Computers / Hands-on Review

ASUS VivoPC: This Mini is No Mouse

Mini PCs are a dime a dozen—okay, maybe a few more dimes than that—and their appeal is apparent the minute you see one on your desktop. Nothing reduces clutter more than a fully functional PC that measures only 2.2" high, with the exception of an all-in-one computer, but an AiO will set you back much more than a mini PC in the same configuration.

ASUS has been in the mini PC business for a while now, and the company knew that future tech users would want things smaller, faster, and more powerful. The line of ASUS VivoPC Mini Desktop Computers is equipped with good processors, hearty storage, and even dedicated GPU controllers, which is unheard of in such a small form factor.

The VM62N-G050R model comes equipped with a Haswell 1.7 GHz Intel® Core™ i5-4210U processor (with a maximum turbo speed of 2.7 GHz), which is powerful enough to fuel your everyday activities like web surfing, document processing, video streaming, and more. It also includes 8GB of 1600 MHz dual-channel DDR3L memory, upgradable up to 16GB on two SO-DIMM slots. With just the 8GB, multitasking, photo editing, and digital file processing should be a snap; with 16GB, the computer will perform like a champ.

The traditional spindle hard drive is a SATA III 1TB hard drive, but this mini PC has a unique dual-bay design that allows for a 3.5" drive or two 2.5" drives, so you can easily switch to an SSD for a performance upgrade. There is also a built-in card reader that supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, and MMC for extra storage. While there’s no optical drive, there are plenty of connections if you decide that you want to plug an external drive in: four USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, one HDMI out, and one DisplayPort. For network connectivity, it also includes a Gigabit Ethernet jack, 802.11 ac Wi-Fi adapter, and supports Bluetooth 4.0.

But the real might in this mini is the inclusion of an NVIDIA GeForce 820M Optimus graphics controller. Compared to integrated graphics in traditional PCs, it can boost visual performance up to 83%, and you can watch videos in up to 4K resolution.

For such a small form factor, sound options—which are usually forgotten in the design aesthetics when building a compact PC—have been remembered fondly here, with an optical S/PDIF output port for multichannel audio support and dual 2W speakers featuring SonicMaster Technology. There are also three additional audio jacks (line in, mic in, and speaker out). Using this mini PC as a multimedia center has never been easier.

What else do you need? With the wireless keyboard and mouse, you have a complete desktop PC in the same footprint that a CD jewel case would occupy on your desk. To make even that clutter go away, these mini PCs are VESA mountable, so they can be attached to the back of a monitor or mounted on the wall of your workstation. 

An alternate version of this mighty mini is the VM62N-G039R model. It downgrades the processor to an Intel Core i3-4030U, and the RAM to 4GB (still upgradable by the user to 16GB), but includes all the other amenities, including the small form factor and dedicated graphics controller. This mini PC is more suited for light web surfing, multimedia viewing, and small operational tasks. Not a heavy hitter, but a perfect PC for the kitchen, lobby, or reading room where space is at a premium.



 

Mini PCs are also a do-it-yourselfer’s dream and, to that end, ASUS even sells the Vivo PC in a barebones kit, so you can add your own hard drive, RAM, and storage solutions. These come with a variety of processors, both competent and basic, from an Intel Core i5 to an Intel Celeron. They also lack any dedicated graphics, instead going with integrated Intel HD graphics (not great for anything high end, but sufficient for most medium graphic tasks). An integrated PCIe slot supports a full size or half-size mSATA SSD, so your barebones mini will be able to access the drive quickly. Also downgraded are S/PDIF optical support, and although no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth adapter is included, there is a mPCIe slot and built-in internal antenna, if you’d like to add Wi-Fi. Also, in true DIYer fashion, this does not come with an operating system, so you can choose what to install when you’re ready. No keyboard or mouse, either—did I mention this was barebones?

Whether you decide to build up a mini or buy one that is ready straight from the box, ASUS presents a lineup of mini PCs that are mightier than most, proving once again that great things sometimes do come in small packages.