The Asus ROG GR8 console PC was conceived as a "Steam Machine" - a gaming computer which runs Valve's SteamOS platform.
However, it runs Windows 8.1 for now, given that SteamOS remains in beta and that the Steam Controller has been delayed till next year.
Asus has done a great job with its console PC design. I like that the GR8 is smaller than stalwarts, such as Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. Also, the angular chassis and markings, said to be inspired by the Mayans, give it a chic and edgy look.
Also catching the eye is the pulsing LED light at the front, which is shaped to form the ROG logo (ROG stands for Asus' Republic of Gamers sub-brand).
This light can be switched off in the BIOS setting. Slide open its side panel to access the memory modules and the storage drive bays.
The review set came with a 1TB hard drive, but I would recommend adding a solid-state drive as it would significantly improve the loading times for games and applications.
For most users, the default 8GB of RAM should be sufficient. If not, you can bump it up to 16GB. Also included are Wi-Fi 802.11ac support, an Intel Gigabit Ethernet adaptor and a dedicated audio card from Asus.
A built-in Miracast receiver lets it display photos and videos from a compatible smartphone or tablet wirelessly. All you need to do is to connect it to a TV via HDMI and press the Miracast button at the front.
The GR8 has both HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces. Use the DisplayPort if your monitor has a screen resolution exceeding 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
To achieve this compact form factor, Asus opted for the Intel Core i7 chip commonly found in laptops. Using the mobile version of the i7 chip instead of its more powerful desktop counterpart is acceptable in this case.
This is because the CPU plays a less important role when it comes to game performance. It is the graphics card which does most of the work.
The graphics card which the GR8 uses - the Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti - is a competent budget performer which should improve the graphics performance of many mid-range gaming laptops.
The GR8 managed 56 frames per second (fps) with the game Bioshock Infinite at the Very High setting. However, with Crysis 3, it stuttered occasionally at the Medium setting and at 52fps. The two games were tested at a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
There is much to like about the GR8. At $1,699, this PC console is more affordable than a good gaming laptop and it has options for expansion. Asus' inclusion of its ROG-branded mechanical keyboard and mouse makes it even more value for money.
Lastly, the GR8 operated quietly and coolly.
The only area which heated up was the top part of the chassis where the vents are.
However, even when the gaming action heated up, it never felt too warm to touch.
It is not the most powerful of gaming PCs, but it is compact with an attractive design.
Processor: Intel Core i7-4510U (2GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB GDDR 5
Storage: 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Connectivity: 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet port, SD card slot, optical audio output, audio jacks
Value for money 3/5
This article was first published on Dec 10, 2014.
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