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Hush mini-ITX - Getting acquainted
Small form factor computers are nothing new. Shuttle reinvented themselves with their line of XPC computers and quite rightly so. Few argue that the XPC line of computers were the first that married acceptable levels of performance and space saving design. If the late 90s were all about performance, then the 00s are all about minimizing. Minimizing both footprint and noise. Today we look at a unit that really piqued our interest back at this year's European CeBIT exhibition in March, the Hush mini-ITX.

Before we get started there are a few points we would like to make clear. The Hush mini-ITX isn't intended as a full blown gaming machine. With on board graphics it means that you aren't going to be able to compete with the Geforce FXs or ATI Radeons. Hush aim this computer squarely at those who want a machine for general office work (email, word processing, spreadsheets, Web browsing, etc) and DVD playback.

We got a chance to look at Hush's latest rendition of this computer which features VIA's EPIA M10000 motherboard and VIA's 1GHz 'Nehemiah' C3 CPU. The full configuration of the machine was as follows :
1GHz VIA C3 'Nehemiah' CPU
VIA EPIA M10000 motherboard
133MHz FSB
512MB RAM SDRAM
80GB Seagate Baracuda ATA 100 hard disk drive
Windows XP Pro (SP1 installed)
It features a 12 month return-to-base warranty.

At present the Hush mini-ITX is only available in silver or black. The other colours which fashioned a lacquered finish have been taken off the available list due to the extra cost of producing the lacquered finish.

Lets spend a few minutes getting up close 'n personal with the Hush, since in a computer like this looks count almost as much as the performance itself..

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The front features a flat, diminutive finish. The raised power switch is encircled with a deep blue LED. The blue is visible when the computer is running and really contrasts beautifully against the black exterior. The LED above is also blue and indicates hard drive activity. The elliptical DVD ROM drive is simply a standard slim line laptop device which has a elliptical metal plate put over it's standard rectangular face. The edges are softened to enhance the overall appearance and reduce the boxy nature of this unit.

Before we move on, here's the switch in closer detail :

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It's of fairly large construction considering it's just a switch, however the superior look and feel is replicated in its construction and that's something good to see.

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The side of one computer is usually the same as the side of another computer, non Monsieur? Not in the case of the Hush mini-ITX. Hush have cleverly designed the sides of their aluminium casing to act as a large heatsink. Now we've all heard the aluminium case manufacturers, when they first started out saying that aluminium cases acts like a large heatsink. Thanks to hindsight we all know that was marketing rubbish, however this time Hush really have managed to make their case act like a heatsink. We'll show you how in a few minutes.

You will notice how each fin has a corrugated edge in order to maximize surface area. The fins themselves don't get very hot, even when the system is put under severe Stress for several hours.

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The back is purely functional, if a little boring. You are presented with a pretty standard backplane - 2 PS/2 ports, 1 serial, 1 parallel, D-SUB, TV-OUT, S/PDIF, RJ45, line in, microphone, speaker, 4 USB 2.0 and 2 Firewire. There is one PCI slot left empty for future expansion. Some will find that this is taken up by a modem, others may take this opportunity to upgrade to a slightly more powerful VGA card. Sadly the riser card for the expansion slot can only be PCI, so no 'exceedingly powerful' VGA card can be fitted.

Just before we leave the back, just take a moment to look at the second picture and the quality of the exterior finishing, even on the rear. Very few people actually look at the rear of a computer so there's little incentive to make the rear look good, but it's great to see Hush taking due care and attention.

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One last point about the exterior is the screws that are used. Operated by hand, these add a touch of class and contrast sharply against the black aluminium. Pretty nifty, however if they are screwed in tightly you may incur some problems unscrewing them.

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The external 55W power supply means that Hush has been able to get away without using a large, noisy and heat producing internal unit.

Now it's time to look under the skin.