Microland – TECH Plus 217.01 review

Powerful, stylish cube PC
Photo of Microland – TECH Plus 217.01
£999 + VAT

They may not be intended primarily as portable computers, but there’s no doubt that cube PCs are easier to transport than desktops. As if to emphasise this use, Microland’s TECH Plus 217.01 PC, which is built into a Shuttle barebones case, comes complete with a fabric carrying bag. And it’s certainly the kind of machine you would want to show off at a LAN party.

This is a computer with a lot squeezed into a very small volume, starting with a 3GHz Pentium 4 processor and an almost indecent 1GB of memory. With this much room for applications and data, you’re not restricted in the tasks you can set the machine – it would be quite happy editing digital video, for example, and storing it on its 160GB SATA hard drive.

For removable storage the Microland system comes with a DVD rewriter, again from Shuttle, and underneath it on the front panel is a six-way memory card reader. This, combined with six USB 2 and two FireWire sockets, provides plenty of potential for connecting to and from the PC. Both cable and wireless network connections are provided, so you should be able to work this system into most PC communities.

The third element of any PC’s performance, together with processor and memory complement, is the graphics adapter. This system has a Radeon 9800 Pro card, currently close to top of the range in ATI’s stable. It drives a 17-inch, widescreen LCD monitor from Relisys, which is ideal for viewing both DVD movies and TV stations, through its built-in TV tuner. It gives a good picture, but when not used in widescreen mode, has a restricted height for a 17-inch device.

Sound comes from a 5.1-channel Realtek sound chip on the system board and drives a set of Creative P580 speakers. The six speakers in this set combine to give strong bass and trouble sound, though output drops off a little in the mid-frequency band.

Application performance is remarkably good, with a SYSmark index of 302, but it’s when you run 3D benchmarks that you see the system’s real strength. A 3DMark 2001SE result of over 17,000 is not to be sniffed at and when you run the more taxing 3DMark 03 test and see a figure of over 5,600, you realise there are no games currently available which are going to hold back this cube.

Microland provides a good three-year warranty with the TECH Plus 217.01 system, with the first two years on-site and the third year back to base.

Company: Microland

Contact: 0870 4430 0399


Verdict
This PC proves once again that small can be not just beautiful but punchy as well. With a high specification and performance to match, this little cube holds its end up against most currently available desktop PCs. It would be ideal for a student bedroom, but just as comfortable in any family living room.