Walking into a retailer to buy a new desktop computer is a lot like visiting a car dealership. Up in front, like the latest Corvettes, retailers display the performance PCs, complete with electricity-guzzling 900-watt power supplies, dual video cards, and heatsinks the size of bricks. Buried in back like used Toyota Corollas, they stock the economy models: efficient little guys with just enough power to run all the basics, no extra features, and built to be run into the ground.
The Linutop 2 miniature desktop computer, in the car world, probably fits somewhere between the humble Toyota Corolla and above the three-wheeled taxis rolling all over India. It’s a barebones, no-frills machine designed to run all day long without so much of a hiccup, and it will fit anywhere.
Like its smaller and less capable brother, the Linutop 1, the Linutop 2 keeps dimensions on the small side. Very small. With a footprint just a little bigger than 5 by 5 inches and height of 1.38 inches, the Linutop 2 will not only fit in the tiniest recesses and cubbies of a desk, it will sit in your hand. For those who like to keep electronics low key, Linutop even sells a separate bracket for slinging it onto the back of an LCD monitor, where it might as well be invisible to the average observer.
The Linutop 2 Desktop Computer
Inside, things get a little different from your standard desktop computer. At its heart, an AMD Geode LX800 embedded processor hums along at just 500Mhz, but draws less than a watt of electricity in the process, allowing the entire system to run on just 8 watts. Compare this with the latest gaming machines, with video cards that can suck up over 100 watts on their own under full load, and you’ll understand how significantly Linutop has cut electricity usage on this machine.
Sticking with the lean theme, the Linutop 2 comes with only 1GB of internal storage, some of which is taken up by preinstalled software, leaving only 400MB for files. While this might seem exceptionally tiny, four front-mounted USB 2.0 ports make it easy to add additional space with fast and inexpensive thumb drives if need be. As for RAM, the basic machine comes with only 512MB, although serious multi-taskers can expand it to 1GB, and the slim operating system will run with as little as 64MB.
The tiny front and back faces of the Linutop 2’s aluminum case are peppered with inputs and outputs. The front includes the aforementioned USB ports, plus a microphone and headphone jack. On the back, a VGA port, Ethernet connector, and audio out jack are crammed together. While there’s no optical drive or slots for flash media, both can be added with aftermarket USB accessories, much like additional storage.
Linutop makes use of the stripped-down Xubuntu Linux distribution, a version of the popular Ubuntu Linux that has been tailored to use minimal system resources. The operating system and software are permanently installed in read-only memory that cannot be altered, rendering them immune to viruses or other modifications that might make them unstable. A handful of useful applications also come preinstalled, including essentials like OpenOffice, Firefox, Gaim, and VLC media player.
The Linutop 2 sells for 280 Euros ($415 USD) directly through Linutop. While it may not be considered a hot rod of the computer world, it should prove quite practical for average users. Computer owners with the Mustang driver’s mentality may have to stifle giggles at its complete lack of anything resembling performance, but for the average Joe who just needs a machine to check e-mail, surf and chat without ever looking under the hood, the Linutop 2 should certainly cut it. More information can be found at Linutop’s Web site.