[REVIEW] Giada Mini PC A51
After meeting up with Chinese-based hardware manufacturer GiadaTech (or short: Giada) at Computex Taipei. We were quite surprised when seeing their Mini PC lineup. They have a complete line of low powered; yet potent mini PC’s the size of a conventional book. A particularly thin book that is.
In this review we’ll be focusing on one of their latest “booklet” called the Giada Mini PC A51.
On top of the Giada Mini PC A51 you’ll find a card slot (SD/MMC/MS/ MS PRO), a USB 3.0 port, a MIC-IN and headphone jack (AUDIO-OUT). At the back you will spot a HDMI port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a VGA-OUT, LAN (RJ-45) port and the DC power jack.
|Chipset||AMD® A50M FCH|
|GPU||CPU embedded graphics|
|System Memory||4GB DDR3-1333 (1 x SO-DIMM slot, Max. 4GB)|
|I/O||1 x USB3.0, 4 x USB2.0, 1 x Card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x S/PDIF-out
|LAN||Gigabit LAN + Wi-Fi 802.11n + Bluetooth|
|Size||192 x 155 x 26 mm|
|Color||Black & White|
|OS||Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium (Optional)|
So this little pumpkin features the latest AMD Fusion processor (E-450 Platform), supports Full HD 1080P, has 1 USB 3.0 port, delivers DirectX 11 grade graphics and keeps the merry-go-round spinning on a mere 30W of power. These are impressive specifications for a device smaller and lighter than the average netbook.
The model we got hands on was the AMD E-450 Edition (they make a similar one with Intel chippery inside). Under its little bonnet they shoved 4GB of DDRIII 1333Mhz memory, a 320GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue (5400 RPM) and both a Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n & Bluetooth chip.
This model comes with a remote control and HDMI cable included.
Stock system test
By default the Giada Mini PC A51 doesn’t come with the OS preinstalled. You can install any Linux distro or Windows edition you like, it will chum with anything up to Windows 8. We decided to install Windows 7 Ultimate here.
This device scores E538 in 3DMark 2011, which, considering how small and limited in cooling it is, is a very fair result. Read/Write speeds tested with ATTO revealed maximum speeds 72.8Mb/sec and 73Mb/sec respectively.
There were some quirky moments when installing the Giada driver CD. It has a peculiar feature called ‘Auto Install’. One would imagine this installs all drivers at the push of a button, right? Well unfortunately it didn’t, the only driver installed after it claimed to finish was the AMD Platform driver (while all the other drivers were checked). So Windows’ device manager didn’t recognize the WIFI, Bluetooth, USB3, etc..
Manual driver reinstall to the rescue! Funny thing is, when you manually install the drivers again, the Giada driver manager tells you “this driver is already installed”. Ignore this warning, reinstall, and finally Windows’ device manager initializes the component as recognized by the system. Perhaps the issue was related to our version of Windows 7 Ultimate, because installing the same edition with SP1 integrated made the driver CD install every driver right from the gecko.
A cold boot on this standard model might take up a small minute once all your desktop and all the windows background processes are loaded. All in all this Mini PC makes an excellent kitchen PC or could serve as a midrange HTPC replacement. If you leave it in sleep mode it serves great purpose to occasionally check a web page, mails, Google a recipe or play Sudoku, just don’t expect to play any graphic demanding games on it.
It only requires an OCZ Vertex 4 SSD, a toolbox and the glint in the eye of the hardware geek to spark the fundamental male question applying to electronics, motorized vehicles and women: “Now what if I took a peek under the bonnet?”.
And so we did… Discovering the Giada Mini PC A51’s hard drive model + the possibility to remove/replace both hard disk and DDRIII ram module. The 1333Mhz module appeared to be from Crucial, but that was not our key interest. First off, the Giada A51 has a SATA II connector soldered on the mainboard, so telling you in advace: fitting OCZ Vertex 4 in this device is like fitting a Ferrari engine to a go-kart. Do not proceed.
So… We fitted the OCZ Vertex 4 (SATA-III/6G) here because it was the first SSD we stumbled upon, the SATA-II/3G controller was made to get the maximum out of a Vertex II or similar previous generation SSD. So what we discovered is that by simply swapping the default 5400RPM disk to flash storage gives you over 4 times the speed of the base system.
Before (stock system):
- Max. Read: 72.8Mb/sec
- Max. Write: 73Mb/sec
After (SSD fitted):
- Max. Read: 283.1Mb/sec
- Max. Write: 256.1Mb/sec
Conclusion: The SSD will consume less energy, doesn’t have any moving parts (so no noise) and increases the system’s performance 4x.
Re-testing the system with 3DMark11 resulted in a slight increase of score: E546. Which is fairly normal as this test pattern is oriented towards GPU/CPU/RAM benchmarking for gamers, thus the SSD doesn’t get regarded as a big score changer in gaming performance.
Everything in this All-in-one PC turned out to function properly, nothing broke down, nothing got particularly hot and nothing failed to work even after 24h rendering/stress tests. So we have a winner? Not quite…
The Giada Mini PC A51 was based on the design principle of netbooks, meaning that they could shave off another 6-7mm in height if their used a flash memory board instead of the stock hard drive.
The cooling system is equally very “netbooky”, which means: A particularly small fan giving you the distinctive notebook whizz sound. When used as a HTPC this particular pitch might not be to everyone’s liking, but if you turn the music up it doesn’t become a nuisance.
Overall, Giada’s motto “Tech, Fashion, Art” is well in place. The pattern on the enclosure and transparent plastic horizontal stand and chrome finish on the front give this book-sized PC a very distinctive and luxury finish. Although this is a Mini PC with netbook-sized components; the general performance level is very decent. It won’t replace your gaming rig or power laptop, but for conventional office, surfing or email usage it is a great thing to have. Small size, big aspiration.
MSRP: 275 USD, 350 EUR (inc. Tax).