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By Mike Joubert 19 October 2009

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Desktop PCs have seen a steady decline in popularity over the past few years, thanks in large part to the drop in prices of laptops and the rise of netbooks. Now we’re seeing the dawn of a new species with the rise of the nettop PC. These all-in-one machines utilise the same little Atom processor found in netbooks to provide a more compact desktop experience. Case in point the Acer eMachines EZ1601 running on the Intel Atom N270.

Design
Looking at the EZ1601 you might wonder where the box is, well everything is tucked away at the back of the LCD panel. This concept isn’t new, Apple’s been doing it for awhile now with their iMacs. But it’s a brilliant idea since you no longer have to bother with finding space for the case, plus the PC is also a lot more manageable if you want to start moving it around.
The eMachines is a very stylish piece of equipment and the excellent 18.5" display (wide-screen, 16:9 ratio) is a joy to work on. It looks gorgeous, although the included keyboard and mouse are a bit plain.

Wi-Fi and DVD writer
There are two features that we’re very glad Acer decided to include- Wi-Fi and a DVD writer. These days Wi-Fi is a must, a lack of WLAN was our biggest complaint about their Veriton N270, as it seriously limits appeal to the office market. The DVD writer is a bit of a bonus and makes the eMachines more appealing than some of the other nettops, like the Asus EeeTop ET1602, coming out without one.

Performance
While the 160 GB hard disk space isn’t a lot in modern day terms it should be sufficient in most cases. A bit of a concern is the 1 GB of RAM that cannot be upgraded. A gigabyte isn’t a lot, but we were actually taken aback by the machine’s performance. The eMachines we tested came with Windows 7 and gave us surprisingly little hassle. It booted up quickly and during general usage performed well. You can browse, have some music playing and write in Word without any difficulty.

The system comes with five USB ports on the side and bottom of the system as well as a SD card and Memory Stick slot. There’s also onboard speakers that are loud enough to watch a movie without having to employ external speakers, although sound quality is not that hot.

Final word
You’ll see a lot more of these nettops entering the market place soon. It’s a trend that might just give the humble PC a grip on its sliding market. The Acer eMachines EZ1601 is a very attractive machine that won’t look out of place in the smartest of offices or the trendiest of rooms. For general usage that doesn’t require a lot of intensive graphic work or laborious multi-tasking the Acer eMachines is a solid choice.
Available from Incredible Connection for R4999.

PROS
Compact, excellent screen, Wi-Fi, DVD writer
CONS
You can\'t upgrade the paltry 1 GB of RAM, keyboard and mouse not as stylish as the panel
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