Apple Mac Mini budget PC
CNET's rating: 7.2 Good
The good: It's the first sub-$500 Mac; compact; whisper quiet; includes iLife '05
The bad: Meager memory allotment; peripherals add up if you don't already own them; case can't be easily opened; slow hard drive; only two USB 2.0 ports
What it's for: Basic home computing tasks such as sending e-mail, browsing the web and editing photos
The bottom line: Apple trimmed some corners to keep the Mac Mini's price low, but its great design and big software bundle make it a winner.
Street price: $499
Brother MFC-420cn multifunction unit
CNET's rating: 7.3 Good
The good: Low price; compact design; good-quality text, photo and color graphics output
The bad: Limited paper supply; flimsy plastic parts
What it's for: Easily accessing photo prints from memory cards; making brochures or greeting cards; sharing these features in a small network
Essential extras: Buy your own USB cable.
The bottom line: The MFC-420cn is a good multifunction unit for digital photo printing, but it's too limited for heavy workloads.
Street price: $150
HP L2335 23-inch LCD monitor
CNET's rating: 7.7 Good
The good: Highly adjustable; extra video inputs; solid image quality; inexpensive
The bad: No USB or FireWire ports; no cable-feed system
What it's for: Small-office computing; multimedia presentations
Essential extras: A good graphics card
The bottom line: The HP L2335 is a versatile choice for business users looking to impress and home users looking to create a home-theater convergence experience.
Street price: $1,599