HotHardware's 2011 Back To School Shopping Guide
SFF / HTPC
Zotac promises "stunning high-definition Blu-ray video playback in glorious 1080p" with its ZBOXHD-ID34BR-U. This small machine packs plenty of power, including next-generation NVIDIA ION technology with 512MB of DDR3 video memory. The system also features a slot-load Blu-ray drive and native 1080p video output. An Intel Atom D525 processor powers the system. For storage, the ZBOXHD-ID34BR-U offers a 250GB hard drive.
Connectivity options for the ZBOXHD-ID34BR-U include a mini-PCI Express slot, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, a combination eSATA 3.0 Gb/s and USB 2.0 port, DVI, HDMI, S/PDIF optical outputs, 6-in-1 memory card reader, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. The system measures 7.36 x 11.02 x 1.5 inches. At the time of this writing it is available for $369.99.
Asus EeeBox PC EB1007
Asus describes the EeeBox PC as a mini desktop PC with huge possibilities. Not only does the EeeBox PC EB1007 boast of an energy efficient design that requires about 40 watts of power, but it also boasts of being "barely audible" at only 26 decibels. This all-in-one PC is capable of mounting to the back of an LCD monitor to save desk space. If space isn't an issue, you can also display the EeeBox PC EB1007 on your desk using a stand.
Asus also had connectivity in mind when it designed the EeeBox PC EB1007. This little box offers two USB 2.0 ports, a LAN port, D-sub, and S/PDIF ports on the back. On the front of the EeeBox PC EB1007, you'll find a card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, a headphone-out jack, and mic port. The side panel houses an eSATA port as well as another USB 2.0 port. Adding that all up, you'll see that there is six USB 2.0 ports in total.
ASRock Vision 3D
When we looked at the ASRock Vision 3D a few months ago, we said it excelled at offering a good home theater experience and felt the system offered a good balance between price and performance. We also felt the system was easy to set up, quiet, and unobtrusive—all of which are must-have features in a HTPC. In addition to providing a good home theater experience, the ASRock Vision 3D outpaced other HTPC and mobile platforms in our benchmark tests.
In order to deliver this experience, the ASRock Vision 3D utilizes an Intel Core i3-370M or Core i5 mobile processor along with NVIDIA GeForce GT425M graphics and NVIDIA 3D Vision. Additional key specs include 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB hard drive, and Blu-ray combo drive. Connectivity options include three USB 3.0 ports, five USB 2.0 ports, mic, headphone, HDMI, DVI-I (Dual-Link), S/PDIF, eSATA II, a 4-in-1 card reader, and Gigabit LAN. The ASRock HTPC also comes with a number of accessories including an IR MCE remote control, basic 3D glasses, a VGA to DVI adapter, a 19v power brick, user’s and quick installation guides, a driver and utilities CD, and a copy of CyberLink PowerDVD 10.