Nettops are less pervasive than netbooks, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers like ViewSonic from experimenting with the form factor. Its effort, the VPC100, eschews touch sensitivity in favour of a larger-than-normal display. It's available to buy now for around £385.
We can think of several words to describe the VPC100. Unfortunately, most of them are synonyms for 'inoffensive', 'unadventurous' and 'plain'. We may have criticised Dell for using a dodgy-looking cloth material on the Studio One 19, but at least its designers made an effort. ViewSonic's don't seem to have bothered.
The VPC100 is monitor-shaped, with curved edges and a fatter-than-necessary lower bezel, the sole purpose of which is to make the machine look bigger than it actually is. The glossy black finish is relatively pleasing to look at, but, again, we see this sort of thing every day and it gets tiresome.
Anyone who expected the VPC100 to feature a touchscreen display, à la the Eee Top, will be disappointed. Instead, you'll need to control it with the supplied mouse and a PS/2 keyboard. The latter is vaguely interesting, as it has several shortcut buttons for playing and pausing media content, as well as for launching your favourite apps or going back and forth through Web pages.
Connectivity is fairly ordinary. Four USB ports are at your disposal -- two on the right side, just above a four-in-one memory-card reader, and two on the rear, adjacent to Ethernet, mic and headphone ports. The VPC100 lacks any sort of video output port, so connecting it to an external display is out of the question.
If you guessed from the VPC100's low price that it would be Atom-powered, then, congratulations, you're a geek. It uses an Intel Atom N270 CPU -- found in the vast majority of netbooks to date -- along with 1GB of RAM, 128MB of which is allocated to the Intel GMA 945 integrated graphics adaptor by default. Yawn away, but these are the sacrifices that must be made to achieve a low price.
Most of the VPC100's specification is regulation nettop territory. Storage comes in the form of a 160GB hard drive, which is pretty poor for a desktop PC. A 1.3-megapixel webcam lets you video Skype your gran in Nigeria, or take self-portraits for your MySpace and Facebook profile pages.
Earlier, we mentioned that the VPC100's display isn't touch-sensitive. ViewSonic makes up for this by giving it extra girth. Rival nettops in the VPC100's price range make do with 15.6-inch panels, but ViewSonic has fitted its offering with a relatively ginormous, 18.5-inch panel, spitting out 1,366x768 pixels in a 16:9 format.
Movie fans can grab themselves a batch of DivX flicks -- nothing hi-def, mind, as the CPU isn't powerful enough -- heat up some popcorn, and veg out. The on-screen colours might look slightly muted, but the viewing angle is broad enough to let you enjoy a film from almost anywhere in the room.