By May 6, 2010

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini Review

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini Viewsonic are probably best known for their monitors and projectors, but they are expanding their range to also include PC’s.

The VOT120 PC Mini is part of this expanding range and is based on the 1.6GHz IntelĀ® Atom N270 processor that we are familiar with seeing in netbooks, which means huge power savings over a more traditional tower system as well as a smaller form factor.

The Mini is indeed very small – about half the size of an internal CD drive – you can sit it on the desk or attach it to the back of the monitor and you wouldn’t really know it was there.

So let’s put this tiny box through its paces …

 

What’s in the box?

  • VOT120 PC Mini
  • Power adapter and mains cable
  • Desktop stand
  • Driver CD
  • Quick installation guide

 

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini Specifications

http://www.viewsonic.com/products/pcs/pc-mini/vot120-pc-mini.htm#tabbox_specs

 

General

Back

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini - Back

Left to right – Kensington Lock, Power, LAN, USB, DVI, USB

Front

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini - Front

Left to right – USB, WIFI indicator, USB, eSATA, microphone, headphone, power LED, HDD LED, reset button, power button

 

 

Highlights

  • small form factor
  • low power consumption

 

Lowlights

  • surprising, not silent
  • poor WIFI

 

Review

Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini

So after unpacking the Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini you can’t help but be struck by the size. At 39mm x 130mm x 115mm the VOT120 lives up to it’s Mini moniker.

The photo on the packaging shows that the unit can be mounted on the back of your monitor, but if you want easy access to the power button and ports I can’t really see you placing it anywhere but on the desk itself.

Whilst talking about the mounting, it’s a little thing, but I don’t know who decided to stick the license sticker where it is, but they obviously didn’t bear in mind that the desktop stand is going to rub part of that area and potentially erase your Windows registration code. As long as you don’t move the unit much there shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s still something that should have been considered.

At boot I was struck by the fact that the unit isn’t completely silent. I would have expected that with an Atom processor, even with a physical hard drive in the enclosure, there would be a way to cool it in a quieter way. It’s not that it’s loud, it’s comparable to the cooling fan on a normal laptop, but I wasn’t expecting it.

So the first thing I always do when testing units is a full system restore. The Viewsonic tool takes about 5 minutes (despite the progress bar suggesting more), it then acts as though you’ve just done a fresh install of Windows XP Home Edition SP3, asking your name, setting up networking etc.

Whilst we are talking about networking the VOT120 has a built in RALink 802.11n wireless lan and a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet NIC.

The WIFI indicator on the front is a blue LED, a very bright LED, a distractingly bright blue LED. I don’t know why manufacturers don’t think about this more – or maybe they do and their tester likes really bright LED’s.

As well as the annoyingly bright LED, I also found that the VOT120 didn’t seem to like keeping a wireless connection – at least not on my network anyway. I’ve had plenty of hardware that has no problems with my network, but for some reason this one kept dropping the connection.

The wired LAN connection is predictably fast and stable.

Beyond the basic operating system there only seems to be a couple of programs installed – a 60 day Trend Micro Internet Security trial and WinRAR demo.

Looking at the hardware side of things, if you are familiar with netbooks then you’ll recognise everything here. An Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz, 1GB RAM, Intel Mobile 945 Express graphics and Realtek HD audio.

The graphics card is fast enough for upscaling video to fullscreen, general web-browsing and the like, but I can’t imagine you’d enjoy gaming on it very much.

More RAM would help things along a bit, especially with the processor being the Atom N270 that we all know doesn’t have much grunt.

The hard drive in our test unit was a Seagate ST9160310AS, a 5400 RPM unit typical of laptops. The drive itself is split into two partitions – 40GB for the OS and 106GB for data.

At this point you might be thinking that all this is sounding very similar to the Atom netbooks that we’ve been seeing for a while now, and you’d be right. This really is a netbook without the built-in monitor, keyboard and touchpad.

And, unsurprisingly, the performance is the same.

It all feels a bit sluggish and underpowered. Applications take a bit of time to open, and in general things aren’t very ‘snappy’ – sometimes to the point that whilst an application is running the mouse occasionally hiccups or stalls as you move it around the screen.

I’m not sure what else to add really, it really is netbook hardware and performance – and we’ve done loads of reviews of them already.

 

Conclusion

The Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini is a curious little thing. It’s based on the same Atom technology that we’ve been seeing in netbooks for a while now. As this technology has been around for a while now you’d expect that all the lessons had been learnt by everyone by now.

As I mentioned above, I was very surprised that the unit wasn’t silent – it makes the same amount of noise as a laptop with it’s cooling fan in ‘low-speed’ mode. Why not make the unit a bit larger so that you could use more effective cooling systems in there and make the unit completely silent.

I’ve personally never found the Intel Atom N270 processor fast enough for general desktop use. You might accept it’s sluggishness if it allows you to make a laptop small, light and run all day – but you don’t expect to have to make such allowances when you are talking about a desktop PC.

If the base memory was 2GB instead of the 1GB we have here then things might be a bit better, but you’d still be fighting the CPU and the 5400RPM drive.

All in all I think that the designers aimed for a small unit instead of a capable one.

For a similar price you could get a netbook with the same specs – it would still plug in to your monitor at home and would give you the advantage of a mobile PC for the rest of the day.

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