When we first took delivery of this we have to admit there were a few scratched heads, as we were expecting a Media Center PC from Evesham but the courier had left us a package smaller than a shoebox.

Surely some mistake, a thought that continued right through the pass the parcel unwrapping exercise and up until the "oooohhh" moment as the petite PC (measuring just 50 x 165 x 165mm) was revealed. The sheer size of the thing, that graphite and black smooth finish, the fact that it weighs less than 2kg (only just mind, at 1.9kg) and the Intel Core 2 Duo badge on the side all had us dribbling like Homer Simpson at a doughnut factory.

But, as even Homer would admit, until you’ve tasted the cake you cannot say exactly how sweet it is. Which meant we had to fire this little beauty up as quickly as possible and see if our appetite was suitably satisfied.

Certainly the recipe looked good, with all the right ingredients: an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2GHz, 4MB cache, 667MHz), Intel GMA950 graphics, 1GB DDR II RAM (533MHz), 100GB SATA hard drive (5400rpm), DVD writer, digital TV tuner, remote control and, of course, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 driving it all.

Hardly surprising that once fired up this thing is fast and powerful, think of it as being the PC equivalent of a hot hatch car, a real pocket rocket in fact. But just like a small, fast car built for speed, the Mini PC was missing a few creature comforts and this becomes apparent when you look at the back-plate. If you thought that Apple had been a tad skimpy on the connectivity front with the Mac Mini, wait until you get a load, or rather a little, of this.

Only a couple of USB ports and no PS/2 ports either, so attach a keyboard and mouse and that’s them used up and a USB hub required for any further expansion, which kind of starts to spoil the small and minimalist ethos. There is a FireWire connector, but we suspect that this will get unused and certainly isn’t as practical for this kind of machine as an additional USB port would have been. There is also no SCART connector, Evesham going down the optical S/PDIF and video out providing S-Video, composite and component video via a supplied adaptor route instead.

Equally unsurprising, given that Evesham have managed to cram a fully functioning, highly powerful Media Center PC into such a tiny box, is the lack of internal expansion potential.

The single memory slot is occupied by the 1GB stick, the graphics are onboard, and there’s just no room inside to do anything. Which means that inevitably the Mini PC has to stand comparison with the slower (smaller CPU and less memory) but otherwise higher specced Shuttle Mini X 100HA with twice the hard drive space, twice the number of USB ports, memory card reader built in and a more powerful graphics card.

Perhaps more to the point, it also has to compete with that Mac Mini, slower but a couple of hundred quid cheaper when specced with same sized hard drive and memory. Plus the Apple has double the USB ports and a Wireless LAN as standard.

So where does this leave the Evesham Mini PC? Well to be honest, we still cannot stop dribbling over it despite the drawbacks.

Verdict

It looks good, is almost silent in operation, comes with a TV tuner as standard (although just the one, as there are currently no twin-tuners available in the necessary mini-PCI format), has Windows MCE which really is perfect for the job and is just so damn fast. We love it, and dare you not to.