Mighty micro machines – our round-up of media PCs for your living room

You've had a desktop computer for years, but now that your stash of movies and music has reached critical mass you want to unleash it on your living r

You've had a desktop computer for years, but now that your stash of movies and music has reached critical mass you want to unleash it on your living room. Check out these micro media PCs and never leave your lounge again.

Dell Studio Hybrid £530

www.dell.co.uk

What’s the story?

Decide for yourself between the styling of the Hybrid and the slightly smaller Mac Mini, but this Dell certainly has the better specs of the two, while its media  capabilities can be bolstered by optional additions of a Blu-ray drive and TV tuner.

Worthy of the living room?

With HDMI and optical S/PDIF digital audio outputs, this has all the video and audio connections you need, but it is expensive. Incidentally, in the US, the basic model only costs $500 – that’s almost half the UK price. The various faceplate options give it a fighting chance of blending in, though.

Stuff says

It’s a brilliant living-room PC, but you pay a premium for its looks.  4 Stars

eu.shuttle.com

What’s the story?

Pioneer of the “small form factor” PC, Shuttle has now gone HD. This is a full entertainment centre with a Blu-ray disc drive and digital TV tuner built in. It’s also got a spacious 500GB hard drive ?for music rips, videos and downloads.

Worthy of the living room?

This is a “proper” PC. You can open it ?up, add a new hard drive or replace the graphics card (for example, one with ?an HDMI output to take advantage of ?that Blu-ray drive). This dedication to practicality has lead to a less visually appealing box than most others here, and the fans make an annoying whir.

Stuff says

Serious computing power, but as loud and ugly as a drunk rugby prop.  3 Stars

eeepc.asus.com  

What’s the story?

Having sold almost two million of its Eee PC laptops, Asus is applying the same stripped-down formula to the desktop market. This runs Windows XP and has the same innards as the Eee PC 1000, which includes an 80GB hard drive.

Worthy of the living room?

It looks great, it’s quiet and draws very little power, so it’s ideal for leaving on overnight downloading files. Video output through the DVI port is fine for an HDTV, but the CPU isn’t fast enough to handle smooth movie playback. And be honest with yourself: can you really live without an optical drive?

Stuff says

A bargain for basic office work, but not built for multimedia jobs. 3 Stars

 

www.apple.com/uk  

What’s the story?

The Mac Mini may have been out-shrunk by the Eee Box, but Apple’s offering is quicker, better specced and has a DVD drive. You also get Apple’s swanky multimedia software, Front Row, ?and the all-round simplicity of OSX.

Worthy of the living room?

All those cool applications look and feel very swish, but they take up more than of half the total hard drive space, leaving just 32GB for music and movies. With ?no Blu-ray drive, no TV tuner and no HDMI output, the Mac Mini’s media capabilities are beginning to look a little outdated. A tidy package, though.

Top-notch design values but not enough hard drive space for the price. 4 Stars

 

For more great features and tests, see the November issue of Stuff Magazine – out now!