At a Glance
- Small, stable form factor
- More expandable than the average mini PC
- Larger than the average mini PC
An attractive, compact PC with a medium level of expandability.
Polywell’s MiniBox ($1599 as of February 1, 2010) bridges the gap between the nonexpandable micro units such as those that Shuttle specializes in, and a full-size, fully upgradable PC.
At 9 inches high, 11 inches wide, and 14 inches deep, the MiniBox fits in many places a tower wouldn’t. Even so, it still offers enough interior space to accommodate a full-featured micro-ATX Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H motherboard, two free 5.25-inch drive bays (one external), a 16x PCIe slot, and two PCI slots. Its width also makes for a physically stable system–great for the living room or a child’s first PC. Oh, and it even has a handle that folds out from the front of the system so you can carry the unit around like a 1980s boom box.
The MiniBox model’s moniker informs us that it’s strictly an AMD AM2+ system, starting with a 780G chip set, continuing with the latest 2.6-GHz Phenom X4 9950 CPU, and following through with a very fast ATI 4870 graphics card. The result of this relatively low-priced ($2350 as of August 8, 2008) combination, with some help from its RAID 0 tandem of 10,000-rpm Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drives, is a level of performance we don’t generally see in a small PC–namely, a more-than-competent WorldBench score of 110.
The 4870 card also made for some fast gaming frame rates; it averaged a very playable 135 frames per second in Doom 3 running at 1280 by 1024 with antialiasing enabled. If you’re willing to sacrifice some frames per second playing games, you can also configure a MiniBox without the 4870 and save a few bucks.
The MiniBox 780G-9950 system we tested is also a nice choice as a multimedia PC. This price includes a 22-inch Samsung SyncMaster 2253BW wide-screen LCD monitor, and the PC itself has a Blu-ray/HD DVD drive on board with HDMI output (with HDCP copy protection) on the rear panel.
–Jon L. Jacobi