The nettop and netbook market has been somewhat dull in recent months, mainly thanks to Intel’s less than enthusiastic Atom strategy. A bunch of vendors are still stuck with old Atom N270 and 330 parts and there are really few new products to talk about. However, some prices have gone down and there are some interesting deals to mention.
The cheapest nettop on the European market at the moment is MSI’s WindBox DC200. It costs just €199 and it is as plain as it gets. It’s based on a 1.6GHz Atom N270 and it has 1GB of memory and a 160GB hard drive. This sounds quite cheap, but it’s worth noting that an extra €50 will get you a dual-core Atom 330 and Nvidia ION graphics if you go for a Zotac MAG-HD or an ASRock ION 330Pro.
However, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and you really want to go cheap, and we mean dirt cheap, the Foxconn R10 barebone is the best choice. It’s not much to look at, but if you’re lucky you might get an old N270 model for as little as €80. However it’s more likely you’ll run be able to get an NM10 based version with a dual-core Atom D510. It's not much to look at, but it has two DDR2 slots and a 3.5-inch drive bay which is great news, as regular 3.5-inch drives and DDR2 memory are quite a bit cheaper than 2.5-inch drives and SO-DIMMs. Also, many users will have some old kit laying around and this a great chance to reuse some of it.
The biggest drawback of most cheap nettops and barebones is the lack of a digital video output, so they’re really not a great choice for HTPCs. In case you can’t live without HDMI, there’s no choice but to go for a bit more pricier IONs or AMD-based nettops or barebones.