Usage Scenario One: The Office
Usage scenario one envisions the Sapphire Edge-HD in the average office or classroom. The Edge's small foot print could prove quite useful for smaller offices or energy conscious school districts. In order to best emulate this usage scenario the Edge-HD was used in a primarily office-driven role. Internet and email activities were performed with ease including multiple websites being viewed concurrently, as well as having multiple Office applications running. Internet access was provided solely by the integrated wireless adapter.
The ability to switch between an office application such as Excel or PowerPoint and then quickly perform email tasks in Outlook was a breeze. Websites with higher levels of Flash/Multimedia content worked seamlessly, including YouTube. Firing up Hulu did pose some issues as video would begin to stutter at points; however the stuttering video was also experienced with a standard desktop and could have been caused by a less than ideal internet connection.
Heavy multi-taskers such as those constantly making use of incredibly large Excel files or complex databases will be disappointed as such large file manipulations could quickly outpace the Edge's hardware specs.
With that being said, the Edge would make for a perfect fit to most small office/ home office scenarios as well as public education K-12 setup. The Sapphire Edge-HD is indeed a competent multi-tasker making the system a highly attractive option for a low-cost, small footprint office solution. Usage Scenario Two: The Home Theater
With a name like Sapphire Edge-HD, it seems to be the last two letters that stand out the most. The small footprint of the Edge makes it an enticing option for a small home theater setup and the onboard Wi-Fi implies that file streaming without the need to run Ethernet cabling could be the feature that makes this unit somewhat of a plug and play home theater system.
In order to test the media functionality of this diminutive system we looked to video performance. The system was connected to a 47" 1080p LG TV via the onboard HDMI connection. Video was played utilizing an external DVD drive and for comparison purposes the DVD was also ripped to the Edge's internal hard drive. Video playback was achieved using VLC's Media Player
As expected the performance between the external DVD and internal HDD scenes was transparent. Each session appeared identical and the resulting video playbacks were smooth and stutter free.
Next, full HD 1080p video files were moved to the hard drive and video playback was scrutinized to determine whether or not the Sapphire Edge-HD truly earns the much abused High Definition
suffix. The Edge didn't miss a beat, the picture was sharp and clear and performance was stutter free.
Video streaming was tested with Hulu
as well as Netflix
. The Hulu test instigated the same random stuttery performance we experienced in the Usage One scenario and again the culprit appeared to be the internet connection as opposed to the hardware itself. YouTube play was clear and smooth with only a few hiccups here and there due to video playback outpacing the video download speed. Not starting the video immediately and letting it cache for 10-12 seconds resolved the issue.
The Netflix experience couldn't be more different. A movie was chosen at random from the "Watch Instantly"
option. Throughout the test video playback was smooth and stutter free. Not once during the two-plus hour long movie did I feel that I was sacrificing any quality, instead I was genuinely surprised at how well the system was able to stream the movie and provide a DVD-like viewing experience.
Overall the multimedia capabilities of the tiny PC proved to be more than adequate and provided an enjoyable viewing experience. Combining the playback experience with the east of setup and incredibly small footprint of the system make the Edge-HD a great option for a small home theater system. Creating an internet-enabled home theater system doesn't get much easier than the Sapphire Edge-HD.Temperature and Noise
A common consideration when looking at computer systems is noise and heat output, after all if you are like most of us, you are going to have to live with this thing operating a few feet from you on a daily basis. As we are more concerned with the real-world attributes of a systems temperature and acoustic characteristics; that is what we test for. Temperature is easy enough to discern and in order to create a level playing field we run the system through our own in house temperature test designed to simulate normal usage.
With a system as small and compact as the Edge, it would not be uncommon for the device to become hot to the touch after hours of usage. This, however, was not the case. As the temperature test ran the system through its paces the system remained room-temperature to the touch. Holding a hand above the top vents of the system did confirm that the system was expelling warm air from its increased workload, yet the surface of the system never registered a discernable temperature increase.
When it comes to the noise level or sound output of a graphics card we feel it is important to remain practical. Granted we could use a dB meter and a quiet room to measure the exact noise level of the card but that setting would be atypical of the average usage scenario for a desktop card. Secondly the dB scale is not an easy indicator to relate to as each increase is in order of magnitude and not easily comparable. How much more annoying is a graphics card with a sound level of 82dB versus one with 80dB? It's hard to tell. Therefore we feel it makes more sense to break down the sounds levels into four categories akin to real world experience, and these "measurements" are taken in a standard office/room environment with standard ambient noises such as HVAC present.
- Unnoticeable: At this level the sound of the system is not perceptible. Either completely silent or only perceptible when your ear is place directly next to the system itself
- Noticeable: At this level the sound of the system is perceptible, generally as a low hum. The noise at this level is unobtrusive and generally blends in with other ambient office/household noises. The noise from the system can be heard but you have to listen for it to really hear it.
- Clearly Noticeable: At this level the noise output from the system is clearly evident. The computer system is discernable as the source of the noise and tends to be of higher magnitude than the ambient noise around it.
- Annoying: This moniker pretty much describes itself. At this level the sound of the system is distracting. The computer system is clearly discernable as the source of noise and during gameplay/media enjoyment speaker and/or headphone volume must be increased to overcome the noise of the system
The Sapphire Edge-HD fell into what would be considered the lower spectrum of the Noticeable category
. There is some perceptible noise but you have to listen for it to hear it. Any media audio such as watching a video or listening to music completely masks the audio signature of the Edge-HD making this system an equally perfect fit for a home theater environment or quiet office.
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