There are PCs you could use in a home office, and there are bona fide home-office PCs, with Mesh’s Home PC – CS being very much the latter. While there is much to like about the hardware, which I’ll get to shortly, what makes this system a contender for serious work is its Windows 10 Pro operating system.
This version, one step up from the usual Windows 10 Home, provides a clutch of added features that can make for more secure, flexible home and even SMB working. We’re particularly fond of Windows Update for Business; Windows 10 Home is infamous for forcing through OS updates, which can unexpected turn a quick restart into a tedious waiting game while everything is installed. With the Pro version, however, you can use Windows Update for Business to control when exactly your PC receives an update, and even if certain components of an update are included (mainly drivers). This is a handy (and free) service even if you’re only occasionally doing actual business.
Mesh Home PC - CS: Business features
The upgraded Remote Desktop in Windows 10 Pro is another welcome addition. If you’re ever away from your home PC but need to access its locally saved files and data (while you’re out with a laptop, say), you’ll be able to sign in to the PC from afar and grab what you need. This does require some port-forwarding shenanigans if you’re not connecting over the same LAN network, but once set up, it can be very useful, and not just for sharing files – if you’re having technical problems and a savvy friend or family member offers to help, they can take a look at your PC without even being in the room.
Windows 10 Pro also includes Bitlocker, which can fully encrypt storage drives and protect them behind an additional password. Sadly this requires a processor with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which the Home PC – CS’ Intel Core i5-7500 lacks, though by tinkering with the Local Group Policy Editor settings, you can force the PC to require additional authentication at startup.
Of course, if your idea of home office usage is more along the lines of creating Word documents, sending emails and the occasional spot of spreadsheets, all this enterprise-grade stuff might seem superfluous. Still, features like Remote Desktop and Windows Update for Business are nice to have if you learn to use them properly, whether you’re just working from home now and then or launching an ambitious startup.
Mesh Home PC - CS: Performance
In any case, it’s all moot if the hardware isn’t up to snuff, but the Home PC – CS delivers the goods. The quad-core Core i5-7500 is a powerful chip to find in a £499 system, and with 8GB of DDR4 RAM backing it up, this is a notably nippy PC. Its image and video benchmark scores of 111 and 104 respectively show that it can handle media editing without a fuss, and its multitasking score of 103 smashes most of the competition. Overall, it scored 105, which is about as good as you can get on this budget.
Unusually, Mesh has included a dedicated GPU, although it’s only the dirt-cheap Nvidia GeForce GT 710. It may have 2GB of VRAM but it didn’t outperform Intel’s latest integrated graphics in our Dirt: Showdown benchmark, in which it managed 33fps at 720p – so while it won't be running any VR or machine learning projects, it is at least good enough for low-end gaming in your downtime. The main benefit is that it contributes to a wider array of video outputs than you’d get from just a motherboard, totalling two HDMI ports, two dual-link DVI-D ports and two VGA ports. The card is passively cooled, too, so it doesn’t make any extra noise.
There are only two USB 2 ports on the front of the case, as well as four USB 2 and two USB 3 ports at the rear, so the rest of the Home PC – CS’s connectivity is practical but nothing special. The rear I/O panel is rounded out by one PS/2 port, an Ethernet socket and the standard three 3.5mm audio jacks, while inside, the micro-ATX motherboard (this is a compact mini tower build) only has two PCIe x1, one RAM and two SATA slots going spare for future upgrades.
You do get two empty 5.25in drive bays, though, plus a total four 3.5in bays and a single 2.5in drive mounting point (the latter and one of the former are already occupied). One nice touch is how two of the 3.5in trays have front panel access, so instead of another hard disk, they can hold accessories like a multi-card reader.
Frankly, we can live with a small SSD if it means we get to reap the Home PC – CS’s benefits. It’s compact, it has a great CPU, it’s quiet (in spite of its tiny 80mm exhaust fan), it’s reasonably flexible in terms of upgrades, and it has a premium operating system in Windows 10 Pro.
We’re still a little surprised to see it in a PC this cheap – the Pro version costs £100 more than Windows 10 Home at retail, and considering Mesh has still found budget for an SSD and a dedicated graphics card, we can’t really see where the trade-off is. Not that we’re complaining – and if you opt for this PC, you won’t be either.