Apple Mac Mini with Fusion Drive ( fall 2012)
With or without its new Fusion hybrid drive, Apple finally has a Mac Mini that competes well against mainstream Windows PCs in the same price range.
Budget desktops might not be all that exciting, but the Gateway SX2870-UR10P slim tower shows you can still find a worthwhile day-to-day PC for under $500.
Samsung Chromebox Series 3
The attractive, fairly priced Samsung Chromebox desktop turns Google's Web-based Chrome OS into a not entirely unreasonable option for certain low-cost PC shoppers.
Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002
Not everyone wants a living-room computer, but the Acer Revo 100 is one of the better low-cost HTPCs we've seen thanks to a wisely chosen feature set, its attractive design, and a mostly well-conceived input device.
Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P
The Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P is a poorly configured, overpriced budget desktop with little to recommend it. Look instead to Acer's Gateway subsidiary for better slim-tower options.
Dell Inspiron Zino HD ( AMD Phenom II X4)
With its thoughtful features, Dell's charming little Inspiron Zino HD is perfectly suited to serve up HD content to your living room. We wish it had more general computing speed, and design purists will find the Mac Mini more sophisticated, but on balance we recommend it, especially to more casual home theater PC enthusiasts.
eMachines ER1402-05 is a strong living-room Nettop among others like it, but it doesn't compete well in the larger picture of living-room entertainment devices like game consoles, media streamers, and video service-equipped Blu-ray players. It's worth a look if you need a desktop of this particular type, but keep shopping if you need a connected living-room media device.
The Gateway SX2801-01e is just one of several new budget slim tower systems available this season. We're impressed by its compact design and the HDMI port makes it easy to use in the living room. For a $520 system, the SX2801-01e's performance and upgradability put it in the same top tier as the Editors' Choice-winning models that came before it, and we recommend it to anyone shopping for a powerful, flexible, cost-effective computer.
Apple Mac Mini ( Spring 2010)
Apple's new Mac Mini includes an elegant new design and some long asked-for features, including HDMI output and user-accessible memory. The system still faces a value challenge for its given specs, but Apple has done enough to improve the Mac Mini's appeal for Apple loyalists and design fans looking for a living room computer.
Asus Eee Box EB1501
We like the looks of Asus' Eee Box EB1501, but it's pricier than Blu-ray players that stream content from the Web, and not as powerful as slightly more expensive slim tower PCs that offer significantly more speed and power. Asus made a decent attempt at the Nettop-as-set-top-box replacement with this system, but it's crowded out by too many alternatives.