ASRock, Lenovo, Jetway, And Zotac: Small Form-Factor PCs
Every once in a while, we like to size up the very-small-form-factor segment to see how the desktop technology we cover on the desktop is being miniaturized for more space-sensitive mainstream markets. Most recently, Zotac sent us seven of its diminutive Zboxes, which allowed us to cut right past any discussion of implementation and dive right into the many platforms currently being used to enable nettop-class machines (see Good Things In Small Packages: Seven Nettop Platforms, Tested).
Today, we have four machines from as many different vendors. Our focus this time around is more on the products themselves, particularly now that we know how the hardware inside each performs (don't worry, we're running plenty of benchmarks here, too). Each box has its own unique focus. Some aim to squeeze desktop-like performance into a diminutive enclosure, and others minimize physical dimensions while pushing performance a notch higher compared to previous-generation models.
The point is that all of these computers share common ground when it comes to dimensions, but their personalities are so different that we're pretty much comparing apples to oranges. Nevertheless, comprehensive analysis will make it clear where each configuration excels, ensuring an informed buying decision.
Here are our four contenders:
|Header Cell - Column 0||ASRock Vision HT 821B||Lenovo Q180 31102BU||Jetway Mini-Top JBC700C9JG||Zotac Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus|
|Chipset||Intel HM77||Intel NM10||Intel H61||AMD A50M|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-3210M (Ivy Bridge), Dual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2.5 GHz (3.1 Max. Turbo), 3 MB L3 Cache||Intel Atom D2700(Cedar trail) Dual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2.13 GHz, 1 MB L2 Cache||Not Included||AMD E-450(Zacate) Dual-Core, 1.65 GHz, 1 MB L2 Cache|
|System Memory||Asint PC3-12800, 2 x 2 GB, 800 MHz, CL 11-11-11-28-1T(dual-channel)||Samsung PC3-106001 x 4 GB, 533 MHz,(single-channel)||Not Included(dual-channel)||Samsung PC3-107001 x 2 GB, 670 MHz, CL 9-9-9-24-1T (single-channel)|
|Graphics||Intel 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 Drive||Seagate Momentus Spinpoint750 GB, 8 MB Cache,5400 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s||Seagate Momentus 5400.6500 GB, 5400 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s||Not Included||Kingston mS100 SSD 64 GB, mSATA 3Gb/s|
|Optical Drive||LG DL-4ETS Slimline4x Blu-ray ROM8x DVD-RW SATA||Sony Optiarc AD-7690H8x DVD-RW SATA24x CD-RW||Not Included||Not Included(no room for internal optical drive)|
|Operating System||Not Included||Windows 7 HomePremium 64-bit||Not Included||Not Included|
|Human Interface Devices||Included IRMCE Remote||Included wired keyboardand mouse||Not included, but equippedwith IR sensor for MCE remote||Included IRMCE Remote|
|Memory Support||Two 204-pin SO-DIMMsDDR3-1600, Up to 16 GB||One 204-pin SO-DIMMDDR3, up to 8 GB||Two 204-pin SO-DIMMsDDR3 1300, Up to 8 GB||One 204-pin SO-DIMMDDR3 1300, Up to 4 GB|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|VGA||none||1||none (comes with DVI-to-VGA adapter)||none|
|USB 2.0 , 3.0, eSATA combo||4, 4, 0||4, 2, 0||3, 2, 1||1, 2, 1|
|Memory CardReader||MMC/SD3.0/MS/MSPRO||SD/MMC/MS/MSPRO||MMC/SD/MS||MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD|
|eSATA||1||none||1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)||1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)|
|Digital Audio Out||Optical/HDMI||Optical/HDMI||SPDIF/HDMI||HDMI|
|Analog Audio||5 rear, 2 front jacks||2 front jacks||2 front jacks||2 front jacks|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||3 x SATA 3Gb/s(2 used for optical and HDD)1 x mSATA 3Gb/s||1 x SATA 3Gb/s(used for 2.5" HDD)||2 x SATA 3Gb/s(can accommodate slimline optical and 2.5" HDD)||1 x mSATA 3Gb/s(used for SSD HDD)|
|Ethernet & Wireless|
|LAN||Realtek GbE controller||Realtek GbE controller||Realtek GbE controller||Realtek GbE controller|
|Wi-Fi||Atheros AR946x2T2R 802.11a/b/g/n Dual-Band||Realtek RTL 8188 CE802.11b/g/n||Atheros AR92852T2R 802.11b/g/n||Realtek RTL 8188 CU802.11b/g/n|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 3.0/4.0 HS class II||none||none||none|
|HD Audio Codec||Analog and optical: Realtek ALC898HDMI: Intel Display Audio||Analog: Realtek ALC662HDMI: Intel Display Audio||Analog: Realtek ALC662HDMI: Intel Display Audio||Analog: Realtek ALC892HDMI: AMD HD Audio|
|S/PDIF And Optical Audio||7.1 + 2-Ch HD Audio withTHX TruStudio||5.1-Ch HD Audio||5.1-Ch HD Audio||N/A|
|As Tested||$680 Newegg MSRP(Expected Mid-July)||$430 at lenovo.com (including OS) N5902 wireless keyboard remote $80||JBC700C9JG as tested is $273 at itxdepot.com||$380 on Newegg|
|Notes||ASRock Vision X to arrive in near future equipped with Radeon HD 7850M||Other Q180 models range from $339 to $549 depending on options||JBC700C9J, identical except for lack of GeForce GT 520M, is $180 on Newegg||Large assortment of Zbox options on Newegg from $220 to $480|
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.
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.
The next generation of both these CPU families would be worth watching out for.
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.
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.
I couldn't find any, but this article has been in the works for a while so some might have cropped up.
The Jetway Mini-Top in this article *does* have an internal TV tuner option. :)