Intel makes no secret about its intentions with Thin Mini-ITX. The chipmaker wants the market for all-in-one PCs to "mirror the tower desktop market as much as possible." The advent of Thin Mini-ITX and compatible all-in-one enclosures, like the Loop chassis we tested, are part of that strategy.
For the most part, I think we can say Intel has the hardware part of the equation down. Building a Thin Mini-ITX all-in-one is clearly quite different from building a tower desktop, but in our experience, it's not substantially more difficult. The use of standard components also promises future upgradability. Despite all of that, the resulting all-in-one system can be slim, slick, and fast, so the open nature of the system doesn't appear to involve serious compromises—awkward port cluster positioning excepted. The lack of space for a game-worthy graphics card is a downside, too, but it's forgivable enough considering the likely target market for all-in-ones. True gamers will no doubt want a proper desktop with a discrete display.
As for product availability, well, Intel still has some work to do in that area. Intel Product Marketing Engineer Rob L'Heureux told us pre-built Thin Mini-ITX all-in-ones are available at Newegg and Amazon right now, but he couldn't name specific models, and our search didn't yield any machines that were clearly identifiable as Thin Mini-ITX offerings. Intel's Thin Mini-ITX portal is also frustratingly bereft of product links.
Thin Mini-ITX parts and enclosures for home builders are available at retail, but not in great quantities. We found Amazon Marketplace listings for both the Loop chassis we reviewed (asking price: $264.60) and Intel's DH61AG motherboard (sold for $109.46). Amazon sells Intel's BXHTS1155LP cooler directly for $25, too. However, none of those parts are listed at Newegg, and Amazon says there's only one Loop chassis, three DH61AG boards, and 16 coolers in stock right now.
Still, there's no question the Thin Mini-ITX platform, whether in all-in-ones or small-form-factor desktops, is a positive thing for the PC industry. The PC owes much of its success to openness, and any efforts to maintain or expand that openness warrant praise. I think Intel deserves particular commendation, given that its hardware already powers the top-selling all-in-ones on the market right now: Apple's iMacs. Intel doesn't have to embrace openness, but it seems to have done so anyway.