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Giada i50 B5541

Nettop Round-Up: Four Tiny PCs, Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Giada has a reputation for producing extremely tiny PCs, and the i50 is no exception. Not satisfied with the mediocre performance of Intel’s Atom, the company opts for a dual-core, Hyper-Threaded Core i3-430UM. At 1.2 GHz stock with a 1.73 GHz peak Turbo Boost clock rate, this processor isn't as potent as ASRock's Sandy Bridge-based solution, but it should wipe the floor with competing E-350- and Atom D525-based platforms.

With no space for an optical Blu-ray drive, Giada's i50 isn’t equipped for kicking back in the living room and watching the latest blockbuster. Instead, it's geared for productivity and Web surfing in environments where desktop real estate is at a premium, like you'd see in a dorm room.

Armed with 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard disk, the i50-B5541 sells for $659 at shop.polywell.com, which includes a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. A stripped-down version with 2 GB of RAM and a 320 GB drive goes for $465 from www.amazon.com, but that package comes with Ubuntu Linux, a free operating system. Incidentally, the Giada i50 is the only system in our round-up with a built-in Bluetooth controller.

As we've seen in the past, Giada’s nettop is by far the smallest of the four we're testing (7.5” x 5.9” x  1”). The finish is glossy and dark, with silver around the edges. Though the lack of actual aluminum is missed, the unit still looks nice (albeit plastic-y).

HDMI and VGA video outputs are exposed on the back, along with four USB ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, and the power supply input. Giada learned that more USB ports are important after we pointed this out on its older N20 model, and we really appreciate the consideration of our feedback there.

Up top, a small door conceals a memory card reader, a USB 3.0 port, and the expected speaker and microphone jacks. It’s a shame that there aren’t any 1/8" audio jacks around back because, if you're not sending audio over HDMI, you have to keep this door permanently open to output an analog signal.

The Giada i50 comes with a plastic base, an external DC power supply, a driver CD, a manual, a VESA monitor mount, a remote guide, and a remote with two AAA batteries.

The remote is large enough to fit in our hands comfortably, incorporating the requisite directional keys and playback controls. The large music button launches Windows Media Center.

Giada’s slim nettops aren't meant to be disassembled, and they consequently don't include instructions on how to take them apart. We managed to get the unit open without breaking it, thanks to help from the company itself. Essentially, you need to remove all of the screws you can see, and then pry the side off of the case off by inserting a small tool (a screwdriver) through the heat sink port. Once the cover is off, the other side is freed by removing additional screws, exposing the rest of the components.

This is no simple affair, and I agree that casual users should steer clear of pulling the i50 apart. But for those who need access to the nettop's internals, the job is doable so long as you don't mind pushing heat sink fins back into place. As you can see from the pictures, Giada wastes no space in its nettops.

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