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As technology improves components are getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful all at the same time. It is now possible to have a low spec PC that is both affordable and extremely small.
There are various advantages to having a small PC. Apart from the obvious saving in space they also tend to operate very quietly (usually because there is no room for a fan). On the other hand some may have problems with overheating, particularly if you live in a warm climate and don’t have air conditioning. You’ll also get less for your money in terms of processing power than you would if you bought a bulky desktop.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the smallest PCs you can buy.
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CompuLab FIT-PC2 Linux Nettop PC
The manufacturers claim that this is the smallest PC available and measuring just 4 x 1 x 4.5 inches it is in with a shout. This PC is powered by an Intel ATOM Z530 processor. It has 1 GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. It comes pre-installed with the Ubuntu Linux operating system. It also has LAN, WLAN and 6 USB ports as well as an HDMI output which makes it a potential HTPC. It has no fan so the operation is very quiet and it could also fit the bill as an "always on" server, because the energy consumption is an incredibly low 6 watts.
This compact, eco friendly PC costs $329.99 at Amazon.
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This tiny PC has a much cooler name and it is 2 inches square. As the name would suggest it is a cube and it has been designed for use in space so it is very tough. It has a 300 MHz CPU, 16 MB of flash memory with a 1 GB CompactFlash card which slots into the side and 64 MB of RAM. There is a USB port, VGA port, D-Sub, an Ethernet port and jacks for speakers and headphones. It runs on the Linux Red Hat operating system and it is not currently available outside of Japan.
You can find more about it at the Shimafuji website (if you can read Japanese).
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LPC-450 Dual Core Small Form Factor PC
If you need more power you have to jump up significantly in size but you could always take a look at something like this from specialist PC manufacturers Stealth. It packs an Intel Core 2 Duo processor up to 2.33 GHz with 1 GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. The system is configurable though so you can upgrade various elements. It is also quiet because it has no fan and there are plenty of connectivity options.
For the basic model you’re looking at $1,195 and it goes up from there. Check out the Stealth website for more.
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Asus Essentio CS5110
This PC is a lot bigger still but it looks gorgeous and it packs some serious power. There are plenty of options including an Intel Core 2 Duo, Pentium Dual Core, Pentium 4 or Celeron D processor. You can also get up to 1 TB of hard drive space and it is equipped with a Blu-ray drive. It has 7.1 audio output, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 10-in-1 memory card reader, headphone and speaker jacks and 6 USB ports. In addition to HDMI out for high definition movies you can also get this machine with a decent graphics card for gaming, such as the Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT. It measures 7.9 x 11.4 x 3.1 inches so it is a lot bigger than our other examples but then it can also do a lot more. It costs around $600 but you can pick up refurbished models for around half that price.
Check out the Asus website for more.
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Dell OptiPlex 780 Ultra
This is billed by Dell as the smallest commercial PC which is designed to be used in offices with limited space. The basic system runs Vista, has a 2.2 GHz Intel Celeron processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. It comes with a mouse and keyboard and has a DVD drive. It is 9.4 x 9.4 inches in size so it will sit neatly behind a monitor. The system starts at around $500 but you can tweak the innards to get the specs you want and prices will rise accordingly. For other options from Dell check out the Top 3 Dell Desktop Computer Deals.
Find out more about the OptiPlex 780 Ultra at the Dell website.
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If you just want a basic PC and size is the most important issue then you won’t find a better option than the CompuLab FIT-PC2. If you want a stylish PC for your living room then the Asus Essentio CS5110 is well worth a look. You can find more HTPC options in our HTPC Guide for Christmas 2009. If you have specific requirements then you’ll find a good range of alternatives at the Stealth website but since they are custom built they can be on the expensive side.