Mini-PC Recommendations


Tom’s Hardware Guide PCs & HowTo: The Mailman Has Arrived: Four Mini-PCs on the Test Bench – The First Car: A Motorized Carriage. Jennie and Adrian asked me about updating their computer “brain”. They have a five year old Northwest Computers machine that I recommended, but it won’t run the latest Apple MP3 player software (since that requires Windows 2000 and their machine is way too slow for that).
So, they either get a brand new G4 or they update their brain. Here’s an analysis to see what’s cheaper:
H4. Ultra-High end brain
Since I got my dad a dream PC a while ago, it was easy to crank up Pricegrabber and see what pricing was like, here’s a recommendation for a $1,000 brain upgrade:
* “Shuttle SB61G2”: This is the mini-PC which is great except for the heat problems if you use it all day (which they won’t). Main problem is that it is pricey at $340 list. Right now it is $320 from Googlegear or accupc.
* “Intel Pentium 2.4GHz 800MHz FSB”: It is just $170 right now vs. $265 for a 2.8GHz. It has all the coolest features like hyperthreading.
* “Corsair TWINX5123200LLPT”: This actually two 256MB modules. You needed them together because this is a system that has better performance with two banks. The most painful recommendation since doubling to 1GB only add as about $70 dollars more and memory is the most important thing. Right now at $170 vs. $245 for “Kingston KHX3200AK21G”: which are two of their modules tested together or $208 if they are not tested together.
* “Sony DRU-510A”: Despite my problems, still something I’ve used at $235 now as OEM version. Also might consider the “LG GCC4480BI”: I need to research this more, but this is a CD-RW drive that can also read DVDs. Only $62 from accupc. Or, there is a Lite-on for $40 that is a CD drive only.
* “Western Digital 200GB”: A 200 GB hard drive. Actually a little bigger than she needs, but given there is room for only one hard drive, a good choice. About $190.
Total cost is $1,100 for the ultra system.
h4. The right brain
Looking at cost, here and trying to get it down, the main thing is to:
* Get a single stick of memory rather than the dual bank. So the HyperX by itself is $130.
* Get a DVD/CDRW combo drive, so you can’t burn DVDs, the LG one is $60.
* Drop to the 120MB Caviar drive instead of the 200GB one, which is $100.
Total cost is $780. Wow, that’s pretty amazing machine.
h4. Low cost machine
Given the benchmarks show there isn’t a great difference between the older SiS651 chipset and the newer one, plus the fact that the SS51G2 is much cheaper, you could go really lower end with good performance and get:
* Shuttle SS51G2. This works and is say a year older. Now at $170
* Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHs 800MHz. As before, there is no real discount for the older chips. So at $170.
* Corsair 512MB CL2 PC2700. Slow memory, at $91 is all you need in this box since it doesn’t support DDR400.
* Lite-on 52x CDRW is just $40 if you really want to economize and I know it works.
* Western Digital WD1200JB 120MB drive. $100
Total cost for the briain update is $571. Wow, that is really inexpensive.

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