Giada i53 Mini PC review

The Giada i53 Mini PC is a decent compact desktop for users looking to save space, but its somewhat sluggish performance and dearth of available ports dampen its appeal considerably.
Photo of Giada i53 Mini PC

Compact desktop PCs offer an attractive option for users who want to save space without necessarily compromising performance. As the first Windows 8-equipped small-form-factor PC we’ve reviewed, the Giada i53 Mini PC ($680 direct, $780 as tested) is something of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it’s a decent choice for a media center since it comes with a remote and can easily be hidden behind a TV. On the negative side, though, it offers a limited amount of port options and, more importantly, performs somewhat sluggishly compared to its peers. Overall, it’s a decent system, but better choices in the same price range are worth exploring, especially for users who aren’t too concerned with saving space.

Design and Features
Even by mini desktop standards, the i53 Mini PC is remarkably tiny. When stood upright on its detachable plastic stand, it measures a minute 7.6 by 1 by 6.1 inches (HWD), making it even smaller than the already tiny Polywell Poly i1000A-3770T, whose dimensions of 8.2 by 2.9 by 7.9 inches (HWD) had folks in the Labs confusing it for a router on numerous occasions. With roughly the same dimensions as a slim hardcover book, the i53 Mini PC is almost as small and light as its included remote, making it one of the few desktop PCs that you could actually misplace. Like the rest of its class, the i53 Mini PC can attribute its small size to the lack of an internal optical drive. That said, as one of the smallest systems that we’ve come across, it’s an impressive feat of engineering. Like most mini desktop PCs, the i53 Mini PC offers very little room to accommodate any internal upgrades. Its memory, however, can be upgraded to a maximum of 8GB; since its 4GB of RAM is distributed in 2GB memory modules that occupy both of the motherboard’s DIMM sockets, upgrading to the maximum 8GB will necessitate discarding some of the included memory.

The i53 Mini PC’s sleek black plastic chassis comes in a glossy finish and sports a tastefully low-key black and white design on its sides that’s complemented by a thin strip of silver on the front. Overall, it bears a subdued aesthetic, though one not quite as minimalist as that of the all-black Poly i1000A-3770T or the aluminum unibody found on the Apple Mac mini (Late 2012).

Port options on the i53 Mini PC are limited. A hinged door on the top of the system pops open to reveal the i53 Mini PC’s sole USB 3.0 port, a card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro), and headphone and microphone jacks. The rear of the system, meanwhile, houses four USB 2.0 ports, a VGA output, an HDMI output, and an Ethernet jack. Given the scant amount of available real estate on the i53 Mini PC’s chassis, it didn’t come as a major surprise that the port options were so slim. That said, users who shuffle through multiple peripherals and don’t mind a slightly larger system would be better served by either the Poly i1000A-3770T, which sports five USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA port, or the Mac mini (Late 2012), which has three USB 3.0 ports as well as a FireWire 800 port and a Thunderbolt port. The i53 Mini PC also features integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

Like the Polywell i2303 i5-2467M as well as the Poly i1000A-3770T and the Apple Mac mini, the i53 Mini PC doesn’t come with a keyboard or a mouse. However, as mentioned earlier, it does come with a remote that is useful for PowerPoint presentations or for anyone who intends to utilize the i53 Mini PC as a media center. That said, a remote is hardly a substitute for a keyboard and mouse, and unless you already own them, you’ll have to purchase them separately from the system.

The i53 Mini PC’s 128GB solid state drive (SSD) comes with no preloaded software, so users can dive right into Windows 8 Professional right out of the box rather than having to uninstall bloatware or trialware. The Mini PC i53 also features Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which provides a basic level of encryption that small- to medium-sized businesses may find useful. The Mini PC i53 is covered by a two-year warranty.

Performance

Armed with a 1.70GHz Intel Core i5-3317U mobile CPU and 4GB RAM, the i53 Mini PC churned out semi-respectable numbers on our benchmark tests. Its PCMark 7 score of 4,337 points easily trumped the Apple Mac mini (Thunderbolt) (1,936 points) but fell short of the class-leading Polywell Poly i1000A-3770T (5,412 points). Likewise, although its Cinebench R11.5 score of 2.17 points surpassed that of the Poly i2303-2467M (1.94 points), it was nonetheless handily trumped by its peers, including the Apple Mac mini (Thunderbolt) (2.69 points) and, by an even wider margin, the Apple Mac mini (5.93 points) as well as the Poly i1000A-3770T (6.30 points). The i53 Mini PC’s multimedia performance, meanwhile, fared relatively poorly compared to its peers. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 1 minute 29 seconds, which was nearly three times longer than the Apple Mac mini (37 seconds). The same goes for its performance in our Photoshop CS6 test (5 minutes 21 seconds), which simply couldn’t come anywhere near the Apple Mac mini (4:15).

Like the Apple Mac mini and the Poly i1000A-3770T, the i53 Mini PC sports an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, so don’t expect to cross the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier in high-end games. Its performance in our Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tests (14 frames per second with medium-quality settings in 1,366-by-768 resolution; 5fps with maximum-quality in 1,920-by-1,080 resolution) confirms this notion. Likewise, although its frame rate in our Heaven benchmark tests (10fps with medium-quality settings in 1,366-by-768 resolution; 3fps with maximum-quality in 1,920-by-1,080 resolution) fell short of the Apple Mac mini (19fps and 12fps, respectively), both still failed to yield anything resembling playability. The i53 Mini PC’s score on our 3DMark11 benchmark test (979 points in Entry-level settings), meanwhile, landed at the bottom of the pile, well behind the Poly i1000A-3770T (1,200 points) and the Apple Mac mini (Thunderbolt) (1,542 points).

The Giada i53 Mini PC is a decent system for users tight on space looking to perform basic computing tasks or who are interested in a system that can also double as a media center. However, better choices in the same price range are worth exploring, most notably our two Editors’ Choices: for the Windows user, the Polywell Poly i1000A-3770T and, for the Mac user, the Apple Mac mini, both of which offer faster performance as well a slew of additional ports. As it stands, the i53 Mini PC’s shortcomings are hardly unforgivable but are also easily avoidable.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Giada i53 Mini PC

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Giada i53 Mini PC with several other desktops side by side.

More desktop reviews:

Specifications
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8 Profesional
RAM 4 GB
Processor Family Intel Core i5
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 128 SSD GB
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4000

Verdict
The Giada i53 Mini PC is a decent compact desktop for users looking to save space, but its somewhat sluggish performance and dearth of available ports dampen its appeal considerably.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc