Undoubtedly, the brightest event of the 1st quarter of 2017 was the announcement of AMD processors based on the latest microarchitecture Ryzen , which interrupted Intel’s multi-year hegemony in the segment of high-performance PCs. Nevertheless, the new products were far from perfect, leaving a lot of questions in the field of overclocking potential and memory controller performance, but as you know even on the sun there are spots, especially as the performance jump compared to AMD FX is noticeable.
In the future AMD is going to introduce a new microdesign including in hybrid processors, combining Ryzen cores with an advanced graphics subsystem. It is known that in the chipmaker’s plans release APU Raven Ridge for socket AM4 is scheduled for 2018, so in the segment of processors with integrated graphics the honor of “white-green” is still protected by representatives of the families Kaveri and Godavari. They can boast of a good performance of the video subsystem, but at the same time they lag behind the computational power and energy efficiency of the competing 14-nm Intel CPU based on Kaby Lake microarchitecture. So, to build a compact and productive, but at the same time, economical PC, there is no alternative to Core 7 processors. At the same time, in the market little by little solutions of unusual format Mini-STX , first shown by Intel at the IDF forum in 2015, begin to appear.
This format, also known as “5×5”, is characterized by the dimensions of 147×140 mm, which is smaller than the Mini-ITX with its dimensions of 170×170 mm, but more than the form factor of the NUC (Next Unit of Computing) boards, whose length and width is 102 mm. Mini-ITX and NUC are also available for Mini-ITX expansion: there is no PCI Express x16 slot for installing a discrete video accelerator, and the key difference from the latter is support for desktop processors with LGA1151 connector, which gives an increase in performance in comparison With mobile CPUs in the BGA version, and also provides the ability to upgrade and flexibility when choosing the basis for a miniature PC.
Despite the obvious advantages of the Mini-STX format, the components for assembly and ready-made PCs are still not widely used. Nevertheless, since the beginning of 2016 in the assortment of the Taiwanese company ASUSTek there are models Vivo Mini VC65 and VC65R based on Intel Core 6th generation processors, and not so long ago the vendor presented an update in the form of ASUS VivoMini VC66 and VC66 R products that received fresh Design and the latest CPU Kaby Lake.
These two models have much in common: they can be equipped with Intel Core 7-generation processors with two or four cores, the amount of RAM can be from 4 GB to 32 GB, external power supply depending on the installed CPU can have an output power of 120 or 180 watts , And the operating system uses Microsoft Windows 10 Home or Pro versions. The main difference is in motherboards, or rather in sets of system logic: ASUS VivoMini VC66 uses the Intel H110 chipset, whereas in VC66R is installed Intel H170, which supports RAID arrays of levels 0, 1, 5 and 10, which determines the difference in the configuration of the disk subsystem . For example, the VC66 can be equipped with two M.2 2280 and 2.5 “SATA 6 Gbit / s drives, as well as a DWD-RW drive, while the VC66R allows you to install one M.2 2280 SSD and a pair of form factor 2 storage devices, 5 “with SATA 6 Gbps interface, which can be combined into RAID arrays. The ASUS VivoMini ASUS VivoMini VC66 device got into our testing laboratory, which we will consider in the course of today’s review, and at the same time we will compare it with the typical representative of NUC mini-PC ASUS VivoMini UN65U, based on mobile Intel Core I5-7200U.
ASUS VivoMini VC66 is supplied in a medium-sized cardboard box with a convenient carry handle. Discreet design, characteristic of other similar products ASUS, is made with environmentally friendly ink, which ensures minimal damage to the environment during the processing of packaging. On the front side of the logo ASUS: In search of incredible (English “In search of the incredible”).
The scope of delivery of the personal computer includes:
About the set of accessories to say especially nothing, a separate consideration, perhaps, deserves only a power supply. The A15-120P1A network adapter, rather massive and heavy, is manufactured by Chicony Power Technology Co. It is designed for operation in AC networks with voltage from 100 to 240 V and frequency of 50-60 Hz, and the nominal output power is 120 W at 19 V.
The case ASUS VivoMini VC66, made of roughened black plastic, has the form of a parallelepiped and is visually divided into two parts. The dimensions of the device are 177.4x153x74.1 mm, its volume is equal to two liters, and the mass does not exceed 1.5 kg. On the front panel of the case there is an optical drive tray cover at its upper part, and at the bottom there are a pair of USB 2.0 connectors and two USB 3.0 ports, one of which is a Type C design as well as a mini jack socket (3 , 5 mm), combining analog audio input and output. Also, on the front panel in the semicircular groove you can see the power button, which during work glows from within with a bright blue light.
The right side of the body is covered with a perforation for ventilation of the interiors of the system unit, and the left side is placed under the grate for the ejection of hot air from the cooling system. We pay attention to the “pixel” pattern applied to the front and side walls of ASUS VivoMini VC66, which dilutes the gloom of dark monochromatic plastic.
On the back there was a place for the Kensington lock hole, the external power supply connector, the COM port, which you absolutely do not expect to see on board the 2017 personal computer, three digital video outputs (DVI-D, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4B) , Two USB 3.0 connectors, an RJ-45 network outlet and a SDXC card reader slot.
On the bottom cover of the personal computer there is a sticker with the name of the model and other service information, threaded bushings for fastening the metal adapter plate to the VESA bracket, and also four rubber feet preventing the device from slipping on the table.
Unscrewing the four bolts hidden under the rubber feet, you can disassemble the case. Its upper part serves as a chassis for the optical drive of a “notebook” format with a height of 12.7 mm. In our case, we use the DA-8AESH15B model manufactured by PLDS (Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions) that can read and write CDs and DVDs at 24X and 8X, respectively. Honestly, the relevance of installing ODD can be questioned, but, to certain categories of customers, the presence of a DVD-RW drive can be a decisive factor in choosing a personal computer, and advanced users will always be able to mount a chassis for installing a 2.5-inch drive in its place.
The upper cover opens access to the disk subsystem, which in the case of ASUS VivoMini VC66 is represented by a single SSD form factor of 2.5 inches. Characteristically, to the left of the drive, you can see a place for installing another storage device, but there are no SATA cables and power supplies, so without the intervention in the design to increase the disk space to the beginner by adding a second 2.5 “drive will not work. Most likely, in the case of VivoMini VC66R, which is deprived of a DVD-RW drive, the second seat is occupied by SSD, which makes it possible to organize a RAID array that improves performance or gives additional reliability.
The hero of today’s review is completed with an unusual solid-state drive Intel SSD 535 Series volume of 256 GB with a SATA 6 Gbit / s interface. Its unusual is that there is almost no official information about the SSDSC2BW256H6, whereas its closest relative, the Intel SSD 535 Series with a capacity of 240 GB, knows that it is based on the SF-2281 controller, and 16-bit flash memory is used, Nm NAND MLC chips. However, it is unequivocal to assert that in SSDSC2BW256H6 the same components are used, alas, it is impossible.
After dismantling the cover that covers the lower half of the case and at the same time serves as the chassis for the drives, the internal device of the system unit becomes visible. Most of the free space is occupied by a cooling system consisting of a centrifugal fan with a diameter of about 60 mm and a radiator with a thermosyphon tube that transfers heat from the central processor. The motherboard ASUS VivoMini VC66 format Mini-STX has dimensions of 147×140 mm, in addition to the full socket LGA 1151, designed for the operation of any Intel Skylake and Kaby lake processors with TDP up to 65 W inclusive, there was room for two SO-DIMM sockets that are intended For installing DDR4 memory with a frequency of up to 2,400 MHz and total RAM up to 32 GB inclusive.
Our sample was equipped with a single 4 GB RAM bar with a frequency of 2400 MHz produced by SK Hynix. In addition, the motherboard is equipped with two M.2 slots: one of them serves for installation of SSD format 2280, and the second is occupied by a wireless network adapter based on the Realtek RTL8723BE chipset, which supports Wi-Fi standards for IEEE 802.11b / g / n and Bluetooth 2.1 / 3.0 / 4.0. Connection to a wired Gigabit Ethernet network is realized through the Intel I219V controller, and the Realtek ALC3236 HD audio codec is responsible for the operation of the audio subsystem. The Intel H110 chipset provides two internal SATA 6 Gb / s ports, as well as pairs of USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 channels.
ASUS VivoMini VC66, which got into our testing laboratory, is equipped with an Intel Core i5-7400 processor, which includes four full-fledged computing cores and an impressive array of L3 cache with a capacity of 6 MB. The CPU is manufactured at 14-nm standards and, despite the high clock speeds – from 3000 MHz in nominal to 3400 MHz with Turbo Boost, is characterized by low heat dissipation, so that its TDP is stacked at 65 watts. If there is no load, the EIST technology enters the case, which reduces the frequency and voltage to a minimum.
As part of the Intel Core i5-7400 processor, there is a dual-channel DDR4 RAM controller, as well as the Intel HD Graphics 630 graphics core, which includes 24 devices operating at a frequency of up to 1000 MHz in Turbo Boost mode. The integrated graphics card supports API DirectX 12.1 and allows you to display the image simultaneously on three displays with a resolution of up to 4096×2304 pixels at a frequency of 60 Hz.
As for the encoding and decoding of video streams, the Intel Quick Sync block, built-in to the graphics accelerator HD Graphics 630, supports at the hardware level the processing speed of most popular formats, including H.264, HVEC (H.265) and VP-9 in resolutions Up to 4K inclusive.
As in the vast majority of modern computers, the firmware ASUS VivoMini VC66 is based on the microcode AMI UEFI. The graphical interface and features of the setup menu are familiar to us from the latest reviews of ASUS motherboards. After entering the UEFI Setup, users enter the Main section, where the versions of the control microcode and the Intel Management Engine driver are displayed, a summary of the installed processor and RAM, as well as their operating modes, selects the display language of the interface. The right side always displays system monitoring data, and by clicking on the gear next to the clock in the upper left corner you can set the date and time.
The “Advanced” tab is responsible for setting the functions of the CPU, system logic and additional controllers.
In the submenu “Processor Configuration” as the name suggests, detailed information about the CPU is displayed, the number of active computing cores and the mode of virtualization technology are specified.
The PCH Storage Configuration sub-partition is responsible for configuring the disk subsystem, and Trusted Computing is used to manage the Intel TPM function, which provides the means for securely creating encryption keys.
The Integrated Device Configuration tab controls audio subsystem, network controllers and COM port mode, the APM submenu is for controlling specific power functions, and the USB Configuration subsection allows you to configure peripheral devices and selectively disable USB ports.
The “Monitor” section is intended for displaying the readings of the hardware monitoring sensors, as well as controlling the operating mode of the cooling system, while the Boot menu is responsible for setting the parameters of the boot process.
In UEFI Setup, EZ Flash 3 utility is integrated to update the firmware firmware both via the Internet from ASUS support servers and from local drives, as well as a tool for viewing detailed information about the RAM subsystem.
As an intermediate result, you can see that there were no overclocking features in the ASUS VivoMini VC66 firmware, but it was naive to expect such a luxury from a device of this class.
Depending on the market, ASUS VivoMini VC66 can be equipped with different operating system variants, in our case 64-bit Windows 10 Home was preinstalled on the device. There were no problems with licensing, the first connection to the Internet, the activation was performed automatically. The choice in favor of the “tens” is fully justified, since this operating system has excellent functionality, the latest protection mechanisms and will be guaranteed to be maintained longer than any other Microsoft OS.
In addition to the operating system and the full package of necessary drivers, the personal computer is equipped with a demo version of the Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 office suite and the McAffe LiveSafe anti-virus protection suite. Thus, out of 238 GB of SSD users are available about 200 GB – more than enough to install all the necessary programs and documents. And those who do not seem to be able to do it themselves can upgrade ASUS VivoMini VC66 with another SS2 format of M.2 2280, and also take advantage of the annual subscription to ASUS Webstorage’s 100 GB cloud storage.
Together with ASUS VivoMini VC66 users receive proprietary ASUS Manager software, which consists of separate functional modules that are designed to serve and realize the additional capabilities of a personal computer.
The “Power” module is responsible for selecting the performance profile and setting the power saving functions.
A subroutine with an uncomplicated name “Update” serves to keep the versions of drivers, UEFI Setup firmware and ASUS Manager itself up-to-date.
The “Security” utility consists of two parts: the PC Cleanup module, which allows you to clean the system of temporary files and use the ASUS Secure Delete option for guaranteed data deletion, as well as the USB Lock function to block USB ports, the built-in card reader and the ability to record optical disks.
The purpose of the “Backup and Restore” module comes from its name, in the “Tools” utility it is possible to display the original logo at boot time, and the “Support” subroutine allows you to view brief information about the configuration of a personal computer, download the user’s guide and find the nearest service Center.
First of all, we checked the performance of the RAM subsystem using the Cache & Memory Benchmark utility from AIDA64.
Due to the higher memory frequency, ASUS VivoMini VC66 was slightly ahead of its counterpart, with the greatest advantage being in the data reading tests, while in terms of latency, the 2 ns advantage was on the side of the NUC-like device.
To evaluate the integral performance indicator, a complex test PCMark 8 2.6.517 was applied, following which the following results were obtained:
The advantage of the hero of today’s review was not as significant as expected: in the subtests of Home and Work, the win did not exceed 7%, and only in the Creative scenario, containing resource-intensive tasks for encoding media content, ASUS VivoMini VC66 bypassed the relative by 10%.
However, in the speed test of the disk subsystem the newcomer won a convincing victory, showing the average performance of SSD is almost 60% higher than that of the VivoMini UN65U.
To assess the speed of working with Web-based applications, we used the online benchmark WebXPRT 2015, which was launched in the Microsoft Edge browser.
In this discipline ASUS VivoMini VC66 won a convincing victory, ahead of its counterpart by 22%.
A block of tests in application programs opens the performance rating in the 7-Zip archiver, version 15.12.
The tasks of archiving best manifest the advantages of the desktop processor Intel Core i5-7400, four physical cores of which provide superiority at the level of 45-48% compared to the mobile Core i5-7200U.
At the same time, in the graphical editor of Photoshop CC you can talk about the approximate parity of contestants, which is explained by the traditionally weak multi-threaded optimization of this software product from Adobe.
Of course, 3D rendering is not the most typical task for such miniature PCs, nevertheless, both devices coped with it quite adequately. In the test application Cinebench R15, the contestants had a specific processing speed of one computational core and the frame rate during animation in real time with the help of the OpenGL driver turned out to be approximately equal, whereas in the subtest using all available resources ASUS VivoMini VC66 broke ahead with a 67% advantage.
And finally, in x265 HD Benchmark, which allows you to estimate the speed of video encoding in the format of HVEC, the hero of today’s review directly crushed his fellow, providing an 84% more fps.
During the evaluation of performance in 3D games and the 3DMark graphic benchmark, ASUS VivoMini VC66 system unit was additionally tested in dual-channel RAM mode to assess the performance potential of the integrated graphics card.
In the semisynthetic 3DMark, the hero of today’s review unexpectedly lost to VivoMini UN65U in Fire strike scenarios and Sky diver, but outperformed the Cloud gate subtest. But, with the activation of the second RAM channel, the performance has increased from 20% to 35%.
Realizing that the capabilities of integrated video accelerators are not enough for the full operation of the most modern and resource-intensive projects, we preferred the popular online games that were run in Full HD resolution with low or medium level of detail.
In the CS: GO shooter, the performance of both contestants was at the same level, which, alas, is not enough for a comfortable gameplay, because in saturated scenes fps often fell below 24 frames per second. In the super-popular DotA 2 devices provided an acceptable speed only with low settings, and the victory was unexpectedly taken by the VivoMini UN65U. The installation of the second RAM module immediately brought ASUS VivoMini VC66 to the leaders and ensured a performance gain of 34% in CS: GO to 77% in DotA 2.
In the real-time strategy of StarCraft 2, our participants have nothing to boast about, the average performance did not exceed 33 frames per second, but in the “Tanks” due to the excellent optimization of the latter, the speed was kept at around 65 fps. The addition of the second memory bar had the most positive effect on the performance of ASUS VivoMini VC66, providing an increase of 33-42%.
One of the features typical for all miniature PC form factor NUC is their noticeable noise level. In this regard, Mini-STX devices, even in the desktop processor environment, have a certain advantage in the form of a much larger space for a full cooling system and our ASUS VivoMini VC66 tests have confirmed this. With the load created by the AIDA64 stress test, the temperature of the hottest Core i5-7400 core did not exceed 65 ° C, and the frequency stably kept at the 3300 MHz mark.
At the same time, the fan spun up to 3100 rpm, making noise at 41 dB (A), and in idle the system remained virtually invisible against a background of 33.5 dB (A) in a quiet room.
To estimate the energy consumption of miniature system blocks, the LM602 household wattmeter was used to record the maximum power consumption from the socket during the passage of the System Stability Test, as well as the power consumption in gaming applications and in the absence of a load.
As was to be expected, ASUS VivoMini UN65U, equipped with an Intel Core i5-7200U processor with a thermal package of 15 W, was the leader in terms of energy efficiency. However, the difference in power consumption with ASUS VivoMini VC66 at the maximum load was only 75%, and not four times, as one might imagine, looking at a 65W TDP for the Core i5-7400. Specifically, the novice’s firmware is set to maximize profitability, possibly in places even at the expense of performance in gaming applications.
In the process of today’s review, the miniature PC ASUS VivoMini VC66 demonstrated an interesting combination of consumer qualities, which should be discussed in more detail. First of all, the device is suitable both for use as a multimedia entertainment center, and for the organization of the workplace. In the first case, high speed of the central processor Intel Core i5-7400, support for hardware decoding of a multitude of multimedia formats and the presence of three digital video outputs are useful, and in the second one – low power consumption, the presence of a COM port and an optical disk drive, still in demand in a professional environment, and Also support for the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology. We can not fail to note the proper selection of software, as well as the ability to independently upgrade the storage subsystem and increase the amount of RAM, which in our test copy was only 4 GB, which is a minimum for a modern personal computer.
If we talk about the comparison of ASUS VivoMini VC66 with the representative of the NUC family – ASUS VivoMini UN65U, the beginner offers more ports of expansion, flexibility in the organization of the disk subsystem, and also a much higher level of performance in resource-intensive tasks, whereas in daily use and when starting 3D -Games can talk about the approximate parity of productivity. At the same time, the VivoMini UN65U is noticeably smaller, its case takes just 0.6 liters against 2 liters for the hero of today’s review, and is more economical, although the difference in power consumption is not so great as the difference in TDP installed in the system blocks of processors. Finally, as for the cost, ASUS VivoMini VC66 in the configuration submitted for testing will be offered at a price equivalent to $ 620 – not too much, as for such a quality and multifunctional device.