Nettop Round-Up: Four Tiny PCs, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Arctic MC001-BD

The foci of Arctic’s MC001-BD are summed up with two words: video and silence. This is the only passively-cooled nettop in our roundup, and the little noise it does generate comes from the hard disk; if you choose to upgrade that to an SSD, it's completely silent. The system is driven by a dual-core Hyper-Threaded Atom D525. But instead of leaning on the integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics core, the engineers opted to add a Mobility Radeon 5430 with 512 MB of dedicated DDR3 memory. This is the only nettop in our roundup with dedicated graphics RAM, and AMD's Radeon GPU is the key component that should make the MC001-BD a capable media center.

Arctic's entry sells for $714 at That price is higher than some of the other models in our round-up, but keep in mind that it includes Windows 7 (the Home Premium 32-bit flavor). It also comes with 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB hard disk, and an LG slimline Blu-ray ROM drive.

The aluminum and glossy black finish is simultaneously classy and understated. Arctic Cooling's MC001-BD certainly looks at home in the living room. At 10.5” x 5.5” x 1.5”, it consumes the most shelf space of any unit in our round-up, but it’s certainly not large compared to more familiar desktop PCs.

On the back, we see HDMI and VGA video outputs, an optical S/PDIF audio output, five USB ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, six 1/8" analog audio jacks, and the power supply input. This is a lot of connectivity options for a nettop, especially in regard to all of the USB ports.

The unit's front side hosts a memory card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and requisite front-panel speaker and microphone jacks.

Arctic's MC001-BD comes with an external DC power supply, an HDMI cable, a wireless antenna, a manual, and the CyberLink BD Blu-ray playback software. There is no remote, which we consider inexcusable for a media-oriented PC. You can always add a third-party solution later, though. Arctic Cooling is also in the process of certifying a remote control application for Android-based phones and Apple's iPhone. We weren’t able to try the iPhone app, since it isn't available, but we expect it in the App Store soon.

The inside of the MC001-BD is dominated by its heat sink, which is no surprise considering that the unit is passively cooled. Otherwise, upgradeable components like the hard drive and memory are relatively easy to access.

  • jdwii

    But at $504 with no operating system (and $399 for a version without an operating system, hard drive, or memory),
  • Pyree
    IDK, $800 for the ASRock CoreHT 252B. A laptop cost less, has better performance for that price range, better mobility and space saving plus you have everything (screen, speaker etc). I rather get a laptop for a small office.
  • chumly
    These all seem expensive to me, considering you could probably build a better mini itx slim form factor system from scratch for about half the price.
  • AMD X6850
    As mentioned, no remove comes bundled with the Zbox.

  • cleeve
    AMD X6850Remote?
    Thx, fixed!
  • molo9000
    Nettops? These things are far too expensive to be nettops.
    They are small form factor PCs or home theatre PCs, but they are not nettops.

    btw: Mac mini should be in this lineup.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Very nice article. I was about to request something like it :)

    Mac Mini should be in this lineup? Actually, a good idea. I'd love to see how it compares to similar Wintel boxes.

    I'm through with these small boxes because they're a pain in the a$$ to service and the hardware isn't good for the price ($800?! gimme a break!), but I see value in them for people who are ready to pay more for the small size.

    If I would build a small form-factor box myself, I'd use something like this new Lian Li case which was in Tom's news recently - it can fit proper PCI/PCI-E cards.

    Again, lovely article. Keep it up.

    P.S. The ASRock box is great.
  • compton
    I second the sentiment that these aren't really nettops. Luckily, the next iteration of Llano should rectify that, creating the golden triangle of CPU , GPU, and low cost. At least that's what I expect anyway. These reviewed units are more HTPC solutions than low cost nettop. Intel has a new half height miniITX initiative with a rare and relatively expensive 1155 mini ITX to match. However, once Intel's iGPU gets a serving of HTPC friendly features, you could build your own full featured, passively cooled system to take these units on performance and price as well. The move to 22nm should make low powered passively cooled CPUs easy to get right. As it stands, each of the solutions tested are pretty good, but I'm not sure that any of them are worth the asking price. In particular, I've always avoided Atom like the plague, and I don't think they're appropriate in small form factor systems that cost more than about $200.
  • ruban71
    Can we now have a comparison against a couple of ITX builds? Choose an nice looking case and show us what can be put together for similar money.
  • I've owned an E350 - struggles with HD playback in a linux system, there doesn't appear to be any support for the amd hardware decoding. So if you were thinking of making a linux htpc out of it, go for something more powerful... It will perform better though as in the article above if using Windows (Using I think - Media Player classic which allows hardware h.264 decode.)