I thought it was time to update you with the latest Nettop HTPC choices available to us today. I will talk about the good and bad sides of each. While this is mainly written towards the HTPC geeks out there it should also be relevant to anyone else looking at these style of machines.
What are you looking for?
All of these machines are capable of pushing out 1080P to your big screen but some are better than others, you need to look at the size of the installed Hard Drive if you plan to store everything on the machine itself rather than streaming it from network storage. None of the box’s are designed to play games and most wont manage to play any recent titles. The memory needed is dependent on what it’s use is however, most of you will find that 2GB will suffice although I would personally look at getting 4GB of memory. Another key part is where it will sit, if your TV is not already wall mounted and has VESA mounting holes on the back you may decide to actually hide it completely and hide it behind the screen while others will want it to look smart and fit in with the rest of the kit on the TV rack… after all it is called a home theatre PERSONAL computer.
Acer Aspire Revo R3700
Probably the best known nettop of the bunch is the glossy Acer Aspire Revo, it has now been updated to the R3700. There are several Models available with different HDD sizes. No models come with an optical drive and all have an atom processor. The highest model comes with windows 7 Home Premium 64bit.
Zotac Zbox Nano AD10-B
The first thing that I noticed about this little powerhouse is the green circle and the WiFi aerial sticking out the top. This box comes with an AMD processor which leaves it in minority of the bunch.
Zotac Zbox Atom D525
Buying a barebone allows you to choose the extra parts to your needs. The Zotac Barebone includes a processor but needs you to add the Hard Drive and memory. This is an easy task but can often save you money in the long run and you only add what you need.
Apple Mac Mini
While not strictly a HTPC box, many find this is a perfect machine for the job. Apple seems to be a love or hate thing but you certainly pay for the style and reputation of the Mac Mini. Starting at roughly double the price of others in the collection it may quickly be crossed off?
Asus EeeBox EB1012P
The Eee range is best known for the popular and well built Eee netbooks but there is also the Nettop range for a similar size but not designed to be as portable. Again there are various models that have different sized Hard Drives and memory capacity.
Acer Aspire Revo RL100
The slightly more expensive but very popular Acer Revo RL100 has a very elegant case that would look out of place sat under the TV. These machines are very popular because it looks like a slim DVD or Blue Ray player. The machine also includes a slideout handheld touchpad/keyboard for browsing you media collection.
Foxconn Barebone Nettop nT-A3500
Slightly less popular and harder to find online this shiny box screams fingerprint marks but does include 4GB of memory and a dual core AMD processor for a smaller price than you would expect. Foxconn is best known for its Motherboard so isn’t exactly new to the hardware scene.
Well known for their cute small form factor machine Shuttle bring us another Barebone to choose from, with a low cost machine you can add the memory and Hard Drive that you need. It includes an optical drive (TO BE CHECKED) and a front facing USB port. Again it can be a little harder to find but can be worth the search.
Asrock nettop ION 330HT
Two major version available, DVD and Blu-ray. Not many of these machine include a Blu Ray drive so this may well be the deciding factor for you. Although it might not be as small as some of the others it still wouldn’t exactly look out of place under the TV.
Dell Inspiron Zino HD Mini
Another marmite style brand, some seem to like Dell and others, I have got to admit that from my experience the build quality of a dell machine always seems to be of good quality. The square box has several tops in different colours/designs to suit your mood. There are several models with different HDD sizes and memory sizes available.
Please note that the above information is based on current selling prices/specification at the time of writing and any purchases should not be made solely on the information in this post.
Conslusion So to conclude, obviously depending on your needs your machine requirements will be different but if you need two HDD’s or a Blu-ray drive then your options are fairly limited. If you are an apple fanboy then the mac mini would be your choice. If you need a large HDD then the Barbones would be your best option with the size of HDD’s increasing all the time. If you want to use Windows then a machine with it pre-installed is a good choice if you don’t have a spare copy sitting around. If I had to choose one of the many small machines with just one HDD and no optical drive I would personally go for the Acer aspire revo as you get the best bang for your buck.
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