Despite the rush to replace desktops with laptops in recent years, the desktop remains the computer of choice for gamers and enthusiasts who like to build, tinker and experiment with their systems. However, there’s also another type of desktop that refuses to go away – the mini PC.
We've seen some interesting 'miniaturised' offerings over the past few months, including the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180 (which stands 19.2cm high), Samsung's Series 3 Chromebox (which boasts a footprint of 193x193mm) and the Rasbery Pi; an in-development PC that is smaller than an iPhone and designed to run Linux.
Now, Sapphire has added another machine to this club - the Edge-HD3; a mini PC based on AMD's APU technology.
Generally speaking, Australia’s never been a big market for these sorts of products. Sapphire tells us they’re talking to their distributors, but at the moment the machine is not being sold in Australia. Regardless, it's an interesting piece of hardware for Mini PC aficionados.
Billed as the "smallest PC in the world", the Sapphire Edge-HD3 measures just 193x148x22mm - around the same size as a paperback book. According to Sapphire, the new system boasts increased graphical capability and higher core performance over the previous, Atom-based Edge-HD. It is also more power efficient, allegedly consuming less than 30W under load.
Light as a pebble on a virtual grey pond: Sapphire's Edge-HD3
Specifications include an AMD E-450 dual-core processor, Radeon HD 6320 graphics, a 2.5-inch hard drive bay and up to 4GB DDR3 memory. Connectivity includes a LAN port, a pair of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, VGA, HDMI and audio jacks. The system runs on FreeDOS software, but will be compatible with most operating systems, including Windows 7.
Mini PC technology has improved greatly over the years; indeed, it's possible to build fully-fledged Mini ITX systems without compromising on power (read our how-to guide here). Still, we can't help but wonder why anyone would buy a store-bought Mini PC instead of a laptop.
Sapphire is pitching the Edge-HD3 as "a welcome replacement for a bulky traditional PC", but once you add a mouse, monitor and keyboard, the size advantages are somewhat less pronounced. In terms of performance, we wouldn't expect the PC's AMD E-450 APU to match, say, an Ultrabook.
We're fond of recommending the WD TV Live as a hook-up-to-your-TV-box, but that said, PCs provide lots of control when it comes to streaming movies - you just need to be happy to tinker. The one big thing the Sapphire Edge-HD3 has going for it is its modest size: it will easily squeeze in beside your TV or inside a bookshelf; just like a paperback.