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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: W Simsbury, CT, USA
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I've read a few posts here that mention the NUC, so I took a look on NewEgg, and I have to say that the two "kits" that came up there didn't seem all that impressive to me, especially for the money. If you're not violently opposed to "all things Apple", you may want to consider a Mac Mini. You can find open box (Best Buy) or refurb models direct from Apple for an added cost savings. You'll need to add a keyboard/mouse, but you or your mom probably already have an extra set lying around. I'd recommend having your mom use the Mac OS X, because she might really like it. If so, get her an external Apple touchpad, as the multitouch gestures are nicely integrated into the user experience. But if you really want the Windows OS, you can use Boot Camp and install Windows onto that Mac Mini (I'm likely going to be doing something myself soon with an open box Mini I bought - I'll likely be configuring it for use with Windows 7 Media Center). I got my open box 2012 base model (Intel i5 laptop chip, 4GB RAM, 500GB HD) for about $460 + tax.
If you really want Windows and you *are* opposed to the Mac Mini for whatever reason, and/or maybe want something cheaper, I spotted an HP Slimline desktop PC open box at Best Buy for about $330. I can't remember the specs, but you'll want to do your own search for Best Buy stores closest to you. I have an old HP Slimline that I bought a long while ago (collecting dust in storage right now), and I think they're decent little boxes. It's a lot bigger than a Mac Mini or NUC, but it's a lot smaller than a traditional tower.
If the real story here is that you really enjoy building these things yourself, then yeah, a NUC or Mini ITX could be a fun project.
I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.