Sapphire Edge HD3: AMD E-450 Mini PC

Complete|Mobile Systems
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The Sapphire Edge HD3 succeeds in delivering a fully-capable multimedia experience in a svelte form factor. It offers superior energy efficiency and CPU performance compared to Atom/ION configurations. Rounding out the package are connectivity options including front USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit ethernet controller, and a wireless 802.11n adapter, though it should be noted our sample shipped with an apparently defective WiFi module. The lack of a proper operating system is also a bit of a disappointment for Windows users as they won't benefit from the discount Microsoft offers to OEM manufacturers.

The hardware inside is appropriate for a machine of this type, but making it thin and sexy had thermal and acoustic consequences. The casing is almost as small as physically possible and despite forced-air cooling, the interior heats up substantially when the system is stressed. This equates to high fan speeds, necessary to keep the components adequately cool. The HD3's fan control system can be tweaked to generate less noise when the machine is being tasked with less strenuous tasks like browsing the web or playing video, but if you stress it with something demanding, you can expect an annoying and unavoidable 30 dBA or higher at 0.6 meters. This would be perfectly acceptable in a home theater environment where the seated distance is much greater, but problematic if situated on a desk right next to you.

The HD3 is designed to be placed vertically on the included stand to reduce its desk footprint, but we were surprised it didn't include a VESA mount to hide it behind a display. Such a feature would have added to the device's versatility; this position also helps to mask some of the generated noise from a seated user.

The Edge HD3 is expected to launch soon with an approximate price-tag of £290 in the UK (including VAT). This is on the high side compared to other Fusion offerings from Zotac, etc. The price premium unfortunately doesn't give you any extra functionality, only a sleeker look and feel. A market adjustment is probably necessary for successful sales in North America.

Our thanks to Sapphire for the Edge HD3 Mini PC sample.

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