PC Specialist's Aurelia is a compact Windows media centre PC that tracks the design of the Apple Mac mini.

Pressing the personal computer into service as a living-room media centre is an increasingly popular pursuit. It's been helped along recently by advances in laptop technology, which has allowed PCs to be made smaller and quieter, more happy to sit comfortably under the telly without drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

While it may be easy enough to find room for a personal computer in some corner of the lounge, the incessant noise of fans and hard drives is less easy to live with. So the use of notebook components should mean that the key issues of heat and noise have been addressed.

And these mini PCs should also be more economical to run, especially important if left on all day like a server.

Whether you wish to entrust your quality viewing time to a computer that requires regular maintenance and security software, when all you want to do is simply enjoy a film or play some music, is a topic for another discussion.

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In the case of the PC Specialist Aurelia Media Centre, we have a nicely compact unit about 6.5in square and 2.25in high, with a slot-load DVD drive at the front, and a host of connection options on the back. And at a price of around £500, it's not difficult to see where the Aurelia takes its cue: this is an Apple Mac mini tribute, built for the Windows market.

The original PC Specialist Aurelia Media Centre design is courtesy of AOpen and is known as an XC mini MP45. With a spec and form factor so close to Apple's entry-level PC, it's impossible not to make comparisons between these two petite and lounge-friendly computers.

Inside the PC Specialist Aurelia Media Centre sample we tested is a Intel Core 2 Duo T6400, ostensibly the same as the Mac mini's Intel P7350 CPU by running at 2.0GHz, although the Aurelia's processor is a slightly slower chip, with 2MB instead of 3MB of L2 cache, and a front-side bus clocked at 800MHz instead of 1066MHz.

It's also a less efficient part, with a thermal design power (TDP) of 35W against the P7350's 25W.

We noticed that the PC Specialist Aurelia Media Centre stayed suitably quiet in use, with a nearly inaudible fan occasionally switching on when the system was working harder.

NEXT PAGE: Inside the Aurelia and performance results >>