AOpen XC Cube MZ855
At a Glance
AOpen XC Cube MZ855
This very small, space-saving PC meets basic computing needs but is slow running graphics-intensive applications.
The petite XC Cube, in a shiny white plastic case with chrome trim, looks a bit like a swollen Apple Mini. The XC Cube measures just 12.5 inches deep by 8 inches wide by 4 inches tall--about half the size of a typical toaster--so it would fit easily in a small space or sit snugly beneath a monitor.
Unfortunately some of its features are diminutive, too. The system's 1.3-GHz Celeron M 350 CPU and 256MB of RAM achieved a mark of only 63 on WorldBench 5, the lowest score posted by a PC in our current collection. Similarly, the XC Cube delivered sluggish frame rates on our graphics tests; Return to Castle Wolfenstein, for example, looked a bit too choppy for enjoyable game play at any resolution. Nevertheless, the XC Cube should have plenty of processing power for basic Internet or office-oriented tasks.
Despite its small size, the $799 XC Cube is upgradable. The system's AOpen motherboard accepts Celeron M or Pentium M CPUs, and you can add more RAM to the single open RAM socket, as well as a PCI expansion card to the one open PCI slot. Another upgrade option would be to bypass the integrated graphics processor by adding a PCI Express graphic card to the free X16 PCI Express slot.
Working within the case takes a bit of finagling, however. To get inside you must remove three big thumbscrews, and to reach the CPU or get to the one open RAM socket you also have to remove several screws and disassemble part of the system's chassis.
The XC Cube has all the ports you'd find on a full-size desktop, including four USB ports, three FireWire ports, serial and parallel ports, and an ethernet port, along with three S/PDIF connections for passing digital audio signals into and out of the system. Two USB ports, two FireWire ports, and a headphone and microphone jack hide behind a nicely designed folding door on the system's front panel.
The AOpen F1511, a 15-inch flat-panel display, is smaller than most monitors but suits the XC Cube's scale. We found it fine for casual use, though we had some difficulty reading small 6.8-point text.
The system we looked at didn't ship with a mouse. It did have a flimsy but stylish keyboard with chrome-colored multimedia and shortcut buttons.
A very thin user manual, which came in both Chinese and hard-to-understand English versions, covered no more than the basics.
This small, space-saving PC can meet basic computing needs, but in this configuration it's ill suited for graphics-intensive games or other demanding software.