Evesham Mini PC Plus £799
1st Dec 2006 | 00:00
Compact package aimed at the style-conscious Mac Mini crowd
Well, it's official: 'good things come in small packages' is no longer just something you say to people under the height of 5ft 8in when they're feeling glum.
From the moment this teeny graphite box appeared in the office, it's had a queue of admirers that stretches out of the building, around the corner and into the Apple store down the road.
Anyone who takes the time to poke around inside will be all the more besotted. Behind the radar-deflecting outer-shell is a potent Core 2 Duo chip, lifting this beyond its predecessor's status as a sideways kick at the Mac Mini.
You may feel we're constantly harping on about how Core 2 Duo will solve all the world's ills, but the fact remains that it pretty much immolates the competition. In a media centre PC, the difference is all the more apparent.
PCMark's video encoding benchmark spat out a score of 358.177KB/s, and if you compare that to our roundup of £1,500 PCs in PCF188, the Mini PC Plus, packing the 2GHz chip, puts every one to shame in the encoding stakes.
While the Core 2 Duo is the star of the show, the supporting cast certainly pulls its weight. A gigabyte of RAM is more than welcome (although given Conroe's 1,066MHz bus capabilities, something a bit faster than 533MHz would have been nice), and the 100GB SATA drive ensures there's plenty of breathing space for your media.
Particularly impressive is the inclusion of a hybrid TV tuner, which ensures that even if you're suffering from the continuing farce that is the digital switchover, you're guaranteed not to miss the televisual events of 2007.
Quite how Evesham rammed it all into the already bulging case without snapping the laws of physics is another thing entirely. It seems churlish to criticise something that's such a shining validation of the media centre concept, but there are a couple of minor issues with the Mini PC Plus.
A lack of front USB ports means extra fiddling, particularly if you have it squirreled away inside some chic living room furniture. Also, don't expect the internal graphics to handle anything that smells like a recent game. Otherwise, though, this is a diminutive but extremely potent machine. Mike Channell