capsule review

Polywell Poly ITX-9400B Value Compact Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • Polywell PolyITX-9400B

Polywell's Poly ITX-9400B is extremely small (just 7.3 by 8.7 by 2.8 inches), but nothing else about this compact system would seem to warrant its $588 (as of February 1, 2010) price.

The Poly ITX-9400B's 1.6GHz Intel Atom 230 processor is among the slowest processors that PC World tests in its modern lineup of value PCs. On the other hand, the Poly ITX-9400B's integrated nVidia GeForce 9400 GPU lets it tackle a number of high-resolution movies sans stutter. For a system of this size, the included 4GB of RAM and gigabit ethernet port are top-of-the-line components, but the 500MB hard drive is pretty average.

Our WorldBench 6 performance benchmark tests offer grim evidence of this system's speed perils. Its score of 38 is on a par with similarly priced Atom-based all-in-one PCs--but those PCs come with a built-in monitor. Matched against more than 30 current value desktops, the Poly ITX-9400B finishes dead last. The Acer Veriton X270 might not offer much more in the graphics department, but it doubles the Poly ITX-9400B's system speed despite costing nearly $100 less.

To its credit, the Poly ITX-9400B offers numerous port connections: six USB slots and one eSATA port (plus optical and S/PDIF outputs for audio, 7.1 surround sound, and HDMI, VGA, and DVI connections) on the rear of the case, and two USB ports on the front.

The system's black exterior clashes with the front panel's ugly silver finish. Inside the case, there's room only for replacement parts--hardly unusual in so small a PC, but a situation that some compact systems (like, again, Acer's Veriton X270) overcome.

The included wireless mouse, though generic, is a welcome touch for a box that you'll likely stick under a coffee table in your living room; the similarly undistinguished wired keyboard has less appeal.

Polywell's Poly ITX-9400B seems best suited for a living room, but the system really shines only as a streaming media hub. And even then, the codec of your movies will determine whether you receive flawless or stuttered high-definition playback on the system's nVidia GeForce 9400 GPU.

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At a Glance
  • This system is tough to recommend over better-performing and more-upgradable compact PCs.

    Pros

    • Good but not great storage space
    • Lots of connectivity for its size

    Cons

    • Lackluster performance
    • Ugly design
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