I have to buy a new PC for my parents. I want to reuse an existing 19″ screen, so I am only looking for a desktop. My dad has been using a PC for a couple of years and don’t feel like switching to Mac. So a Mac Mini is not an option. So I started looking for a PC that was as simple and beautiful as that, at the same or smaller price. I was in for a disappointment…

The baseline


First off, the original Mac Mini
sleek, square, white, with just a minimal CD slot and no buttons or logo on the frontpanel.
If evolution would build a PC, this is what it would look like. Now let’s take a look at what ‘intelligent design’ has to offer:

‘Barebone’ PCs

This was my first option. A barebones is a (small) PC case with the motherboard already inside, to which you just have to add CPU, memory, hard disk and CD-drive.

First try: the Shuttle XPC G5 8300
Not much on the front panel, granted, but evenso it’s industrial design with the stress on ‘industrial’.
Too many lines, and a prominent unsexy logo.
Second: the iWill XP4-D
I don’t like the blue that much, but the frontpanel is quite sober, which is good.
Now if they could replace that slide-out CD drive with an even nicer slide-in version (like the Mac Mini)…
Third: the AOpen EZ-65
Pretty close! I also chose AOpen when I bought my first barebones PC a year ago because I liked the design. But I have bad experiences with the CD-drive cover (it blocks most of the times when I eject the drive, so I have to pull it open manually), so I would prefer a vendor that makes a model with the CD drive built in and, for esthetical reasons, puts the USB/Firewire/audio connectors on the back.

VCR form factor or Multimedia PCs

A PC in a box the size of a VCR/DVD player. In most cases either too ugly or too expensive.


the Shuttle M1000

the Hush Mini ITX

the ASUS Digimatrix

Tiny tower

Rectangular box that stands up, and small enough to be put next to the screen. Small but not beautiful.

the IWill ZPC-sp the Asus Pundit the Antec Minuet II

Original designs

At least they try …

the AOpen MZ 855 the Asus S-Presso the IWill ZMAX D2

Conclusion

So I have seen no PC design close to the geek-sleek of Apple. Is it a lack of balls or of talent? What advise can I give Shuttle, Iwill and the likes?

hire a super-talent designer

someone with no experience in PC design and a fresh mind
Philippe Starck has designed a Microsoft Mouse, I’m not sure that counts as ‘PC design’ but this is the caliber you should be looking at
Maybe someone who has done car design. Pininfarina?

aim a bit higher than a barebone PC

add 512 MB RAM with option to add more (it’s a commodity product, no one cares about the brand)
add the CD-drive (it’s the biggest moving part on a PC, the ‘eject’ should be silent and flawless), offer choice between a DVD-CDR combo or a DVD writer
CPU and disks change too fast, leave those out

set up VAR (Value Added Resellers) network

they should not only sell the product but also assemble it to a fully finished product. Not enough shops allow “Add P4 3GHz, 250GB disk and ship it, already”. I want to see more minisystems shops!

See pictures of these and more designs on http://www.pixagogo.com/2022405128

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