We like small-form-factor systems, especially when they're available as barebones rigs that let users add their own storage, memory, and OS. Most of these micro machines use active cooling to keep component temperatures in check, but their tiny enclosures can't accommodate the larger, low-speed fans coveted by folks who seek near-silent PCs. Instead, you typically get smaller, blower-style coolers with higher-pitched acoustic profiles and a propensity to get whinier over time. Noise shouldn't be an issue for Foxconn's NanoPC, though. This puppy offers passive cooling in a book-sized chassis that should fit just about anywhere.
The NanoPC measures 7.5" x 5.3" x 1.5", and Newegg has begun selling the latest Brazos-based AT-5570 variant for $250. Under the hood, you'll find a dual-core AMD C-70 APU with Radeon HD 7290 integrated graphics. This chip is based on the netbook-oriented Ontario silicon, which means it's short on horsepower but has a modest thermal envelope of only 9W. No wonder Foxconn can cool the thing without a fan.
In addition to the APU, the NanoPC features six USB ports (four 2.0 and two 3.0), a Gigabit Ethernet port, a memory card reader, dual audio jacks, and both DVI and HDMI video outs. There's a single SO-DIMM slot for memory and one 2.5" drive bay for storage. Wireless networking is conspicuously absent from the system, but Foxconn does throw in a couple of mounting options, including a vertical stand and a VESA-compatible bracket.
As it turns out, this newer NanoPC isn't quite as compelling as an older version still stocked by Newegg. The last-generation nT-A3550 boasts a more powerful Zacate-based E-350 APU but still offers blissfully silent passive cooling. The old model also sports a slimmer body, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a much more affordable $175 asking price without dropping any important features. While the chassis doesn't look quite as nice, you're getting a better-equipped system for 75 bucks less, which is about enough to cover the cost of a hard drive and some RAM. Thanks to Fanless Tech for the tip.