Nimble Microsystems’ Nimble V5 is the most unusual mini PC we have seen in the Test Centre for some time. Besides its diminutive stature (it stands a mere 195mm tall, 52mm wide, and 195mm deep, and weighs just 1kg), the unit’s most distinctive feature is a built-in KVM switch that lets it and another computer share the same keyboard, video monitor, and mouse.
The Nimble also functions as a serviceable personal communicator and network router. For simple voice and videoconferencing, the system has a built-in microphone with noise-cancelling capabilities and a front-mounted speaker. A Logitech web camera is also bundled and is a great tool for live video conferencing. As a router, the unit has two Ethernet ports (which you usually connect to a cable or DSL modem) and handles network address translation.
The Nimble is simple to operate; the manual and quick start guide are great introductory tools for novice users. During testing, a PC-to-PC telephony application called Skype was used (available on the cover CD; see page 124 for a full tutorial) for conversing with people interstate and overseas. A minute amount of lag is noticeable during overseas calls but doesn’t prove to be a problem.
The small form factor of the unit has its disadvantages, though. For example, it lacks an internal CD or DVD drive and the possibilities for expansion are very limited. If you’re looking for an ultra-small, quiet PC with built-in KVM, networking, and video- and audio-conferencing capabilities, this is the box for you. Otherwise, you’re probably better off buying a fuller-featured PC for about the same price.
The small size and built-in KVM are appealing, and the ability to conference easily via video is a bonus.
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