Small but perfectly formed

You remember netbooks, right? They were the future of the computer industry, and then Steve Jobs said something nasty about them, and no-one cares about them any more.

While the rest of the world runs around trying to bring us Windows and Android tablets, though, US manufacturer Shuttle are pioneering a small but quite interesting new area, the 'nettop'. Nettops are to desktops what netbooks are to laptops - small, low-cost, and powerful enough for every day email and photo use, but not much more. Perfect as a second computer for the kitchen, or a kid's bedroom. (Like with tablets, Apple pioneered the concept, with the Mac Mini. But, like with tablets, Apple's offering is a darn sight more expensive than is the norm.)

It's taken them a while to dive in, but, goodness, Shuttle have certainly made a splash. (See what we did there?)

The new XS35 is tiny - just 1.5 inches thick - and looks more like a modem than a full computer. But its spec is impressive: it packs a 1.66GHz CPU, new-fangled 'N' wi-fi, and in the more expensive models, a DVD-RW drive for burning your illegally downloaded films making your mum a nice DVD of your holiday snaps.

Most excitingly, though, is that the top-of-the-range XS35 - still only $380, and with a decent shot at coming in at under £300 in Europe - packs an NVIDIA Ion 2 graphics chip that makes it capable of full 1080p video playback. So the little PC that could becomes a real candidate for the role of living room media centre, a position usually occupied by much more expensive kit.

Clever Shuttle!

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