We’ve all seen the mini PCs like Lenovo’s Thinkcenter Desktops and Dell’s small desktops. We’ve also seen other PCs about the size of a external CD rom. Now, we have one that’s about half that size. VIA had brought out the Artigo Builders Kit. The motherboard on the Artigo is about the size of a credit card but is about as thick as a stack of credit cards. The whole PC is designed to fit in the same slot as your desktop’s DVD drive. You can take multiples of these and install them in a standard desktop case; it is that small.
Along the back of the card, you have a VGA port. On the right is the IDE port for a 2.5 ” IDE Drive. On the bottom, you will find the slot for the DDR2 RAM. Below is a picture of the RAM getting installed in the slot.
Once the RAM module is installed, you attach the drive to the bracket. It’s really obvious how to install it, but in case you can’t figure it out, VIA provided a poster that helps you through this step. After the drive is attached to the bracket, you attach the motherboard with ram to the other side.
Once everything is together, you put the IDE Adapter on – being very careful to not bend the pins.
Next you install the separate DC board in the case. After that’s in place, then put the motherboard assembly in the case. It’s very easy to get to this point.
Next, connect all the cables to the motherboard. If you want to add the DVI cable, the PS/2 cable or the serial port cable, you will need to use a different case or modify the standard case as there’s no holes for the cables to exit the case.
Once all of the cables are hooked up, you may want to at least try and bring up the bios first before buttoning up the case. I ended up not installing the SO-DIMM correctly and the first time it would not boot correctly. I took it apart and reseated the RAM, reassembled and then everything was cool.
Now notice, there is no optical drive. Now how do you install an OS on it? Well, what I did was create a bootable Live CD of Ubuntu Gutsy with my laptop. I booted the Artigo off of the USB drive and did a standard Ubuntu install. The install itself went off without a hitch, but configuring X on my older CRT I was using was problematic. Switching to a LCD cured my issue. One thing to note is the Unichrome graphics cared is limited to 1600×1200. If you’re a high res junky, then look elsewhere.
Also, the current Unichrome graphics driver doesn’t support Compiz Fusion. I tried to get it working, but try as I might, I could not get the desktop effects that Compiz gets you.
After installing Ubuntu off of the thumb drive, now came usage. I was able to install Flash 9 and view YouTube websites, I was able to play MP3’s without a problem. Video was very watchable. It did have some issues with higher res video like some of the HD podcasts out there, but even those played okay. Just a few dropped frames here and there.
Now, I did not do any benchmarking. Benchmarks and performance are not the goals of this system. The system is designed to be put in place in places where you need a light weight computer. One that is unobtrusive and easy to setup. One where you need a full PC, but you don’t need a fire breathing dual core system.
Uses for this system include:
- Car PC Installation – it’s small size makes it perfect for this use.
- Situations that call for a terminal sized system – mount on back of LCD and it’s very unobtrusive.
- Put use here. – It’s a very flexible system that can be installed anywhere.
The Artigo is the perfect PC for situations where you have very little space. Smaller than a Mac Mini and more flexible to boot. The Artigo is the perfect PC for you to install pretty much anywhere a low end system is called for.
The Artigo Builder’s Kit is available atfor $279.
Updated: Runs Linux, Windows XP and Windows CE
What I liked: It’s small size makes it a good system to put anywhere a low end system fits the bill. It’s got more than enough power for basic internet usage as well as for most media playing. It’s the perfect PC for car PC use.
What needs improvement: I didn’t care for the Unichrome graphics. The driver for Linux needs some improvement so you can run compiz and also Windows Vista. XP’s probably going away in June so Linux would be your only option after XP is gone. Improve the Linux driver or get a Nvidia graphics card in it and you have a system capable of running the fancy graphics as well.