Naturally, the most important element of any gaming PC is its graphics performance, and we couldn't wait to see how the mini-ITX Cryo Pico held up. Thanks to its HIS Radeon HD 5870, the Pico breezed through most of our game results. Starting off with the ultimate stress-test for any gaming system, Crysis ran perfectly at High Detail.
Even cranking the settings up to Very High Detail while keeping resolution to 1,920 x 1,200 returned a playable 32.2fps average in what is still one of the most demanding games ever made. It's a very impressive show from a PC this small!
After chomping through Crysis for lunch, the Pico had Stalker: Call of Pripyat for dinner and Call of Duty 4 for supper, yet it still came back for more..
Essentially, the Pico will run any game out there with ease, at least if you don't go above Full HD resolutions. Of course that's no less than what you would expect from a gaming machine costing nearly £1,400, but taking its small size into consideration the performance on offer here is impressive regardless.
This brings us neatly to value considerations. If you spec up the exact machine we've reviewed on Cryo's website you'll get a price of £1,438 (from the £995 base configuration) but as a loyal TrustedReviews reader you can call up and quote TR to get that down to £1,395. Unfortunately, component prices have reversed the usual trend to become more expensive in recent months, so you're not paying quite as much of a premium for the Pico's small dimensions as you might think – especially when considering Cryo's decent overclock, high-end components and notable two-year RTB warranty.
Yes, you can get an equally powerful setup for quite a bit less if you settle for a tower system, but that's not the point. If you're looking for something to take along to LAN parties without compromising on performance, the Cryo Pico should be one of your primary candidates. As mini-ITX gaming systems become more popular we'll be seeing more choice in this segment, but for now it's one of the very few options out there.
One thing to keep in mind (for those not adverse to building their own system or lucky enough to find an assembler that offers systems based on them) is that a similarly-sized Shuttle barebones like the SX58J3 will give you support for Intel's top-end Core i7 CPUs and four RAM slots - in addition to the ability to install two single-slot graphics cards for some CrossFire or SLI action. That's more than any mini-ITX board can offer right now, yet Shuttle's solution is far more expensive and its scarcity in pre-built systems mean the SX58J3 is not going to be an option for many.
Offering a choice of overclocked processors, top graphics cards and various motherboards, we have a new small gaming system performance king from Cryo in the form of the Pico. However, it's not the quietest PC around nor the smallest high-end mini-ITX system we're likely to see in the near future, so it might be worth waiting to check out some forthcoming contenders to the SFF throne.
Addendum 19-07-2010: Both the spec as reviewed and the base configuration (which drops the SSD and downgrades to a 400W PSU and Radeon HD5770, but should still give you competent gaming performance) have dropped by £100 since time of writing, and when quoting TR can now be had for £1,295 and £895 respectively.