Giga-Byte G-MAX TA4 Mini PC Review - The GA-8IGVT Motherboard Upclose
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Although the system is pretty clean on the exterior, one has to wonder what working conditions were like inside the case. After all, this thing is small – very small. In fact, it’s so small that it uses laptop parts for most of its internal components, including a Slim CD-ROM/DVD, a 2.5-inch laptop hard drive, and a modified heat sink, able to handle desktop PC processor heat in something the size of a PlayStation 2.
Getting the system out of its shell is actually quite simple: just unscrew the tiny screw at the bottom of the system, hold the front of the case somewhere secure, and pull on the knob on the back panel. The problem was that getting it out of the casing is not a particularly comfortable task. Putting it back in is worse, seeing as you have to finagle it a bit in order to slide it back in just right. An improvement in this area would be well received, perhaps something along the lines of a railing system for easy removal and insertion of the system tray.
As I mentioned before, because of the system’s slim design, laptop components are the only thing that would fit inside this case. (Although I could imagine putting a regular CD-ROM and Hard Drive in this thing, I doubt the lack of airflow would make for a long system lifespan.) Installing and uninstalling the hard drive and CD-ROM are bearable tasks. Not the most comfortable thing in the world to do, but certainly workable. If you’ve played around with computers for a while, then this should be no problem to you; if you new to building PCs, then this is as good a PC as any to start with.
The TA4 comes loaded with the Giga-Byte GA-8IGVT motherboard, which features the Intel 845GV/ICH4 chipset, integrated sound (AC97), and integrated video (Intel 845 chipset). The board is essentially a modified laptop rig with a desktop CPU on it. The question is whether this setup performs up to par with similar desktop systems.
In the same vein, I’m disappointed that Giga-Byte decided to use the Intel 845 chipset as opposed to the more competitive 865 model. True, multimedia is not the market aimed at with this system. But that’s really too bad, since this thing’s size makes it perfect for sneaking it right next to the television. The S-Video port, combined with the power this thing can house, would perfectly tie together a complete home multimedia entertainment system. Maybe Giga-Byte will make a model that can accomplish that.
It should be noted that the motherboard sports a couple of rather nice features, including Disk on Module (DOM) and Disk on Chip (DOC). Although these are normally used on embedded devices, these solutions make the TA4 an attractive option to anyone in need of either a thin client or point-of-sale (POS) system. It should also be noted by the reader that this system is set up to boot from any available medium, including networked, USB/FireWire, DOM, DOC, PCMCIA… did I miss anything? The default was set to HDD.
Finally, and before I move on, I have to tip my hat to Giga-Byte in regards to their onboard utilities. They include a great suite of system utilities in this package, including their system tuning tool EasyTune 4, which allows you to easily tweak your system’s configuration. Unfortunately, they’re only available for Windows.
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