MSI Mega 865 Review

We were impressed with the amount of features and support for high-end components that the Mega 865 has.
We were impressed with the amount of features and support for high-end components that the Mega 865 has.
We were impressed with the amount of features and support for high-end components that the Mega 865 has.

Highs

  • Can make both a good media PC and a gaming system

Lows

  • The MSI software is unrefined
  • lacks a TV tuner
Home > Product Reviews > Desktop Reviews > MSI Mega 865 Review

Summary

MSI has a very unique product on their hands. Out of the box, the Mega 865 would make a good system for someone living in a small dorm room or apartment; it offers basic computer and radio features. But given the right creative mind, the Mega 865 has the potential to be a system of sustenance. Some companies such as X Media Zone have taken the Mega 865, included their own software and hardware and sells the system as their own. We were impressed with the amount of features and support for high-end components that the Mega 865 has.

Casual gamers will find the Mega 865 makes a great gaming system. It supports 8X AGP video cards, has 5.1 channel sound and has front headphones and USB ports on the system. If you can upgrade the power supply and watch the heat the system puts out, you should be able to roll with the best of them. MSI deserves credit for making a system like the Mega 865 because it opens the door to many ideas. If MSI were to package a TV tuner card and polish the software they include with it, then they would have a system that could quite possible be the best in its class.

Introduction

The small form factor (SFF) market is picking up steam and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon. What was considered a niche product, the small form factor PC has now grown to appeal to gamers, media enthusiasts and office users. MSI sells a number of SFF systems under the Mega PC product line. The system in particular that we are reviewing today is the MSI Mega 865 which is geared towards media enthusiasts that are interested in adding DVR type capabilities into their system, although it makes a great gaming system as well.  Featuring Intel’s 865G +ICH5 chipset, theMSI Mega 865 has the ability to be a very powerful and feature rich system – provided you use high-end performance components. The MSI Mega 865 has a starting price around $300, but its total cost depends on what type of components you use in the system.

MSI Mega 865

Design and Features

Considered a “bare bones” system, the MSI Mega 865 is really what you make of it. Because it comes with only the motherboard and its integrated components, you have to add your own parts such as the processor, hard drive, memory and optical drive. Gamers will be attracted to the Mega 865 because of the systems support for Intel Pentium 4 processors running up to 3.06GHz or more, the 8X AGP slot, SATA hard drive support and support for up to 2GB of DDR 400 memory. Because of the systems small size, the Mega 865 would make a worthy LAN game machine.

The other group that would also be attracted to the Mega 865 would be proponents for the home theater PC. Because the Mega 865 has a small form factor and multimedia capabilities such as dual optical SPIDIF in and output, and 5.1 channel surround sound, movie buffs have a lot to work with. Add to the system an integrated 6-in-1 media card reader, USB 2.0 and FireWire ports in the from of the system, and photographers/camcorder also have a very appealing system.

From a design perspective, we really have mixed emotions as to the look of the Mega 865 system. The front faceplate looks good where the dark plastic Plexiglas faceplate is, but the red highlights are a hit or miss. We would have preferred if MSI used silver or black highlights to give it a more expensive and higher quality look. But overall the appearance is definitely on the positive side. The remote control that MSI packages with the system looks better than we expected but it could still be improved upon. MSI chose to use hologram-like reflective stickers on the remote control which give it a pretty cheap look. But at least the remote control is slim and functions pretty well. Because of its slim size, you are forced to use a watch battery to power the remote. These sort of batteries are more costly than AA or AAA batteries and could possibly have a shorter life span, although we were not able to test the batteries longevity.

Setup and Use

Setting up the Mega 865 can be relatively difficult depending on your experience with building a computer from scratch. You must know how to install a CPU, memory, hard drive and an optical drive before you can use this system. From an instruction perspective, the manual that MSI packages with the Mega 865 is fairly good. But because of the systems compact size, we recommend that you set aside several hours and take your time when installing the components. One thing worth noting is there are several vents on the side of the system chassis. The CPU fan which MSI packages with this system shoots air out both sides of the CPU and out the vents in the side of the system; from a design perspective, it seemed like a smart setup.

While the front display on the system looks very good, it has a very limited function, and that is to show the time of day, the volume and the AM/FM radio station you are on; otherwise it’s useless during normal computer operation. One cool thing about the system is that you can listen to the radio without turning on the computer portion of the system. This greatly reduces the amount of noise the Mega 865 puts out.

For our test system, we installed a 3.06GHz Intel P4 processor, 512mb of DDR 400 Infineon memory an 80GB ATA 133 hard drive and an MSI CD-RW optical drive. Because Windows Media Center must be sold with a complete system, we were forced to install Windows XP Corporate Edition on the Mega 865. If you already have a copy of Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Edition from a previous system, you may choose to use this instead of using MSI’s own multimedia software.

The multimedia software which MSI packages with the Mega 865 is fairly good if you can get past the way it looks. Their software will allow you to watch DVD movies, watch and record television, play audio files and more. It’s the same exact software that they package with some of their video cards. The overall presentation of the software is not as sharp as say the multimedia software from ATI or Snapstream, but it will work for the novice user. We were disappointed to see that the Mega 865 does not come standard with a TV tuner, although you can purchase one directly from MSI. Part of MSI’s multimedia software includes recording television programs, and their tuner is a basic necessity if you plan on using the system to its full potential.

Setup and Use Continued

If you do not plan on using the MSI software suite and instead wish to build your own custom HTPC, then the Mega 865 will give you several options. Because the system only comes with one open PCI slot, you will have to choose wisely what you want to put there. One option would be to install an ATI All-In-Wonder card into the available AGP slot so you can have the TV tuner integrated with the video card, then you can install your own audio card into the open PCI slot; a Maya 7.1 card would be a fantastic choice. If 5.1 channel sound is good enough for you, then you might want to try out the integrated audio before buying an aftermarket card. We like that MSI has an integrated WiFi 802.11b card on the systems motherboard. This allows you to wirelessly stream video and music files to your home theater.

Gamers will want to be careful with the Mega 865 system. First of all it only comes with a 250-watt power supply, so those of you planning on buying NVIDIA’s or ATI’s latest video cards will want to see if they will work with the system. We were able to get an ATI Radeon 9800PRO to work without any problems, but we suspect that may be the best type of card you can get to work with it. One thing we noticed is that if you add your own video card (which is a very tight fit), it blocks the air coming from the CPU from going out the vent on the left side of the system. We did not experience any heating issues from our video card, but things certainly ran very hot.

Conclusion

MSI has a very unique product on their hands. Out of the box, the Mega 865 would make a good system for someone living in a small dorm room or apartment; it offers basic computer and radio features. But given the right creative mind, the Mega 865 has the potential to be a system of sustenance. Some companies such as X Media Zone have taken the Mega 865, included their own software and hardware and sells the system as their own. We were impressed with the amount of features and support for high-end components that the Mega 865 has.

Casual gamers will find the Mega 865 makes a great gaming system. It supports 8X AGP video cards, has 5.1 channel sound and has front headphones and USB ports on the system. If you can upgrade the power supply and watch the heat the system puts out, you should be able to roll with the best of them. MSI deserves credit for making a system like the Mega 865 because it opens the door to many ideas. If MSI were to package a TV tuner card and polish the software they include with it, then they would have a system that could quite possible be the best in its class.