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HolidayBuyer's Guide

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Asus Chromebox

If you're looking to get started in the world of Chrome OS, the Asus Chromebox is a very good starting point--so long as you don't mind bringing your own peripherals.

ZeroDesktop MiiPC

The Kickstarter-funded Android computer has a wealth of parental control features.

Gateway SX2370-UR10P

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.

Raspberry Pi Model B

We give our first impressions of the $35 Raspberry Pi, an intriguing, eminently affordable hobbyist computer.

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.

HP Omni 120-1130

You might reasonably ask whether a budget desktop makes sense anymore given the versatility of the iPad and other tablets, but if you find you do in fact need a low-cost computer, the HP Omni 120-1024 is a fine choice.

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 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.

HP TouchSmart 300-1020

With a small screen for its price, we can't justify the TouchSmart 300 as a home entertainment all-in-one PC. It's also slower than more affordable midtowers, so you can spend less for more productivity. This leaves HP's touch-based software as the TouchSmart 300's primary selling point. We'd recommend this PC in the kitchen, but it's less appealing elsewhere.

Gateway DX4300-11

We're fond of the Gateway DX4300-11's clever design, but halfhearted performance scores mar its overall worth. The TV tuner and 1TB hard drive may tempt you to stick it in your living room as a media center PC, but your money is better spent on the Asus Essentio CG5270-BP004.

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.

eMachines ET1810-03

The eMachines ET1810-03 isn't the fastest or the most attractive computer, but we can't argue with the low price, attractive design, and a complete (if not slightly barren) set of components. If you can deal with the midtower size, it will make for an excellent general purpose PC for the home.

eMachines EL1300G-01w

We cringe at the idea of recommending such a slow PC when you can get significantly better performance for just a few more dollars. That said, it's hard to argue with the eMachines EL1300G-01w's low price, clean good looks, and relatively complete budget feature set. As long as you have no ambitions for this PC performing anything resembling serious work, it will make a fine second or third home system.

Apple Mac Pro Intel Xeon Quad-Core 2.66GHz, Winter 2009

Apple's new eight-core Mac Pro demonstrates marked improvements over the older model in high-intensity digital media and multitasking scenarios. We also love the design tweaks that improve on Apple's already industry-leading sensibilities. Any Apple-bound design professional would welcome this new tool in his or her arsenal.

Apple iMac 24-inch, 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Winter 2009

A few other all-in-ones make this 20-inch iMac look expensive on a dollars-per-screen-inch basis, but none are as attractive or as capable juggling multiple programs. With a fast dual-core CPU and a strong array of features, Apple's updated all-in-one will slide seamlessly into a variety of roles at home or at work.

Apple Mac Mini 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 120GB, Winter 2009

Apple's newest high-end Mac Mini maintains its small, stylish footprint, and as with the cheaper version, this $799 model has impressive multitasking capabilities. You'll like this desktop if juggling apps with attractive hardware is important to you, but you get much better all-around value in a Windows PC for the same price.

eMachines ET1161-07

At first glance, the eMachines ET1161-07 seems like a decent setup, but a laundry list of subpar components running on 32-bit Windows Vista just can't keep up with other similarly priced systems that give you much faster performance and higher-quality components for just $100 more.

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