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Sapphire Edge HD Mini PC (nettop) - Performance, Pricing & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


Once your OS of choice is installed (note: Sapphire provides Windows drivers on a bundled USB drive) you will have a full desktop experience. Whereas media players try to mimic PC functionality with sluggish web browsers and dedicated widgets the Edge HD is no different to your laptop or desktop. Pick the browser you want and don't worry about widgets because the full sites are there.

Another sizeable advantage is codecs. Media players may come loaded up with multi-format compatibility (well all except one), but a desktop OS means you can install anything you need and never be out of date. The reliance on media player manufacturers to update codecs through firmware upgrades is gone. The downside media player advocates will tell you is you don't get the specialist user friendly interface. The good news is this isn’t entirely true.

Arguably the best UI of them all is that of the Boxee Box and Boxee makes its UI freely available for download on Windows, Mac and Linux. Windows Media Center isn't bad either and there are many other options including LinuxMCE and MythTV which operate as digital video recorders, not just playback platforms. Unlike a media player, a media centre allows you to pick the user interface you like most.

Of course none of this means anything without two key factors: 1. That the Edge HD performs, and 2. That the price is right.

The first of these is a qualified success. Nvidia's ION2 chip means downloaded 720p and 1080p High Definition video playback is a breeze. No skipped frames and minimal strain on the CPU. HTML5 also works well, but you will need to install the latest Adobe Flash player beta to get the best out of streaming Flash web content. This is because, despite being dual core, the Atom is still something of a technological weakling. It works fine for basic web surfing and desktop work, but HD without assistance from the ION2 is off limits. Interestingly ION2 does mean some basic gaming is possible – notably titles like World of Warcraft and The Sims at lower resolutions – but don't expect Crysis to be anything other than a series of blocky stills. On the plus side the Edge HD is virtually silent in operation.

When it comes to price things are equally complicated. The Edge HD costs just £248 including VAT. This makes it only £49 more expensive than the Boxee Box and £91 more expensive than the WD TV Live despite offering far greater functionality than either. This is great for Linux users, where the distribution is usually free, but Windows fans will need to find another £60 for Windows 7 Home Premium taking the cost beyond £300.

At this level it would arguably be more practical to buy an ION equipped netbook which typically retails for £249- £299. Like the Edge HD they can also be easily connected to a TV or monitor via their HDMI port, unlike it they can be unplugged and used on the move. Furthermore the Edge HD's tiny chassis means it is not officially upgradeable whereas the hard drive in a netbook is easily swapped out should more capacity be necessary.


Sapphire has created a stylish, Full HD capable media PC with wonderfully compact dimensions and a real sense of style. Full fat desktop functionality makes this a mouth watering prospect, but on closer inspection the price isn't as cheap as it first appears making an ION equipped netbook a potentially more flexible alternative.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Performance 6
  • Value 7
  • Features 7
  • Design 8


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.


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.


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.


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 ;)


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 :)


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.


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/u...


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).


March 10, 2011, 5:16 pm

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


March 10, 2011, 5:53 pm

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


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


March 11, 2011, 8:26 am

@betelgeus - multitudinous examples ;)


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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