Attempts to create truly small gaming desktops usually involve at least some kind of performance hit. Even HP’s category-bending Firebird, one of the few stand-out examples, had to use toned-down graphics to succeed in a tiny enclosure. Digital Storm might have broken the trend towards sacrifice with its new Bolt desktop: although it’s just 3.6 inches wide and 14 inches tall, the Bolt can cram in as much as a GeForce GTX 680 and will even let gamers upgrade the graphics like they would in a full-size PC. The seemingly logic-defying (if also finger-defying) case still allows room for as much as an overclocked 4.6GHz Core i7, 16GB of RAM and storage options that meld a spinning hard drive with up to two SSDs and a DVD burner. Digital Storm isn’t even setting an absurd base price, but it’s in the cost that we finally see the catch to the miniaturization tricks. The $999 entry-level Bolt carries a modest 3.1GHz Core i3, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and GeForce GTX 650 Ti, while it takes a staggering $1,949 to get a fully decked-out Core i7 system with a GTX 680. Those prices might be worthwhile for anyone who has ever strained while lugging a traditional tower to a game tourney.
Zotac and its XBOXes — just when you think your next dorm room PC couldn’t get any smaller… it does. The latest in the stable is the long-winded Nano XS AD11 Plus, a hysterically titled small form factor PC equipped with a dual-core 1.6GHz AMD E-450 APU, Radeon HD 6320 GPU, 2GB of DDR3 memory and an HDMI output. There’s also a 64GB mSATA SSD, a pair of USB 3.0 sockets (as well as a couple of the USB 2.0 variety), a gigabit Ethernet jack and a bundled MCE-compatible remote. In a smattering of reviews that also cropped up alongside the box’s launch, we’ve learned that the E-450 moderately bests the prior E-350 rigs and soars past similarly equipped Atom-based machines; the mSATA SSD is perhaps the biggest upgrade, however, easily helping the system as a whole feel far faster than those with mechanical hard drives. Hot Hardware was pleased with the overall showing, though they did note that the include USB WiFi adapter gave ‘em headaches when trying to stream high-bitrate content from a NAS / home server. Worth the $359? Hit those More Coverage links to help you decide.
That VE-900 mini-ITX kit still too big for you, eh? Then check out VIA’s latest pico-ITX alternative: the ARTiGO 1150 DIY nettop. It improves on last year’s 1100 model with a dual-core Eden X2 processor clocked at 1GHz and a VX900H media system processor for accelerated decoding of video up to 1080p. The palm-sized chassis houses the usual HDMI and VGA outputs, gigabit Ethernet and four USB 2.0 host ports, while also leaving just enough room for you to install up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, one 2.5-inch SATA HDD or SSD, plus optional WiFi and SD card reader modules. We’ve found the 1150 selling for $265, which strikes us as appropriately diminutive, but there’s a promo video and press release after the break to help you weigh it up for yourself.
The tiny box that AnandTech called, “the best SFF HTPC [they had] ever reviewed, hands down,” is finally joining the Sandy Bridge brigade. A tipster was doing a little Google-fu when he came across a listing for the unannounced Vision 3D 2nd Gen Series. The specs are certainly a worthy upgrade to last year’s Computex standout, including a switchable 1GB GeForce GT540M card, 1333MHz RAM and an HMDI 1.4a port. You still get a Blu-ray drive, NVIDIA’s 3D Vision, a media remote, four USB 3.0 jacks and your choice of Core i3, i5 or i7 processors — so this isn’t exactly a complete overhaul. Check out the gallery below from a few images and some screenshots of the listing.
For those familiar with last year’s Mac mini, what you’re peering at above isn’t likely to strike you as jarring. Heck, it may even seem somewhat vanilla at this point. In truth, Apple did exceedingly little in terms of design changes with the mid 2011 Mac mini, but given the relatively recent cosmetic overhaul, it’s not like we were genuinely expecting anything above a top-to-bottom spec bump. And that, friends, is exactly what we’ve received. The mini remains quite the curious beast in Cupertino’s line — it’s the almost-HTPC that living room junkies are longing for, yet it’s still a country mile from being the headless mid-tower that Apple steadfastly refuses to build. It’s hardly a PC for the simpleton (given that it’s on you to hunt down a mouse, keyboard and monitor), and it’s actually taking a giant leap backwards on one particularly important front. Care to hear more? You’ll find our full review just past the break.