Novatech Solo Pro review

£679
Price when reviewed

The mainstream market for all-in-one PCs has featured the same major players for a while now: there’s Apple, with its sleek and stylish iMac, Sony’s media-focused VAIO VGC-LT2S and the A-listed Dell XPS One. Now, though, there’s a new challenger, in the shape of the Novatech Solo Pro.

It’s no knockout looker, however. Where the established contenders offer 20in – or larger – screens and designs that stand out, the Novatech is smaller, and a little more reserved. A glossy black 19in screen sits atop a sturdy black stand that trades versatility for durability: it feels incredibly sturdy and able to withstand more than a few desktop knocks, but only offers a restricted range of adjustability – it just tilts.

As well as feeling particularly strong, the Solo is extremely well-equipped with ports and sockets. The front of the base boasts a couple of USB sockets and further USB ports, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, speaker outputs, HDMI, FireWire, gigabit Ethernet and eSATA are located elsewhere.

The screen itself is pretty impressive – it’s certainly good enough for working and surfing the web – but it’s not without its faults. Bright whites often lack definition and distinction from one another, and fine detail can sometimes appear a little blurred thanks to the native resolution of 1,440 x 900 being stretched over a full 19 inches. However, these minor niggles won’t detract from the general work and web browsing that the Solo Pro is intended for.

Underpinning this stylish exterior is a decent set of components, albeit the sort that we’re more used to seeing in laptops. The processor is one of Intel’s new Core 2 Duo P8600 running at 2.4GHz, plus there’s 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM to back it up.

The impressive processor contributes to a suitably impressive 2D benchmark score of 1.15 – more than enough to handle demanding image, video editing or multi-tasking. It’s only slightly slower than our A-listed lifestyle PC, the Dell XPS One, which managed a score of 1.21.

Where the Novatech loses ground on its rivals, though, is with its lack of domestic icing. There’s no TV tuner, for instance, and none of the keen design or touch-sensitive controls that we enjoyed on the Dell. Instead, the Solo Pro seems better suited to business applications.

The speakers, for instance, fall down when compared to those offered in the Dell or Sony machines, which offer decent, solid sound approaching television quality. They’re merely adequate here, and though they have a decent mid-range, this is tempered by weak bass. It has only a DVD writer, and there’s no option to upgrade this to Blu-ray.

Novatech appears to be targeting the Solo Pro at business users, which may explain this lack of luxury extras, but we can’t see it competing in that arena either. It does have draft-n wireless, although it’s provided by the slightly older Intel 4956AGN wireless link rather than the new 5100 chip, which was introduced as part of the Centrino 2 platform. And it’s very easy on electricity: both computer and screen draw a stunning 48W at idle, with this figure only rising to 65W when the Solo Pro was blasting through our demanding benchmarks.

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But though the Solo takes up less space on a desk than a standard PC, it has severely limited upgrade potential: the only parts that can be changed in the Solo Pro are a pair of SO-DIMMs. And this is the least of the Solo’s problems. The many different types of port arranged around the Novatech, for instance, are often difficult to get to. Several USB ports, a pair of D-SUB outputs, a VGA input and more useful ports are located, along with the mains lead, on the bottom of the screen, and getting to them is awkward.

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