Back when I reviewed Linutop's fanless Linux PC one of my final thoughts was how it might compare to Zonbu's similarly Linux-based Zonbox. Both have cut-down specs and no hard-drive, but while the Linutop relies on a thumbdrive for storage, the Zonbox uses an online subscription service with a subsidised starting price ($99) and monthly fees of $12.95 upward. Over at ArsGeek they picked up a Zonbox and gave it a good going over with their review-stick.
Spec-wise the Zonbox edges out the Linutop, with more USB ports, 4GB of in-built storage and double the RAM. That should get rid of some of the pregnant pauses while the low-power CPU churns, which marred my experience; sure enough, ArsGeek found it relatively painless.
The online storage is a bone of contention for many - after owning the Zonbox for two years you'll have paid around $410 when you take into account the subscription charges (or $377 + tax + shipping for the Linutop). That compares poorly with, say, a basic Dell desktop PC that can be picked up for $359. As ArsGeek says, though, the security of an encrypted, off-site and - most importantly - automatic backup probably makes the Zonbox more useful for tech-shy home users.
If you find yourself pressed into tech admin duty every holiday or visit to the parents, it's well worth a read of the Zonbox and Linutop reviews to see if a more basic product might serve your family better.
The Zonbox [ArsGeek]