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Small Wonders

Think outfitting a school with computers is a choice between thin and portable notebooks and clunky stationary desktop computers? There’s a new generation of micro desktop PCs that make older cases look gargantuan – and expensive. At as little as $250, they are not only among the least expensive systems available but most are about the size of a paperback book, energy efficient and can be attached to the back of a flat screen monitor.

Often little more than netbooks repackaged as desktops, these micro systems are more than powerful enough for Web kiosks and library systems, but might lack the performance needed for math and science classrooms, however. Here are five of my favorites.

Asus-eee-box Small is small, but the Asus EeeBox doesn’t skimp when it comes to putting high definition programming onto a monitor or projector’s screen. That’s because the EeeBox B206 can show 1080p high definition material. Based on Intel’s Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, the system comes with 10GB of Asus’s online data storage. While the EeeBox includes a stand, the system’s dimensions of 8.7- by 7- by 1-inch, mean it can be screwed into the back of just about any flat screen monitor. The B206 runs Windows XP and costs about $350, but it uses only about 20 watts of power, meaning it can save hundreds of do llars a year on power bills.  

15266_350w279h The newest of the new micro PCs is Viewsonic’s VOT125. At 5.1- by 4.5- by 1.5-inches it’s tiny and can sit on its own or be bolted to the back of a flat-panel monitor with the included hardware kit. The system uses the choice of several ultra-low voltage Intel processors, like the Celeron ($500), Pentium or Core 2 Duo ($679). Inside is 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. It can connect with the rest of them with four USB connectors as well as ports for DVI and HDMI. It’s got wired and wireless networking, Windows 7.

Q150_02 It may be small, but Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Q150 is a powerhouse for the classroom or computer lab. Inside its 6.7- by 6.0- by 0.75-inch black case, the Q150 has an Intel Atom D150 processor, Nvidia’s Ion 2 graphics and the choice of Windows 7 Home Premium or Basic software. It comes with a stand, can be mounted on a monitor and can hold up to 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The gem is the wireless handheld multimedia remote, which has a mini-keyboard up top and a trackball at the bottom. Pricing for the system starts at $300.

Zboxhd-id11-image1 At $250, Zotac’s ZBox HD-ID11 is a bargain that can save a school thousands of dollars. A square that measures 7.4-inches on a side that’s 1.7-inches thick, the ZBox HD can be screwed onto a monitor or sit on its own stand. It has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom D510 processor, Nvidia Ion graphics and all the comforts of a full desktop PC, including 6 USB ports, wired and wireless networking.

Zino hd Priced at $250, the Dell Inspiron Zino HD offers a lot for the money, particularly when it comes to style. The system is available in six colors and three patterns, making it a must for any classroom décor. Zino comes with the choice of four AMD processors: Athlon Neo X2 6850e or 3250e or Athlon 2850e or 2650e models. The system can hold up to 8GB of RAM and up to a 750TB of hard drive capacity. Unlike many of its peers, the Zino comes with a DVD drive and it has wired and wireless networking covered. It measures 7.8-inches square and 3.4-inches thick.

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