Life in the motherboard industry has always been competitive. With dozens of manufacturers offering products from only a handful of chipset providers, motherboard companies have had a difficult time differentiating their products from the competition -- others quickly replicate what is a unique feature one month; the rapid adoption of external Serial ATA controllers is a recent example of this.
While this is great for consumers, the end result is that motherboards have become one of the most cutthroat markets in the PC sector. Price sensitivity has never been greater, the days of paying nearly $200 for a consumer level board are largely over.
As a result, motherboard manufacturers have been entering new markets for the past several years. Many, including FIC, have moved into video cards and optical storage, while others have moved into networking and other communication devices (or all of the above). In late 2001 Shuttle entered the relatively unknown barebones PC market with its SV24, which was based on the VIA PL133 chipset. While it had its drawbacks (the most notable being the outdated chipset and integrated graphics), the SV24 showed the potential for this burgeoning sector of the PC market. Over time Shuttle refined its products into the highly regarded XPCs of today. What was once a tiny segment has blossomed into one of the fastest growing segments, a significant portion of Shuttle’s revenues now comes from its barebones PC line.
All this has not been lost on Shuttle’s competitors. Today practically every motherboard manufacturer either has their own barebones PC product in production or they’re in the final stages of research and development. FIC is one of the first to get their barebones product out on the market, it is known as the ICE-Cube VG61.
FIC ICE Cube VG61, drives not included
Case windows on both sides of the chassis
Some of you may be surprised to see FIC producing its own line of barebones PCs, but it actually has a rich history of producing complete micro-ATX systems, notebooks, Pocket PCs, and Tablet PCs. A lot of these products are produced by FIC and then sold by their OEM customers for use in government offices and in hospitals, we’ve shown you a few of these products in Comdex reports dating all the way back to November 2000. This time however, FIC plans to sell its barebones products directly to consumers, just like its motherboards and VGA cards.
Before we get into the details, we did want to discuss the roots of FIC’s ICE Cube VG61. Like the AU11 Chameleon, FIC has a production partner for the ICE Cube VG61. In this case, FIC has partnered with a Taiwanese company known as Chyang Fun. Chyang Fun has been manufacturing custom cases for servers and PCs since 1987, so they’re by no means new to their field.
Just as they did with the AU11 Chameleon we loved so much, FIC has partnered with a manufacturer that is an elite, yet smaller player in their field. FIC hopes to leverage their existing manufacturing and distribution channels to bring a product to market that will compete with Shuttle’s best XPCs in as short an amount of time as possible. But have they accomplished this? Read on to find out!