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Conclusion: Just Powerful Enough To Feel That Way

Three Slim Atom/Ion 2-Based Nettop PCs Compared
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You might have interpreted the benchmarks on the preceding pages and assumed that these Atom-powered Ion 2-equipped nettops are slow machines. When it comes to raw CPU potential, this may be the case. But when you look at the intended use of these PCs, they shine brighter.

Nobody should buy a nettop for its pretty little body and expect a workstation able to handle intensive tasks. These PCs are intended for basic use. In this light, they can be quite snappy, as we demonstrated in the response time benchmarks. They can play back HD video with aplomb, thanks to GPU-based acceleration for a majority of formats, and they can even play games that are more than average mainstream fare. The numbers show it, but subjective experience supports the conclusion that, for the great majority of tasks, these tiny little PCs don’t make you feel like you’re waiting any longer than you’re used to on a desktop.

Zotac ZBOX

Zotac’s entry is the only one in our test group equipped with a Blu-ray combo drive, and this is a particularly potent advantage in several different ways, from use in a home theater to even getting an application installed without a huge hassle. The $500 asking price without an OS (you have to add another $100 to that price for an OEM copy of Windows 7) is more than the competition, but certainly less than other nettops, such as the $649.99 ASRock Core 100HT-BD (also sans OS).

On the downside, the lack of remote could be problem for some folks. And we’d appreciate at least one more USB input on the back. HTPC purists will be put off by the lack of Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master audio support over HDMI (something you can get from the Intel HD Graphics solution). But there is an optical S/PDIF output, which has enough bandwidth for Dolby Digital and DTS output. Despite these concerns, Zotac’s ZBOX is a very capable nettop PC that looks sharp in a living room setting, and is especially attractive if size is an issue.

Giada Slim-N20

The Giada Slim-N20 is delightfully small and just as capable as its competitors, despite the slightly slower 1.66 GHz Atom D510 processor, as it is bolstered by a relatively quick 7200 RPM 320 GB Seagate Momentus hard disk.

This elegant-looking nettop is the only one in our test group that comes complete with the hardware, operating system, Bluetooth functionality, and remote for $449. A minor complaint with the Giada Slim-N20 is that we wish it had a USB port on the front panel. Our only real concern is a Flash video and HD video file playback stutter issue at the 1080p screen resolution, but this problem didn't seem to manifest itself during Blu-ray playback.

Jetway Mini-TOP

Jetway’s Mini-TOP comes as a $270 barebones kit without a hard disk, RAM, or an operating system. Add a Samsung 5400 RPM 250 GB Spinpoint drive and a 2 GB stick of PC2-6400 RAM as tested, and the total becomes $356 (but closer to $460 when Windows 7 Home Premium OEM is added to the mix).

At the same time, one of the Jetway’s strengths with its barebones nettop is the ability to tailor components. For $15, you get the faster 7200 RPM 320 GB drive (the same as the Giada nettop tested here) or a very fast 320 GB Seagate Momentus XT can be had for $70. You can also add more or faster RAM.

This very small and convenient offering is also the only Atom-equipped model in our comparison that has four USB ports. The Jetway is the most flexible nettop in our comparison to be sure, and a great option for folks who want to choose the hard disk and RAM they prefer.

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  • 2 Hide
    DjEaZy , December 10, 2010 5:42 AM
    ... it may be a good mac mini hackentosch...
  • 0 Hide
    hmp_goose , December 10, 2010 6:10 AM
    Retest the N20's playback with a RAM drive for the temp files; I suspect the drive system is the issue . . .
  • 1 Hide
    dEAne , December 10, 2010 8:00 AM
    Overall it is good. The benchmark is fair enough - And it is presentable too.
  • 1 Hide
    cushgod , December 10, 2010 12:10 PM
    SHould test results with a SSD complared to a "mechanical" HDD to see how much that can help an Atom move along :) 
  • 4 Hide
    fullcircle_bflo , December 10, 2010 12:37 PM
    So if I wanted a computer simply to stream internet videos to a television via HDMI(such as Hulu or CBS website), would any of these be a good candidate?
  • 1 Hide
    kriminal , December 10, 2010 1:18 PM
    ^^ guess so.. fullcircle
  • -2 Hide
    mchuf , December 10, 2010 1:51 PM
    For $150 - $200, you can buy a used Pentium D or C2D pc off of craigslist. Add a $50 HD5450 gpu and a $40 wireless KB/M combo and your all set. That would be a more capable box than one of these things and at a lower price (even if you upgrade to Win 7 HP). Hell, even a used Mac Mini (old model) might be a more cost effective solution. Unless you're extremely tight for space, I don't see the appeal for an overpriced "net" device.
  • 3 Hide
    nonameworks , December 10, 2010 2:30 PM
    ^^ Only if you ignore the cost of electricity
  • 1 Hide
    tipoo , December 10, 2010 3:02 PM
    Zino HD review, please! At close to the cost of many of these nettops, it blows them away in performance and is almost as small and consumes almost as little power.
  • 1 Hide
    azcoyote , December 10, 2010 3:40 PM
    I would love one of these for only one reason. To get rid of the clunky box I let my kids play noggin.com games on. Not sure they have enough guts for the pig that is Flash though.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 10, 2010 6:13 PM
    The last page seems to imply that the Zotac box is the only one of the group lacking TrueHD. Is that correct?
  • 0 Hide
    gs92110 , December 10, 2010 8:05 PM
    Recently connected my Gateway 17" laptop to TV by HDMI, it works fine, but a large footprint, might be interested in one of these little Nettops, "IF" they would let me surf/email/streaming videos to TV[without pixelation messing up the videos]...I don't expect much, but need these features...
  • 2 Hide
    ethaniel , December 10, 2010 9:59 PM
    Good read, and a good thing that you opened all of them.
  • -1 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , December 10, 2010 10:46 PM
    I'll pass on Nettops until they can easily handle games like Metro 2033 and Crysis with the highest settings.
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , December 11, 2010 2:24 AM
    Jetway mini has slower readings because it's harddrive is massively slower!
    I'd replace it with an SSD, and do the tests again, and see how it'll outperform the other nettop platforms..
  • 0 Hide
    Sandburner20 , December 11, 2010 12:05 PM
    Interesting that the D510 system can't play Flash video fullscreen. I have run into the exact same problem with the Shuttle D510 system. Even more interesting that the D525 can. Could this be a timing issue with the D510 since the FSB is apparently different?
  • -1 Hide
    JohnMD1022 , December 11, 2010 12:05 PM
    We can scratch the Giada immediately.

    Why you ask?

    A Seagate drive.

    Can anyone remember the Yugo? That's Seagate.
  • 1 Hide
    naturalandtech , December 11, 2010 4:12 PM
    ASRock always rock! especially Vision 3D Series coming with:
    # Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 Mobile Processor Family
    # 2 x 2GB DDR3-1066MHz
    # NVIDIA® GeForce GT425M Graphics, NVIDIA® 3D Vision, 3DTV Play Capable
    # 2T2R WiFi 802.11b/g/n
    # 3 x USB 3.0
    # 7.1 CH HD Audio with THX TruStudio Pro™
    soon it will be on my hand,,, muhaha
  • 0 Hide
    teeth_03 , December 11, 2010 4:54 PM
    Your USB port totals are a bit off when you are forgetting the eSATA combo ports. So the Giada actually has 3, not 2, and so fourth.
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