ViewSonic – PC mini 132 review

Mini PC with Atom and ION
Photo of ViewSonic – PC mini 132
£365

The ViewSonic PC mini 132 measures a mere 190 x 135 x 24mm and, thanks to the wireless aerial that sticks out of the top, it bears a striking resemblance to a wireless router. In fact a Windows 7 PC has been packed into the tiny casing, which is an impressive feat.

At the heart of the matter we have a dual core Intel Atom 330 processor that runs at 1.6GHz and uses Hyper Threading to present four virtual cores in Windows Task Manager. We are used to seeing Atom paired with Intel’s own rather antique 945G chipset, which has graphics that are fairly hopeless when it comes to HD movie playback. Thankfully the ViewSonic PC mini 132 uses the more effective nVidia ION chipset which includes a GeForce 9300 graphics core. This piece of silicon has the capability to run the Aero graphics that are part of the 32-bit Windows 7 Home Premium Operating System and also has full support for HD movie decoding without stressing the Atom CPU.

On the front of the ViewSonic there are two USB 2.0 ports, headphone jacks and a multi-format card reader and on the rear there are four USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, DVI-I & HDMI graphics outputs and S/PDIF digital audio. That gives plenty of scope for connecting the PC mini 132 to your TV, perhaps using the supplied stand that holds the PC upright with the wireless antenna pointing upwards.

Alternatively, you can use the supplied VESA mounting frame to install the PC on the rear of your TFT display. Power is supplied by an external 65W adapter that is much smaller than a typical laptop power brick.

One thing that we strongly recommend is that you connect some speakers or use headphones as the integrated, mono, one Watt speaker is terribly weedy.

When it comes to watching movies there is an obvious problem as the tiny ViewSonic doesn’t include an optical drive. If you splash out an extra £59 for the optional ViewSonic DVD-RW drive (model VDD100) you can play DVDs but won’t have the ability to play Blu-ray movies. Realistically you’ll either watch movies that are stored as digital files on the 320GB hard drive or you’ll stream movies across your home network using either the Atheros 802.11n wireless or Gigabit Ethernet network connection.

The hardware inside the PC mini 132 includes 2GB of DDR2-800MHz memory and the result is a surprisingly capable PC and that’s despite the heavy burden of Windows 7. Added to that we like the look of the hardware as it is neat and tidy and, dare we say it, cute.

The tiny size of the ViewSonic and the fact that it can be mounted on the back of a TFT display means it is highly portable and the use of 802.11n wireless increases your options for a tidy installation. We found the ViewSonic was reasonably quiet in use and, while we could hear the fan speed up when the system was under load, the sound level did not become annoying.

Company: ViewSonic

Contact: 020 7921 2200


Verdict
You need to factor in the cost of a mouse, keyboard and TFT display when you're considering the price of the ViewSonic PC mini 132, but no matter how you cut it the ViewSonic represents good value for money. The Atom processor is relatively slow but it combines with Nvidia ION to deliver competent performance in a package that is both cool and quiet.