Nettop Round-Up: Four Tiny PCs, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Benchmark Results: Synthetics

SiSoft Sandra and PCMark 7 are good synthetics for comparing these four systems. Given a quartet of different architectures, it'll be interesting to see how the numbers fall. Let’s start with the SiSoft Sandra benchmarks, which focus on processor and memory performance:

The Sandra scores don't offer up any surprises; the Intel Core i5-2520M leads, and the Core i3-430UM falls into a distant second. The AMD E-350 and Atom D525 are tied for third place.

The multi-media capabilities of these processors mirror the arithmetic results we already saw.

The memory bandwidth results aid in demonstrating why ASRock's CoreHT dominates our benchmarks. The other competitors fall way behind in this metric.

The Core i5-2520M in ASRock’s CoreHT 252B leaves its competition in the dust when it comes to PCMark 7, which is no surprise considering this processor's relatively high clock rate and desktop architecture. The real surprise is that the Atom D525, E-350, and Core i3-430UM are so closely matched.

Now that we have an idea how these nettops perform, bear in mind that they're not built for high performance. They’re built for media playback and general productivity. Despite their modest results, these systems still provide workable performance as media centers and Web machines.

The fast 500 GB Western Digital Scorpio Black serves ASRock's nettop very well. The other systems have relatively similar storage performance, though Zotac's Zbox isn't helped by its 5400 RPM disk compared to the 7200 RPM competition.

Now, let's consider gaming performance:

The graphics benchmark doesn’t flatter any of these solutions, and even ASRock’s CoreHT can’t provide a 30 FPS rate. The Radeon-based graphics chipsets in the Zbox and MC001-BD don’t fare well, but the HD Graphics engine in the Giada i50 is hit hardest.

  • jdwii

    But at $504 with no operating system (and $399 for a version without an operating system, hard drive, or memory),
  • Pyree
    IDK, $800 for the ASRock CoreHT 252B. A laptop cost less, has better performance for that price range, better mobility and space saving plus you have everything (screen, speaker etc). I rather get a laptop for a small office.
  • chumly
    These all seem expensive to me, considering you could probably build a better mini itx slim form factor system from scratch for about half the price.
  • AMD X6850
    As mentioned, no remove comes bundled with the Zbox.

  • cleeve
    AMD X6850Remote?
    Thx, fixed!
  • molo9000
    Nettops? These things are far too expensive to be nettops.
    They are small form factor PCs or home theatre PCs, but they are not nettops.

    btw: Mac mini should be in this lineup.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Very nice article. I was about to request something like it :)

    Mac Mini should be in this lineup? Actually, a good idea. I'd love to see how it compares to similar Wintel boxes.

    I'm through with these small boxes because they're a pain in the a$$ to service and the hardware isn't good for the price ($800?! gimme a break!), but I see value in them for people who are ready to pay more for the small size.

    If I would build a small form-factor box myself, I'd use something like this new Lian Li case which was in Tom's news recently - it can fit proper PCI/PCI-E cards.

    Again, lovely article. Keep it up.

    P.S. The ASRock box is great.
  • compton
    I second the sentiment that these aren't really nettops. Luckily, the next iteration of Llano should rectify that, creating the golden triangle of CPU , GPU, and low cost. At least that's what I expect anyway. These reviewed units are more HTPC solutions than low cost nettop. Intel has a new half height miniITX initiative with a rare and relatively expensive 1155 mini ITX to match. However, once Intel's iGPU gets a serving of HTPC friendly features, you could build your own full featured, passively cooled system to take these units on performance and price as well. The move to 22nm should make low powered passively cooled CPUs easy to get right. As it stands, each of the solutions tested are pretty good, but I'm not sure that any of them are worth the asking price. In particular, I've always avoided Atom like the plague, and I don't think they're appropriate in small form factor systems that cost more than about $200.
  • ruban71
    Can we now have a comparison against a couple of ITX builds? Choose an nice looking case and show us what can be put together for similar money.
  • I've owned an E350 - struggles with HD playback in a linux system, there doesn't appear to be any support for the amd hardware decoding. So if you were thinking of making a linux htpc out of it, go for something more powerful... It will perform better though as in the article above if using Windows (Using I think - Media Player classic which allows hardware h.264 decode.)