Look around your workplace and chances are that the desktop computers you see are no longer the bulky machines you remember from the past.
They are slimmer, smaller and, in some cases, merged with the monitor as all-in-one PCs. They are good enough to use for typical office apps, unless you work in the video or graphics industries which require computers with powerful graphics cards.
The MSI Cubi is one such small but capable desktop computer. It fits in my palm and weighs just 410g. It resembles the Apple TV, but is less pretty. The Cubi does not need to look good since it is quite likely to be mounted at the back of a monitor. An adapter kit with the required screws is included.
The Cubi is not short on connectivity options. At the front are two USB 3.0 ports and an audio jack. At the back are two extra USB 3.0 ports, together with an HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. A Kensington lock slot lets you secure this lightweight computer. One minor gripe: the Cubi lacks a built-in SD-card reader.
While it has an Ethernet port, the Cubi can also connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi using the latest 802.11ac standard.
PROCESSOR: Intel Celeron 3205U (1.5GHz)
GRAPHICS: Intel HD graphics
STORAGE: 64GB mSATA SSD
CONNECTIVITY: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet port, audio jack
FEATURES: 1 2 3 4 5
DESIGN: 1 2 3 4 5
PERFORMANCE: 1 2 3 4 5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 1 2 3 4 5
OVERALL: 1 2 3 4 5
Inside the plastic body is the latest Intel processor with 2GB of memory and a solid-state drive (SSD). With Windows 8.1 installed, there is around 40GB of free space.
However, unscrew the Cubi's base and you can install a 2.5-inch hard drive for more storage. The memory, too, can be upgraded to 16GB.
MSI says the Cubi can support display resolutions of up to 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (or 4K), but this does not apply to the low-end Celeron chip tested here.
You can get the Core i5 ($629) or Core i7 ($829) from local distributor Corbell if you need more processing power.
I found the Celeron model adequate for daily computing tasks. It boots into Windows quickly, though apps could have loaded faster. In system benchmark PCMark 7, it scored a decent 3,403. However, games other than casual titles (think Angry Birds) are out of the question.
MSI is not the only vendor to offer such small computers. Asus' VivoMini UN62 is about as big, has an older but faster Core i5 chip and costs more ($859) than the Cubi.
•An affordable desktop PC for home users who don't play 3D computer games.