We had a tough time figuring out how to categorize the Polywell H770i-400B PC. Its small size puts it clearly in the class of HTPCs or mini PCs that get tucked behind a monitor or TV.
What’s confusing about the Polywell H7700i-400B is its power curve. PCs in this class typically pack AMD’s Fusion CPUs or Intel’s lower-voltage CPUs to balance price, thermals, acoustics, and the typically modest performance requirements of a mini PC.
A handsome aluminum chassis is marred by chintzy rubber feet that easily come loose.
The biggest thing about Zotac’s new ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus may in fact be its name. This new mini PC is so small, it makes the diminutive ZBox Nano AD10 look positively fat in comparison.
Hell, the only commercial mini PC we’ve seen that’s smaller is the Apple TV, which is about the same width and depth but a quarter-inch thinner. The Apple TV is ARM-based, though, and more in the class of a typical HTPC streaming device. The AD11, with its AMD E-450 APU and 64GB SSD is a full-on PC. While streaming boxes such as WD’s Live have come a long way in capability, it’s tough to beat a PC’s ability to go anywhere you want. From streaming sites that are restricted by cable providers to not-safe-for-work content, an HTPC streaming PC trumps all others if you’re willing to live with a mouse and keyboard controls.
Zotac’s ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus is the smallest commercial PC we’ve ever tested.
In yet even more itty bitty computing news, the Raspberry Pi crew has announced that they've overcome previous manufacturing difficulties and are now churning out their mini-PCs are the brisk rate of 4,000 a day. Whoop-dee-do, what does that mean for you? Simple: the shortage is over and the Raspberry Pi's various manufacturers are now taking general orders. Plus, you can order more than one now.
Giada, a Chinese manufacturer specializing in mini PCs, last week announced a “book-sized” mini PC called the i53, which is very similar to the last Giada product reviewed by us—the Giada i50—in that both look virtually identical and pack an Intel Core i processor. While it may be hard to distinguish between the Giada i50 and i53 at first glance, the two are actually quite different.
Windows Media Center may not make it into default Windows 8 installs, but the team of crack programmers behind the highly excellent XBMC media player is working hard to dull the pain. The newest addition to the open source software completely revamps XBMC's audio code and brings support for 7.1 HD audio formats, along with a lot of other goodies.
If you're getting sick of waiting for a slice of your very own Raspberry Pi mini-PC, fear not; the cavalry will soon be arriving thanks to an unexpected rival: Via, the longtime mobo makers. Yesterday, the company announced its Pi-like "APC 8750" board, a $50 Android-powered PC complete with processor, memory and a host of I/O ports.
XBMC has been the 10 foot interface of choice with HTPC enthusiasts for years now, and with Boxee stepping aside in favor of dedicated hardware, they now virtually own the market. Version 11, codenamed “Eden” has finally stepped out of beta, and the final product looks incredibly slick. Eden adds better support for unencrypted Blu-Ray content, support for Apple Airplay, and even boasts impressive performance gains.
Not too long ago, Sapphire rolled out the diminutive Edge-HD Mini PC, which was hailed as the teeny-tiniest PC in all the land. (The company also oddly claimed the PC's "less than half a liter in volume!" You know, in case you wanted to fill it with Kool-Aid or something.) Despite its small size, the Atom-based Edge-HD packed a decent punch and racked up a lot of fans. Now, Sapphire's pulled the curtain off the Mini PC's follow-up. The aptly named Edge-HD3 ditches Intel for a 1.6GHz AMD E450 APU that gives the PC a performance boost over its predecessors.
The delay of the Raspberry Pi PC has had geeks hankering for some serious on-the-cheap computing action pulling out their hair in frustration. The charity foundation offering the $25/$35 Pi has been teasing us with videos of its awesomeness for months, showing off the PC's chops at playing 1080p video and Quake 3, shifting media via AirPlay technology, running XBMC and loads more. Unfortunately, the Pi missed its initial launch window. But don't worry: the Raspberry Pi foundation just committed to a new manufacturing date and even released a datasheet for the Broadcom SoC powering the Pi.
Arctic Cooling may have earned its reputation on the back of its cooling products -- hence its name -- but late last year, it introduced a line of home theater PCs based on Intel's Atom chip. It must have been pretty well-received, because Arctic recently announced it was launching a new line of HTPCs. Why is that notable? Because the Arctic MC101 line will be powered by AMD's next-gen Trinity APU, combination CPU/GPU chips that haven't even hit the streets yet.