Summary

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Apart from the long-awaited release of USB 3.0, it hasn't been the most exciting year in PCs, but then it's not a market where great change is either expected or required.

With laptops becoming ever more popular and consoles nibbling away at the PC games market, it might be true that full tower cases weighing more than the average bank safe (we're looking at you, Cyberpower Infinity i7 Phoenix are becoming less common. However, we did see some significant evolution in two main sectors: all-in-one (AIO) and small form factor (SFF) PCs.

Though they left out quite a few features, the refreshed iMacs did at least bring the most stylish AIO on par with the average desktop PC. Additionally, ever more brands are getting into the AIO game with Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, MSI and Samsung (to name but a few) all either debuting their models or refreshing existing lines.

SFF PCs are also becoming increasingly popular. While Shuttle might not dominate the way it once did, with Silverstone's mini-ITX SUGO 07 case (which housed the award-winning Cyberpower Infinity Game Qube) delivering non-proprietary enthusiast hardware in a smaller than ever package, and Gigabyte's Mini ITX GA-H55N-USB3 motherboard (first seen in the DinoPC Carnivore) bringing cutting-edge features like USB 3.0 to the tiny form factor, you no longer have to make significant performance compromises in order to go small.

On the other hand, if gaming is not what you're after then tiny systems such as the ASRock Core 100HT-BD and the slim, sleek Zotac ZBOX Blu-ray give you everything you need for productivity and home cinema in tidy, portable little boxes. Overall, mini-ITX and small computing in general is facing a bright future.

Things have been somewhat quiet on the component front, with last year's Intel's Core i7 still the performance processor of choice and AMD's 5970 still the most powerful graphics solution around.

USB 3.0 is becoming a standard feature even on budget motherboards, and thanks to prices which are finally in reach of the average consumer, SSDs are gradually replacing traditional moving parts hard drives as the boot device of choice. Other than this we've seen Nvidia make a bit of a comeback with its GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards, and AMD pushing six-core processors into the budget arena.

With new-generation CPUs and GPUs launching within a matter of months though, next year promises to be far more exciting.

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