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Reviewed by: Ed Lau [10.07.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson
Manufactured by: Monarch Computer Systems 

Price: Varies
(Around $300-340 for a 'barebones' system which includes a motherboard and PSU)

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Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY! 

Forgive my Canadian thinking but one of the things that I, as a resident of the Great White North, feel defines common American culture is monster trucks. Just like certain citizens of the United States of America think we live in igloos, play hockey and call Canada "The Great White North", one of the first things that pops into my head when I think of our southern neighbors is ridiculously huge trucks that crush smaller, weakling vehicles under their 50" rubber threads.

While I can't say this appeals all that much to me, I can see why it does to so many. Massive trucks, more power! While they don't look all that great and are louder than certain jets, you can't deny that cramming all that horsepower (certain ones generate upward of 1,500 horses from engines that weight more than some small cars) is intriguing, albeit slightly crazy. Even I'm guilty of cheering when it crushes the more "light-footed" vehicles among us like the VW Beetle. God, I hate that car.


Prior to perhaps a year ago, many small-form factor PCs were like VW Beetles to me. They're tiny, appealing to women and lack anything resembling power. They had weak cooling, lacked AGP slots and were just not suitable for any self respecting power user for anything else other than perhaps to build a web surfer for their girlfriend (oh, who are you kidding... Mom).

However, just like automobile manufacturers who produced compact sport cars such as the Mazda
RX-8 and the slightly larger BMW Z4, PC makers heard the, make that grunting, angry demands for more under the hood of small, stylish boxes. They were given AGP slots, dual channel memory and all the overclocking features of their 20" tower counterparts. High-end boutique system builders soon began to use SFF boxes as templates for high end gaming powerhouses.

Despite market trends, many power users and hardcore enthusiasts still prefer a 50 pound tower,
due to certain small but important weaknesses that still exist in the SFF world such as lack of a real cooling solution for overclocking and the still limited expansion. Today, we'll meet the Hornet by Monarch Computer Systems...a massive (compared to other SFF cases) black cube that looks like it ate a Shuttle or two.

Since many of you build your own systems, I suspect many of you have never heard of Monarch even though they are one of the top resellers in the US. While I wouldn't consider them one of the "boutique" builders, they are known to produce some high powered desktops and reliable servers and workstations in the IT business. The Hornet will be their first foray into the SFF market and they're hoping to make a huge impact on the way the "cube" is seen.

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