Small size is great and all but exactly what features are packed into this small package? First off, the unit ships with FreeDOS
, so if you are looking for a Windows experience, you will need to bring your own. Just like laptops on many emerging markets are shipped with FreeDOS in order to nullify the price of Windows license, Sapphire produced a Mini PC without paying a license to Microsoft. Honestly, at least the company didn't had to put that large Microsoft OEM sticker containing the key on smooth sides of the case. It is interesting to see that still to this date, the companies don't dare to put more advanced free operating systems such as Linux. Then again, drivers are always the dark shadow trailing the word "linux."
When it comes to connectivity, the Edge's offerings are far from "mini". Somehow Sapphire has managed to pack an impressive number of connectors/ports into this tiny frame. There are four USB 2.0 Ports (two are concealed on the front bezel behind a pop-out panel, with the other two located on the rear panel. The two USB ports on the rear of the unit are mounted side by side as opposed to the front panels vertically aligned USB ports. You will need to keep in mind that the spacing is so tight on the rear of the unit that only slim line USB plugs will fit if you are trying to populate both USB ports, which I assume you will as this little rig only has four of them. Also taking up residence on the rear panel are a VGA port, HDMI port, RJ-45 LAN port, audio-in, line-out and power connector. In addition to standard 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet the edge also features 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.
The full rundown of the Edge's specs are as follows:
- Intel® Atom™ D510 CPU 1.66GHz
- 2GB DDR2-800
- 250GB SATA 2.5'' Hard Drive
- 512 MB NVIDIA ION 2
- 10/100/1000 Mbps Built-in Ethernet
- 802.11b/g/n Built-in Wireless Network
- I / O: VGA (D-Sub), HDMI, RJ-45 Gigabit LAN, 4x USB 2.0, Audio-in, Line-out
- 65W Power Supply (19v x 3.42A)
- 19.3 x 14.8 x 2.2 cm (L / W / H)
- 530 g net weight
- Pre-installed Free DOS Operating System
The first thing I noticed about the Edge was its size, or should I say lack thereof? The thing is tiny, were not talking nano-level but certainly the smallest fully functional PC I have come across. To give you an idea as to the size of this mini-PC, it is smaller than my four port NETGEAR Wi-Fi router
From an aesthetics standpoint the Edge is pleasing to the eye, with sleek lines and soft appearance courtesy of the rubber-like skin on its exterior. This "rubber"
finish looks and feels high-end and is highly resistant to fingerprint smudging while also offering an additional layer of physical protection to the system. The system looks very streamlined and dare I say svelte. The power button/light and HDD activity light are located on the left side of the Edge in a position that is easy to reach yet unlikely to be accidently bumped/activated.
How does Sapphire pack a fully featured PC into such a small package? The answer is Atom. The Edge utilizes Intel's Atom D510 processor running at 1.66GHz, yet what may be even more interesting is that to offer HD content support Sapphire chose to go with nVidia's ION 2 graphics
. This may not seem like much but it is an interesting move when you consider that Sapphire is self-admittedly AMD's "World's No.1 GPU Manufacturer"
. As this is branded as the Edge-HD, ION 2 was really the only option Sapphire had if they truly wanted to deliver HD content at playable rates. From another side, it might be that engineers needed a stable platform to develop their Fusion-based product and at that point in time, they simply could not find much more stable low-power combination than Atom + ION.Testing Methodology
Normally this is the part of the article where I tell you what tests we are going to run and why, but things are going to go a little differently this time. I am choosing to forgo the standard benchmarks in favor of a usage-based review. There are multiple reasons for this approach. First, we do not currently have any other Atom/ION based systems in house for comparison purposes, which would leave us comparing the performance of the Edge-HD against standard desktops, an unfair fight for sure. This would result in the Edge-HD "losing" almost every single benchmark (with the exception of power draw) and our performance graphs visually indicating a disproportionately underperforming system.
Secondly, the Edge-HD is more of a lifestyle product, it can fill numerous usage positions/scenarios but the fact of the matter is that Edge-HD (nor much of the underlying technology) is not designed to be a workhorse or high-performance option. The success of a product in this segment is seldom determined by performance numbers in computational or graphical benchmarks. Instead, success can often be better determined in lowest total power draw, ability to fit minimalist or flexible form factors and so on.
So how exactly do we gauge the performance of the system without running benchmarks? The main goal here will be to judge the perceived performance of the system in typical usage scenarios. To be blunt, most Atom based machines are seen as little more than Internet & Email appliances with some productivity ability tossed in with MS Office and the like. NVIDIA's ION and ION 2 planned to add entertainment to the platforms repertoire. With those two options combined it appears as if the Edge-HD is attempting to conquer multiple segments, with the exception of gaming… unless you count Angry Birds
The Sapphire Edge-HD is not a catchall system
; instead it lends itself better to certain usage scenarios. Power users looking to do large amounts of video encoding/trans-coding or gamers looking to fire up their latest high-res first person shooter titles need to look elsewhere as the Edge is simply not up to those tasks. The reality however is that the Edge lays no claim to being capable of these tasks in the first place. It may be true that compact, low wattage PC system like the edge is aimed a small segment of the market, but in all fairness I argue that a $500+ video card is aimed at an even smaller market.
In order to test the actual abilities of this system we developed two popular usage scenarios that basically break down into work and entertainment roles.
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