Apple Mac Mini ( 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.
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.
Apple Mac Mini ( 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 160GB, Fall 2009)
The lower-cost Mac Mini offers respectable budget performance and Apple's usual compelling design, but a puny hard drive and a lack of HDMI hurt this system's value and overall potential. It's actually more versatile next to its budget-priced Windows competition than the higher-end Mac Mini, but this entry-level Mac is still best left to Apple loyalists.
Apple Mac Mini ( 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 320GB, Fall 2009)
With strong competition among small PCs on the Windows side of the aisle, the latest Mac Mini faces a greater challenge than older models. If you demand a small, relatively affordable Mac, we suppose the Mac Mini is your only option. Otherwise, you can find Windows-based small form factor desktops that offer more interesting features with better value.
Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H
Acer's Aspire Revo 1600 might be the first Nettop we don't actively dislike. We'd rather have an Xbox 360 in the living room, but the Aspire Revo 1600 would be suitable as a PC for young kids or as a low-profile cloud kiosk. Thanks to its $199 price tag, you won't feel too much remorse if it breaks or you outgrow it.