Asus VivoMini review: Everything you need in one small package
With dedicated graphics, great storage and extensive connectivity, this is an attractively versatile mini PC
Generally, you'll find that most mini PCs generally try to get by with the essentials - CPU, RAM and a single storage drive - while barebones systems start off with even less. It's therefore rare to see a tiny Windows computer with as internally well-equipped as the VivoMini.
Specifically, we're using the VM65N-G072Z model; the VivoMini family has about as many different configurations as a Rubik's Cube, starting with the Intel Celeron-based UN45 and scaling all the way up to our VM65N spec. This sits very close to the top-of-the-line, with a dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB of RAM, both a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk and even a dedicated graphics chip, Nvidia's GeForce 930M.
Asus VivoMini review: Hardware and performance
This GPU is, like the CPU, a relatively low-power laptop component, and a far cry from the proper desktop-grade parts of more powerful rivals like the Zotac Magnus ER51060. This, however, is an awful lot cheaper, not to mention far more compact, and still puts up a very competitive performance in our 4K benchmarks.
Its multitasking score of 14 is unfortunate (despite active cooling from a fan, we wouldn't be surprised if there was some throttling going on) but its image score of 81 and video score of 56 point towards a system that can at least handle some low-end media editing as well as the basic stuff like browsing and word processing. Overall, the VivoMini scored 39, handily beating the MSI Cubi 3 Silent and falling behind the pricier HP Elite Slice and Magnus ER51060.
Out of curiosity, we also ran the 1080p version of our benchmarks, which the VivoMini sailed through: 206 in the image test, 182 in the video test, 186 in the multitasking test. That's twice the performance of the Intel Compute Stick, fittingly, at a little less than twice the price. It's also interesting to see that the VivoMini's multitasking weakness disappears in this less demanding test, its score becoming much more proportional to the image and video encoding segments.
The VivoMini also has an excellent storage allocation. The 128GB SSD allows for speedy operation of Windows, as well as a few choice applications, and its lack of capacity is compensated for with a hefty 1TB hard disk. Most mini PCs, even more expensive ones like the Elite Slice, make do with a single SSD, but we strongly recommend a larger backup like this HDD if you want it as your main PC.
Asus VivoMini review: Ports and features
What's more, you can swap it out for a larger drive if you do ever run out of space. Opening up the VivoMini is child's play: simply flip a release switch on the back, slide off the top cover, and you're in. Admittedly, the extent to which you can upgrade and customise this PC is slightly more limited than, say, the Cubi 3 Silent - you can only really reach the hard disk and the SO-DIMM memory slots, both of which are contained in their own little self-contained compartments. We get the impression that tinkering with the VivoMini's innards is meant to a last resort, rather than something that's encouraged as it would be with a barebones system.
Back on the outside, Asus has squeezed in a superlative selection of ports. As well as four USB 3.0 ports, there's another two, faster-running USB3.1 connectors, and dual display support is possible thanks to it having both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. Gigabit Ethernet provides a wired alternative to the built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and the full-size SD card reader could be great for photographers and amateur filmmakers (as long as their editing needs aren't too demanding, considering the PC's benchmark scores).
There's even an optical S/PDIF out, below the separate 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks. Support for high-end audio hardware is exceedingly rare among PCs of this price, even larger desktops, so the presence of this port is a very nice surprise.
Asus VivoMini review: Design and verdict
We wouldn't consider it a fault, knowing how much is inside, but the VivoMini does have a large footprint for a mini PC: at 52mm tall and 190mm across, it's both taller and wider than the Elite Slice, and takes up a lot more desk real estate than the Cubi 3 Silent. It's not a bad looker, though, especially with Asus's signature swirl pattern on top, jazzing the whole thing up a tad. It's also light enough - weighing 1.2kg, less than the Cubi 3 Silent - that if you invest in a VESA mounting kit and affix it to the holes on the bottom, you can have it attached to the back on a monitor, on the underside of a desk or vertically on a wall.
It would have been easy to just look at the VivoMini's 4K multitasking score and be put off, but otherwise this is beyond a doubt one of the most well-balanced mini PCs we've seen. It's not remotely too expensive, has enough processing power for home office use (and enough graphics power for occasional 720p gaming), has plenty of storage, doesn't need any extra barebones-style installations and, despite being a touch chunkier than most of the competition, is still dwarfed by the Zotac Magnus ER51060. Unless you're willing to pay a few hundred more for that PC's superior horsepower, this is the best of the bunch.
It would have been easy to just look at the VivoMini’s 4K multitasking score and be put off, but otherwise this is beyond a doubt one of the most well-balanced mini PCs we’ve seen. It’s not remotely too expensive, has enough processing power for home office use, plenty of storage and doesn’t need any extra barebones-style installations.
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