The Cute features integrated AMD graphics in the form of an ATI Radeon HD 3200. While it does a fine job for Blu-ray and HD video, this card is not powerful enough for anything but older games, as the Call of Duty test shows (where the Cute managed an unplayable 15 frames per second at 1,280 x 720). However, on higher-end Cutes you have the option to upgrade to a discrete Radeon HD 4550 card. Oddly enough, selecting this option doesn’t grey-out the TV-tuner option, when in fact such a combination is impossible with only one PCI-Express slot.
In addition to the Logitech 660 Wireless desktop set Mesh bundles with most of its PCs (which we’ll look at in a bit) you’ll find a Kworld TV-tuner box that contains a fairly decent glossy black Windows Media Center remote and discrete black USB IR receiver. The tuner itself is a dual-DVB-T model that lets you watch or record two digital channels simultaneously on your computer, and comes with ArcSoft TotalMedia software.
While they do the job, the matte black keyboard and mouse aren’t anything exciting. The keyboard has noisy keys and uncertain feedback, while the ambidextrous optical mouse is likewise not the most comfortable rodent around – though its buttons offer a nice click and the four-way notched-feedback scroll-wheel is pleasant to use. The set’s USB RF dongle is rather large so you’ll want to hide it at the back of the Cute.
On the software front, the Cute comes with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Premium so you’ll be able to make full use of the 4GB of memory if you do upgrade. For Blu-ray playback, meanwhile, Mesh provides CyberLink’s excellent BD Suite, while for productivity you get a trial version of Microsoft’s Office and free version of Works 8.5 SE. Aside from a trial version of BullGuard Security, the rest of the PC is left clean.
Overall, the £399 Cute has all the ingredients for a great value HTPC (or – minus the tuner and Blu-ray drive – small office PC). It’s a reasonably powerful system in a SFF chassis with a Blu-ray drive, HD-decoding video card, wireless peripherals, TV tuner and Media remote, all while staying below 120W of power usage even under heavy load. However, it’s let down by being rather noisy, and issues like the cheap-looking coloured plastic front (unless you opt for black) and malfunctioning optical drive-bay cover mar the experience further.
Mesh has produced one of the best-value small form factor PCs around with the Cute, but the audibility of its cooling and a few other niggles prevent it from coming recommended.
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