Altech Computers Nano Box-VX Mini PC

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Altech Computers Nano Box-VX Mini PC

Pros

  • Small, solid performance.

Cons

  • slow HDD compared to normal desktop's, Not enough USB ports, no PS2 ports.

Bottom Line

It's a tiny and capable performer for everyday computing and is worth considering if you are constrained for space or what a portable PC to share between locations. We wish it had more RAM and at least one more USB port.

Would you buy this?

Altech's Nano Box-VX harnesses AOpen's MP945-VX Mini PC Duo enclosure to provide a PC that's not only small, but also capable of doling out plenty of speed to keep you productive.

AOpen's enclosure, which measures 16.5cm x 16.5cm x 7cm high, comes with its own motherboard, which has a DC power input, and is based on AOpen's MoDT (mobile on desktop technology), which means it uses notebook components to facilitate the miniaturisation of the desktop PC. Altech has taken this enclosure and furnished it with a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300 CPU and 512MB of DDR2 667MHz RAM.

Graphics functions are built into the motherboard using Intel's 945GM chipset, which uses up to 8MB of main system RAM, leaving only 504MB for your programs. The display output from the graphics chipset can be directed over DVI, VGA, S-Video or Component video cables, all of which are supplied. Storage is provided by an 80GB notebook hard drive, which is tucked under the slot-loading multi-format DVD burner inside the case.

Performance

These components combined to produce a score of 85 in World Bench 5, which is comparable to similarly configured notebooks that we have seen in the PC World Test Centre. It's slower than what a full-sized desktop would achieve with the same amount of RAM and a comparable processor, and this is due to the notebook's hard drive, whose 5400rpm spin speed is no match for a desktop drive's 7200rpm spin speed.

In our hard drive transfer tests, the 80GB Samsung drive in this mini PC scored 8.72MBps, which means disk intensive tasks will be slow compared to a full-size PC. For using everyday applications such as Office or browsing the Internet, the machine is perfect. Its MP3 encoding performance was up to speed (it took 2min 38sec to encode 53min worth of wave files to 192Kbps MP3s using Cdex), and its CD ripping performance was solid, too (it took 4min 45sec to rip a full audio CD to 192Kbps MP3s using Cdex).

Video options

The video-out options of the unit allow it to be connected to a TV in order to function as a media centre. How good the unit performs as a media centre will depend on your TV's capabilities. We tested the unit on a 42in NEC NLT42HD1 LCD TV using the PC's component output. This TV has a native resolution of 1366x768, which the mini PC was unable to match, but we did get a decent picture for watching video files by using a resolution of 1280x720.

The unit is so small, it can be used as a part-time media centre. For everyday computing, the machine can reside in your office or bedroom. It can easily be taken into the living room, when needed, to watch movies stored on your hard drive through your TV.

As for noise, the unit only has one fan, which resides on the single heat sink that cools the CPU and chipset, and it's as quiet as a typical notebook. The base of the unit warms up to about 45 degrees and the rubber pad on the base gives it a good grip on a table or when placed on top of other electronic gear.

Not enough ports

As for usability, this mini PC definitely could use some more ports. It only has two USB ports and one FireWire port. There are no PS/2 ports, so you have to use USB peripherals, which leaves no free ports for plugging in external hard drives, USB keys or even USB Wi-Fi adapters. Networking is facilitated by a Gigabit Ethernet port.

We also found the slot-loading DVD drive to be a little tight when inserting discs, but it functioned without any problems.

Overall, Altech's Nano Box-VX is a solid unit if you're looking for something small for your office or bedroom. Its size makes it easily transportable between home and office, and it's a cheaper alternative to a notebook computer if you want to use the same computer between locations. It could use some more RAM, but it's only upgradeable up to 1GB.

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