Budget shopping tips: Desktop computers
Budget shopping tips warn you off of Nettops.
Like other posts you'll be seeing here over the next week or so, we could offer you lots of tips for buying an affordable desktop. Refurbished PCs from reputable dealers can offer a bargain. Wait until Best Buy's freekicks in on June 26. You can find a reasonably fast gaming PC for less than $1,000.
All of that is true, but there's a larger issue going on in budget PCs right now: Nettops. This new category has received lots of attention the last few months. We've also reviewed our share of them. For all but the most price-conscious shoppers, we have yet to see evidence that Nettops make sense.
Beware the Nettop
We've seen various definitions for "Nettop." Our own Erica Ogg Asus' Eee Box, and the called Nettops. The common thread seems to be that, like Netbooks, Nettops use a low-cost, low-power CPU; among them the Intel Atom, the Via Nano (which we have yet to see outside of a Netbook), or AMD's Athlon 2650e.as all-in-ones with Intel's Atom CPU, the chip family common to many Netbooks. We've also seen small, screenless systems like
What we're certain of is that every system we'd call a Nettop has turned in abysmal performance in the CNET Lab. We're not talking about 3D gaming performance, which we don't even bother testing at this level. We mean everyday slow. "About 15 minutes to convert a single CD into iTunes" slow.
We prefer "Nyet-top"
The common excuse for this performance is that Nettops are only supposed to work as a dedicated Internet PCs. You might expect such a system would offer a huge price break from a real desktop then. Not true. The Asus Eee Box, for example, cost $350 when it came out last year. For just $50 more, you could have purchased an
For a more recent example, we just finished testing eMachines' new
All-in-one Nettops need hate, too
Standalone Nettops aren't alone in offering poor performance with little cost benefit.
We'll agree that for many people, $150 or $100 is not insignificant. And if all you want is a working computer for the lowest price, a Nettop will do the job. But please free yourself from any illusion that a Nettop offers a good deal. We'd also urge those who can to spend just a little bit extra on a real desktop, which offers the performance, and therefore time savings, to quickly offset the added cost.