This mini PC has a versatile selection of ports, but its sluggish performance will be a turn off for many.
WHILE ITS FUTURISTIC rubber chassis may not be quite as sleek and attractive as other mini PCs we’ve seen, the Sapphire Edge VS8 is still a svelte little number, measuring just 31x197x182mm. From the side, it’s almost the same size as an iPad Mini, but as its uneven wedge-shaped case doesn’t lie flat, you’ll need to use its stand or attach it to the back of a TV or monitor with the included VESA mount.
FreeDOS is installed as standard, which is near-useless for most people. The Sapphire Edge works with both Windows 7 and Windows 8, but unless you already have a product key or Windows license.
This wouldn’t be a big problem If the VS8 had the raw processing performance to match its price, but the AMD components inside were quite sluggish in our multimedia benchmarks. Its quad-core 1.6GHz AMD A8-4555M APU and 4GB of RAM led to a score of just 26 overall, putting it five points behind the cheaper Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190. It struggled with multi-tasking and videoencoding, so is only suited to basic tasks such as web surfing and word processing.
There’s not much scope to upgrade as the chassis is tricky to open. There’s a barebones model of the VS8, which is available ready- unscrewed with the screws in the box, so your life will be easier if you go the build-your-own route.
Inside there are two SO-DIMM laptop memory slots and a SATA connector for a 2.5in hard disk or SSD.
We’ve seen impressive performance from the graphics built into AMD’s processors in the past, but we weren’t that Impressed with the VS8’s AMD Radeon HD 7600G graphics chipset. This performed only marginally better than the Intel-based mini PCs we’ve seen with Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipsets. The VS8 was only able to produce 16.3fps in our Dirt Showdown test with High quality, 4x anti-aliasing and a 1,280×720 resolution. We managed to increase this to a steadier 24.8fps by turning the detail down to Low and disabling the anti-aliasing, but this is still too jerky to be comfortably playable.
We managed to get better results running the less demanding Trine 2 platform game, with 1,280×720 still the optimal resolution for smooth gameplay. We saw a playable 29.5fps at High quality settings with no anti-aliasing at this resolution. When we Increased the resolution to 1,920×1,080, even Low quality produced just 22.5fps. Like many modern PCs, the VS8 can handle video at 1,920×1,080, but can’t play back 4K video smoothly.
The VS8 has a good range of ports. On the front, there’s an SD card reader as well as two USB3 ports, but the latter are hidden behind a fiddly plastic cap. We almost broke our fingernails trying to get this open, so we’d recommend leaving the cap in the box once you’ve finally pried it off.
On the back, there are HDMI and Mini DispiayPort connectors for connecting the PC to your TV or monitor, four USB2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an optical S/PDIF audio output and separate headphone and microphone jacks. The PC’s 2.5in 500GB hard disk gives plenty of room to store your files.
The PC comes with a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card as standard, which will help you use a wireless mouse and keyboard instead of taking up two USB ports. Sadly, the V58 isn’t suited to life as a living room PC, as there aren’t any options in the BIOS to wake the PC from LAN. This means you’ll have to turn the computer on using its power button rather than turning it on remotely from the comfort of your sofa with a tablet or smartphone app.
This shouldn’t put you off using the Sapphire Edge VS8 as a mini desktop PC, but our main concern is the price. If Windows came pre-installed, the VS8 would be a worthy rival to the similarly priced Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190, but the extra cost of an OS and the effort of installing it will make the Q190 a better buy for most people.