Open Source

Review: System 76 Meerkat NetTop PC

The Meerkat NetTop PC is for anyone looking to make the switch to Linux but also wanting to avoid the headaches of dealing with unsupported hardware.

Desktop systems are following the trend set by netbooks by getting smaller and smaller. And it makes perfect sense. Not only do you save space, but in most cases you save on energy costs. System 76, a company producing Linux-based hardware, is offering up an outstanding smaller form-factor PC - the Meerkat NetTop PC.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Dual Core Atom processor 1.6 GHz
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2 667 MHz (upgradable to 2GB)
  • Storage: 80GB SATA II, 300 Mbps, 7200 RPM, 8MB Buffer (upgradable to 750GB)
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
  • Sound: Intel High Definition Audio
  • Networking: 10/100/1000 (LAN)
  • Front Panel: 2 x USB 2.0, Microphone In, Headphone Out
  • Rear Panel: 2 x PS2, 1 x VGA, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x S-Video, 1 x RJ45 LAN, 1 x Serial, Audio I/O
  • Power Supply: 84 Watt Power Supply
  • Dimensions: 2.36" x 8.66" x 12.40" (W x H x D)
  • Operating system: Ubuntu 9.04
  • Price: $259
  • Additional information

Who's it for?

The Meerkat NetTop PC is for anyone looking to make the switch (or has already switched) to Linux, but also wanting to avoid the headaches of dealing with unsupported hardware. The NetTop is a perfect solution for anyone looking to place a PC in a tight location or where power saving is a must.

What problem does it solve?

The Meerkat solves a few problems. First and foremost, as stated earlier, the Meerkat (and all of the System 76 hardware) offers a Linux solution without having the hassle of piecing together hardware that is supported by the Linux operating system. The Meerkat NetTop also consumes very little energy. With an 84 Watt power supply you know the consumption will be minimal. Finally the form factor is small so the Meerkat works well in tight places.

Standout features

  • Performance: Even though the specs of the Meerkat seems lower than your average desktop, the machine feels far more powerful than you might think it should. Applications are lightening-quick to start and the graphics will make you feel like you are working on a performance machine.
  • Operating system: Ubuntu 9.04 is one of the slickest releases Canonical has put out in a long time. This operating system is perfectly suited for both the Meerkat and the new user.
  • Graphics: Even though the specs aren't performance-level, you will be surprised that the Meerkat runs Compiz (the Linux 3D desktop) with ease.
  • Cost: The Meerkat sells for $259.00.

What's wrong?

For what the Meerkat is designed to do, and with how well it performs, there really is not much wrong with this machine. However, if your users have been primarily using Windows as their operating system there will be a learning curve as they get up to speed using Linux. Also, the form factor is so small on these machines there is no room for upgrading. So when you purchase a Meerkat NetTop you should look to get the best bang for your buck then because you won't be able to increase performance later.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

The Meerkat NetTop PC is an outstanding entry to the small form factor desktop machine. If you are looking for a reliable system that will outperform many of your larger machines, take a fraction of the energy, and have the security and reliability of the Linux operating system, the Meerkat is your solution.

User rating

Have you encountered the Meerkat NetTop PC? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the Meerkat NetTop PC in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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