There's a classic Alan Partridge sketch in which the fictional Norwich tosser browses hi-fis in a branch of Dixons.
"Nice action" he says, as the CD tray purrs open. Partridge doesn't care about the sound or features, just the smoothness with which the CD drive opens and closes.
On this basis, Alan Partridge would hate the Mesh Cute. Opening the Blu-ray/DVD-RW drive had a "nice action." But when we closed it, the tray got caught on the front flap, sending the drive into a can't-quite-open-can't- quite-close spasm, like a Terminator caught in a lift door.
Is the Cute cute? It's small, but small things aren't necessarily cute. We don't think anyone's ever described a parasitic worm, as 'cute'. The Cute's about the size of a shoebox, fronted with a flimsy plastic fascia. And even the merest touch of the front sends the DVD drive flying open, such is the thinness of the plastic. Not all that cute, then.
Inside, Mesh has done a fair enough job of packing a lot of components into a bespoke space. The tiny, Mini-ITX motherboard takes laptop-style RAM and has onboard graphics with an inspiring array of outputs: VGA, DVI and HDMI. It also has onboard sound with all the multichannel trimmings, and comes with – incongruently – a 64-bit installation of Windows Vista.
We are quite concerned about Mesh's decision to place the PSU at the front of the machine – the area with the least amount of ventilation – and the Cute certainly seemed to generate a lot of heat.
This moves it from 'cute' to 'hawt' in the lingo of what girls say about boys in American TV shows. Not in a good way. The Cute also chucks out a hell of a lot of noise; about as much as an Xbox 360, so if you owned both this and the Microsoft console, you could probably drown out the mother-in-law.
In terms of performance, the Cute is just about okay. Mesh deserves some kudos for chucking a Blu-ray drive into the package. With its additional TV tuner card and wireless keyboard and mouse, the Cute set-up seems to be aimed squarely at people who want to use a PC with their HD telly. Provided you keep the Cute out of sight, so no one can see its hideous plastic frontage, by burying it in a small hole in your living room, or hiding it inside a dog, it'll go quite nicely as a media centre set up.
Inevitably, the words 'media centre' translate as 'you can forget about playing games on this, boyo. You might as well chuck your Steam account into the sun.' Gaming is a definite no-no, and although the graphics chip was able to display a Blu-ray perfectly, it won't handle anything but the lowest of games. One for the World of Warcraft players, then.
The most hideous element of the Cute is the price. At £200 it would have been acceptable, but at £400 it's ridiculous. You can now pick up a PlayStation 3 and some games for that price, or an Xbox 360 and even more games. Or, you can get a semi-decent £300 Core 2 PC and bung a graphics card in it – the Cute's single PCI-express slot is already filled with the TV tuner. But, most importantly, all of these alternatives are guaranteed to have optical drives with 'nice actions'.
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