Meet The Nettop: The Netbook's Thrifty Desktop Cousin - InformationWeek

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3/19/2009
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Meet The Nettop: The Netbook's Thrifty Desktop Cousin

You can't swing a dead iPod without hitting a netbook these days. But you don't hear nearly as much about its low-key cousin: the "nettop."

You can't swing a dead iPod without hitting a netbook these days. But you don't hear nearly as much about its low-key cousin: the "nettop."Intel coined the term "nettop" last year as a marketing hook for its Atom processor line. While the Atom plays a prominent role in many netbooks and other mobile devices, Intel also intended it for use in efficient, very small form-factor desktop PCs.

Since then, only a handful of Atom-powered desktop systems have hit the market, including models from Shuttle and Asus. The Shuttle X27, for example, consumes less than 40 watts of power and is capable of running almost entirely without the use of a cooling fan (although the system still includes one). The Atom architecture also appears in some thin-client offerings, most notably from Dell.

Embedded-systems OEM CompuLab wants to jump-start the nettop market with a system one hardware site describes as the "smallest, most energy-efficient PC ever." The company's Fit-PC2 is about the size of a ham sandwich, but it can pack up to a 1.6MHz Atom processor, 160GB of SATA or solid-state storage, and 1GB or memory, with Ubuntu Linux 8.04 running the show.

Judging from photos of the Fit-PC2 posted on DesktopLinux.com, the system also includes six USB ports (including two mini-USB ports on the front), Ethernet and wireless LAN capability, audio line-in and -out jacks, and a DVI video connector.

And while the Fit-PC2 offers features that clearly qualify it as a genuine desktop PC, its power consumption tops out at just eight watts under a full CPU load.

According to CompuLab, it will begin shipping the Fit-PC2 later this month. Models with a 1.6GHz Atom processor and a pre-installed copy of Ubuntu Linux will retail for $360; less expensive versions that ship without on-board storage will also be available.

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