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back to article REVEALED: Reg trails claw along Apple's 'austerity' 21.5-inch iMac

Two data points do not a trend make, but the two most recent Mac updates from Apple have been more notable for their price cuts than for any innovative technologies or eye-catching design gimmicks. Apple iMac 1.4GHz Core i5 mid-2014 Apple's new baby is limited to just one upgrade: from HDD to SSD Last month, the MacBook Air …

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No audio input apart from the built-in mic?

The headphone jack on the backside accepts Apple's iPhone/iPod headphones which has a built-in microphone. Another option is pairing a Bluetooth headset.

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JDX
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Mac Mini

Anyone know if we're expecting a refresh for the Mac Mini - we're still running the late 2012 model IIRC and I'm considering getting one but not if they're about to overhaul the range!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mac Mini

Doubt it. Cook has run out of ideas and since Forstall was sacked Apple have gone down the toilet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mac Mini

Doubt it. Cook has run out of ideas and since Forstall was sacked Apple have gone down the toilet.

Thanks Scott.

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Re: Mac Mini

Thott.

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Re: Mac Mini

This is why Apple won't upgrade the Mac Mini:

http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/361722

http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/362971

Too close in performance to the low-end Mac Pro.

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Everyday performance

Is what the machine is about - there's little the average joe needs above and beyond a 1.4ghz i5 that can boost to 2.7ghz (and with the form factor, it'll likely stay there for far longer than the MBA will) regardless of what the benchmarks say, but the average joe doesn't want to spend £1000+ on a domestic appliance. 8gb of RAM by default won't hurt either.

It'll be interesting to see how many of these they shift; I don't think it'll be substantial or lead the pack within the range, but I reckon it'll be more than the handful that some expect....

Steven R

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Re: Everyday performance

8GB of RAM is fine now, but I'm yet to be convinced that we have hit some sort of peak where more RAM is going to be pointless down the line. In 5 years time (and many of the people who this is targeted at will want it to last AT LEAST that long) I suspect that this is going to struggle with the tasks the average consumer running the latest OSX will want to throw at it.

Not be impossible or anything, but degraded to the point where they would be more than happy to have the option for a cheap 16GB RAM upgrade. And unhappy that they don't. I hope so anyway, I loath these deliberately non-upgradeable computers.

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Re: Everyday performance

“It’ll be interesting to see how many of these they shift; I don’t think it'll be substantial or lead the pack within the range, but I reckon it'll be more than the handful that some expect...."

Consider this Apple’s answer to the white or beige box. I think it’s testing the “corporate market.” Enough suits use an iPhone, but still use Windows on their workstation. Also, I would rather look at the back of an iMac as opposed to a crap lcd on receptionist/secretaries’s desk. So, I too am very curious how this will fare.

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@mike2R

No one is suggesting more RAM will be "pointless" down the line, but the days of OS and application bloat regularly demanding a doubling of RAM every couple years are long gone. During the typical lifetime of a PC, it is unlikely that 8GB will be a limitation for the usage model typical of an all-in-one.

If you expect to be able to keep it until 2026 and have it be as useful then as it is the day you bought it, well, that's probably not likely with anything except a tower PC where you can replace the motherboard and all that's on it, the storage and the power supply :)

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Re: @mike2R

A doubling every 2 years, no I agree not. But the next 5 seems reasonable enough. Personally I think that an iMac bought in 2014 should be as able to deal with 2019 as one that was bought in 2009 can deal with 2014 (any Early 2009 iMac can run 8GB, and any Late 2009 can manage 16GB). I can't think of any reason to permanently attach RAM to the motherboard than that Apple has a different point of view.

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Re: Everyday performance

I wondered how quickly people would start apologising for the mediocrity of this machine.

It's basically a laptop in a desktop case. You lose the portability and you get more screen space. 5400 hard disk, ugh. Why? Why not stick a 500GB 2.5" hybrid drive in there? It'll cost a few quid more but the performance will be way better.

If 'average joe' doesn't need a dual-core i5, then perhaps they'd be better off spending £350 on a really decent tablet instead.

I'm sure that plenty of people will say "Hurrah, a Mac that isn't £1500 that can sit on my desk and look pretty" so I agree with you that it will be reasonably popular. That doesn't get away from the fact that it's a lot of money to part with for something that looks pretty on a desk. But when did that ever stop Apple fans?

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Re: Everyday performance

Is what the machine is about - there's little the average joe needs above and beyond a 1.4ghz i5 that can boost to 2.7ghz (and with the form factor, it'll likely stay there for far longer than the MBA will) regardless of what the benchmarks say, but the average joe doesn't want to spend £1000+ on a domestic appliance. 8gb of RAM by default won't hurt either.

I think it's more a lower cost route into OSX, but IMHO ill conceived. Not that I'm keen on paying a lot, but for a bit more money you get a lot more performance so I personally can't see the point. Over the usual lifespan of these machines, £200 more is worth the investment.

This thing strikes me as the OSX equivalent of the iPhone 5C - that too was met with at best a "meh" from the market, and deservedly so..

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Re: Everyday performance

Some interesting observations here - nice.

I think what some people forget is that quite often, a lot of Macs that aren't bought because the user needs a specific piece of software (music/video/image production) or because they specifically want that (admittedly pretty well executed) form factor, or because they already have some other Apple gear and want to stick with the general ecosystem - are bought because they are an Apple Macintosh.

They want it because it's a Mac. Call it snobbery if you want, but it's the same reason people buy a middling spec Mercedes C-class saloon rather than a top spec Mondeo Titanium X. Brand, perceptions, etc. It's partly a status symbol, and partly because it's (genuinely) better engineered from an end user perspective.

(yes, I know, you and me and the rest of the tinkerers don't like the soldered in RAM and annoying screen glue, but the end user takes it to an Apple service centre, in the same way your average Merc buyer has all the dealer stamps and doesn't do their own brakes)

So there is more to it than just specs and price.

My point is that the people who want the generally agreed better ease of use and generally agreed better reliability of OS X in a desktop format have only one choice, and this just makes it more accessible.

As as I say, I'll be interested to see how it sells.

I'm with you on the hybrid drive though, but it'll be simple BOM calculations causing that - it'd cause them to make £30 (or whatever) less per device if they were to include it at the same price, which would mean less profits, which would mean market anal-cysts screaming that the sky is faling, causing stock to drop a little, etc etc. Say what you like about Apple, but they know how to rake in the profits and run a business.

Whether you like how they do it or not is neither here no there - they're doing it (from a financial perspective) very well at the moment, so I wouldn't expect to see any grand giveaways of hardware spec bumps or further price drops for a while.....

Ooh, rambling - that's what I get for going for a thrash in the car at 11pm....

Steven "bedtime" R

PS: My home desktop is an AMD A8-3870 + 16gb RAM + 256gb SSD830 + Radeon 7770; laptop a Macbook because it came up at the right price, phone a Nexus 4, and I fix Windows systems for a living...so no, not a fanboi, etc ;-)

PPS: How many downvotes will I get for attempting to be reasonably even handed? I know you lot, you're all grumpy so-and-so's...

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Re: Everyday performance

It looks like it may be a good option if you want to develop software for Apple things - should be plenty powerful enough to run XCode.

Of course you could get a Mac Mini for £499 - but that has no screen, keyboard or mouse, worse graphics and only comes with 4GB RAM

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JDX
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Re: Everyday performance

>>8GB of RAM is fine now, but I'm yet to be convinced that we have hit some sort of peak where more RAM is going to be pointless down the line. In 5 years time (and many of the people who this is targeted at will want it to last AT LEAST that long) I suspect that this is going to struggle with the tasks the average consumer running the latest OSX will want to throw at it.

We hit a peak with RAM about 5 years ago... PCs shipped with 6-8Gb as standard outside the budget bracket since then and this hasn't changed; nobody ships with 16Gb except as a power machine. Windows has got leaner, MacOS was lean to begin with, and as SSDs get more widespread the bottleneck of RAM is less than it was anyway.

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JDX
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Re: It's basically a laptop in a desktop case

An iMac isn't a desktop case. The all-in-one form-factor is separate from desktop and laptop but has always shared some laptop-esque design principles.

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Re: Everyday performance

This is the cybercafe machine for airport lounges and posh hotels. I reckon Apple need to market these quite hard at that sort of slot.

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Re: It's basically a laptop in a desktop case

Do you sit it on your lap? Is it a portable computer? Can I unplug it from the mains and have it run on its internal battery?

It's a desktop.

The only thing this device shares with laptops is components.

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Anonymous Coward

All Macs have obsolescence built-in

On average you get 5 years before the latest version of OS X no longer installs.

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

The excuses for Apple dropping support for old machines were Power instead of Intel, 32-bit EFI instead of 64-bit EFI, and 32-bit graphics drivers instead of 64-bit graphics drivers. A mid-2007 iMac (Intel, 64-bit EFI, and 64-bit graphics drivers) manages up to Mavericks and will take Yosemite. There's not really any big technology speedbump after that except the 4Gb RAM limit for old machines and it's in Apple's own interests for everyone to be running the latest OS as that's got the latest shiny technologies they want everyone to use.

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

All iMacs from the Mid 2007 revision onwards can run 10.9. And run 6GB of RAM (officially 4GB, but 6GB works fine in the Mid 2007).

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

Nowt to stop you from running Windows or Linux on them then now is there?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

Nowt to stop you from running Windows or Linux on them then now is there?

Yeah, apart from having to learn a totally new OS and buy fresh copies of your entire software catalogue, absolutely nothing!

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

No OSX Mavericks for our 3 year old white MacBooks though...

OK, so the architecture change is a valid reason to dump hardware support (and I wasn't bitter after buying a PowerBook G4 SD and getting the finger just over a year down the line)

but no such limitations on windows PC's - I've had windows7 running on a Pentium II

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

"The excuses for Apple dropping support for old machines were Power instead of Intel, 32-bit EFI instead of 64-bit EFI, and 32-bit graphics drivers instead of 64-bit graphics drivers. A mid-2007 iMac (Intel, 64-bit EFI, and 64-bit graphics drivers) manages up to Mavericks and will take Yosemite."

Actually, the iMac is a bit of an exception when it comes to the forced obsolescence of Apple hardware.

On October 22, 2013, Apple shipped OS X Mavericks and the final release offers the same compatibility as the Preview Release. Specifically, these Mac categories are supported:

iMac (Mid-2007 or later)

MacBook (13" Late 2008 Aluminum, Early 2009 or later)

MacBook Pro (13" Mid-2009 or later)

MacBook Pro (15" Mid/Late 2007 or later)

MacBook Pro (17" Late 2007 or later)

MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)

Mac mini (Early 2009 or later)

Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)

Xserve (Early 2009)

http://www.everymac.com/mac-answers/os-x-10.9-mavericks-faq/os-x-mavericks-compatible-macs-system-requirements.html

Pity the poor suckers who bought shiny new 13" MacBook Pros mid-2009, only to find them obsolete by mid-2013.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

I've had windows7 running on a Pentium II

What's the best scale to measure boot up times of that, hours or days? "Running" is in my book usually associated with "being able to do something useful". A P II strikes me as somewhat lacking in oompf, although I appreciate the attempt :).

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

Matt_payne666, if your white MacBook is a Late 2008 model (or older), then it can’t run Mavericks. If it’s an Early 2009 model (or newer), then it can. If your white MacBook Pro is only three years old, then you should check the system requirements for Mavericks to see if there’s some other reason why you can’t run Mavericks on yours.

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Trollface

Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

The icon is the only reason I can think of for your final paragraph being contradicted by the list above it?

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

Which seems to be the 21st century way. I can't get a sump for a 7 year old italian car, and there are no spare window motors for the 5 year old nissan next door to it.

At least with the iMac the OS it already has will remain working.

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Re: All Macs have obsolescence built-in

Which seems to be the 21st century way. I can't get a sump for a 7 year old italian car, and there are no spare window motors for the 5 year old nissan next door to it.

I was under the impression that car manufacturers had to guarantee a supply of parts for any given model for up to 20 years.

Anyway, what you claim really doesn't make much sense, else we'd see 5-7 year old cars with effectively zero resale value, after suffering minor faults, which clearly is not the case.

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Peripherals

Bluetooth peripherals: you can opt for wired a numeric keyboard and a mouse too at no extra cost

Based on what I know of market prices, opting for wired peripherals should net you a savings of about $50, rather than being neutral.

But based on my experience with Bluetooth mice and keyboards, they're not worth the premium anyway, so I'll call this a wash.

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Re: Peripherals

Especially *that* keyboard. I've used it, and it offered a typing experience almost as exciting as my Sinclair ZX-81.

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If I had £899 to spend on a computer

I would certainly not even consider this.

Totally ridiculous price for those specs.

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

For mundane tasks, I'd certainly consider it. And an awful lot of computer users do really really mundane things.

If I want a powerful computer, I'll buy a powerful computer.

But since I have other Apple devices, there's much more to consider than its computing power. Do I want a computer that will be easy to set up and use, doesn't have ghastly Windoze on it, will receive gratis OS updates, has perhaps the best support in the world from any manufacturer, looks great, syncs personal data with virtually zero effort on my part, can play my existing video and music library just like that? etc. Well, yes. And 900 notes isn't exactly a huge amount of money these days.

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

"has perhaps the best support in the world from any manufacturer"

sorry? Maybe for home use, but certainly for business use "bring it to your closest Apple store and we'll repair it in a few days" doesn't cut it. When PC suppliers have been offering 5 year on-site NBD for some time, and Apple can't even offer an option to pay for that, it's certainly not 'the best'.

Fortunately we have an authorised repair centre close, so I only have a 5-10 minute walk to take whatever machine has failed in (and that's about the only time that I do appreciate Apple's insistence on removing functionality to make desktop machines light and portable).

Personally I do wish they brought back the 24" iMac. 21 is just too small, and 27 too large. In the words of Goldilocks, the 24 was 'just right'.

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

Apple can't even offer an option to pay for that

You are disturbingly ill-informed,

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

that weblink does say "... or onsite service for desktop computers3"

though it does also say "Availability of each option depends on country in which service is requested and location of Apple Authorised Service Provider. Apple may also request that the customer replace components with readily installable parts."

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

I second your comment about business support... a bunch of batteries expired in some apple laptops - I needed a ballpark figure to give to SMT, but apple wouldn't do that, they needed the machines all posted to them or taken an hours drive to be appraised...

In the 4 years I've had apple kit, more has been unavailable due to repair time than the windows stuff... and the units themselves really don't stand up to abuse - plastic and aluminium scratches and dents so much easier than that used on Dell, Lenovo and clevo kit

Back to the iMac in question... id rather a 23" Dell 9020 all in one with a decent i5 and SSD than that...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

sorry? Maybe for home use, but certainly for business use "bring it to your closest Apple store and we'll repair it in a few days" doesn't cut it.

Actually, there is a business support option which even includes a loan machine if they cannot fix it in a sensible time (I just happen to know this because I discussed the very fact about a week ago with Apple UK :) ).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

> And 900 notes isn't exactly a huge amount of money these days.

Yes. It is.

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Re: ".....there is a business support option............"

That's interesting old chap - how much does it cost?

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Re: If I had £899 to spend on a computer

My point was that if I had £899 to spend, then it's more than likely I was originally in the market for a mid-high range computer in the first place.

Regardless of your take on inflation, there are some much more reasonably priced mundane-task-specced laptops for less than half the cost! In fact, some of those are even BETTER specced than this.

This computer is specced in the low-end market, but priced in the mid-high end market. People will still buy it though, cos you know, fruity fanboys and all that.

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Gimp

Mundane, these days, includes home videos

and I seriously question whether 8gb ram is up to the task of running iMovie - I've got an old-ish (3.5yrs I think, i3 processor) iMac and it was just unworkable until I upped it to 12Gb. Even then, I swapped out the HDD for a 1Tb item and it's amazing the difference a slower-than-the-original disk has made - and not in a good way :(

Anyway, if my new iMac shipped with iMovie (and it will) and my new iMac couldn't actually *run* iMovie, or even be made to, I'd be pissed off.

I love our iMac, because I no longer come home to half an hour of tech support duties every night - but I won't be replacing it with the cheap one.

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Re: Mundane, these days, includes home videos

I ran iMovie fine on my old MacBook Air which had specs very similar to this machine although the RAM was half the 8GB of the iMac. I've even got a 2009 Mac mini upgraded to 8GB and a 960GB SSD which happily chugs away with iMovie too even with just a Core 2 Duo rather than i5.

Compared to my PC running Windows 7 on a Quad Phenom with 4GB, all my Macs run rings around it. Specs are one thing, but the OS is something else. The Mac is a whole package and I can certainly see where users would like this machine. Not to mention, once you've run it for five years, you can always buy a mini and plug that in and use the iMac as a screen instead. Personally, I bought a 20" cinema display back in 2004 and I'm on my second Mac mini with that having retired an old G4 PPC model when switching to the Intel one I currently run. I'll probably run it for another year or two and then buy another. Perfect little workhorse.

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Re: Mundane, these days, includes home videos

Not sure I agree that you need 8GB to run iMovie.

I run Final Cut Pro X on my Macbook Pro (I know its a far better processor (i7 etc etc) but only has 8GB of RAM) with no major, or to be honest, minor issues. Just put together a six minute video for my daughters birthday which had hundreds of transitions and effects. I sometimes used the laptop display and sometimes a 23" monitor, it worked OK.

Final Cut Pro X does work even better with 16GB of RAM, but its perfectly usable with 8GB.

I never use iMovie anymore so can't comment on its memory usage, but would be a little surprised if the consumer version consumed more memory than the supposedly professional FCP X.

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Gimp

Re: Mundane, these days, includes home videos

Well, they may have fixed the memory management on the latest iMovie as it has changed a lot from the version that shipped with my original spec (pre mavericks). The problem with 4Gb ram was not running iMovie per se, it was when iMovie started up and tried to load my 8,000+ photos and 500Gb of movie files into the asset browser, and when trying to flip through these assets to find the bits I wanted to use.

Perhaps 8Gb would have sorted it, but when I asked the shop to upgrade it to 8Gb they actually put *an extra* 8Gb in, making 12Gb in total. That fixed it :)

Still, YMMV.

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All some people need

Many years ago I used to upgrade regularly, always want newer / faster, played games, etc. now I use my tablet for most thinfs, and turn the computer on every few weeks to do a few things with some photos, maybe refresh some backups, and do a bit of Arduino development. For any of that,

I don't need a high performance computer, and in those circumstances it's surely better to have an option?

Always used to annoy me that bigger screen or better build quality also meant you had to pay more for higher specs you didn't want or need, just because it's seen as a more premium product. I'd rather have a 27" iMac with similar specs - the screen and keyboard and reliability are the bits I use and care about; the rest just needs to be enough to work.

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Mediocrity. The race to the bottom for Apple is in full swing.

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Linux

There are alternatives

Create your own all-in-one: get a Gigabyte Brix with Core i5, put in 8 GB RAM, a 500 MB HD (or SSD), a nice looking 24" IPS screen. Hook the Brix on the back of the screen and you have an upgradeable all-in-one for about 700 euro (much cheaper even if you go for a Core i3 or Celeron).

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