Many years ago, when I still had time to assemble my own PCs, I decided to build one for the living room and hook it up to my TV. A home theatre PC or HTPC for short.
I bought a classy-looking chassis from Silverstone, a quiet low-power AMD chip with integrated graphics, and a TV tuner card that let me watch and record TV programmes. There was even a DVD drive.
My HTPC was not too expensive, but it was slightly larger than the set-top box that comes with a StarHub cable subscription.
Today, I can do almost the same thing with a mini PC from Asus. The VivoMini PC weighs 500g and is about the size of my palm. At the front of the dark plastic chassis is a single power button, though the clean look is broken by the Intel and Windows logo stickers.
It lacks a built-in TV tuner and DVD drive. But times have changed. I stream my TV shows and download apps from the Internet. Besides, the Asus has four USB 3.0 ports for external DVD or storage drives, plus an SD card slot and an Ethernet port.
I can even watch videos on a 4K display with the VivoMini. Asus says the computer can support up to three displays, daisy-chained via DisplayPort. An HDMI port is also available to connect to TVs.
What the Asus cannot do is run games, at least the titles that I would like to play. Its integrated graphics are good only for casual games.
But, then, games are not really the core apps for this device. It is perfect for the office. As it can be mounted to the back of a monitor, you can create an all-in-one computer for a clutter-free desk.
For business users, Asus has a remote management tool for service and maintenance.
Asus claims that this tiny PC is quieter than a library. While it has a cooling fan, I did not hear it.
With a fourth-generation mobile Intel Core i5 chip inside, the VivoMini is capable enough for most office and home entertainment tasks. It scored 4,344 in PCMark 7, higher than the average mainstream laptop.
Tinkerers will be pleased to know that they can open the VivoMini easily with a screwdriver and change its internal components.
A possible upgrade would be to replace the small 64GB mSATA solid-state drive with a larger version. With Windows 8.1 installed, there was just 39GB of free space on this VivoMini review unit.
Buyers can choose a Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 version. There is also an option not to have any operating system preloaded.
A small computer that is good for almost everything except gaming. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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