Where Sapphire has tripped up on its own shoelaces is pricing. This isn't to say the company hasn't created a value for money offering, in the right circumstances it has, but in trying to please everyone it has made things unnecessarily complex.
As mentioned the original HD shipped only with FreeDos. This kept the value down to £248, a fair price considering mouse, keyboard and a copy of Windows could inflate the final cost closer to £350/400 if spares were not to hand. With the HD2, however, things get tricky.
While the HD was originally targeted at more tech savvy consumers, its tiny form factor attracted mainstream users who were intimidated by installing their own OS (and all the drivers Sapphire provided on a USB key). To solve this we now have the option of Windows, but remarkably Sapphire has opted for Windows 7 Ultimate. The reasoning for this is Ultimate provides support for a Multilingual User Interface (MUI) out of the box. The problem is a needless array of enterprise specific functionality is also included and Ultimate comes at a greater cost pushing the HD2 up to a hefty £345.
Will everyday users want to pay a near £100 premium for pre-installed Windows with business tools and Slovakian language support? It may make international shipping easier for Sapphire, but it is we who are paying for their convenience. Consequently tech savvy users have an excellent stripped down option since, minus the VESA mount [£10 separately], it is £265), but mainstream consumers will pay through the nose if they don't have a technically minded friend to help them out. At £265 the tweaked HD2 is good value and you get only what you need, at £345 you might as well buy an ION-equipped netbook with HDMI and plug it into your TV whenever you want a PC media centre.
As a result we can only recommend the HD2 if you're comfortable installing an operating system. Windows 7 Home Premium costs from just £50 and Microsoft's simple and free USB/DVD conversion tool will get it onto a USB key if you don't have an external drive. Yes, sometimes a bit of DIY has its rewards.
In releasing the HD2 so quickly after the HD, Sapphire has managed to tweak a number of issues which affected its predecessor and create a top notch and wonderfully compact media centre PC. There is plenty of connectivity and enough graphical prowess to overcome the limitations of its upgraded-but-still-pedestrian Atom CPU. Build quality is also excellent and even under stress it is quiet enough not to be a distraction. On the flip side the value of the HD2 depends on whether you're comfortable buying the basic version without Windows pre-installed. We have opted to score based on this entry price for the HD2, but beware this £80 saving is the difference between a TrustedReviews recommendation and us telling you to buy an ION-equipped netbook instead.