Hard Disk Woes
As Intel’s NUC Mini-PC has demonstrated, the concept of a Mini-PC, a computer that is small enough to fit in your hands and yet powerful enough to handle daily mainstream computing tasks, is enticing. And the Sapphire Edge VS8 offers a viable alternative into this world of compact computing.
In terms of performance, the Sapphire Edge VS8, in our spec at least, was disappointing. It was completely outclassed by the Intel NUC Mini-PC on the two computing benchmarks - SYSmark 2012 and PCMark 7. And even when it came to gaming, the Edge VS8 and its AMD A8 Trinity APU and its integrated Radeon HD 7600G GPU wasn’t able to carve out for itself a convincing lead.
That said, we believe much of this has to do with the fact that it was fitted with a dated 5400rpm mechanical hard disk, which had a huge negative impact on performance. Benchmarks aside, the Edge VS8 also felt sluggish in our normal usage, as if it was always stuttering along.
Fortunately, Sapphire also offers the Sapphire Edge VS8 as a barebones kit that ships with everything except memory, hard disk and OS. This allows users to fit their own memory and hard disk. And we believe that the Edge VS8 will fare much better if it had an SSD instead.
However, it’s not all bad news for the Edge VS8 as we are pleased with its generous selection of ports and connectivity options. Two USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports in a system not much bigger than an external optical drive is pretty impressive. Additionally, the HDMI output is useful if you plan on using it as an HTPC. Furthermore, unlike the Intel NUC Mini-PC, the Edge VS8 comes with integrated Wi-Fi and even Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity. And because of its size and portability (it fits easily into a regular notebook bag or even other smaller carriers), you could feasibly use at work and literally just pack up and take your work home, or vice versa. In fact, with its conspicuous slim design and anti-slip surface material, you could even handily clutch the mini PC and bring it about.
As for pricing, the Sapphire Edge VS8 in our tested configuration costs S$699, which makes it very hard to recommend. Because once you add in the cost of the OS, you are looking at least a price in excess of S$800. And for the money, you are not getting much in the way of performance.
The barebones version costs substantially lesser at S$579. But again, once you factor in the money you need for the OS, memory and a decent SSD, you are once again staring at a system that will cost you close to a grand. With that kind of money, you could build a regular ATX form factor machine which will offer lots more performance. However, if you really need a small compact machine, it is really hard to ignore the attractively-priced Mac Mini. Though slightly larger and heavier, the Mac Mini cost S$788 and is a fully equipped system that you can run straight out of the box, plus it comes with a much beefier 2.5GHz Core i5 processor. However, if Apple isn’t your cup of tea, the Sapphire Edge VS8 is an interesting and viable alternative to the Intel NUC Mini-PC if only for its better connectivity options.
In the next part of this review, we will upgrade the Edge VS8 by replacing its plodding mechanical hard disk with an SSD to see how it will perform. So check back here soon!