It's time for Nettops, after the success of netbooks. Acer Revo and Dell Inspiron Zino are making rounds for sometime now for some obvious reasons - mini form-factor, low power consumption, and the confidence/legacy of netbooks powered by Intel Atom (or VIA Nano).
These days Computer vendors are luring both types of users - power/performance hungry users with Intel core i5 and i7, and dedicated web-users with Intel Atom. I was also lured to Dell showroom to purchase a Zino that came for just Rs. 16000/-. However, the neighboring shop grabbed my attention for quite long with a hoarding "Intel D945GCFL motherboard with Intel Atom 230 embedded for just Rs. 2800". And I started assembling bits and pieces for this mobo. I assembled that mobo with a 160GB SATA HDD, 1GB RAM, LG 16X DVD Writer into a mini-ITX, plus purchased an AOC 16" TFT monitor, an Intex UPS, a Logitech Mouse+Keyboard Combo and a Creative subwoofer sound system. All this for just Rs. 14000/-. A great deal indeed!
First I was apprehensive about the performance of this low-power mini-pc. Blame it on the bad air on the web. There are dozens of forums and tech-sites that dump Intel Atom for its low-performance comparing it with Via Nano. But overall, it's not that bad. Intel Atom 230 nettop processor is 64-bit capable and supports hyperthreading. I tested my self-build pc with Debian and Vista. Performance was satisfactory in both the platforms. Debian Lenny autoconfigured all the devices (thanks the mobo was very mature and little old). Installing Vista Home Premium was also painless, though I had to install device drivers from the CD that came with Intel D945GCFL bundle. Installing device drivers was a one-click-and-go process. There was not a single hitch in running web browsers, office suite, IM clients and browsing local drives.
Of course, it becomes excrusiating slow if you recompile kernel on it or do some video editing. But then, this mobo is meant for everyday home computing. It is quite responsive with Firefox, Skype, Pidgin and OpenOffice running parallelly. If your usage is somewhat limited to these tasks then Intel D945GCFL+Atom 230 is a best buy.
Following are the specs of my mini-pc.