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  • blackmagnum - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Post-Anand... I see that the quality of the article still continues to impress. Thanks. Reply
  • lurker22 - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Yeah, a whole 2 days after he "officially" resigned lol. Wait a year before you evaluate ;) Reply
  • pectorvector - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    The table at the bottom of the first page (look at the GPU row, Habey BIS-6922) has "Graphisc" written instead of Graphics. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Any word on temperatures? I know that toms hardware recorded temps in the 90c range with their model when it was reviewed. Did you guys observe anything similar? always wondered what would happen if you were to mill out the top and mount a nice fan there, blowing down on the components. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    On the graph in the final section 'System Loading vs. Temperature Characteristics', you can see the CPU temperature rise to 90 C, but only with both Prime 95 and Furmark running simultaneously. This is hardly a valid practical use-case.

    I don't believe thermals are a cause for concern with this PC for normal workloads in home / office scenarios.
    Reply
  • monstercameron - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    come on oems put a kaveri apu in one of em! Reply
  • Nickname++ - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    FYI, I have the 420D running under Debian Linux and it can idle at ~12 W. The trick is to force PCIe ASPM (power management) using a kernel option, which is disabled in the ACPI configuration but well supported as it's all laptop components. I guess disabling it reduced the testing effort. Then enabling "laptop mode" gets you there.

    So as usual with Linux it's not plug n' play, but it's reasonable easy to lower the power for an always on HTPC+server combo.

    Another info: the Intel integrated graphics are disabled, and the AMD card is always on. With a hybrid laptop architecture I guess the idle power could get lower, like an Intel only NUC. But again, it's a simpler configuration for ASRock with a fixed set-up.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Linux, and open source in general, doesn't exist at this site.
    You might as well say beos:)
    Reply
  • yannigr2 - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    As long as there is no detailed info about the cpu/gpu in the charts, charts are still a red bar between gray bars that most people will never really spend time to understand what they represent. And now they are only 8 mini-PCs. If those become 12-15 or more in the future it will be a total hell of strange model numbers. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    As a reader myself, I would first take a look at the table at the bottom of the first page and note down the two or three PCs that I hope to see how the PC under review fares against. The full details of each system are provided in that table with the drop-down selection.

    In addition, I do have data for 12-15 PCs even right now, but I choose the 6 - 7 appropriate PCs to compare against and only include those in the graphs.

    It is a trade-off between having cluttered graphs (presenting all the info for the reader in one view) vs. splitting the info into two (a table on one page, and cleaner graphs on other pages - but expecting the reader to do a bit of 'work' before viewing the graphs). I went with the latter for more readability. The benchmark numbers depend heavily on the DRAM being used, the storage subsystem configuration etc., and not just the CPU / GPU. Under these circumstances, I believe the 'split into two' approach is the better one.

    If you have any other suggestions on how to tackle this problem, I am all ears.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    You could write a small paragraph commenting on the relative performance. For example, in Office suite benchmarks make a comment whether it's likely the CPU or storage that's holding it back. Right now it's just a bunch of charts with little commentary. Reply
  • creed3020 - Wednesday, September 03, 2014 - link

    I would have to agree. Charts without commentary provides the reader little to no analysis. I'm not saying that we're all stupid on this end to spot obvious charts but take this an opportunity to really let the review shine and stand above the rest of the crowd. Running benchmarks and posting charts is something any tech website any do... Reply
  • yannigr2 - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    In a way you are already doing what I am suggesting in the Agisoft Photoscan graphs where you have two bars for each machine and you specifically mark those that also use the gpu. Giving the gpu info in the gaming benchmarks(for example Habey ... (HD 4000)) and the cpu in metrics (for example Habey ... (i7-3720QM) ) will make the review graphs easier to read. Also a big difference between two mini PCs with the same GPU or CPU could make a few readers more curious about the results and force them to find out about that influence of the memory or the storage subsystem that you have noticed but most of as ignore.
    Now the easiest way to read this review is to keep two pages open, one in the first page and the second with the print view of the article. But going all the time from one page to the other is a little more work for the reader than usually (we are really lazy, believe me).

    Anyway, too much and good work in this article. Thanks for answering my post.
    Reply
  • omgyeti - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Awesome article. I love reviews of small footprint/HTPC systems.

    I'm sure with all of the press surrounding the upcoming Alienware Alpha that you are more than likely to have a review for that in the coming months, but in the meantime if you guys get your hands on a Zotac EN760(which is similar internally to the Alpha) for review that would be awesome to see stacked up against this thing.
    Reply
  • isa - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Thanks for a great review - I especially like the objective, candid and insightful "concluding remarks" in this and other Anandtech reviews.

    Suggestion for a future HTPC review - JRiver recently started selling their own HTPC called the "Id", based on an OEM NUC design. I think it would be good to review not only for its hardware and software merits, but also because JRiver seems to be really thinking out high performance, cost-effective ways to manage and distribute home audio and video that other companies either ignore or charge thousands for. With the disappearance of the Squeezebox Touch and disappointing audio performance of RPi, JRiver seems to have the best end-to-end vision and implementation of really good, affordable home media solutions. Just my humble opinion, but interested in what Anandtech thinks about the best solutions that consider HTPCs, NASs, networks and renderers for home entertainment.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    I've mentioned this before but I looked into building a mac mini "clone" awhile back using this same case. The problem I ran into was the power supply: I didn't want a brick.
    Why, why, why, would an oem build this system with a power brick? I can do that. What I can't do is find a power supply that will fit in the case.
    Reply
  • scineram - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Get a case with a PSU, like the Chieftec FI-01B-U3 or LC Power 1370BII. A bit bigger than these HTPCs, but so is the Mac. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    The macmini used this exact case, iirc.
    Thanks for the suggestions, though! I'm always on the lookout for new, small cases.
    Reply
  • know of fence - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Is there any way for the consumer to get hold of one of these motherboards or kits that support those magical S0ix sleep states without opting for these insufferably noisy and pointless mini-box solutions?
    I don't want to pimp my ride with one of these or the backside of a monitor, I just want a PC that consumes little idle power, that lets me attach a large silent heat sink.
    Perhaps as mini-ITX with a DC in. ASRock makes DC-powered boards for BayTrail, but why not Haswell?
    Reply
  • funtasticguy - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    I've had my Vision 420D since May and it has been a dream portable gaming/XBMC machine. I was able to install two 2TB hard drives and a 250GB mSATA drive. I was even able to upgrade the CPU chip to an i7-4702MQ without much trouble. The heat temperatures of the CPU are rather outstanding when compared to the Brix Pro which can go as high as 100C when gaming versus 82C for the VisionX. My Steam games and high end emulators run extremely well at 1080P without overheating or throttling. It is also not noisy at all. In addition, XBMC runs like a dream on this machine. I loved the fact too that I was able to take this with us during our family summer vacation trips. We had portable gaming and XBMC on our trips. ASRock definitely hit a home run with this model and we just love it! Reply
  • mschira - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Nice article, and interesting machine. I think the hardware documentation and pictures could be a bit better (disassembly), but otherwise a decent work.
    The lack of blue ray and 4K decoding are the obvious shortcomings, though mostly when one has a 4K TV - which I guess not many do.
    Reply
  • boxof - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    Any chance we can start getting sound recordings as part of SFF reviews? It'd be useful to get a sense of the nature of the sound (e.g. whiny) under load. Perhaps post some audio up to soundcloud or youtube if bandwidth is a concern. Reply
  • albiglan - Monday, September 01, 2014 - link

    I'm also surprised by the lack of Blu-Ray option, but am noticing this more and more on laptops as well (no ODD, but if there is, it seems DVD only). I'm wondering if it is just a cost thing or if the format is on the decline? Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    Yes, my problem with this too. Looks like a great little gaming HTPC but I'd love a blu-ray and a 2TB HD option (I'll add an mSATA SSD myself). Really, my current HTPC is a little long in the tooth, but has the benefit of 3.5" HD and standard 5.25" Blu-Ray drive support. Reply
  • Gadgety - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    "The VisionX 420D has a much better acoustic profile compared to the BRIX Pro and even the ZBOX EI750 (thanks to the larger chassis, which, in turn, allows for a better thermal solution). Subjectively speaking..."

    Nice article. There's detailed objective measurements for just about every metric conceivable.That said there's always room for improvement. I find acoustics and noise to be just about the only area left to subjective impressions. Why is that? For these small boxes cooling and noise is where it's at in terms of separating the winners from losers, and that area is left to subjective impressions. Please include measurements and graphs of acoustic noise levels and signatures.
    Reply
  • dj_aris - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    Systems of such footprint literally crave for Maxwell. Maxwell is out for like 7 months now, why isn't it alredy in the hands of OEMs? AW Alpha is great and all but it's not here yet. Even Gigabyte has a low profile 750Ti ready now, I bet Asrock could have managed to fit that easily inside and make a perfectly capable mid/high 1080p machine. Reply
  • milkod2001 - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure if there's something to like about 420D except the size.

    Looking at specs(medium class mobile CPU & GPU) and price($860),420D is basically laptop with no keyboard and screen. When you add cost of HD screen and keyboard(min.$120) you could get laptop with i7 quad & Maxwell 880M or proper PC gaming machine.

    420D is pretty much useless for gaming unless you are happy with 7-13fps on 1080p and overkill & overpriced as office PC/HTPC.

    I'm very confused with reviewer quite positive conclusion. What I'm missing here?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, September 02, 2014 - link

    The market segments are different. $120 in savings is still $120 when the use-case involves a notebook being docked to a display almost all the time.

    On the other hand, there is a reason why SFF PCs are becoming more and more popular compared to full-blown PC gaming machines - people appreciate and are willing to pay the premium for it. If the BRIX Pro and ZBOX EI750 are good Steam machines, the 420D is definitely much better at that job.
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, September 03, 2014 - link

    I think the point the poster is making is that these are *laptop specs* in a small PC that is marketed to gamers -- which means pretty weak performance.

    Someone interested in gaming (the target audience) would be much better off getting a slightly larger chassis with a low-power desktop CPU and GPU. You'd still get a fairly small chassis and low power consumption, but with a HUGE boost in gaming performance. That makes a lot more sense to me, given the supposed target audience (gamers).
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, September 04, 2014 - link

    For $100 more you can get a Yoga Y50 with a maxwell based gtx 860m. I'm sure there are several notebooks with better specs that are cheaper. What is the purpose of this form factor given the price premium compared to both desktops AND notebooks???? Reply

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