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Buyer's Guide: Mini Desktop PCs

The Pros and Cons of tiny PCs

Security for virtualized datacentres

When it comes to memory you have to look long and hard to find a system with less than 2GB of Ram and many PCs come with 4GB which is very generous indeed. Bear in mind that Windows 7 Home's 32-bit editions can't use more than 3GB of memory, so don't shell out for a lot more than that unless you also spec up your machine with 64-bit Windows 7.

Mini Desktop PCs

Having a dual-core processor makes a big difference to the performance available to you

Storage is cheap, and you're likely to be offered mini PCs with plenty of hard drive capacity. How much you need will depend on what kind of use you plan to put the machine to. A web-centric nettop, for example, won't require anywhere near as much storage as a device you plan to connect to your telly for video playback. Even a media centre system can get away with a small amount of storage if it'll be simply streaming content off network-connected storage.

Bigger, larger, faster - 7200rpm vs 5400rpm or 4600rpm, for instance - hard drives also generate more heat in use which will, in turn, put more strain on the machine's cooling system. The PC will be able to cope, but it might make more noise in the process - and you don't want that to interfere with your listening or viewing pleasure.

If you accept that a small and quiet Mini PC has limitations then the choice of CPU becomes less important than you might think. We regard a dual-core Intel or AMD CPU to be desirable in any circumstances and essential if you’re running Windows 7. ®

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