by Christopher Lux (IndyLux)
Sometimes great things come in small packages. This definitely applies to the Lenovo Q110 nettop. A nettop is a small form factor PC with similar specs to a netbook but without a monitor. It can function as a low-powered desktop PC to check e-mail and browse the internet or, if properly equipped, it can serve as a fully functional home theatre PC. This is the avenue that I chose when my office PC recently died on me. I had been using a large HP tower PC in my living room as my HTPC with great success. The downside was the aesthetics of a large black computer on my TV stand left something to be desired.
I had heard of the nettop idea awhile back and had been very happy with my atom powered netbook. The price and performance were really all I needed to get the job done. The netbook, however, was never quite up to handing media particularly high def video. Thanks to the Ion chipset from Nvidia, this limitation seems to have been lifted. In conjunction with the Intel Atom processor, Ion provides full 1080p graphics and high def audio (in theory, more later) from a lower powered device. Lenovo recently announced the Q100/Q110 line which was a full Atom/Ion PC in an extremely small footprint case at a decent price so I snapped one up. It arrived last week.
What I needed to use this as my HTPC
1) Wireless Network Card – this device only has ethernet so I needed a USB wireless card to reach my server.
2) Wireless Keyboard/Mouse – most HTPC users have these setup for when we’re using the machine in PC mode.
3) USB ATSC TV Tuner Card – I used a Pinnacle HDTV Pro Stick and an HDTV antenna I already had to get live HDTV on my setup.
4) IR Receiver and Media Center Remote – The computer that died on me had a nice HP remote control that I reused and I happened to have an old IR receiver that worked just fine.
Power Use: At idle, it draws as little as 14 watts of power and at max usage around 40 watts which is less than most light bulbs!
Size: about 6x6x0.7 inches
Design: Comes with a sturdy stand for upright display and a metal VESA mount to attach the device right to the TV/Monitor. Mine is hidden on the back of my TV and is completely hidden from view.
Silent: The fanless design (there might be one tiny fan) means this thing is virtually silent (I do hear something when it’s processing HD video on mute)
Windows 7 Compatible: Lenovo will be sending me a copy of Windows 7 for free (I pay Shipping/Handling), but I put a copy on already and it’s rock solid.
HDMI: Big plus for video and audio over the same cable (just need to figure out digital audio)
Power: Not quite as powerful as my Quad Core HTPC, and I notice a slight lag when navigating Media Center, but it’s certainly up to the task.
LED Light: Like many electronics, it has an EXTREMELY bright LED power light. Fine in the day, but at night my whole living room wall is blue!
HDMI Audio: Now this may be a driver issue, but I can’t get digital 5.1 audio from the HDMI to reach my audio receiver. Only glitch so far.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my purchase so far and will continue to update you as I determine if this solution is working as a HTPC.