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AMD Games Hardware

Mini Gaming PCs — Promising, But Not Ready 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the call-me-when-it-fits-inside-a-chromecast dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars has reviewed an AMD-powered mini gaming rig made by Gigabyte. The box itself is small and solid, and it runs a pretty beefy video card for its size. The manufacturer even claims Linux support, though the device ships with Windows 8.1. Unfortunately, reality lags a bit behind their plans — Ubuntu boots OK, but driver support is a mess. SteamOS won't run at all. The box is also limited by a mediocre CPU, which is itself limited by heat and power constraints. The review says the machine was 'intriguing and frustrating in equal measure' because 'its ambition is rarely matched by its execution.' It concludes: 'With some time and some different components, a little desktop that can deliver a great gaming experience will surely follow.'"
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Mini Gaming PCs — Promising, But Not Ready

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  • Machine sounds sucky!

  • This is another version of game console for Linux. It will be successful in a short term? I highly doubt it.
    • Instead of being strictly married to the Linux model, Steam and AMD should have had PC-BSD options as well. The latter does a great job w/ driver support, once it is supported, since it's not tied down by GPL rules. So if any vendor wants the drivers to be closed, it can be under PC-BSD, and then they can provide the same quality of drivers that they do under Windows, and go from there. Better yet - once they've written the drivers for say, PC-BSD 9, they won't need to do it again for PC-BSD 10: the v9 d
      • If you are going to target a relatively obscure sysem to avoid the big, bad, GPL why not skip the BSDs entirely and help ReactOS chase binary compatibility with Windows drivers? Then you wouldn't even need a second set of drivers.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @03:51AM (#46876149) Homepage

    Cute little box, but kind of expensive.

    • for 800 dollars you can almost get a gaming laptop that is decent.

      I recently got one for 1200 that is amazing. I have yet to play a game on it that I can't put at max settings and get frames well over 100.

      So why the hell would I get one of these things? Is the small form factor really worth money?

      Imagine if the thing were four times larger BUT actually had good components or was a much cheaper price? Who is really THAT space constrained for it to matter. You could be in a tiny apartment and it wouldn't matt

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Imagine if the thing were four times larger BUT actually had good components or was a much cheaper price? Who is really THAT space constrained for it to matter. You could be in a tiny apartment and it wouldn't matter.

        One the one hand, I agree. On the other, this is pretty much every Early-Adopter situation in a nutshell. "Imagine if it had less [main selling point] but had more [other feature] or was much cheaper? Who is really that constrained by [main feature] for it to matter?".

        I've always had full sized ATX gaming rigs, but at the moment I'm thinking about a new mini ITX build. It amazes me that the form factor which a few years ago used to get laughed at as weak can now include most mainstream CPUs and GPUs, ev

        • Get a gaming laptop instead.

          I have one... I take it on trips. It take it to work sometimes.

          I spent something like 1500 dollars on it and its so fast that it can play every new game I've thrown at it at max settings. So... fine... 815 dollars is less... but from what I'm hearing that machine is slow.

          Oh yeah, and I paid them about 100 bucks to put an alligator skin on my laptop. Obviously plastic... but it looks awesome.

          These little machines cannot compete either with a proper ATX gaming rig or a sweet little

        • I've always had full sized ATX gaming rigs, but at the moment I'm thinking about a new mini ITX build. It amazes me that the form factor which a few years ago used to get laughed at as weak can now include most mainstream CPUs and GPUs, even if cable routing is a bit of a pain. I just like the idea of compressing the power of my 50 x 50 x 25 cm ATX machine into one not much more than 30 cm cubed so it takes up less space under my desk, and that's actually big for the ITX form factor. A few years ago this wouldn't have been possible, or it would have been extortionately expensive.

          Under your desk, I submit that height is usually not a problem, as a typical desk has around 70 cm room between floor and desk plate. Even if yours is a bit smaller or has a drawer under the table, a compact micro-ATX case should fit nicely. For instance, the Aerocool Qs-200 Advance is only 185 x 367 x 395 mm large (just an example I recently looked at, there are even smaller solutions but the Aerocool has decent room for components).

          Depth is also not a problem, and in terms of width the 185mm of the Areoc

      • I imagine that since you are forgoing the display and the battery found on a laptop, you could theoretically get beefier hardware for the same price. Probably not right now since these are relatively new, but given time and economies of scale (that is, if enough people buy into these) you could see these easily outperform similarly priced laptops.

        I think these could also get much better if we see legit GPUs on the CPU die (namely, intel would need to either seriously step up their GPU game, or outright inte

        • Screens cost less then 100 dollars in most cases. The cost of the keyboard is literally something like 20 dollars. So... assuming all the things happen that you say... you'll see a machine that is about 120 dollars cheaper then a comparable laptop. Frankly, 120 dollars is worth those features.

          What is more, the economies of scale you're hoping for won't happen because the market for laptops is a lot deeper then the market for those little computers will EVER be... ever. So what you're going to have is someth

          • You are ignoring the cost of the batteries.

            • True however, you are underestimating the cost difference in producing a laptop versus some one off micro pc.

              the laptops already have a deep market that is just a great deal more efficient and given the greater adaptability of the laptop and utility... it will retain this advantage over these micro pcs indefinitely.

              • Those batteries are easily going to run you an additional $80. Yes, they're that expensive. And you're probably over-pricing the keyboard and under-pricing the display. I mean what kind of display are you talking, one of those silly 1366x768 displays found in an acer vivotab? I think you'd pay a fair bit more for a display that brand new doesn't look like you let it rot in the sun for a week.

                I think the difference in price would be close to $250 cheaper for one of these of equal spec, again given economies

                • If they are that expensive the system these people are selling is very over priced because you can get a significantly more powerful laptop for that price. Which means you're getting a screen, a keyboard, a battery, etc... and other components are of a higher quality... and you're paying nothing more for it.

                  My point remains... this little machine is a bad buy.

          • "cheaper then a comparable laptop"
            "deeper then the market"
            "rather then a replacement"

            Hmm, check that keyboard on your gaming laptop, maybe the A and E keys are swapped over.

  • Mini gaming PCs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roman Mamedov (793802) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @04:52AM (#46876313) Homepage
    ...are called the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Much as I like my home console, that Gigabyte machine is teeny-tiny in comparison. Of course by switching to an x86 architecture and benefitting from economies of scale in that whole business, hopefully the Xbox One and PS4 will be able to shrink down to a similar sort of size in time.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      And are still beat by a 2-3 year old PC. And your average $120-150 videocard has twice or more the rendering power of what's inside both machines. Building a "gaming PC" for $500 that can beat both consoles is trivial these days.

    • by Kartu (1490911)

      Except this box doesn't require monthly subscription to play online (both PS4/Xbone do) or visit youtube / use a web browser (Xbone).

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Except this box doesn't require monthly subscription to play online (both PS4/Xbone do) or visit youtube / use a web browser (Xbone).

        Considering that you can find PSN and XBL cards for $50 on sale regularly, for $815, that means you can get a PS4 and have 8 years of online play, or a Xbone and 6 years of online for the same price.

        In 6 years, I'm not sure if you're still wanting to be using this box for gaming, or if you've gave up and bought another $150 video card (3 more years for PSN/XBL) somewhere in th

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Considering that you can find PSN and XBL cards for $50 on sale regularly, for $815, that means you can get a PS4 and have 8 years of online play, or a Xbone and 6 years of online for the same price.

          And of course, you get the same things on the PC for nothing. Well isn't that fun? And we shouldn't forget that unlike the consoles which may or maynot be dumped in say 6-8 years, you can take your games with you. Chances on the consoles, little to none.

          In 6 years, I'm not sure if you're still wanting to be using this box for gaming, or if you've gave up and bought another $150 video card (3 more years for PSN/XBL) somewhere in the meantime.

          Since that mid-range card will probably be working just fine, you can probably push it to 5 years if you're lucky. Works better when you're in the middle of a current generation of consoles considering the crap ports and all that. But, since the current

    • Like a miniature Hercules for its size, but still weak compared to the real thing. Lame!

  • I purchased this for £120 about 5 years ago (and came with a keyboard and mouse!):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pro... [amazon.co.uk]

    For its time, this was a mini PC done right.
    But now, 5 years later on (when the tech should be improving) i'am yet to see a device that will replace it.

    Have i simply been missing the mini PC tech scene. Is there a device similar to this?
    In the mean time, i'll keep waiting for someone to do the mini PC Justice.

    ps. AMD + Linux = Nasty drivers.

  • Too much miniaturization is dumb, unless you want a portable device. Why is it that every time you see a lower-powered version of some CPU/GPU, it is crammed into a tiny box with miserable heatsinks and whiny fans, resulting in more noise than the original higher-powered one? IMHO, it's much nicer to keep things well spaced out, for a (nearly) fanless experience.
    • Too much miniaturization is dumb, unless you want a portable device.

      I agree. If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small? Sounds like it needed a slightly larger cooling system to make it work properly.

      Cooling capabilities of any device are proportional to the outside surface area of the device (where it can get rid of the heat), and this thing has too little outside surface area. Sometimes the marketing guys really should listen to the engineers.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        I agree. If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small? Sounds like it needed a slightly larger cooling system to make it work properly.

        Never mind that the tinies tend to come with a power brick larger than the machine itself, which must be placed in open air lest it overheat.
        If you have room for a 60" TV and 4' tall potted plants, you can fit a small tower PC too.

      • by pepty (1976012)

        If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small?

        So it can hang on the back of the monitor/TV instead of adding to the clutter. The form factor I'd be interested in would put the GPU on a 90 degree riser so that it points away from the CPU on a mini ITX board. You'd end up with a slim, pizza box shaped case. For cooling, with a properly positioned vent the GPU would be drawing all of its air from outside the case.

    • by edxwelch (600979)

      In fairness, they did not spend much effort on the cooling solution. The iMac is a PC crammed into a tiny box and it's virtually silent. The difference is that Apple invested a huge amount of development into the heatsink design.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @05:45AM (#46876523)

    Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

    You see this a lot when using the larger Dell monitors, and also when using Samsung televisions as monitors. The workaround is to put the device on the first input channel, which is the default selection for the monitor when there's no video input negotiation. Basically, if you aren't the active video channel, Linux tries to negotiate with what's effectively a dead port until you switch it, and the Samsung TVs like to go back to active input sources when a video channel goes out - so you end up not having it selected when it's trying to chat about the EDID, and once it's failed at that, then you switch over, you don't have the right output.

    Unfortunately, some of the monitors have a primary HDMI vs. DVI input as the default input, and for those monitors, unless you use the right connector, it'll never negotiate correctly.

    Someone really needs to separate the EDID negotiation out so that it can be put in common upper level code.

    • Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

      Why not?

      • by tlambert (566799)

        Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

        Why not?

        For Samsung and Toshiba televisions, you can either blame the television, or you can blame Linux.

        If you want to blame the television, then it's the lack of EDID negotiation on input channels that are not the current display input. You can blame this on the lack of multithreading in the embedded controller in the television, since electrically, there's no reason that an active input channel shouldn't be negotiating EDID information,

        If you want to blame Linux, you can blame the video drivers themselves for n

  • I like small boxes. I built myself a cube sized (Cooltek Coolcube Mini) PC with an (desktop) AMD APU on an Mini-ITX board. There is room for a PCIe graphics card, but the integrated one suffices for the moment. The difference? It is upgradable. Granted, sort of until the CPU socket changes.

    But how long will all these "mini gaming rigs" last? Probably a year then they end up in the closet. Sure, it works nicely for the manufacturers. You're supposed to replace them every other year. And this in times where e

    • by nhat11 (1608159)

      You should be asking, AMD CPU why?

      • The answer is obvious. The Brix Gaming is set up to be a GAMING PC, and because of that, is taking full advantage of AMD Fusion to get the most performance out of the smallest/low power components they can for GAMING. That means the most important factor of the rig is GPU performance, not CPU performance.

        It is pretty well established by now that Arstechnica is nothing but an Intel shill, and I think this crappy review makes that very clear. 90% of the article is about testing and bashing the CPU performance
        • The drivers for AMD graphics are so shoddy that you can't reliably get full performance and quality as you can with Nvidia.
          The CPU performance really just has to be "good enough" - which is probably is.
  • What ever it's missing it's more than made up for in the heat sink. And mayhaps more than half the products price.

  • It needs just one expansion slot, one PCIEx16 for a video card of my choice. An external power supply will keep the case small and locatable. I'll need USB3 and would like 1394 but can live without it. The case should have room for one SSD inside. I'll want GigE and a slot of some kind (internal is OK) for a wifi card that I will probably never install. I only need stereo audio out next to optical digital, and maybe four USB3 on the back and two on the front.

    I have a bigass PC in a thermaltake shark case an

    • Despite not having nearly as many expansion cards as in the past, I seem to have no problem filling up most of the back plates on full ATX cases with breakout connectors.
  • http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/partlist/

    I built this (with a couple of sales at the time) for $812 one month ago.
    I supplied previous peripherals like a 32" LG 720p HDTV for the monitor as well as a MS wireless KB and Logitech M570 wireless trackball along with several types of gaming controllers.

    For a budget gaming build, it kicks ass.
  • by rivaldufus (634820) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:27AM (#46877789)
    It does perhaps show that AMD is (hopefully) figuring out some way they can continue as a processor company.

    Very much off topic, but... Has anyone else noticed the usual review structure on Ars (and I read this review at Ars yesterday)? It got the usual Ars non-Apple headline: say one (vaguely) positive thing in the headline and one negative thing (and negative to the point of cancelling out any positive)

    If it's a Samsung device, it'll be like:
    The New S5 Has a Lot Features, But Most of them are useless
    If it's about smart watches, they all seem to read like this:
    The New Pebble Has Better Aesthetics, but We're Waiting for THE WATCH (from Apple)

    Apple reviews over there are almost 100% positive (and they get very defensive when people point this out.) They even maintain an Apple evangelist at all times, and their Android "Evangelist" is generally pretty negative about the droid and truly hates Samsung. Every Samsung review he writes talks about the device first and then spends the second half explaining why Samsung sucks.

    It was so bad at one point, I started trying to figure out if Apple owned part of them.
  • One of the problems with Gigabyte's design is that they used an inadequate heatsink/fan, which not only causes the CPU/GPU to throttle, but also makes a great deal of irritating noise. They would have been better off going with a design similar to the Akasa Euler [silentpcreview.com], where the whole exterior of the case is a giant heatsink and is connected to the die with heatpipes. In all likelihood they could have gotten passive cooling better than the crappy and noisy active solution they used. Of course, it would have cost

  • The much cheaper "non-gaming" editions of this make much more sense.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/... [newegg.com]

    They have VESA mount points and can be mounted on the back of a monitor:
    http://assets.hardwarezone.com... [hardwarezone.com]

    Sure the graphics aren't top-notch, but most people don't need that. They're great if you need a computer but don't have space for a tower (and also don't want the failure issues associated with a laptop).

  • These 'mini gaming PCs' seem kind of ridiculous... I mean, it's not even a real computer, it's like some piece of absurd custom hardware.

    Last year on Black Friday, I hit up Newegg for a $70 Biostar A68I-350 Mini-ITX AMD Fusion mobo w/soldered-on APU, bundled with 8GB of G.Skill DDR3 1600 RAM. (Basically they were giving me the $40 RAM for free.) I really only intended to use it as a computer for a CNC setup... But it turned out to be such a great media PC and general gaming machine-- just about anything b

  • I've got a mini gaming PC in a box that's about the size of a "shuttle"
    It runs an A10-7850k on a GA-F2A88XN-WIFI (AMD APU - CPU+GPU - on a mini-itx board). It can run all my games at decent detail (including BF4 on high at 1080p).
    Win8.1 had some issues with the Catalyst drivers conflicting with other software, and Linux required the Beta drivers to run (they seem OK though).

    The heat is a bit weird in this box. It'll climb *very* quickly, but once the fan ramps up it goes down quite fast as well. The stock f

  • I basically build computers for a living so let me point out that they're utterly wrong. If you put in a Kaveri A10 with DDR3-2400, that's right, more than 2x the speed of boring original 1066, you will get acceptable gaming performance if you turn down the settings a little bit. Since they almost definitely did not do that despite it being the actual stock memory controller frequency of the chip, there's your performance problem. Going from 1600 to 2133 RAM on a Richland APU for example brings the Windo

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