We've been watching the evolution of small format PCs over the last year or so, taking the same basic hardware and packaging it in a different way. The netbook puts down roots and becomes the nettop, which is what we have here: a mini desktop PC.
The Medion Akoya E2005 D, then, is based on the same tried and tested Intel Atom platform common in netbooks. You can guess the specs: Intel Atom 230 processor running at 1.6GHz, backed by a somewhat miserable 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive.
In fact what you have here is a rebadged MSI Wind Nettop, with a few tweaks like the clip on front to make it a Medion model.
In terms of connectivity you fare better than you do with a netbook, as you'll get Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi options to hook up to your home network and the Internet. Around the back you'll also find four USB 2.0 ports and the usual VGA for your display.
The front gives you a further two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a mic and headphone jack and a 4-in-1 card reader. These front connections are hidden behind a sprung door, so hide neatly away when out of use.
Now, I didn't mention the audio connections on the back, because Medion have taken advantage of the larger format to enhance the audio offering, so you'll find a host of connections around the back to give you 8-channel audio. This is powered by the Realtek High Definition Audio chip with the controller software giving simple diagrams if you are in any doubt as to setup.
It's a shame then that the graphics didn't get a boost over the GMA 950 chipset. You'll have no problems watching back DVDs thanks to the included DVD rewriter, which also lies behind a door and out of sight on the front, and you'll be able to hook up to a display with a VGA connection, but you don't get the full whack of an HDMI, which is starting to appear as an option more frequently these days.
With limited power on offer this isn't going to play the latest games either, but it will cope well enough with internet content which is what it is really aimed at.
In terms of design, like all things Medion, it has been kept relatively simple, with the main metal casing fronted with a glossy black plastic with the connections and DVD drive hidden behind doors as mentioned. There are two buttons - eject and power – on the front that have been built into the styling. They stand scrutiny when viewed, but do feel a little cheap when pressed.
The nettop measures 27 x 30 x 7cm, although around the back you'd need to give yourself an extra 5 or 6cm to accommodate the Wi-Fi antenna and anything you plug in – especially the VGA connection which tends to be bulky.
There are rubber feet on the bottom of the unit should you choose to have it sited horizontally, but the included stand it slots into allows you to stand it vertically, which saves lots of space.
It isn't a quiet machine however, with the cooling fan kicking in when you ask it to do anything other than sit in idle – so when watching a DVD for example the fan will be permanently on, but not at an intrusive level. Try to multitask and the fan will get increasingly noisy, making quite a racket.
It does mean that the unit doesn’t seem to get hot, save for the warm air being propelled out of the back. The hard disk is also rather noisy and you'll hear the head moving around with whirring and clicking as it goes about its tasks.
In terms of software, you get a pretty standard suite: Windows XP, with Nero Essentials to drive the DVD burner and a 90-day trail of Bullguard's security offering to get you started.
Also bundled in the box you get a USB keyboard and mouse. As tends to be the case with Medion products, these leave a little to be desired. The keyboard is also a space-saving model, losing the number pad, but still giving you all the main controls.
In terms of design it looks cheap and isn't very good to type on either due to the close spacing of the keys and excessive travel. It does have a few useful shortcut keys however, to control volume and pause playback, launch internet and email applications.
The mouse too is a no frills optical offering, with two buttons and a scroll wheel. We'd probably opt to swap out both for something wireless to keep things tidy – this would also have the advantage of not tying you to a desk – useful if you are hooked up to the TV in the lounge.
Medion are selling the E2005 D as part of a bundle with their 19-inch monitor, which will set you back £349, which is a pretty reasonable deal. If you already have a monitor, or simply want to hook up to a compatible TV then the E2005 D can be yours on its own for £249 which is pretty good value too. Yes, it doesn't look quite as pretty as the Eee Box, the lower-end of which costs the same, but is does give you a DVD writer.
Overall if you are looking for a small format PC that works out of the box and won't break the bank, then the E2005 D is worth seeking out. Yes, there are rival options that give you greater specs, but at this price you get a pretty good deal. Adding a DVD player to the reasonable performance of a netbook, this should suit a great number of users who are only after basic online and office tasks.