Known mostly for its monitor and projector lines, ViewSonic has recently rolled out a new line of Mini PCs (AKA "Nettops") and All-in-Ones. Today, we'll take a look at two new products from the company; the VOT125 Mini PC and the VX2739wm LCD monitor.
This particular combo boasts the ability to physically integrate with one another using the VESA mounting standard. The computer basically piggybacks on the rear of the monitor (more on that later).
Our VOT125 sample sports an Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo SU7300 (Atom) processor running at 1.3GHz per core, two gigs of DDR2 memory, a 250GB SATA 5400RPM HDD and Intel Mobile 4-Series Express graphics, all mounted on a tiny Intel GS45-based mobo-essentially a netbook in a micro-desktop form factor. The SU3700 represents the fasted CPU available for this machine, with other "Ultra-Low Voltage" options including a Celeron 743, Celeron SU2300 and Pentium SU4100.
The system is powered by a 19V DC 65W laptop-style power adaptor and comes standard with the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. The Windows Experience Index rates this configuration at 3.2 on a not-at-all-confusing scale of 7.9.
Let's move onward and check out the VOT125 and VX2739wm in closer detail.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Processor: Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo SU7300
Motherboard: Intel GS45-based with 82801IM Southbridge
Memory: 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz
Graphics Card: Intel Mobile 4-Series Express, Rev. 7
Power Supply: 19V DC, 65W adapter with 3-pin AC plug
Hard Disk (Boot): Hitachi 250GB 5400RPM SATA
Hard Disk (Storage): n/a
Optical Disk 1: n/a
Optical Disk 2: n/a
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32-Bit
Amazon.com carries the VOT125 in this configuration for $661.95 with free shipping at the time of writing. It's also available through ViewSonic's online store for $709.00 at this time.
Size/Resolution: 27"/ 1920x1080 (HD)
Price: $349.99USD (Amazon.com)
Warranty: 3 years
Pros: Excellent img quality and color, big screen, USB hub, Full 1080p
Cons: Speakers, "Eco-mode" buried in menus
Special Features: 1ms response time, Eco-Mode, VESA mounting, DVI, HDMI, & VGA, USB hub, audio out, "Pixel Performance" warranty guards against dead pixels.
The VX2739wm monitor can be had for $349.00 with free shipping from Amazon.com at the time of writing. ViewSonic's online store lists it at $474.00 at this time (!).
You can find additional ViewSonic retailers here. All prices listed as of July 15, 2010.
A Closer Look at the VOT125 and VX2739wm
The physical dimensions of the VOT125 are 1.5" x 5.11" x 4.5" (39mm x 130mm x 115mm), making it roughly the size of four stacked CD jewel cases. I/O on the machine consists of 4xUSB 2.0 (1 rear), DVI out, HDMI out, Gigabit Ethernet, SD-MMC-MS combo card reader, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, mic jack and headphone jack. As you will see from the various pictures below, there is no optical drive.
ViewSonic provides a 1-year limited warranty with the VOT125.
ViewSonic refers to the VX2739wm as the "World's First 27-inch 1ms Monitor" in its product literature. The monitor's 1080p, 16:9 panel features a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, HDMI, DVI and VGA inputs for video, as well as a 4-port USB hub, an audio-in jack and (interestingly) an audio-out jack. According to ViewSonic, when used in "Eco-mode," the monitor uses 35% less energy than in standard mode.
ViewSonic warrantees the VX2739wm for 3 years.
Set-Up & Piggybacking
Setting It Up
ViewSonic packs the VOT125 in form-fitting foam. Underneath the documentation and optical media we find the actual unit, along with its power supply. The next layer down holds the mounting hardware to affix the VOT125 to the rear of the monitor (or, ostensibly, any VESA-compatible monitor).
This is where we ran into our first problem. Namely, the screws included with the mounting hardware aren't long enough to attach the bracket to the monitor. ViewSonic does sell the computer and monitor separately. However, the product webpage touts the VOT125's ability to attach to a VESA-compliant monitor using the included hardware, so we feel it's fair to point out that it fails in this regard.
After a quick trip to the hardware store, we were back in business. After connecting all the respective cables to the computer and monitor, we tried to tame the spaghetti a bit using twist-ties to take up the slack, but it still looked a bit messy. The monitor comes with a USB cable to link one of the computer's USB ports to the USB ports on the monitor, in effect turning the monitor into a USB hub. However, this is the only feature that puts the computer's I/O within convenient reach of the user. We'd really like to see ViewSonic make the integration between computer and monitor a bit more elegant. Perhaps a way to share power between the two components in order to eliminate one of the power cords? Or even just a shorter DVI cable.
When mounted, the location of the computer's (quite small) power button towards the bottom of the unit makes for an awkward reach, especially if the audio jacks or front USB ports have any cables sticking out from them. The same goes for the card reader. We'd much prefer to access such functions while seated in front of the monitor.
The computer's physical dimensions rule out the inclusion of an internal optical drive, which is fine-going this small requires some compromise. However, ViewSonic supplies the System Recovery software, User Guide and Drivers on CD-ROMs. Granted, external optical drives are cheap and readily available, and you'll need one anyway if you plan to rip any music to the computer, but we'd really prefer that ViewSonic supply these things on a memory card or thumb drive, just so everything works together right out of the box.
The package does also include a stand for the computer, should you choose to leave it freestanding.
The system booted up on the first try without any issues and with minimal bloatware. The only demo products on the desktop were a Microsoft Office 60-day trial and a Trend Micro 30-day anti-virus trial.
Audio & Video Encoding Performance
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the VOT125's hood:
We'll be running the ViewSonic VOT125 through the standard net-top test regime here at TweakTown, which includes iTunes Encoding and Media Transcoding.
Please note that no 3DMark or game tests are included for our net-top reviews since they are not powerful enough to run the graphics-intensive tests. All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance.
Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test we took the White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The VOT125 took 197 seconds to complete this task, which is a bit slower than it takes on many of the laptops we've tested, but is far faster than the majority of netbooks and net-tops we've previously reviewed.
For the movie-encoding test, we took the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV (1080p HD) video with six-channel audio and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two-channel audio and an MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The VOT125 took 716 seconds to complete this task and the same comparisons hold true with the iTunes encoding test.
We found the VOT125 perfectly capable of handling nearly any general/office computing task we asked of it. Though the machine is by no means a multimedia powerhouse, it performed admirably when playing music in iTunes or streaming Pandora. Likewise, it handled video clips on YouTube and Hulu without any glitches.
However, despite the monitor's "SRS Premium Sound" technology, we had a far more pleasurable listening and viewing experience when using headphones, rather than using the harsh, trebly built-in speakers.
The machine did sometimes have difficulty playing back high-def content, depending on the size of the media file and if any other applications were running.
The VX2739wm monitor has an "ECO-mode" that, according to ViewSonic, lowers its energy consumption by as much as 30%, the practical effect of which is a significantly dimmer picture. While this setting was fine in a medium- to low-light situation, we much preferred a brighter image when using the monitor during the daytime.
The VOT125 will run Warcraft, although just barely and only on the lowest graphics settings. So as far as gaming goes, you'd better like the casual variety.
Both the computer and the monitor have HDMI connectivity, so we wanted to test that out. Connecting the two with a HDMI cable produced a slightly overscanned image (i.e. the Windows desktop image didn't fit completely on the screen. It lost a bit around the edges, almost completely obscuring the Start button and system tray).
Using the Intel Graphics and Media control panel, we bumped the resolution down from 1920x1080 to 1680x1050 and the image fit the dimensions of the screen. This was not the case when using the DVI connection. While this isn't a huge loss of resolution, it did result in the image having a somewhat squashed appearance and also caused text to appear blurry in some places.
Since the monitor is 1080p capable, it's unfortunate that we couldn't get that resolution from the VOT125 using the HDMI connection. We connected the monitor via HDMI to both a PlayStation3 as well as a gaming-PC and had no problems with 1920x1080 resolution.
Gaming on this monitor was a real pleasure, by the way. The image is as crisp as any we've ever seen and motion blur was negligible. Could we tell the difference between 1ms response time and 2ms? - Not really. But that doesn't take away from the fact that the VX2739wm makes a great gaming monitor. It did great with Blu-ray movies, as well.
Trying to isolate the scaling issue, we connected the VOT125 via HDMI to a 50" Plasma TV. We experienced the same overscan problem at 1920x1080, but this time the 1680x1050 option was grayed out. Furthermore, selecting some of the available lower-resolution options caused the VOT125 to crash. After much fiddling, including trying to fix the overscan problem with the TV's image scaler, we were never able to get a proper aspect ratio.
While we have nothing but good things to say about the VX2739wm monitor (apart from lackluster sound quality), the VOT125 represents more of a mixed bag. While we found the computer perfectly capable when it came to light-to-moderate tasks (e.g. word processing, e-mail, converting music files), some technical flaws and design issues kept the system from living up to its full potential. Although not intended as a multimedia PC, we have to take issue with the HDMI problems we experienced.
If ViewSonic wants to include a HDMI connection on this system, we feel it should work just as well as the DVI connection. Furthermore, since the only audio output other than the HDMI connection is a headphone jack, the HDMI route represents the only way to pass multi-channel audio to an external decoder.
We'd also like to see a bit more elegant physical integration between the computer and monitor. No real cable management exists and the supplied screws were inadequate for mounting. While the piggybacked mini-PC and monitor configuration would be ideal for a restaurant or retail point-of-sale application, or any situation where space is limited, the mess of wires and inconvenient access to the power button and memory card slot limit its practicality. We'd also prefer that the restore software, user guide and driver media come in a format that doesn't require additional hardware to use.
A word about value. On the product page for the VX2739wm, ViewSonic suggests pairing the monitor with a ViewSonic PC or a Mac Mini. Granted, we don't have a Mac Mini on-hand to do a side-by-side shoot-out, but since ViewSonic brought it up, let's compare specs.
The base model Mac Mini and the VOT125 come with two gigs of DDR3 RAM. However, with the Mac Mini, you also get a faster processor (2.4GHz Core 2 Duo vs. 1.3GHz Mobile Core 2 Duo), a bigger and faster hard drive (320GB 7200rpm vs. 250GB 5400rpm), a "SuperDrive" 8x DVD burner and NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics, which is a far more robust graphics solution compared to the Intel Mobile 4-Series Express on the VOT125. With the Mac Mini's base price of $699, compared to the VOT125's price of $709 through ViewSonic's online store, the Mac comes out on top in the bang-for-the-buck category.
That's not to say the VOT125 is a bad machine-it's not. However, considering the price-to-features ratio, we wonder how many people will be willing to pay such a premium for "Ultra Low Voltage" hardware, especially since, in practical terms, energy efficiency means less for a desktop PC than a laptop since it doesn't run on a battery. These facts, combined with the technical and design issues we've enumerated above, means the VOT125 fails to fully live up to expectations.
However, we couldn't be happier with the performance of the VX2739wm monitor. It delivered in spades and we highly recommend it.
VOT125 PC Mini
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