Two USB ports on the Cryo Pico’s front wear the blue livery of USB 3.0, but that is in fact all they do; the DFI Lanparty MI-P55-T36 mini-ITX motherboard doesn’t support USB 3.0 so these blue ports are actually ordinary USB 2.0. If you prefer to have USB 3.0 support Cryo will swap the Lanparty for the same Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 board found in the DinoPC Mini Carnivore and, since you can’t add a USB 3.0 expansion card to a mini-ITX motherboard without sacrificing the dedicated graphics card, it’s an option we’d generally recommend. However, this will lower the overclock from 3.8 to 3.6GHz, as Cryo has informed me it can only use the stock cooler with the Gigabyte board for now (a small price to pay – Ed).
Around the PC’s back we have six more USB ports (one of which doubles as powered eSATA), two PS2 ports, eight-channel digital and analogue audio jacks and Gigabit Ethernet, while a Radeon HD 5870 graphics card provides twin DVIs, HDMI and DisplayPort.
Opening the Cryo Pico is not as easy as with most PCs thanks to Lian Li’s use of half a dozen screws per side panel. However, due to this machine’s limited upgrade potential it’s not as much of a problem as on most systems. Inside things are slightly messy despite some attempts at cable tidying, due mainly to Cryo’s use of a non-modular 650W Corsair power supply.
The Pico is powered by a dual-core Core i5 655K Clarkdale CPU. This runs at 3.2GHz by default but Cryo guarantees an overclock of 3.8GHz on all Core i3/5 CPUs (when using the LanParty motherboard). While not as impressive as the 4GHz + we saw on its Nano, this is one of the sacrifices you make for the Pico’s smaller size.
It’s backed by 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, which fills both of the motherboard’s available memory slots, with a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit taking full advantage.
Storage is more interesting, with a 60GB Corsair Force series SSD as the main system drive. Based on the new SandForce controller that’s been stirring up a storm, this lightning-fast drive means everything you install on it boots in a snap. It’s not only noticeable when booting Windows, but also when starting applications and loading games. For storage there’s a slightly miserly 500GB Samsung hard drive, but you can upgrade to a healthier 1TB model for £25.
(centre)Performance is great for such a small machine, with the Pico outgunning our other two compact gaming systems, the Nano and Panzer.(/centre)
As far as cooling goes, the transparent, backlit 140mm fan at the front is a case original, while Cryo has replaced the top 120mm fan with a quieter Noctua model. Likewise a 120mm Noctua is installed on the custom CPU cooler, which is no less than the distinguished Scythe BIG Shuriken, ironically a low-profile cooler. Its performance is impressive considering its small size, keeping the overclocked CPU below 50 degrees on average even under load.
Unfortunately, despite its custom fans and the effort put into its cooling, the Pico is not exactly a quiet system. It’s not too intrusive though and certainly not out of line with many tower systems, but we were hoping the extras would have helped to make it stand out in this regard.