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Mini PC

Zero1 Awards 2016 – Mini-PC

December 16, 2016 — by Digit0

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Small form-factor machines have especially benefited from the Industry moving to smaller manufacturing nodes for transistors. Processors have becomes faster while running cooler than before and graphics chips even more so. Graphics chips have improved to such an extent that both AMD and NVIDIA are offering the solutions for notebooks which are nearly equal to their desktop counterparts. The components race has greatly helped bring performance which was hitherto limited to bulky desktop machines into little cases that are barely larger than a school kid’s lunchbox. Earlier in the year, Intel did make a few heads turn when they decided to shut the mobile SoC segment. Since mobile SoCs are quite similar to what was found in ultra small mini-PCs and stick PCs, it did raise a few questions about the survival of mini-PCs but when they ended up releasing NUCs with Skylake CPUs, all those worries were laid to rest. However, we are yet to see a rise in unit sales for these devices. There are high-end desktop units like the ASUS G20CB which nearly falls into the category that sport desktop Core i7s and GTX 1080s but even ASUS doesn’t define them as mini-PCs. Instead they have the Vivo line up. For us, anything that occupies under five cubic litres is a mini-PC. So with that little parameter set in stone we can safely draw the line as to what is a mini-PC and what becomes a compact desktop. Given how these devices are not prevalent in India, we can conclude that there’s something off about mini-PCs in India.

Zero1 Winner: ZOTAC MAGNUS EN1060

Mini-PC

Skylake socketed processor? Check. NVIDIA 1000 series graphics card? Check. Can it play Mine Craft? Double-check! While we did end up with fewer mini-PCs this year compared to last year, it wasn’t going to be a surprise for a unit like the Magnus winning since it was the only one with a discrete graphics solution. So you have a desktop grade processor and a desktop grade graphics chip in a form-factor that doesn’t even take up three cubic litres of space. Not only is this unit small enough to be discreetly hidden behind your TV, it’s capable of running your current gen AAA titles for about 2-years without any worry.

Runner-ups: ASRock DeskMini H110 and GIGABYTE BRIX GB-BSi5H-6200

We asked for the best off-the-shelf unit to be sent to us and what came had a Core-i7 6700K, Samsung SM951 and 16 Gigs of RAM. You can see how the DeskMini missed out purely because of the discrete graphics solution. It’s also a bit taller than all other units we’d received for the Zaro1 Awards and that’s because of the socketed processor in the unit.
While the other two contendors were making use of desktop grade components, the Gigabyte BRIX unit on the other hand ends up being the most traditional mini-PC that we received. Though Gigabyte does have mini-PCs with powerful discrete graphics solutions available, they don’t sell the same in India. This puts them at a disadvantage against brands that do. The GB-BSi5H-6200 is the most compact of all the units we received which earns them brownie points because the mini-PC segment favours reduced footprint and volume. And while it does lack a discrete graphics solution, it is sufficiently powerful for casual gaming.

Best buy: ASRock N3150 Beebox

The Best Buy of our January 2016 benchmark still retains that title for providing a feature set that most other mini-PCs would charge extra for. It’s the only one which comes with a USB Type-C port and a multimedia remote in it’s price segment. And while the Intel N3150 isn’t powerful to handle gaming, it handles every other productivity software with ease. A fully decked up unit can cost about `s26,599 which takes away any worries about having to customise the hardware per your needs.

Mini PC

Mini PCs

December 18, 2015 — by Digit0

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Not so mini anymore, as they have seriously upped their performance game to be a lot more desirable for the consumer

The ULP powered Mini-PCs have become as small as matchboxes like the Gigabyte BRIX, ASRock Beebox and Liva Core. And on the other hand those that have mobile processors have retained the chunky size like the ZOTAC Magnus and the ASUS GR8. Both types are still small enough to be easily mounted onto the back of your monitors using the VESA mount.

Zero1 Winner: ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS EN970

ZOTAC has been known for making Mini-PCs and mini-ITX motherboards for quite a long while. The ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 has everything you’d expect from an ordinary computer. The Intel Core i5 and the NVIDIA GTX 960 endow it with the gaming prowess that pegs it way above average according to Steam’s hardware survey. Then it has an M.2 slot with two PCIe lanes and two 2.5-inch SATA slots for SSDs. And if you were thinking what we’re thinking, then yes, the two 2.5-inch SATA drives support RAID. In fact, our benchmarks were performed with two SSDs in RAID 0 producing transfer speeds of around 1,000 MBps. This machine ushers in a new era where the word Mini-PC doesn’t mean hardware compromise.
Price: Rs. 70,000

Runner-ups: ASUS GR8

ASUS’s GR8 was released early in the year and therefore, uses slightly older hardware. But it’s very much in the same vein as the MAGNUS. With an Intel Core i7-4510U, its compute power is at par with the MAGNUS. In our benchmarks, it scored 4578 points in PCMark 8 Work Accelerated which is just 10 points shy of what the MAGNUS EN970 scored. It’s the graphics power that made the difference. NVIDIA’s GTX 960 is much more powerful since it is a second generation Maxwell while the ASUS GR8’s GTX 750 Ti is based on the first generation Maxwell chipset and is binned for a lesser performance segment. But when it comes to looks, the ASUS GR8 is much better than the MAGNUS EN970.
Price: Rs. 89,500

Gigabyte Brix GB-BXi5H-5200

Coming in at third is Gigabyte’s Brix GB-BXi5H-5200. It has a much smaller footprint and relies solely on Intel HD Graphics 5500 for its graphics processing. Needless to say, its compute performance is the same as the MAGNUS EN970 but the lack of a discrete GPU knocks it down to third place.
This also means that the Brix GB-BXi5H-5200 is considerably cheaper than the other two units and would be favoured heavily for this reason. Definitely worth considering at a lower budget.
Price: Rs. 27,299

Best Buy: ASRock Beebox N3000

If you’re looking at getting a rig setup in under 20K then the ASRock Beebox N3000 is one of the few Mini-PCs that can get the job done for you. Powered by an Intel® N3000, the Beebox has quite a few advantages over the competition. For starters you have a choice of storage formats and it’s one of the few Mini-PCs to come with a USB Type-C connector and a media centre remote. While the remote can be done away with the help of any remote mouse APP on your smartphone, its remaining features still make the Beebox N3000 quite the economical wonder since it’s priced under 10K. So you can get the rest of the components and peripherals to set it up completely in under 20K which is why the ASRock Beebox N3000 wins the Best Buy.
Price: Rs. 9,959