Enano ex7400u review: Enano ex7400u

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Small size; integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; a built-in TV tuner; quiet operation.

The Bad Laptops offer better value and self-sufficiency; small hard drive.

The Bottom Line Enano overshot the small-size target with its ex7400u desktop. It's faster and more capable than the more budget-friendly competition, but similarly priced laptops outshine it by far. If you're intent on a small desktop, this isn't a bad PC, but we're not as impressed as we'd like to be.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Service and support 6.0

Enano ex7400u

Editor's note: This review has been updated to indicate that this system has 3GB of RAM as configured, not 2GB as we originally reported.

We admit we had worries about the Enano ex7400u. At $1,825, it's awfully expensive compared to its closest small-size competition. After testing, our opinion brightened, but once we compared it to a similarly priced laptop, we were less optimistic. It's been an emotional roller coaster reviewing this new entrant in the tiny PC category. As a desktop, the Enano stacks up fairly well. But once we considered the portability and self-sufficiency of a laptop, we were less excited by the Enano's overall value.

The Enano's biggest problem is its processor and its chipset; they're simply dated. The Core 2 Duo T7400 is a respectable 2.1GHz CPU, and Enano pairs it with 3GB of 677MHz of DDR2 SDRAM on an Intel 945GM Express chipset motherboard with an Intel GMA 950 graphics chip. That's about what we'd expect to find in a tiny desktop with no expansion card room, but that chip and chipset combination means this laptop hardware is not a member of Intel's new Centrino Duo (aka Santa Rosa) family. That means the Enano has slower memory, a less-capable graphics chip, and no support for 802.11n (Draft N) Wi-Fi, making it inferior to many new laptops.

Of course, most of those laptops are also more expensive than the Enano, but we'll point you to the HP Pavilion dv9500t as our value comparison. You'll see from our benchmarks that it's only a little bit slower than the Enano. The HP laptop also costs roughly $200 less, and it comes with its own display and a battery (being a laptop and all). It's hard to make the argument, then, that you gain much in space savings or anything else from the Enano, when you can get a comparable laptop for less.

We'll concede that some of you may simply want a small desktop, and the Enano ex7400u is not bad as far as desktop PCs go. It's remarkably faster than both the last Apple Mac Mini we tested and HP's newest Slimline, the s3020n. The Enano also has a fairly robust set of features, including integrated Bluetooth and 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, a dual-layer DVD burner, an optical-audio out, and a TV tuner, making it more capable than the Mac Mini as a small home theater PC. Both include a puny 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; the difference is the Mac Mini is about $1,000 less expensive.

The Enano is also a little larger than the Mac Mini. At 8.8x6.8x1.6 inches, it's two inches deeper than Apple's tiny desktop, hardly enough to get worked up about. This is still a tiny PC, though, and the added space does not have room for any upgrades, the chief benefit of the much larger HP Slimline. It is easier to get inside than the Mac Mini: simply remove three screws, slide the top off, and you're in. We suspect that's more for repair purposes than user upgrades, because once you are inside, none of the slots or bays are readily available.

Aside from selling the virtues of its systems' size, Enano also markets its PCs as environmentally friendly, championing their power efficiency. We asked Enano to elaborate on this, and here is the reply, from COO Bill Rey:

Enano has implemented its PMA v1 (Power Management Architecture) into [this desktop.] PMA v1 is an advanced materials build and configurations setup designed to yield the most power-efficient operations gaining optimization from Enano factory settings, BIOS options, specific air-cooling flows, sound-dampening materials, reduced conductor materials and simplified hardware design architecture. PMA v2 will extend the Enano hardware designs, build, and configuration settings by utilizing materials and manufacturing components capable of squeezing more savings per operating hour from each Enano. An intelligent software layer is planned in future release of the Enano.

We're not sure there's anything going on in this version of Enano's PMA beyond what it would have to do anyway to get this system running in such a small case. In fact, you could argue that because Enano doesn't employ any of Intel's lower-voltage Core 2 Duo U-series processors, it's not as power-efficient as it could be. That said, this is still a quiet system, and the small, external power brick doesn't draw even as much power as you'd need for a laptop because there's no LCD to run.

Finally, Enano's support strikes us a sparse. The warranty backs you for a year of parts-and-labor coverage, with a depot repair service as well. Its Web site has basic offerings including PDF files for the system's manual and a few external links to helpful site, but nothing very in-depth. Phone support is only available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., PT. Enano also says that it's adding an online-chat capability, with the now-standard remote control functions available for its techs to take over your PC.

Find out more about how we test desktops.

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