Dell Studio Hybrid mini desktop PC
Curvy, slim and sexy
So the Studio Hybrid's unlikely to appeal to a serious PC gamer, but if it's just the Lego games you or your kids want to play, it's not going to cause you much pain.
The slot-loading drive is integrated into the vents
Just to check, we loaded up Crysis and were entirely unsurprised by its utterly dismal framerate at 1024 x 768. We also tried some 720p and 1080p movie trailers encoded in H.264 and they played just fine. So media centre, yes; top-line 3D shoot-'em-up system, no.
Dell offers a Studio Hybrid configured with an integrated Blu-ray Disc drive, so pumping out 1080p and audio out via HDMI to an HD TV shouldn't be a problem. Yes, the CPU is doing a lot of the decoding work a modern GPU would do, but as we say, this is not a noisy machine. If you're sitting back enjoying a movie, who cares what's doing the playback as long as the playback is smooth?
The future's orange
Dell's provided the customary software bundle: Microsoft Works - the ad-free version, thank goodness - an anti-virus trial - McAfee this time round - Acrobat Reader and Google Desktop. Stardock's Dock utility is present to bring a little of Mac OS X's light to Vista, but Dell loses points for bundling a video chat utility and not including a webcam.
There's no question that the Studio Hybrid looks good. That, plus its compact size, make it an obvious rival to Apple's aging Mac Mini and the likes of Asus' Eee Box. It's more powerful than both of these and looks better too. It's no powerhouse, even on the highest available spec, but it is a decent desktop that'll suit anyone after a mainstream machine that's not a big, black box.
Sponsored: Flash storage buyer's guide