Foxconn’s Nettop nT-A3500 is sold as a bare-bones PC with a motherboard, CPU and case, but no memory or storage installed. It’s spectacularly thin, measuring just 25mm in height – smaller than the average router, or even a paperback book.
The Foxconn nT-A3500 could be useful as a low-profile office PC, media server or underneath a television for watching video, either stored on its hard disk, or streamed from network storage or the internet.
Although the glossy-black chassis attracts fingerprints, there’s nothing ugly about the device. There are both DVI and HDMI video outputs, four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, audio connectors, a card reader, ethernet port and a red hard disk activity LED.
A single antenna attaches to the back for 802.11n wireless and there are power and sleep buttons (although no reset button).
There’s a single memory slot for a DDR3 SODIMM and space for a 2.5in hard drive, although you could use an SSD instead for snappy performance. Importantly for a PC intended for media playback, the fan covering the CPU is near-silent, and when idle, the Foxconn nT-A3500 remains cool as well.
We installed a 2GB Kingston memory card and 200GB Toshiba 5400rpm notebook drive. But not without difficulty – we had some trouble in opening the Foxconn nT-A3500. After removing four screws, rather than the case simply sliding off, it had to be prised open. It was so tight, we were worried about snapping the cover.
Accessing the innards of other small form-factor PCs is often tricky, but when they come preloaded with memory and storage, it isn’t such an issue.
Even under load it remains unobtrusive, a major issue for many small form-factor PCs. It only sips 14W of power when idle, which rose to 23W when playing a video.
That modest power draw is in part thanks to the 1.6GHz E-350 processor, part of AMD’s Fusion line, with the GPU built on the same die as the CPU.
It’s a more efficient combination than Intel’s Atom processor with nVidia’s ION chipset, a CPU/GPU combination found in other small form-factor PCs. The WorldbBench 6 score of 55 might not look impressive, but is not bad for a PC of this size.
Its gaming capability can’t match a discrete GPU. It only managed 35fps in our FEAR benchmark (Maximum detail settings), but the GPU isn’t really for gaming. Instead it can take some of the load from the CPU when decoding 1080p video.
This works well when using the popular and free XBMC media software, which has an option to force the GPU into hardware accelerated video decoding. With this software, 1080p MKV videos played perfectly, without any audio stuttering or video pausing.