Desktop Systems Guide
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Performance and Conclusion
An Ultrabook in a Nettop's Body?
We pointed out earlier that the Mini PC i51 is powered by an Intel Core i5-2467M, which is the same processor that is used on some Ultrabook models. The CPU aside, the Mini PC i51 shares other similarities with other Ultrabooks in terms of hardware components, employing a motherboard with Intel’s HM65 Express chipset, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and making use of Intel's HD 3000 for graphics rendering. Because of the similarities in hardware, we chose to compare the i51 machine against Ultrabooks to ascertain the hardware capabilities of the machine. We’ve compiled the compared machines’ specs and put it up against the i51 in the table below.
Take note only the Acer Aspire S3 and the Giada machine use hard drives while the rest either use SSD or have an SSD cache. Even so, the Acer Aspire S3 will still have the upper hand because like the other Ultrabooks, it too supports Intel Rapid Start technology to boost start-up from sleep in a matter of seconds thanks to a dedicated SSD cache (which also comes in handy for normal use since it’s used to cache a state).
|System||Giada Mini PC i51||Acer Aspire S3||Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3||Dell XPS 13||HP Folio 13|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz)||Intel Core i7-2637M (1.7GHz)||
Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz)
|Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz)||Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz)|
|Chipset||Intel HM65 Express||Intel UM67 Express||Intel HM77 Express||Intel HM65 Express||Intel HM65 Express|
|Memory||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3|
|Storage||500GB HDD||320GB HDD||500GB HDD with SSD cache||128GB SSD||128GB SSD|
|Video||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000|
Relying on the CPU, chipset, memory, and graphics subsystems alone, we could easily assume that the Mini PC i51 is as powerful as an Ultrabook. But to validate our hypothesis, we put to the test the Mini PC i51 by using Futuremark’s benchmark applications, namely PCMark 7 and 3DMark06. The following graphs show the results:
While it is certain that the Mini PC i51 can perform much better than Atom-powered nettops such as Astone’s NT435, our benchmark results reveal that Giada’s entrant is behind the curve when compared with similarly-specced Ultrabooks that we’ve encountered. The key factor that held down the Mini PC i51’s performance is its use of a slightly outdated hard drive, a 2.5-inch type that is based on the aging SATA 3Gbps interface. Furthermore, with no SSD cache to aid it, the storage scores took huge dive and thus affected many other sub-tests. The productivity suite is heavy on storage performance with a lot of data being written to the drive and thus the results are the worst of the comparison. All these naturally affected the overall scores. It goes without saying that the rest of the comparisons with SSD cache or a true SSD drive perform much better.
Don’t Judge a Mini PC by Its Size
At first, we thought that the Giada Mini PC i51 was just a typical Atom-powered nettop because of its petite, space-saving form factor. As we know, nettops these days are becoming less popular, if not totally forgotten, due to their limited capabilities and processing power. However, we were forced to change our assumptions when we discovered that it actually uses a more powerful Core i5 mobile processor (Core i5-2467M) from Intel. With the said chip, the Mini PC i51 is a capable diminutive desktop PC that can handle full HD video playback and other resource-intensive tasks that would otherwise overwhelm an Atom-powered system. It is also capable of handling many other day-to-day tasks much more swiftly with a platform mimicking Ultrabooks.
While the majority of the Mini PC i51’s hardware platform shares a lot of similarities with some Ultrabook models, one should not anticipate it to be on par with Ultrabooks in terms of performance, no thanks to its aged SATA 3Gbps notebook hard drive. If it only had used a SATA 6Gbps hard drive or an SSD, the Mini PC i51 could have performed much better in our benchmarks. Apart from raw benchmarks, the system is decent and is more than usable, minus the speedy reaction that an SSD-based system benefits.
So how should we look at the Mini PC i51? Perhaps the Giada Mini PC i51 can be best treated as a capable HTPC or as a desktop companion for non-demanding users. On the HTPC front, with its 500GB hard drive, it can certainly store a healthy amount of multimedia content; and thanks its beefy Core i5-2467M processor and integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, it could crunch HD videos with ease. Otherwise, the Mini PC i51 can also easily handle mainstream computing tasks such as web browsing, word processing and simple image editing.
The Giada Mini PC i51 will be available starting from April this year for the price of US$639. Compared to systems of its caliber, it sounds like it’s priced reasonably. If only the storage drive used was more performance-oriented, the Giada system would be even more valuable.
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