MV Cubik GamePro small form-factor PC

Performance worth the price?

Review Small form-factor PCs have always been an attractive proposition. The combined advantages of svelte external dimensions, portability, whisper-quiet operation and sheer sexiness usually outweigh the limited internal expandability. Out-of-the-box performance is often as good as a tower system, and that's why MV, better known as a purveyor of high-quality laptops, has decided to launch a gamer-orientated SFF PC. The MV Cubik GamePro, using Shuttle's SN95G5 barebones chassis, arrives loaded with a capacious 250GB hard drive, GeForce 6800 GT, 1GB RAM and Athlon 64 CPU. A gamer's delight or a £1127 shoebox? Let's find out.

MV GameProFor starters, that's a lot of money for a system that doesn't include a monitor or speakers. Around £240 of that cost goes directly towards the Shuttle chassis. Still, given MV's desire of creating a fast mini-PC that caters for the gamer, the SN95G5's support for AMD's socket-939 gaming goliath CPUs is a sensible one.

The SN95G5's gorgeous, minimalist exterior is always worth a look. The brushed aluminium and stealthed drives make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing cubes around, and certainly one of prettiest in Shuttle's 22-model range. The uppermost section hides a black Sony DW-D22A multi-format, dual-layer DVD rewriter. The drive's tray is accessed by pushing the silver button on the upper left-hand side, which, in turn, pushes down the stealthing flap in front.

Just below, MV has opted to install a matching multi-card reader instead of a floppy or second hard drive. Again, it's a sensible inclusion. The 6-in-1 reader supports Compact Flash, MMC, SD, Memory Stick and SmartMedia cards.

Front-mounted ports include a couple of high-speed USB 2.0, 4-pin FireWire, microphone and headphone. These four are the norm for any self-respecting cube today, and MV's looks that much classier with the ports initially hidden via the lower latch.

MV GameProShuttle's SN95G5 can be turned into a wireless wonder by incorporating an optional wireless module into the chassis. Gamers are as likely as any group to require wireless connectivity, so it's a shame that an SFF PC priced at over £1100 doesn't have it as standard.

MV uses an Inno3D GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP model that's clocked in at 350MHz core and 1GHz memory. It's a solid, high-end card that consistently produces decent performance in a wide range of current games. The SN95G5's single PCI slot is left unoccupied, with sound running from the nForce3 250 Ultra chipset's basic AC'97 integrated audio through Realtek's six-channel codec. But a discrete hardware card would have been nice given the price, especially as the chipset is so lacking when compared to its nForce2 APU predecessor.