Nettops are perhaps more of a niche than they deserve to be. Basically tiny, low-power desktop PCs, they’re ideal as media players, unfettered by all the restrictions and limitations dedicated devices suffer. They’re also great to have permanently hooked up on your desk, if all you want to do is browse the web, do a bit of productivity, watch video and play the odd casual game – in other words, what the vast majority of folks tend to do with their computers.
We’ve had a few amazing entrants in the small desktop category recently, like the ASRock Vision 3D and award-winning Acer Aspire Revo 100. Unfortunately, though it was a standout effort in many regards, Zotac’s Blu-ray playing entrant, the aptly named ZBOX Blu-ray, didn’t quite live up to our hopes. Now the company has its new Nano, which ditches the optical drive but trumps its cousins and many competitors in other ways, and manages to be smaller to boot. It packs an AMD E350 CPU and integrated Radeon GPU, and comes in pre-built or bare-bones options.
First off, let’s just emphasise how incredibly tiny and cute this little beast is. Its footprint is actually smaller than a music CD case, and it’s only slightly taller than the average mouse or half the height of a mug, at a mere 5cm including its rubber feet. Frankly, we can’t remember ever seeing such an affordable and versatile mini machine that fits on the palm of your hand.
Its combination of a glossy black plastic top and Apple-esque milled aluminium sides is also rather attractive. Its panels might not fit as perfectly, but then the Zotac Nano AD10 Plus (to give it its full and somewhat convoluted name) is in a whole different price class to something like the Mac Mini, or even the aforementioned ASRock Vision 3D.
You see, the Nano can be yours for as little as £189 (without memory or hard drive). And though its performance won’t exactly be comparable, its Atom-equivalent AMD CPU will handle daily workloads, while its AMD HD 6310 graphics will make short work of any kind of HD video. Build quality is excellent, and though the piano black top does pick up fingerprints, it’s not too much of an issue. The power button’s action is solid yet crisp. It’s also worth noting that a green LED ring lights up ‘in’ the black lid as soon as you turn the machine on, which is a nice/garish touch depending on your taste.