This review appears in the November 06 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents. The price, scores and specifications to the right are for the Hi-Grade mDMS P60; to read details for the Advent DHE X22, kindly click here.

For many a year, the tiny PC has been a holy grail for consumers. Build it in a small case and the customers will come, goes the wisdom. But attempts to put this into action have rather foundered.

The increasing popularity of Viiv and Media Center, however, means we can expect far more PCs resembling these tiny Advent and Hi-Grade machines. They are almost identical physically, and they are undoubtedly very small. They’ll sit virtually unnoticed on your desktop – particularly since they're incredibly quiet.

But neither of these machines is a perfect marriage of small form factor and all-action Viiv capabilities. Those hoping for a raft of ports, for example, are likely to be disappointed. TV facilities are included, although neither PC has dual tuners, so you won't be able to watch one channel while recording another. And the hard drives are only 100GB, so you can't store a lot of video content.

The Advent's keyboard is one of the most compact we've ever seen. Unfortunately, the keys are just a touch too small for comfort. And the receiver comes as a separate USB device that needs to be plugged into one of your USB ports. Worse, we found it hard to connect at the rear of the PC, which meant we had to effectively sacrifice our front-mounted USB port.

The Hi-Grade throws out the mouse in favour of a trackball – a convenient arrangement for armchair enthusiasts, but rather unresponsive in practice.

Nonetheless, if your desire is a tiny PC that can carry out basic Media Center and PC functions while taking up as little room as possible, you may find these machines interesting. General Windows performance was very satisfactory, even if gaming speed left much to be desired. Both come with a solid 1GB of DDR RAM, and while both have Intel Core Duos, the Hi-Grade’s faster T2400 version gives it a slightly higher WorldBench score – 89 rather than the Advent's 87.

The Hi-Grade costs a bit more, but it’s faster and, more significantly, comes with a very good 19in Sony screen. In the case of the Advent, you'll need to factor in the cost of a screen, making the Hi-Grade the better overall deal.

Hi-Grade mDMS P60: Specs

  • Hi-Grade mDMS P60: 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor
  • Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 100GB hard drive
  • onboard 945GM Express card
  • 19in Sony SDM-E96D flat-panel
  • 8x/8x/8x/2.4x/4x/4x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Mini-PCI TV tuner card
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth
  • DVI output
  • 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • SD/MMC/Memory Stick reader
  • Viiv-compliant
  • OpenOffice 2.0
  • BullGuard 5.0
  • InterVideo Suite
  • 1-year collect-and-return warranty
  • 197x230x42mm
  • 1.3kg
  • Hi-Grade mDMS P60: 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor
  • Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 100GB hard drive
  • onboard 945GM Express card
  • 19in Sony SDM-E96D flat-panel
  • 8x/8x/8x/2.4x/4x/4x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Mini-PCI TV tuner card
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth
  • DVI output
  • 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • SD/MMC/Memory Stick reader
  • Viiv-compliant
  • OpenOffice 2.0
  • BullGuard 5.0
  • InterVideo Suite
  • 1-year collect-and-return warranty
  • 197x230x42mm
  • 1.3kg

OUR VERDICT

If you want a fully fledged Media Center PC, the Acer Aspire idea 500 is a vastly superior machine for a similar price. However, if you're really looking for the smallest and most discreet PC available and aren't so bothered about Viiv capabilities, the Hi-Grade, in particular, is well worth a look.

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