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Compact PCs are generally known for their slim, stylish cases--and not their performance. The Giada DN2301 seems designed to be one of the few exceptions to the rule. Equipped with a fairly powerful (for the category) laptop processor, this $675 PC (price as of January 26, 2011) makes a few aesthetic sacrifices to improve the overall package.
The model we reviewed packs a decent punch, armed with an Intel Core i5-430UM processor and an Nvidia Ion chipset. Although that still isn't a proper desktop CPU, it is a significant step up from the Atom processors we're used to seeing in the compact-PC category. The DN2301 offers only 2GB of RAM (upgradable to 8GB), but it also features a 500GB hard drive. Built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi is expected, but the system's Bluetooth connectivity is a nice touch.
The DN2301 isn't very small or even creatively designed. The black chassis--complete with a silver Giada logo stamped across the top--has rounded edges and an antenna, and it looks more like a router than a computer. To its credit, though, the rounded edges do help it stand out from other boxy nettops. The DN2301 measures 9 inches wide by 6.8 inches deep by 2.1 inches high, and weighs about 3.6 pounds. The front of the PC is nice and simple, providing a slim slot-loading DVD burner, the power button, and a flap that covers the essential ports (microphone/headphone jacks, a multiformat card reader, and a USB 3.0 port).
The back of the DN2301 offers a number of connectivity options. You'll find four USB ports, an HDMI-out port, an eSATA port, an ethernet port, DVI-out, S/PDIF-out, a Kensington lock slot, and a 5.1 audio output. That's not a bad loadout for a machine this small, and advanced connectivity options such as USB 3.0 and eSATA are always appreciated.
What the Giada DN2301 lacks in sexiness, it makes up for in performance--sort of. In our WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, the DN2301 received an overall score of 76, pretty good for the category. By comparison, the ViewSonic VOT530 PC Mini earned a score of 90, while the Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410 (our current chart-topper) achieved a score of 78. Both of those compact PCs are more expensive than the DN2301 ($750 and $825, respectively).
In our Unreal Tournament 3 tests, the DN2301 didn't do quite as well. At the top settings--high quality and a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels--the DN2301 managed just 8.4 frames per second, a virtually unplayable result. It wasn't until we dropped the screen resolution to 1024 by 768 pixels that we got an acceptable frame rate of 33 fps. Remember, though, that none of the machines on the compact-PC chart fared much better; if you're looking to get a bit of gaming done without spending too much, look a bit higher up the desktop food chain and check out our budget desktop and mainstream desktop charts.
Ultimately the Giada DN2301 falls into the same trap as most of its compact PC brethren: It's small, attractive, and acceptably quick for business or general-computing purposes, but unless you're in desperate need of desk space or you have a specific use case, it's not terribly practical for much else. Although it's relying on its small form factor to get in the door, keep your options in mind. For just $75 more, you can have significantly better performance in the ViewSonic VOT530. And if you're strictly in the market for a small multimedia machine, Dell's Inspiron Zino HD 410 sports a Blu-ray player and a larger hard drive.
The Giada DN2301 is ultimately relying on its small chassis to sell, but competition in the compact-PC category is tough.
- Plethora of connectivity options
- Attractive (though not terribly creative) case
- Unimpressive performance
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