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Sapphire Edge VS8 Mini PC Review

The Sapphire Edge VS8 Mini PC is an attractively designed Mini PC which will fit comfortably into a bedroom or living room environment. The diminutive physical dimensions will ensure it won’t offend other family members either.

First impressions are positive – the bundle is excellent. Sapphire include a quality HDMI cable, VESA mount, Optical SPDIF cable, HDMI to DVI converter and all the necessary drivers for installation.

Build quality of the Edge VS8 is fantastic, it feels sturdy and will be able to deal with rough handling and less than ideal operating conditions. My only negative comment would be that the finish does attract fingerprints rather easily, although they are straightforward to remove with a cleaning cloth.

Sadly, for inexperienced users, the Edge VS8 may prove too much to handle. The lack of supplied operating system and optical drive will alienate the ‘PC World’ style end user who has little knowledge or interest in setting up his or her system.

Extra cost should therefore be factored in for the Windows Operating system and a USB powered optical drive. Advanced users will be able to install their operating system directly from a USB flash drive.

AMD’s A8 4555M APU is certainly no powerhouse, but it is a decent step up from their last generation ‘all in one’ chips. It is more than capable of handling general office duties, surfing, daily internet browsing and even light Photoshop work. It is also an excellent choice for high definition media playback as the image quality is at the same level as AMD’s more expensive discrete solutions. Hardware acceleration also ensures ultra smooth playback of Bluray and H264 contained video.

More serious duties such as 3D rendering and video editing may prove a little much, especially when paired up with the slow 2.5 inch, 5,400 rpm mechanical hard drive.

While the Sapphire Edge VS8 has limited gaming capabilities with the latest Direct X 11 titles, it has enough power under the hood to drive older titles such as Left4Dead2 at HD resolutions with good image quality settings. Our testing today has shown that it will be able to handle Direct X 9 and some Direct X 10 titles at 720p.

When I reviewed the Edge HD3 Mini PC in February this year, I commented on the poor choice of mechanical hard drive and unfortunately Sapphire have decided to adopt a similarly low end 5,400 rpm drive which struggles to handle even the most basic tasks.

This has a noticeable negative impact on overall system performance and may cause many people to blame the AMD A8 4555M. Waiting almost a minute for Windows 7 to boot into a responsive manner is not something I am happy to accept in 2012, even with a budget unit.

I can appreciate the need to meet specific price points and Sapphire have informed us that they will be selling a ‘bare bones’ version of the Edge VS unit, to allow the enthusiast user to fit their own memory and SSD drive. While this resolves one concern, it still doesn’t address the ‘mainstream’ audience who will want the machine shipped with Windows operating system and drivers already installed.

Even if Sapphire had to charge £500 for this ‘complete OS’ unit with SSD, I think it would be a worthy addition to the range. The lack of optical drive and operating system disc will surely alienate the average punter who won’t have the necessary background skills to get the machine up and running.

Due to time constraints and the need to circulate our Edge VS8 sample to other press, we didn’t get time to take the unit apart and replace the 5,400 rpm drive with a Solid State drive for further testing, however we are confident that this would address the majority of our concerns.

The Edge VS8 Mini PC’s biggest strengths are the low heat dissipation, tiny power drain and almost silent operation. Under most situations it is completely inaudible and will only be taking around 30-35 watts at the socket. This will barely have any impact on an electricity bill, even if left on 24/7. This is something we can’t ignore in this tough economic climate.

In closing, I have been impressed with the Sapphire Edge VS8 Mini PC, although I have some concerns which I feel Sapphire should address.

The lack of pre-installed operating system (and optical drive to install from) will cause problems for a wide audience. I know many people who would expect this system to boot to a Windows environment first time, without the need for additional purchases and manual OS/driver installation.

The choice of entry level 5,400 rpm mechanical drive seems somewhat of an oversight, and I am sure that people would be willing to pay a little extra for a smaller, but significantly faster Solid State unit. I did say this when I reviewed Sapphire’s Edge HD3 system in February and it is a little disappointing 10 months later to be reiterating the same point.

We don’t have confirmed pricing for this unit, but we have been told that it should be around the £300 inc vat point. I would advise our readers to get the ‘bare bones’ unit however, as a solid state drive could be fitted.

Pros:

  • extremely tiny.
  • almost silent.
  • very low power drain.
  • runs quite cool.
  • capable of handling a lot of everyday tasks.

Cons:

  • no operating system.
  • no optical disc support without extra cost (USB DVD drive).
  • poor choice of slow 5,400 rpm 2.5 inch drive. Why no 7,200 rpm unit?
  • a complex install for the ‘average punter’.

Kitguru says: We recommend you buy the ‘bare bones’ unit and fit your own memory and Solid State Drive.

Rating: 8.0.

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