Size was key to the personal computing revolution. Suddenly, a device the size of a car became small enough to fit on a desk. And with smaller size came lower cost. With less computer to build, prices plummeted, making the computer an affordable home appliance.
Today, we’re on the brink of a similar revolution. Computers are transforming from desktop powerhouses into devices small enough to fit in our pockets. Smartphones and tablets haven proven that small computers can do a heck of a lot, leading some innovators to wonder why similar benefits can’t be enjoyed by the computers we use in our homes and at work.
If an adequate home system could be the size of a smartphone, and if it could be sold for less than a pair of sneakers, the vision of a connected human race dreamed of during the Internet’s inception could become reality. Almost anyone with a roof over their head could own a PC.
The first attempts to execute this vision are now available. These computers are inexpensive, accessible, and affordable, but are also made by small organizations instead of giants like Acer and Dell. Often called mini PCs or thumb computers, these newcomers achieve their bargain pricing by pairing inexpensive low-power processors with free operating systems.
But are they ready for primetime? To find out, we purchased three of the most popular models found on Amazon.com and tried to use them like an average desktop PC. Here’s what happen