Averatec's latest all-in-one, the reasonably, unimaginatively named 18.4-inch All-in-One PC, boasts a simple, attractive design and a low price. For $549, you get a wide-screen 18.4-inch display that sits atop an 8-by-11-inch base, connected by an adjustable arm. That's less than half the price of the 20-inch iMac and nearly a third of the price of Sony's 20-inch all-in-one Vaio JS190J. That said, I wouldn't recommend buying this all-in-one Nettop because it uses a processor whose chief attraction is extending battery life: the Averatec 18.4-inch All-in-One does not have a battery. An efficient single-core Intel Atom processor makes sense in small Netbooks, where their small displays mean they won't be used for more than a portable Internet device; in such a device, portability and battery life easily trump performance. In the case of a Nettop that will stay anchored in one spot, using an Intel Atom processor makes little sense.
With Asus and MSI announcing similar Nettops recently, maybe I'm the only one missing the point of an Atom-based all-in-one computer. Perhaps it meets the very specific demand of a basic Internet terminal and all-in-one DVD player for a room in your home that is calling out for such an addition, but I'd rather have a low-end, large screen laptop that did that while also having the ability to easily move from room to room. The Acer Aspire 5735-4624 costs $50 less than Averatec's Nettop, though you do sacrifice almost 3 inches in screen size (and you'll need to await its replacement; it looks like the Aspire 5735-4624 is sold out). Still, it's not like the Averatec's 18.4-inch screen is going to provide an engrossing movie experience unless you're huddled pretty close the screen.
The Averatec All-in-One PC can be moved from room to room; the arm that connects the display to the base doubles as a convenient handle. You'll need to unplug the system, however, and schlep the wired keyboard and mouse with you, too, but with integrated 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, you'll only need to plug it back into a wall outlet to set up shop in a different locale in your home. The keyboard is very compact and uncomfortable for anything longer than banging out a quick e-mail. It's not as bad as a Netbook keyboard, but I've used better keyboards on laptops. The mouse is your standard optical, wired unit. (Despite what the image at the top of the review would indicate, the mouse and keyboard are wired.)
Other than the cheap keyboard, the design of this $550 computer is rather upscale. The rectangular base features a glossy black surface, gently sloping edges, and rounded corners. Three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and a power adapter are located on the back edge, and two more USB 2.0 ports, headphone and mic jacks, VGA out, and a multiformat media card reader reside on the right side. Five small buttons on the front edge let you mute and adjust the volume and screen brightness.
The display measures 18.4 inches diagonally and features a 1,680x945 native resolution and a 1.3-megapixel Webcam above it. It represents decent value if you are looking only at screen inches vs. dollars spent. But with such an underwhelming configuration, you're not able to take advantage of all that screen space to multitask or run any sort of demanding graphics app.
The Nettop features the standard Netbook configuration of the 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU. 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, and Windows XP Home. Just as Netbooks can't compete with even budget dual-core laptops, the Averatec Nettop's performance is woeful compared with budget dual-core systems--both laptops and desktops. The entry-level, 20-inch iMac costs more than twice as much, but it has the advantage of being an actual computer, well, your primary PC anyway. With the Averatec all-in-one Nettop, noticeable delay can be felt on simple commands. Looking at its performance on the two CNET Labs benchmarks it could run, you'll see that it's far slower than low-end dual-core desktops such as the Dell Inspiron 530s or the eMachines ET1161-03. The Acer Aspire 5735-4624 is about as low-end a laptop configuration as you'll find, and its Pentium Dual Core processor clearly outclasses the Intel Atom.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Perhaps you would argue energy efficiency. With the Intel Atom processor's thermal design power (TDP) specification in the 2.5-watt range, the Averatec Nettop consumes less electricity than a traditional desktop. By comparison, the Core 2 Duo P8400 laptop chip has a TDP of roughly 25 watts and the Acer Aspire's older Pentium Dual Core T3200 chip has a TDP of 35 watts. I own EnergyStar appliances, have replaced most of the light bulbs in my house with CFLs, and can often be seen turning out the light when I leave the room, but I'd view the Averatec Nettop as no better than a second system that you'd be running in addition to your primary system. In such a scenario, I'd argue that your total energy savings would be negligible.