Sapphire Edge HD2
1.8GHz Intel Atom D525, 2GB RAM, N/A display, Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit
There's not much to choose between all the tiny and power-efficient nettops on the market, but Sapphire's Edge-HD2 is smaller and much better-looking than most. We weren't blown away by its predecessor, the Sapphire Edge-HD Mini PC largely because of its fairly high price and lack of an installed operating system. The HD2, however, has a quicker processor and comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit.
It's a little more powerful than the original Edge-HD, with a 1.8GHz instead of 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom D525 processor, but it's still no powerhouse. It could only run our benchmarks at 16% the speed of our reference Intel Core i5-2500K - but if you need serious power, you shouldn't be considering a nettop. What it can do is browse the web with multiple tabs open, run casual games with moderate system requirements, such as Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies, and play Full HD 1080p video. We can't compare its power to the previous Edge-HD as that was tested with the old version of our benchmarks, but the Edge-HD2 does feel snappier in general use.
To help with this, the little PC has a 512MB Nvidia Ion graphics processor, which has both VGA and an HDMI port, so is easy to connect to most monitors and home cinema kit. The system comes with a VESA mount to make it easy to attach to the back of a display - perfect if you want a media centre PC that takes up no table space at all. The Edge-HD2 is certainly one of the best-looking nettops we've ever reviewed, thanks to its smooth curves and matt finish, so if you don't want to clamp it to the back of a TV or monitor it won't look out of place next to your AV kit. It makes some noise under load, though, so you may want to shut it in a hi-fi cabinet. The PC comes with an HDMI cable and an HDMI to DVI converter, so you won't need to go out and buy anything else to connect it to your TV or monitor.
The Edge-HD2 has two USB ports behind a neat cover at the front and another two at the back. If you use a wireless mouse and keyboard set to control the PC, that leaves three spare ports for a TV tuner, a USB DVD drive or an external audio device. Alongside the front USB ports are two 3.5mm stereo ports for headphone and mic connections, and you can also use the HDMI connection to send surround-sound audio to a TV or AV amp. There's a Gigabit Ethernet port and 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless, which should be quick enough to stream HD content, depending how far you are from your router. As Windows 7 is installed, you can jump straight in and start using Windows Media Center to play your content.
The main problem is price. The original Sapphire Edge-HD was never the cheapest nettop around, but the HD2 is over £100 more. Considering Windows 7 Ultimate is £170, the PC and OS combination seems relatively good value, but Windows 7 Ultimate is overkill for most people. If you're after a small PC to connect to your TV you're better off buying the Edge-HD and adding a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium for £320, or the Zotac Zbox HD-ID40-U nettop and Windows 7 Home Premium for £260.