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Sapphire EDGE-HD3 Mini PC: Hands-on and first impressions video

Price: £284 plus shipping from Shop AMD

Sapphire’s EDGE-HD3 Mini PC arrived this Spring, and we recently got hold of one for a closer look.

It’s certainly mini: measuring 193 x 148 x 22 mm and weighing 530 grams, it’s not much bigger than a portable hard drive; there’s no mouse, keyboard, monitor or optical drives. You can use it flat, but for elegance and better air circulation, the supplied stand is recommended.

Though you’ll have to provide a lot of the essentials yourself, you’ve got plenty of freedom in terms of how you set the EDGE-HD3 Mini up.

As standard, it comes with FreeDOS, an MS-DOS compatible operating system that will delight fans of early-1990s command-line computing and terrify everyone else.

Installing Windows is a bit of a task, although ours came pre-loaded with Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate edition. The main challenge is that Sapphire throws in a disc loaded with drivers but, of course, you’ll need an external drive to hook up to the EDGE-HD3 Mini, and even then you’ll spend a while online bringing all the drivers up to date.

The alternative to Windows is Linux – either a standard desktop distro or a dedicated media PC distro such as MythTV, which can be installed from USB.

You can connect your EDGE-HD3 Mini to a range of monitors (VGA, HDMI-DVI or straight HDMI). HDMI to your TV is the obvious choice for a media PC, carrying digital audio instead of using the stereo mini-jack.

There are four USB ports in total, one pair of 3.0, one pair of 2.0. This gives you got room to attach the basic peripherals (a wireless keyboard/mouse combo is recommended) while giving you space for external drives, TV tuners and USB remote controls. You could always stick a multiport USB hub into one of course.

There’s a Gigabit Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi (b/g/n), but no Bluetooth. Depending on which model you buy, storage weighs in at 250GB, 320GB or 500GB, but as a media PC it’s likely to be pulling content from network storage.

The processor is an AMD APU E-450 a 64-bit dual-core chip running at 1.65GHz, with a built-in Radeon HD6320 graphics chip, and you’ve got 4GB of RAM (DDR3). This is a system designed for netbooks, so it runs hot but quiet when it’s being worked out.

Full HD 1080p video playback is supported as well, so it’s also good for watching Netflix, Lovefilm and the rest on your TV if you didn’t want to go down the Smart TV route for that.

It’s never going to be viable as a video editing or cutting edge gaming powerhouse, but this is a media PC aimed at music and video playback, streaming from online or network storage – for these things the EDGE-HD3 Mini should work just fine.

Media PCs are traditionally monstrous lumps of pimped-up plastic and metal, so it’s nice to see something which can sit discreetly in any living room. At this price, and with the peripherals you’ll need for media centre use, it will be in competition with mini PCs like the Zotax Zbox and Dell Zino and a few decent Android tablets.