Sapphire has long been known for its AMD graphics offerings but a little known part of their business has to do with their small form factor Edge based systems. Today we look at the Intel Celeron powered Edge HD4. Let’s see what it has to offer!
When a graphics company ventures into other items or even complete systems there is always a moment where users will wonder if they know what exactly they are meddling in. Well in the case of Sapphire they definitely know where they are at and what they wanna accomplish when they build such systems as the Edge HD series has been around for awhile.
We must admit we found the HD4 to be in a bit of a quandary as it is utilizing a standard Intel HD GPU which means it will not be for those looking to play any level of modern games. This is especially questionable as common APU’s from AMD can play much better graphics than this unit so at that point we had to get on the line with Sapphire and clear a few things up.
Upon clarification it became instantly clear that Sapphire wanted to diversify their mini PC offerings with something with a bit more X86 muscle and offer something for the guys looking for a newer tech Intel based mini PC. With this known we can state from my own experience that the efficiency and ability to do work of Intel’s newer gen processors is quite high so we now have a better understanding of the mini PC Edge series landscape and why this model was made.
It is obvious that this unit will not be for anything more than your basic games, maybe emulators or flashed based usage. But the real beauty here will be in processing power and simple HTPC usage as we could see it replacing my own HTPC we recently built.
Wee cannot comment on its value proposition but the sum of its parts make it a very potent rig so with the right pricing we could see some great potential for anyone looking for a super small full function PC that they can hide away literally in a book case.
|CPU||Intel® Celeron 847 Processor (1.1GHz) Sandy Bridge|
|System Memory||4GB DDRIII 1333MHz|
|Video Graphics||Intel® HD Graphics|
|Hard Disk Drive||
320GB 2.5″ Western Digital Caviar Blue
|I/O Port||USB(3.0)*1, USB(2.0)*3, HDMI, D-sub, RJ45, Mic-in, Earphone-out,
|Communications||LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet Base-T
Wireless LAN: Wireless-N 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless
As you can see from the specs the system as delivered may not be a powerhouse but for basic computing it can definitely knock out a older off the shelf system while taking up a fraction of the space.
There are a few things we want to bring out front which are obvious points and that is that the WD Blue drive is nice but if accessing the drive regularly for small files has proven to be a bit on the slow side, and especially in today’s offerings of hybrid or SSD options it would be nice to see that as a possible option since technically you should not be opening up these units to replace parts. Also the CPU is BGA so it is permanently attached so no swapping out should you desire more power and a 1.1GHz Celeron will do many tasks but you could see a delay here and there of you are used to much faster machines as I am.
Intel Celeron 847 Processor
The Intel Celeron 847 is a Sandy Bridge based CPU which means it comes from a very efficient line or family of CPU’s. its speed is capped at 1.1GHz with two physical processing cores. The CPU does support full 64 Bit instruction sets and has a memory controller capable of dual channel operation with up to 16GB supported. The 16GB is likely with dual 8GB DIMMs but since the HD4 motherboard utilizes a single SO-DIMM socket you can expect single channel mode with likelihood of supporting up to 8GB which is still plenty for this little system. The CPU is a maximum TDP of 17W which means its thermal dump is gonna be quite small and therefore this super slim and small form factor can be accommodated. The iGPU on the Celeron 847 is a standard Intel HD family model which shares the system memory for operation. The amount of allocated system memory can be adjusted in the system BIOS for heavier tasking if needed. Virtualization VT-x is supprted while VT-d is nor along with speed steps and special idle or C-states which allow for power saving depending on CPU loading conditions.
Super Slim Profile System
The Edge series comes in a super compact chassis but still has full storage capabilities and even memory density of most small form factor systems if not better. the super slim profile means that the system can be tucked away and used with wireless control peripherals if desired or even used in place of a net top or other off the shelf bulky tower PC when the main tasks are common internet surfing or even low loading like Facebook or flash based games.
Another usage is in the market for HTPC’s which use an external storage device such as a NAS to store all of your home theater media. The Edge HD4 is a stylish little device which will look nice in any home theater environment or even tucked away behind the entertainment center should you not want to see it at all. The possibilities are really only limited by your ability to find uses for it.
The Sapphire Edge HD4
The Packaging for the HD4 is nicely designed giving you a good visual as to what you are getting in the box and what exactly the unit looks like.
Click Image For a Larger One
- DC Power Jack
- 3x USB 2.0 (2 rear, 1 front)
- USB 3.0 port (Front)
- 10/100/1000Mbps LAN port
- HDMI port
- VGA port
This connectivity is more than enough for some control peripherals along with even external USB or even super high speed storage device interfaces. Also not visible but the HD4 unit has a full Wireless n card/antennae internally mounted to ensure wireless connectivity can be established.
Taking a look inside
First Boot (And real world usage discussion):
Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail”
Windows 7 x64
Installing windows 7 was as easy as putting the installer on a thumb drive or using a USB optical drive. However once installed many devices simply were not natively installed such as the LAN port or WiFi which was a surprise since the Ubuntu distro simply fired up and worked. Once all drivers were installed we did notice that Windows is not as light and definitely has a few more moments of hitching and small delays depending upon what you are doing. We were a bit disappointed by this and upon swapping the blue drive out for a 240GB Kingston HyperX SSD we found the system to be much more responsive and ultimately flat out faster with programs opening very quickly without delay. This tells me that there is simply much more drive activity involved with the wondows OS where the Ubuntu distro just loads into high memory and flies along.
Basically in a nutshell if the HD4 will be employed simply for multimedia usage such as XBMC you would be much better served learning the little bit about Ubuntu as it is a free OS and much more snappy on this small device or even install the XBMC-untu which simply automatically starts into the Linux version of XBMC and turns the HD4 into a solid straight up media streaming device. The other thing to note is that a retail versions of windows will run $100.00 USD and up where as Ubuntu and XBMC distros are free so for light usage this may be your better option.
Testing & Methodology
Normal Testing for this unit does not really apply as we would normally perform. This is simply because this is a ultra low power unit and not made for many of the heavier tasks we would normally do.
Therefore I will cover such devices with standard testing but basically this is a small form factor surfing/media box in my eyes.
All testing was performed with a fully updated Windows 7 Ultimate X64 installation with the newest drivers available at the time of testing.
For comparison i have added a Laptop to some tests consisting of a i7 3610QM which may show the difference between this unit and your standard desktop processing power. I do not have any other low power X86 components available of this level so I wanted to at least have it available for comparisons sake.
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the Edge HD4.
|SiSoft Sandra 2013 SP3|
The temperatures were recorded while normal gaming and other tasks such as encoding video until we found what would product the highest thermals for the specific item. The results were recorded carefully. After the results were noted, we let the system sit idle for 30 minutes before taking Idle temperature measurements. We avoid running synthetic stress tests like LINPACK or FurMark, as these do not simulate realistic loads, and go well above normal operations. The results were as follows:
|CPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
The results are about what we would expect from a small enclosure system such as this. As you saw it uses a laptop style cooler on the 17W TDP chip which means that thermals are well handled and as long as your not sitting with the Edge HD4 right next to your ear the fan is rarely above ambient or annoying.
The testing for power consumption was made with multiple load types and the peak power draw observed is recorded below.
|Configuration||Power Draw from Wall|
The power consumption tests are broken into 3 different loading types.
- Light load – Basic Desktop usage such as email, word and internet browsing
- Medium Load – Flash based games, video playback light gaming workloads
- Heavy load – 3D gaming, benchmarks or heavy rendering
“SiSoftware Sandra (the System Analyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.”
Cinebench is a excellent test showing the processing/rendering capability of a platform.
CrystalDiskMark is a great tool for showing storage speeds in larger sequaential reads/writes along with also small file size readings for good comparison to how the storage will perform in real world operation.
When looking at the small form factor low power PC’s you have to take some things into consideration: target, usage, and power draw.
After considering that you will see that the HD4 simply sips power away from the wall and in even fully loaded conditions didn’t break 25W at the wall which means that the power bill will see no ill effects should this unit see s life of 24/7 on usage.
The slim super small form factor means that you can literally put it on a bookshelf, between books and it will look pretty much at home. The processing power of the Sandy bridge platform is proven and should deliver some excellent capability if you want to run a job and just let this little device crunch away at it.
Now there are some downsides to this and they include things like the fact that the Celeron 847 is capped at a very low clockspeed which means your productivity in heavy tasks will be limited and considering the recent release of the Intel NUC devices it makes the HD4 unit look just a bit more weak in comparison.
The included drive is quite slow and showed some definite delays in the windows environment but if swapped out fro a snappier SSD the experience changes completely.
Overall to fully appreciate the Edge HD4 you must understand it and its usage, for a ultra low power PC which can easily replace most larger off the shelf desktop PCs which are usually slated for just internet surfing anyways but it does so while pulling a fraction of the power from the wall.
Stellar power Efficiency
Proven Sandy Bridge Architecture
whole system built and ready to install
Ultra small size to fit anywhere
Sips less than 25W at full load
Sleek stylish look
Slow Main HDD
Performance is quite limited
Extra expense for OS if you choose Windows