It could be the ultimate net-top or media centre: at the very least the Zbox Nano XS will redefine your expectations of a sub-Mac Mini sized PC
Well built, well specced and versatile, the skinny but mighty X51 is a killer addition to your study or living room
As fast and powerful as it is big and heavy, the Triton is a gaming monster
About as insanely powerful as a computer gets
An innovative, practical design that offers respectable performance and a not too painful price tag. With a higher-res screen it could be the ultimate all-in-one
See it as a hardware hacking project or a budget PC – either way, every gadget geek should own one
The mini's makeover has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait
A lovely screen with performance to match, but noise and usability issues count against it
Clever, rugged design and great for general work, but too expensive for lack of gaming power
Until recently, those in the market for a nettop computer have had only one decent family of processors to choose from: Intel’s Atoms (ding-dong-dang-ding). Not any more. AMD (amd.com) has introduced Fusion ‘APUs’ or ‘accelerated processing units’, which combine the power of discrete AMD Radeon 6310 graphics chips with frugal CPUs, all on one slice of silicon. With DirectX 11 support and 1080p hardware video decoding, Fusion should form the cornerstone of some rather special, ultra-efficient home entertainment PCs. One contender is Zotac’s ZBox AD03 (£tba, zotac.com): due this spring, it’s an update of the HD-ID34, with an AMD E-350 chip heading up proceedings. Let us at it.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1. Processor speed Still the defining component of a PC’s raw power. Look for one of Intel’s Core i5 or i7 CPUs, or AMD’s Phenom II X6, if you want the best. Remember, a fast processor may also need a lot of cooling, which could be noisy.
2. Graphics chip If you want to game on your computer, look for a graphics chip by Nvidia or ATI, and ensure that it has discrete memory. A sign that it’s fast enough for fragging is if it supports DirectX 11. Powerful graphics also speed up tasks such as video encoding.
3. Screen quality Don’t buy an all-in-one unless you’re sure its screen is one you can look at all day. Ideally you’ll want a colour-rich IPS or MVA panel for accurate photo editing.
4. Storage The fastest computers combine solid-state drives and hard disks for raw speed. Media centre? Get at least a 1TB hard disk for recording TV, and look out for Blu-ray drives.