The annals of time are packed with occasions of questionable judgement. For example, the decision Neville Chamberlain made to attempt negotiation with history's biggest and most heinous crackpot, Adolf Hitler, is something a fair few people criticise. On a far, far smaller scale in terms of international gravitas, there were also some questionable decisions made when this Maxdata midrange PC was constructed.

You see, despite this being something of a budget effort from Maxdata, there have been some strange additions and omissions to its specification. For a start, this has to be the first PC we've seen in four years that comes with a straight DVD-ROM drive. That's right, it's not even a DVD/CD-RW. When OEM DVD writers cost less than breakfast at a roadside café, the fact that we have gigabit Ethernet, but no DVD burner would baffle even Einstein.

Not only that, but what should we find nestled below the offending reader? A floppy disk drive. We haven't touched a diskette in about half a decade and we're a PC magazine, so surely an equally cheap and infinitely more cheerful card reader would've been the best option for a PC made in the 21st century?

Still, we're critical because we care, and because aside from these quibbles, it's actually a reasonably desirable box. For a start, it's an affordable way of getting a low profile PC. If you can live with the 80s-vision-of-the-future stylings, this Micro-BTX form factor case would actually make a reasonable media centre.

There's room for two half-height PCI cards and with a tuner in there you'd be well on the way to replacing those boxes beneath the TV, not least because a 2.8GHz Pentium D should be ample horsepower for juggling those CPU-intensive video codecs. It's also surprisingly quiet, barely murmuring even at full tilt, which is crucial for anything that you plan to share your living room with.

Stingy memory

Of course, you shouldn't get your hopes up too high. After all, there's no monitor included and it's a touch tight on RAM and hard drive space. Luckily the Pentium D picks up a lot of the slack, producing an entirely acceptable 3,024 marks in PCMark05.

Ideally, you'd be buying this either for your aforementioned entertainment centre, or as a quick and easy upgrade to an aging but be-monitored setup. In terms of upgrade possibilities, it's a cinch to twist the lock on the top of the case and slide the lid clear, but it's a much more difficult task getting the blasted thing back on again.

There's a lot to be said for making an affordable PC with the Micro-BTX form factor and Maxdata's execution is largely commendable. However, there are a whole host of similarly specced and similarly priced systems available to someone looking to buy an all-in-one upgrade, and some of them include a monitor as well.

If you genuinely want a quiet and small form-factor PC to use as a media centre, then it's probably a safe bet, but if you're looking for something to hide away in the study, there are better deals out there.