Does Size Matter? Four Very Small Nettops Get Reviewed

Test Systems And Benchmarks

These are very different systems aimed at different usage models. However, we’ll compare performance to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses in synthetic, productivity, media encoding, and even gaming workloads.

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ASRock Vision HT 821BLenovo Q180 31102BUJetway Mini-Top JBC700C9JGZotac Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus
ChipsetIntel HM77Intel NM10Intel H61AMD A50M
CPUIntel Core i5-3210M (Ivy Bridge), Dual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2.5 GHz (3.1 Max. Turbo Boost), 3 MB L3 CacheIntel Atom D2700(Cedar Trail) Dual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2.13 GHz, 1 MB L2 CacheIntel Celeron G540 (Sandy Bridge), Dual-Core, 2.5 GHz, 2 MB L3 CacheAMD E-450(Zacate) Dual-Core, 1.65 GHz, 1 MB L2 Cache
SystemMemoryAsint PC3-12800, 2 x 2 GB, 800 MHz, CL 11-11-11-28-1T(dual-channel)Samsung PC3-10600, 1 x 4 GB, 533 MHz, (single-channel)ASint PC3-10700, 1 x 2 GB, 533 MHz, CL 7-8-8-21-1T(dual-channel)Samsung PC3-10700, 1 x 2 GB, 670 MHz, CL 9-9-9-24-1T (single-channel)
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 4000 (Integrated, shared RAM)AMD Radeon HD 6450A (512 MB dedicated DDR3, 800 MHz)Nvidia GeForce GT 520M (1 GB dedicated DDR3, 800 MHz)Radeon HD 6320 (Integrated, shared RAM)
Hard DriveSeagate Momentus Spinpoint750 GB, 8 MB Cache, 5400 RPM, SATA 3Gb/sSeagate Momentus 5400.6500 GB, 5400 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3Gb/sWD Scorpio Black500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB cache, SATA 3Gb/sKingston mS100 SSD 64 GB, mSATA 3Gb/s
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, SP2
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversIntel HD Graphics 8.15.10.2712AMD CCC Beta 12.6 GeForce 275.84 WHQL
Benchmark Configuration
PCMark 7Total System Score, Memories, TV And Movies, Gaming, Music, Communications, Productivity, Hard Disk
SiSoft Sandra 2011CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multi-Media, Memory Bandwidth, Network Bandwidth, and Network Latency benchmarks
Game Configuration
StarCraft IILow Preset, Medium Textures, Tom's Hardware Guide Benchmark v2
DiRT 3Ultra-Low Preset, No AA
World of WarCraftFair graphics preset, Good Texture Resolution, Low View Distance, FRAPS runs
Diablo IIILowest graphic settings, high textures, No AA
  • Nintendo Maniac 64
    So I'm guessing there aren't any nettops yet that use the low-voltage Trinity APUs? (17w A6-4455M and 25w A10-4655M)
    Reply
  • daglesj
    Beware with the Lenovo Q180 if you buy the barebones DOS version to install Windows 7 64bit on it.

    The Audio doesn't work. The drivers Lenovo have up on the site are incorrect for 64bit. So far they haven't got round to changing it after 6 months.

    If you buy the version with Windows 64bit installed it works. But they just wont release the right driver.
    Reply
  • The big problem with net tops is longevity and lack of upgrade abilities. If all you plan to do with them is surf the web,send email, chat and watch 2D video. You most likely won't care what hardware is in them. But that's not the negative about these small form factors. Its heat, and a question of how that heat will affect the hardware in such a small form? Not to mention the small PSU's and the question of why would you buy one of these over a decent well designed notebook? Even if you like the form factor and want to run Linux on one of these. Chances are Linux will challenge you on some problem with the hardware.
    Reply
  • daglesj
    For day to day office work they do the job perfectly. I know quite a few businesses that are keen to drop their old 130W desktop boxes for something easier on the power bill. I rolled out a load of Atom ION boxes about 3 years ago and all of them are still going strong in some quite challenging environments. A few of them were even overclocked to give a little extra pep and no problems yet.

    The main thing that holds these boxes back are the HDDs. They still keep slipping 5400rpm drives in them. You put a 120GB SSD in there and you have a near perfect general office PC.
    Reply
  • silverblue
    Looking at the D2700 vs. the 450 reminds me of days gone by with the P4D and the Athlon 64 X2. The higher clock speed plus HT of the Atom helps a lot with encoding but despite its clock speed disadvantage, the 450 easily holds its own.

    The next generation of both these CPU families would be worth watching out for.
    Reply
  • jaquith
    I've been debating about purchasing a MINI PC vs Building, sadly one of my HTPC's just recently took a swan dive. So do I purchase something like the ASRock Vision HT for ~$700+ ($800), Build or Repair?!

    The only potential drawback to these MINI PC's as an HTPC is lacking of an internal 'TV Tuner' option. However, since Cable DVR's are very common place now the 'TV Tuner' need is getting smaller every day. I have Verizon FiOS and the newer black DVR's and a HTPC to record requires a CableCARD and PCIe CableCARD e.g. Ceton InfiniTV 4 but then you run into oddball things like "Copy Once."
    The Pro's & Con's are all from their size, but ~$700+ is a huge price and IMO reduces the demand. The only complete system in this article is the Lenovo Q180, the ASRock Vision HT 821B requires some form of OS and sure there's 'free' OSes but Windows 7 Home Premium OEM 64-bit will add an additional $100.

    Any of these listed can be used as a simple Desktop replacement. The workaround for storage is to either purchase a large capacity 'drive' (SSD or HDD) that can 'fit' or some form of external storage including an external drive (USB or eSATA if applicable) or Windows Home Server or similar network storage device.
    Reply
  • chewy1963
    silverblueLooking at the D2700 vs. the 450 reminds me of days gone by with the P4D and the Athlon 64 X2. The higher clock speed plus HT of the Atom helps a lot with encoding but despite its clock speed disadvantage, the 450 easily holds its own.The next generation of both these CPU families would be worth watching out for.
    Just about the same performance between them back in the day. Of course it's different OS's and software, but, that was from the good ole days when Athlon 64 x2 ruled the x86 performance race.
    Reply
  • stevelord
    I bought an Asus nettop last year from Walmart. And despite putting a SSD in it + 4GB of memory, it crawled at even loading web pages...especially forums. Wife noticed the speed difference and after lots of complaining sent me back to return it.

    Reply
  • cleeve
    Nintendo Maniac 64So I'm guessing there aren't any nettops yet that use the low-voltage Trinity APUs? (17w A6-4455M and 25w A10-4655M)
    I couldn't find any, but this article has been in the works for a while so some might have cropped up.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    jaquithThe only potential drawback to these MINI PC's as an HTPC is lacking of an internal 'TV Tuner' option.
    The Jetway Mini-Top in this article *does* have an internal TV tuner option. :)
    Reply