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Sapphire Edge HD Mini PC (nettop) review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Ultra compact size
  • Stylish Design
  • Full HD video playback

Cons

  • Intel Atom dual core CPU still slow
  • Price doesn't include Windows
  • ION netbook arguably makes more sense

Key Features

  • 1080P HD video playback
  • Built in WiFi & Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • Dual Core processor
  • Manufacturer: Sapphire
  • Review Price: free/subscription

Over the last 12 months we've reviewed countless media players. Some have been more successful than others, notably the Boxee Box and WD HDTV Live while other high profile attempts have left us greatly frustrated. For all their advancement there remains a line of thought that none are as good as a media PC. Looking at the Sapphire Edge HD Mini we can see both sides…

Billed as "the smallest PC in the world" it actually isn't (that title goes to the Anders fit-PC2), but what it is hugely compelling. At 193 x 148 x 22mm the Edge HD is tiny (the fit-PC2 comes in at an even more minuscule 115 x 101 x 27mm) and weighs just 530g. This makes it smaller than most external optical drives and, for that matter, media players.

Specs are everything you'll need: a dual core Atom D510 1.66GHz CPU, 2GB RAM (DDR2-800MHz), a 250GB HDD and – bringing it all together – Nvidia's ION2 graphics chip with 512MB of dedicated memory. Connectivity is what you would expect for a device with multimedia pretensions: 802.11n WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, audio-in and line-out ports and four USB slots.

First impressions are good too. Build quality is excellent. Sapphire has wisely opted for a matt black finish making it dust and fingerprint resistant. There are no creaks or squeaks when handling the Edge HD and a bundled stand means it can be positioned upright like a Nintendo Wii or positioned on its side like a Mac Mini. So far so good and setup is simple, or so you'd think.

Plugging in the Edge HD requires little more than connecting the power cord (which has a small power brick) to a wall socket and running an HDMI cable to a monitor or (ideally) TV. Where it gets tricky is Sapphire has taken the unusual step of shipping the Edge HD without Windows. Instead you'll find FreeDOS, which does little more than bring up a flashing C drive prompt. The upside of this is it helps Sapphire keep costs down and pleases Linux fans who are sick of paying for Microsoft OSes they don't need. The downside is for those of us who do, it results in jumping through a few hoops at first boot.

An instruction manual provides a step-by-step walkthrough, but in a nutshell users will need to connect either an external optical drive or USB drive (create a Windows 7 USB boot drive using the Windows 7 USB boot tool) and switch the device boot order so the attached drive is checked before the hard drive. The user must then remember to reverse this when the Windows install procedure reboots so the HDD can finish the setup. a little complicated, but worth it…

MSIC

March 9, 2011, 1:14 pm

Thanks guys, am coming closer to a wish to upgrade my WD TV Live to something with a better / more wife-friendly interface.
Would you be interested in doing an article comparing the current state of software interfaces, such as boxee and the others you mentioned, using the specs of this type of dual core atom / ion machine as a test-bed?
I could also think of a couple of others that would be relevant, including XBMC ( and something newer that is built on top of that, who's name eludes me for a moment), as well as perhaps paid-for applications (does cybermedia do something?).
Anyway, thanks again for this.

Wildkard

March 9, 2011, 1:36 pm

The Win 7 license wouldn't be a problem, as I have an (unused) copy of Windows that I can install. So the value rating isn't an issue, for me. However... Performance 6/10? That puts me off buying this slightly. Although the review doesn't mention any performance issues whatsoever. I'm confused!

Paul Carter

March 9, 2011, 2:57 pm

This sounds great as a media player - I'm thinking of replacing my ageing Netgear EVA8000 - but there's one obvious drawback to this device: lack of IR remote control. If the family can't control it with our Harmony remote then it's a non-starter.
As a PC (Linux or W7) I don't see the small size being enough to compensate for the lack of power / upgradeability.

Epic

March 9, 2011, 3:19 pm

fully agree about the price - these things are basically a netbook without the screen, keyboard and track pad and should cost accordingly - hence nettop.

People looking at this may also want to wait for the AMD fusion powered alternatives that are being to come on the market - performance is better and it may work out cheaper as the process and graphics are even more integrated.

Retset

March 9, 2011, 5:18 pm

I use a TV PC made of cast off bits all the reasons you state ... it will do anything I want. Q6600, 8800GTS & 4GB RAM mean it's a bit over-specified but the whole family uses it. We use a wireless keyboard/touchpad combo and powerline networking for smooth Homegroup streaming.

Despite quiet cooling it is not silent and it certainly isn't small! This little PC under review sounds absolutely perfect for us and I will seriously consider it. I have a spare Windows 7 DVD as I went a bit OTT when they were for sale on pre-order a couple of years ago.

Don't worry as I also have a use for the, then redundant, TV PC ;)

Gordon394

March 9, 2011, 9:28 pm

@Wildkard - we didn't benchmark the nettop since it performs exactly like a netbook + ION2 for 1080p playback. As the review mentions, it is fine for all your basic Windows needs and video watching, but don't expect to be using Photoshop or video editing tools without a great deal of waiting around. As a media centre it is perfectly acceptable and with 5 being average, its performance is above average and that is all you need :)

Steve 12

March 10, 2011, 2:28 am

your Anders fit-pc2 link tells me that I can save £19710 per year. Thank you Gordon I can now retire at last :)

betelgeus

March 10, 2011, 5:26 am

can you really buy ion 2 equipped netbooks for the prices stated im pretty sure they are closer to the £400 price mark.

Gordon394

March 10, 2011, 7:59 am

@betelgeus - seems a strange thing to say when I link directly to that price in the review. Here it is again: http://www.pixmania.co.uk/uk/u...

AOD

March 10, 2011, 10:45 am

@Paul Carter - you can add on a Windows MCE remote with an IR receiver. Your Harmony should then be able to add a Windows MCE device and off you go.

I would second the suggestion regarding XBMC, dare I say the interface for XBMC is actually better than Boxee since in it's latest incarnation, Boxee has gone too far towards online/streaming media sources. Trying to get it to play local content is a challenge whereas with XBMC it's very straightforward.

Also, XBMC has a "live" version that you can boot/run from a USB stick so you can give it a test drive before you commit yourself to a full install (the installed versions can run under Windows & Linux).

Simon

March 10, 2011, 5:16 pm

I've not seen the Fit PC before, how cool is that!

betelgeus

March 10, 2011, 5:53 pm

@gordon no i ment netbook for 249-299 not nettop

J4cK1505

March 10, 2011, 7:23 pm

My mum is very new to computers. She recently bought herself a netbook after me nagging her about their benefits. I remember when I bought my PC 3 years ago, I tried to show her what I'd spent 6months of my wage on, and she couldn't even maneuverer the mouse across the screen.

Anyhow, a netbook worked for her because it wasn't this monstrous industrial looking PC tower, it was a cute little box that fit on her lap during Eastenders. This little PC could maybe do the same for many other people, but I feel they shot themselves in the foot by not including windows. Any linux user I imagine would maybe want a little more ommpphh to their PC

Gordon394

March 11, 2011, 8:26 am

@betelgeus - multitudinous examples ;)
http://www.google.co.uk/produc...

MSIC

March 11, 2011, 12:06 pm

@Gordon, actually they were all (as far as I can see) netbooks in the sub-£300 range -without- ION, whereas betelgeus clearly was talking about something that can output 1080p etc. I suspect that you can probably find something refurbished, but that's not really the point is it?

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