Giada Slim-N20: Style Over Substance
At a Glance
Like so many compact PCs, Giada's Slim-N20 sacrifices performance at the altar of economy.
Compact PCs can be excellent, inexpensive living-room media hubs, but they generally fit into their minuscule frames by leaving features on the cutting-room floor. The Giada Slim-N20 is no exception. Unfortunately, this low-powered nettop struggles to live up to its price tag ($450, as of November 1, 2010).
This compact desktop PC packs a dual-core 1.66GHz Intel Atom D510 processor and 2GB of DDR2 RAM into a slim chassis. Alas, the Slim-N20 ultimately lags in performance: It earned a paltry score of 42 in our WorldBench 6 test suite--below average for a category that's already fairly underpowered.
Competitors in the category fared better. The $300 eMachines ER1402-05, equipped with a 1.7GHz Athlon II Neo K125 processor, delivered a WorldBench 6 score of 62. The category-leading Viewsonic VOT530, which carries a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T6600, earned a comparatively impressive WorldBench 6 score of 90.
nVidia's Ion 2 graphics chipset is paired with the Slim-N20's processor, but the combination does little to impress. Our test 1080p media clips stuttered visibly at higher resolutions. Users can rule out higher-end PC gaming entirely (as expected for the category). On our Call of Duty and Dirt 2 tests, the Slim-N20 failed to produce playable frame rates, and on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark it puttered along at a meager 15 frames per second.
Performance isn't necessarily everything, however. The Slim-N20 offers whisper-quiet operation and reduced power consumption; its case feels cool to the touch even after long hours of constant use.
In fact, excellent case design is one of the Slim-N20's more compelling traits. The little tyke sports the requisite array of input/output options, with a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, a 5.1 audio output, and a multiformat card reader up top. A pair of USB ports and HDMI and VGA outputs on the rear complete a package that should handle the basic needs of any entry-level entertainment enthusiast.
That said, the Slim-N20 demands that users be advanced enough to keep their media on network storage or removable memory, once the 320GB hard drive is full. That's a fairly meager capacity, but standard for machines in the category. The case makes room for a gigabit ethernet jack, but it omits an optical drive--despite shipping with a DVD software bundle.
Our review unit lacked a bundled keyboard or mouse, but did include a remote control and a detachable stand handy for keeping a low profile in your living room. Slim-N20 owners can also minimize cable clutter thanks to 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth support.
The Giada Slim-N20 is a poor choice for playing PC games or watching movies, despite its makers' pitching it as a platform to do just that. Mediocre performance is understandable at its price tag, but the aforementioned competitors offer the same sleek style--and better performance--for less.
Unless the slim chassis and glossy white finish are a must-have for you, the Giada Slim-N20 is tough to recommend; savvy shoppers can certainly find a compact PC that's stronger, faster, and cheaper. If you have a bit more room in your budget and size isn't a limiting factor, take a look at the budget desktop category for larger systems with a superior price-to-performance ratio.