also an independent AM/FM tuner.
|CPU - Intel
Pentium 4 / Celeron / Socket 478 / FSB 533/400MHz (800MHz is not
North bridge SiS 651 / South bridge SiS 962, Interconnect SiS MuTIOL (1GB/s)
|Memory - two
184-pin DIMM sockets, maximum of 2GB of DDR333/266/200 SDRAM
- 1x PCI Slot 32-bit/33MHz, 2X/4X AGP (1.5V only)
|USB - four
USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2x IEEE1394 (Integrated Firewire SiS 1394 Controller)
- MDC module (Actiontec MDC AC'97 Modem v2122A)
- Integrated Realtek ALC650 AC'97 Codec (6-channel audio, front, rear,
and center output, mic and line in inputs)
|On-board VGA -
Integrated SiS 651
|LAN - 10/100
Fast Ethernet via RealTek RTL8101L
|Legacy Ports -
1x PS/2 mouse, 1x PS/2 keyboard, 1x parallel port , 1x serial port
|Storage I/O -
floppy disk, 2 channels ATA/133
Function - 6-in-1 Flash Card Reader (CFI/CFII/MD, SMC, SD/MMC, MS)
MSI TV Mega TV-Out Card
MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo Drive (Writing Speed 48x, Re-writing Speed: 24x,
Read Speed 48x (16x DVD), Average Access Time 90ms, Buffer 2MB, Media:
99min/870MB, 90min/800MB, 80min/700MB, and lower)
Function - Playback for MP3, Audio CD, AM/FM Radio Tuner Remote
|Power Supply -
202(W) x 320(D) x 151(H) mm
Dimension - 279(W) x 435(D) x 360(H) mm
Based on the SiS 651 chipset (with peak bandwidth of 2.7GB/s), MEGA 651 PC
offers support of Intel Pentium 4 processors with 400/533MHz FSB, flexible
memory support: from PC100 SDRAM to PC2700 (DDR333 SDRAM) - despite that chipset
supports three modules with a total capacity of 3GB at the most, only two DDR
slots are soldered up, AGP 2.0 (AGP 4x) interface and an integrated video (64MB
of memory can be allocated to the chip as video RAM through the BIOS).There's
even built-in 56k modem, ethernet adapted and 6-in-1 Flash Card Reader. The
specifications of the MEGA 651 PC are pretty good, and the only thing that I see
it lacking is that it supports only Socket 478 processors with FSB 400/533MHz.
It means that the best CPU which can be used with the barebone is Pentium
2.8GHz. Another my complaint is that SiS's 962 doesn't have native support for
Serial ATA devices. I usually don't prefer ATA devices, but thinner cables could
be more useful since the barebone is small and there's not much space inside.
The MEGA 651 PC ships in a large black box, so you don't need to
worry about stuff bouncing around in transport. Inside that package you will
find the barebone itself /202(W) x 320(D) x 151(H) mm/, an extra P4 heatsink
fan, a power cable, an IR remote control ( battery), an antenna, some
accessories (screws and two faceplates for using either a floppy or second hard
drive instead of the card reader), a driver and software CD (Power DVD and Nero)
and an instruction booklet. The MEGA 651 PC is a cutely styled silver-colored
case. The front is made from silver plastic with orange painted decoration,
there's large LCD display and stealthed optical drive. The model I tested has
black text and graphics on orange background while some pictures in the manual
show it the other way around. The top of the front panel contains a hi-fi-like
power-switch, control knob and eject/stop, forward, backward, play/pause
buttons, which allow to control the built-in FM radio and CD/MP3 player without
booting the PC.
The bottom of the front panel (the "PC" section) features PC
power swith, a reset button, a 6-in-1 memory card reader, and an incredible
assortment of ports including (an optical SPDIF in, Mic-in, Head-phone, two
USB1.1/2.0 ports, a 6 pin IEEE1394 (Firewire) port and a smaller 4 pin IEEE1394
(Firewire) port. MSI has decided to hide these connectors under cover, however
plugging in a device into these connectors will negate the benefits of the
stealth panel. At the back panel, there are ports and connectors for extra
devices to be attached; 1 PCI slot, 1 AGP slot, PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse,
VGA port, 1 Serial Port, 1 Parallel, 2 USB ports, LAN port (RJ45), modem port,
optical SPDIF out, Speak out, Line-in, Mic-in, and radio-antena connector.
Unfortunately, there's no TV out. So, if you had planned to kit the MEGA 651 PC
out with just the basics and connect to your TV and watch DivX movies then you
will probably pretty disappointed.
For the testing, I've added what an average person might practically add to
this unit to complete their system: Intel Pentium 4 2,8GHz 512k 533MHz, RAM DIMM
512MB DDR PC400 (PC3200) Kingston CL2 and HDD Western Digital Caviar XL WD800JB-
80GB 7200rpm (8MB cache). The panels fastened with three screws can be easily
removed. The MEGA 651 PC inside is the most tight PC layout I've ever seen.
First off, you will notice the 200W power supply which is mounted at the back of
the case and takes up most of the case width. Behind the two memory slots (up to
2GB) are three distinct bays stacked one above the other. The first one is for
supplied CD-RW/DVD-ROM, the second is for HDD and the third contains 6-in-1
memory card (or for a TV tuner). Fortunately, it wasn't much difficult to
install the hard drive, CPU (with cooler provided by MSI) and RAM. Of course, it
requires a bit more patience than plug a component into ATX case, especially
plugging the IDE and power cables is still a little fiddly job due to the lack
of space. Theoretically, the Mega PC has one AGP and one PCI slots for full-size
expansion cards (size of the card doesn't matter much). However, the video card
is quite a pain to install and it also leaves very little space around the CPU
fan. By installing the graphics card into the AGP slot, you will lose the PCI
slot any extension card installed into this slot and it will automatically block
air supply to the fan on the CPU cooler. That's why I wouldn't recommend to use
the top model video cards (the heat problems are unavoidable). For more details
check the pictures. Most of these pictures are taken with CD-RW/DVD-ROM, HDD,
CPU and RAM installed to give an idea of the overall levels of space inside,
even without an additional video card.
Without even booting the PC, the MEGA 651 PC can be used to play CD audio
files (a regular audio CD or burned CD/DVD with MP3 files) or listen music from
the built-in FM/AM radio. I've tested a couple of CDs with various MP3 files
(mostly 80min CDs with 160/192kb/s songs) and everything worked pretty well.
There's a simple equalizer with four presets: Normal, Pop, Classic and Jazz. and
SRS (Sound Retrieval System) feature that adds 3D effects to an ordinary stereo
As I mentioned above, there's a large LCD display, so I hoped the display
will show the MP3 tags. I was naive :) The display is not graphical and cannot
display file names and the MP3 tags. The display provides only information about
the number of the track and time. There're also some pseudo-effects depending on
equalizer's preset in use. The navigation about the disk is completely missing
too. MP3 files can be played either sequentially or randomly, so if you want to
play a certain song, you must know its number. Besides that, you cannot type
desired number directly - you can only switch between tracks by browsing through
them. I wonder if designers ever tried to burn&listen any home-made MP3 CD.
Another unique choice is the AM/FM receiver for radio listening with memory
for 6 stations. I was badly surprised that the automatic search found only 1
station in both frequency ranges (I didn't forget to plug-in the cubical
antenna). Back a couple months ago when I've tested Nokia N-Gage, it played a
lot of stations without problems. Surprisingly, the problem can be solved by
booting the Windows and installing the Mega Radio program from the CD. Then, in
Mega Radio settings you must set proper area and air
scanning parameters. Now I can finally listen to radio, woohoo! As I mentioned,
the tuner can memorize up to six stations. Remember, if you unplug the power
cord you will lost all presets including settings of the music box and time.
The part of MEGA 651 PC package is a remote control which combines functions
for operation with MP3/Radio with functions for an optional TV tuner from MSI.
There's is nothing special to say about it, maybe the buttons are too small,
especially for loudness.
The last my complaint on MP3/Radio feature is that it only works when the
Hi-Fi component is active. When the PC system is booted, the display screen's
back light goes off. If the PC is on, the screen displays _only_ the time which
is taken from t CMOS, and it can differ from the audio center time.
There's the same problem with remote control which can be used also only in
the Hi-Fi mode. It seems that the operating concept of the MP3 player and radio
has not been properly thought out to the end. Clearly, the design could be
definitely done much better.
MEGA 651 PC features Phoenix-Award BIOS that allows you to enable/disable
various integrated devices, setting a system shutdown temperature threshold and
things like that. There's really nothing special. Also if you plan to run MEGA
651 PC out of spec without resorting to a soldering iron you're out of luck.
There are also no options for FSB. This is probably a good thing as heat will
always be an issue.
MEGA 651 PC (at least the bundle I had) comes with MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM
Combo drive by default. I have no complaints here. Over on the performance side
of things this drive is really everything you would expect when reading and
burning CD's at 48x.
Test Setup, Performance
Test Configuration: Intel Pentium 4 2,8GHz 512k 533MHz, RAM DIMM 512MB
DDR PC400 (PC3200) Kingston CL2, Integrated SiS 651 VGA, Integrated Realtek
ALC650 AC'97 sound, HDD Western Digital Caviar XL WD800JB- 80GB 7200rpm (8MB
cache), Windows XP Professional, DirectX 9.0b, SiSoft Sandra Pro v2004 10.9.89
and PCMark04.Pro.v1.0.0. The system's Windows desktop was set at 1024x768 in
32-bit color at a 85Hz screen refresh rate. Since the test setup running on the
integrated graphics controller, it's useless to test MEGA 651 PC for gaming.
Needless to say, if you still want play a games, you must
buy an addition video card (but remember the power supply output provides only
200W). The integrated graphics
found in the SiS 651 chipset is merely sufficient for basic 2D/3D applications,
playing DivX movies and Internet surfing. I applied Sandra and PC Mark04 Pro
tests to gain a picture of the performance of the system without additional
Here are the SiSoft Sandra numbers for those who like theoretical tests.
These tests shows clearly the power of the Intel P4 2.8GHz.
Here MEGA 651 PC shows off pretty good disk controller performance
supplied CDRW/DVD-ROM performs just fine
MEGA 651 PC's memory bandwidth is roughly comparable with Intel's 845PE and
VIA KT333 chipsets. Needless to say that SiS 651 cannot compete with the bandwidth of i875P dual-channel controller.
MEGA 651 PC is roughly comparable with Intel 845 chipset.
PCMark04 provides many varied test scenarios. The score would be probably
much higher with good graphic card :)
Temperature and Noise Levels
You will probably agree with me that the most unpleasant thing about
computers is its noise. That's why developers of a barebone systems trying to
create an efficient and quiet cooling system. And it must be really efficient as
the hot components of the computer are all grouped close together in a limited
space. I think they have no choice since I wouldn't buy a barebone to listen to
its roar :) So, what the solution from MSI looks like?
The supplied heat sink is surprisingly light and uses a smaller fan than a
regular heatsink, but does a fine job of cooling the CPU.
There are temperatures (in degrees Celsius) the PC reached when I benchmarked
the system (room temperature was only 21.5 degree Celsius!):
The results aren't much impressive in my opinion. But there isn't a whole lot
of room inside, and no dedicated case fan. It would be really interesting to see
the same system in hot summer (usually with 32degree Celsius in my office) with
some fast 3D card inside. I would recommend to keep in mind the 2.8GHz CPU
maximum that MSI has stated (relatively high temperature inside the case could
become a dangerous for the HDD). I should mention here once again that MEGA 651
PC wasn't designed for overclockers.
The fans are temperature-controlled controlled which is a good thing. Under
small CPU workloads, the temperature inside is low enough and the barebone is
practically noiseless, as the CPU cooler is rotating at a reduced speed. When
the temperature goes up, the rotational speed does the same reaching a notch
(CPU cooler ~ 5400rpm) That means that most tasks like web surfing, or email
will be near silent. Unfortunately, the Hi-Fi mode requires that the DVD-ROM and
power supply be on at all times, which means the barebone isn't totally silent
unless it's unplugged. I'd say the MEGA 651 PC is quiet, but not silent.
When I first saw the MEGA651, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. After
working with it for a while, I have grown to love it despite it's flaws. It is
smaller than most computers, and that small footprint means a lot if you are
running low on space. Of course, don't buy it as an entertainment console unless
you want to buy another PCI/AGP card. There's no TV-Tuner, no TV-out, and the
Hi-Fi portion isn't much good designed.
Pros: unique Hi-Fi ability, supplied MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo and
6-in-1 card reader, easy setup
Cons: old chipset (no support for 800MHz), Hi-Fi design could be
definitely done much better, no TV-out, no wake-up function on the radio
Overall, I would say that the MEGA651 is a small, handy, and quite silent
desktop replacement for average users that doubles a stereo with FM/AM and
CD/MP3 playing capabilities. I think Microstar made a good product, which is
quite worth the money. If you are looking for something more powerful then check
I would like to thank
Czech Computer (hardware vendor located in Czech Republic) for giving
GGMania the possibility test this barebone, if you have any questions or
comments don't hesitate to drop them off in the comments.