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MSI's mPC 51PV small form factor barebones system

On time, but on par?

Manufacturer MSI
Model mPC 51PV
Price (MSRP) $295
Availability Soon

MSI'S SMALL FORM FACTOR SYSTEMS have traditionally been tardy, arriving to market a little too late in the life of the chipsets and sockets they sport. That tendency toward more dated hardware has been made even more apparent by other makers of barebones SFF systems, who have aggressively adopted newer sockets and core logic. Fortunately, MSI's new mPC 51PV is coming to market in a much timelier manner.

The mPC 51PV is compatible with AMD's Socket AM2 processors and features an Nvidia GeForce 6150/nForce 430 core logic combo that's still the best integrated graphics chipset on the market. The system also has a PCI Express x16 slot and enough room to house a dual-slot graphics card, so you're not stuck with integrated graphics. Combine that with a PCI slot, Mini PCI Wi-Fi, and loads of audio and video output options, and the mPC 51PV starts to look just like what the stagnating small form factor market needs.

Squeezing everything into a smaller form factor isn't easy, though, and MSI has made a few concessions along the way. Read on to see how those concessions affect the mPC's appeal and whether the system can breathe new life into the small form factor barebones world.

Board specs

CPU support Socket AM2-based Athlon 64 and Sempron processors
North bridge Nvidia GeForce 6150
South bridge Nvidia nForce 430
Interconnect HyperTransport (8GB/s)
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
1 Mini PCI
Memory 2 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR2-533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
1 channel ATA/133
1 channel Serial ATA
Audio 8-channel HD audio via nForce 430 and Realtek ALC880 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
USB 2.0
USB 2.0 (front)
2 1394a Firewire (front) via VIA VT6307

1 RJ45 10/100/1000

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in (front)
1 analog headphone out (front)
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input (front)
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output (rear)

1 DVI output
1 VGA output
1 composite output
1 S-Video output

BIOS Award
Bus speeds NA
Bus multipliers NA
Bus dividers NA
Voltages NA
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, System

Perhaps the most important element of the mPC 51PV is its GeForce 6150/nForce 430 core logic chipset combo. The GeForce 6150 features a DirectX 9, Shader Model 3.0-class integrated graphics processor with two pixel pipelines and one vertex unit running at 475MHz. Numerous video features are also integrated into the IGP, including support for high-definition MPEG2 and WMV9 playback, a video scaling engine, and an integrated TV encoder.

At the south bridge, the nForce 430 provides hardware-accelerated Gigabit Ethernet and support for up to four Serial ATA RAID ports. Inexplicably, MSI only takes advantage of one of those SATA ports, leaving those who might want to run Serial ATA optical and hard drives out in the cold. MSI doesn't even bother with an external SATA port.

At least MSI didn't skimp on the chipset. We've seen other manufacturers opt for Nvidia's cheaper GeForce 6100 and nForce 410, but that cuts out support for TV and DVI output, HD video playback, high quality video scaling, and Gigabit Ethernet, all of which can come in quite handy in a small form factor system.