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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…
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