It's not big, but it's brave - powered by the Intel Pentium 4 2.66GHz processor, the classy looking Beyond Avrora was not afraid to show its muscles, scoring very well in office related tasks. However, despite the sizeable 64MB of video RAM, the onboard Intel Extreme graphics chipset could not deliver on the 3D front, performing significantly slower than an AGP card.
The offer of 512MB of RAM is an excellent start, but we felt that the 40GB of disk space will start to suffocate once your system is decked out with office and graphics suites and a few games.
The visual styling of the system is cherry black and silver and the handsome QDI micro ATX case features tool-less entry and is small but very solid. The face of the chassis has two USB ports that can be covered up, alongside microphone and headphone sockets, which are becoming standard features on new PCs these days. The sideways-mounted LG DVD-ROM saves space, but it had no notches to hold the disk in vertically, which is no huge bother, but you have to be careful when inserting.
The highlight of the case, however has to be the blue-backlit front panel LCD displaying a temperature readout, an icon for hard drive access, a rotating fan icon, and a timer indicating how long the PC has been powered. The temperature readout is actually a trigger setting for powering the fans - you can set a temperature using three buttons under the display, and the fans will power up if the temperature exceeds the limit - all very impressive features.
Space is at a premium when you're inside a micro ATX case. When we had a look at the QDI Micro ATX motherboard, we found all cabling to be neatly wrapped, and ventilation properly considered. The motherboard has only two PCI slots, one of which is taken up by the internal modem card. There is not much room for any card-expansion here. The Avrora does not come with a floppy drive, and you won't be able to slap one in using the single free 3.5 drive bay - the fashionable front panel won't accommodate it. This is not a huge issue these days though, as you should buy a USB memory key and abandon the floppy to history.
We discovered a single 512MB RAM stick, which means you sacrifice a bit of performance through not using dual channel memory, but you get to upgrade to a gigabyte by throwing in another chip.
If you're thinking that the sub $1,500 pricetag is only fair for this system - wait for it - it comes with an LG 15in LCD monitor, which is a strong performer, and will blow most 17in CRT screens out of the water. Good value? We think so.