Sapphire EDGE HD3 Mini PC Review

We review many high end, power sapping systems destined to power through a variety of intensive Direct X 11 games at super high resolutions. They also cause a huge dent with your electricity bill. Not everyone wants or needs such a high powered system however and today we have the pleasure to look at the latest iteration of the diminutive Sapphire Edge PC.
This ‘HD3′ version follows the design ethic of the previous versions, aiming for the smallest possible physical footprint while delivering enough processing power to cover a majority of uses.
The Edge HD3 looks very like the older versions of the product … that being super slim with a stylish curved outline. This time around Sapphire have included the latest AMD E450 APU processor. The machine includes a 320GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 memory and built in wireless connectivity and a GB LAN port.
The system can support resolutions up to 1920×1080 via an HDMI interface, ideal for connection to a large television or PC monitor.

Above, a picture of the Sapphire Edge HD3 alongside an ASUS USB self powered BluRay drive. This is a great indication of just how small the Edge HD3 really is!
This system is completely ready to rock, all you need is an operating system disc for initial installation.

The Sapphire Edge HD3 is supplied in a very stylish red and black box, featuring the product in the center highlighted under a spotlight, in a very ‘cinema’ style pose. There are a list of key focus points along the bottom of the box.

The bundle is impressive, with a power cable and adapter. A thin user guide, and an HDMI cable with HDMI to DVI video converter cable. Sapphire also include a driver/software disc with full support for Windows XP, Vista and 7.

The Sapphire EDGE HD3 is an attractively designed product, less than half a litre in volume. The surface is rubberised to help reduce the mess of fingerprints. We are actually glad Sapphire didn’t opt for piano black as it is a nightmare to keep clean.

Upon first view, it is hard to see the power button, but that is intentional. Sapphire have built it alongside an HDD light on the side of the chassis, almost camouflaged into the panel.

On the front of the Edge HD3 is a little cover, which can be pulled away from the main panel. Underneath are two USB 3.0 ports for high speed devices, such as an external storage drive, or USB pen drive. We appreciate how small this cover is, so it was smart of Sapphire to build in a holding clip on one side so it can’t get misplaced.

The rear panel features a VGA port, HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, GB lan connector and the power adapter header. There are also a headphone and microphone jack at one edge. With the supplied HDMI to DVI adapter the Edge HD3 can connect to almost any monitor or television on the market. There is also a Kensington lock to prevent unauthorised removal of the device.

The supplied stand is heavy duty metal and it screws into the bottom side of the main EDGE HD3. The image above right shows the top section of the stand is curved to match the shape of the main chassis.

Above, some images of the product taken from various angles. I really do like the appearance, the slim curved shape is both stylish and practical, as it can fit behind a monitor or television without taking up any room. It is barely any larger than an external USB powered optical drive as the image above, bottom right shows.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit as the owner/source.

When the Edge HD3 is first started, the 320GB drive ships in two partitions, with FREEDOS installed on Partition 1. We are going to install Windows 7 64 bit.

 The first course of action is to wipe the hard drive as shown above.

After the install procedure – we are ready to install the software and drivers from the supplied optical disk.

The optical disc contains all the drivers needed for Windows XP, Vista and 7.

We don’t really value the Windows Experience Index rating, but it can give a quick overview of the expected performance parameters. This system scores 3.9 out of a possible 7.9, held back by the
processor which scores 3.9.

Above, an overview of the CPU taken from CPUz, GPUZ and Catalyst Control Center. The AMD E450 processor is a dual core design running at 1.65 ghz. It consumes a maximum of 18watts of power. The onboard HD6300 graphics has 80 unified shaders, 4 ROPS and is built on the 40nm process. Clock speed is 508mhz and the memory runs at 667mhz via a 128 bit memory interface.

The system wouldn’t validate, however you can view the link here.
The Edge HD3 is designed as a minimal cost, low power device for use as a media center or ‘general’ workhorse in an office or home environment. We will see how the system slots in against a variety of mobile systems, including the Zotac Zbox Nano AD10, which featured the AMD Zacate E350 APU.
Comparison Systems (for specific synthetic test compares):
Intel Core i5 2500k desktop processor.
Intel Core i3 2105 desktop processor.
AMD A8-3870K.
Additional compares with mobile Intel processors:
AlienWare M18X (featuring Core i7 2960XM Extreme Edition).
MSI GT780DXR (feature Core i7 2630QM).
Dell XPS 14z (featuring Core i7 2640M processor).
MSI CX640 (featuring Core i5 2410M).
Dell laptop (featuring Atom D525 processor).
Zotac ZBox Nano AD10 (featuring AMD Zacate E350 APU)
PCMark 7
Cinebench 11.5 64 bit
FRAPS Professional
Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra 11
Cyberlink MediaEspresso
HQV Benchmark V2
Resident Evil 5
Left4Dead 2
Technical Monitoring and Test Equipment:
Asus BluRay Drive
Lacie 730 Monitor (Image Quality testing)
Thermal Diodes
Raytek Laser Temp Gun 3i LSRC/MT4 Mini Temp
Extech digital sound level meter & SkyTronic DSL 2 Digital Sound Level Meter
Calibrated Power Meter
Nikon D3X with R1C1 Kit (4 flashes), Nikon 24-70MM lens.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, 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. Sandra is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
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.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit

The E450 is no powerhouse, although it is an improvement over the E350 which we tested previously.
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.

Overall performance is rather weak all round, much as we would expect from a product in this category.
CINEBENCH R11.5 is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.

These processors are not designed for 3D rendering, and the E450 inside the EDGE HD3 is slightly faster than the E350 in the Zotac Nano AD10.
Crystalmark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using V3.0 x64.

The EDGE HD3 uses a slow Samsung HM321HI 2.5 inch drive which is a 5,400 rpm drive with a 8MB cache. The results above confirm our findings that the unit can be sluggish at times, as the drive spools data between memory and the platter. It is a shame Sapphire didn’t use a higher speed 7,200 rpm unit as the results would improve from 78 MB/s to around 100 MB/s.
The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

Hard drive performance is quite poor via the ATTO benchmark, showing heavy transfer rate fluctuation between various file sizes. Peak speeds are around 80 MB/s which would mirror the CrystalDiskMark results above.
Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 is one of the finest solutions for the BluRay experience on Windows and we found this software to work perfectly with this chipset. We tested with the new extended Bluray Disc of Lord Of The Rings.

BluRay playback performance is great, only demanding 13 percent CPU time with hardware acceleration enabled. This is around 5 percent better than the Atom D525 machine.
The Matroska Media container is a very popular, open standard Multimedia container which is usually found as .MKV files. It is a very popular format in enthusiast circles and can be played directly in Windows Media Player with suitable codecs installed. We use the Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP).
We ripped our BluRay disc of Sniper Reloaded to 1080P MKV and use Windows Media Player to playback the file.

The Sapphire EDGE HD3 system averaged around 40 percent CPU time, which leaves plenty of CPU cycles for other tasks.
Many people using this system will be enjoying Flash related content so we feel it is important to test with some of the more demanding material available freely online. Full hardware acceleration is enabled.

Flash HD performance is very impressive, demanding only 17 percent CPU time.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 3.3GB 720p MKV file (2h:12mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version which has been optimised for Sandybridge processors.

Hardware acceleration is disabled.

The Sapphire EDGE HD3 takes an hour to complete the encoding task, or around double real time. The E350 system takes around 6 minutes longer, followed by the D525 system at 1 hour and 11 minutes. The AMD A8-3870K at reference clock speeds by comparison only takes 18 minutes to complete the same task. The ultra high end Core i7 3960K takes around 8 minutes for the same task.
HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.
There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.
This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.
Read our initial analysis over here

Sapphire Edge HD3 Mini PC
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5:5 FPS Animation
6:4 12 FPS Animation
8:7 8 FPS Animation
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
Random Noise: Sailboat
Random Noise: Flower
Random Noise: Sunrise
Random Noise: Harbour Night
Scrolling Text
Roller Coaster
Ferris Wheel
Bridge Traffic
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
Roller Coaster
Ferris Wheel
Bridge Traffic
Luminance Frequency Bands
Chrominance Frequency Bands
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
Theme Park
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
Skin Tones
Total 196
We were pleasantly surprised to see a score of 196 points, which is a match for the leading discrete AMD solutions on the market today. This figure translates to class leading HD image quality with the right monitor or television.
Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.

With the settings all cranked down at 720p in Direct X 9 mode, the system still struggles to maintain playable frame rates.
Left 4 Dead 2 is a cooperative first-person shooter video game. It is the sequel to Valve Corporation’s award-winning Left 4 Dead. The game launched on November 17, 2009, for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 in the United States and November 20 in Europe; in 2010, Left 4 Dead 2 was made available to the Steam client for Mac OS X. It builds upon the cooperatively-focused gameplay of the original and uses Valve’s proprietary Source engine, the same game engine used in Left 4 Dead. The game made its world premiere at E3 2009 with a trailer during the Microsoft press event.

We configured Left4Dead with modest settings at 720p resolution. (Vertical sync was disabled for the test).

Performance was rather good at these settings, with a few frame rate drops below the sweet spot of 25. Generally the game was playable at these settings with some minor hitching in a few environmental locations.
We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the chassis and 4 foot from the ground with our Extech digital sound level meter to mirror a real world situation.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet take off/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum

The Sapphire EDGE HD3 system is almost silent, rising to a modest 32.7 dBa when gaming. Generally it hovers around 30 dBa, such as when watching a BluRay movie. In ‘real world’ terms this means that the system will be very difficult to hear, even in a quiet bedroom environment.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.
Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by running Furmark and Cinebench together. Room ambient temperatures were 23c.
We measured results with CPUID Hardware Monitor software.

Considering the diminutive chassis these temperatures are very impressive. Never reaching a ‘critical’ zone, even when loaded with Cinebench R11.5 64 bit for over 30 minutes.

While the system can be used horizontally, the airflow in a vertical position helps to maintain the temperatures. The chassis sucks in cool air from the bottom of the EDGE HD3, over the components inside, with warm air being expelled out the top of the unit.
To test power consumption today we are using a calibrated energy meter. We loaded the system with Cinebench and measured results at idle and load.

The EDGE HD3 system has a power demand between 17 watts and 29 watts, depending on the task at hand.

How much power does The EDGE HD3 require when playing back a BluRay disc?
Above, just below 25 watts when watching the AVATAR BluRay disc. It is worth bearing in mind that the EDGE HD3 is also powering the external self powered USB ASUS Bluray drive for playback. It is easily one of the most efficient systems we have tested on Kitguru since we opened. The only system that demands lower power when playing back HD content is the AC RYAN VEOLO, but it isn’t a ‘full PC’, just an online media player/entertainment center powered by Google Android.
I review a wide range of high powered components every month and it is always refreshing when I get the opportunity to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Sapphire EDGE HD3 Mini PC really is an intriguing system, offering enough processing power to play back 1080p media content and to handle general tasks, such as Microsoft Office, net browsing and even light Photoshop work.
Many of the systems in our offices demand around 200-300 watts of power, meaning the Edge HD3 is ten times more efficient. If you were able to replace ten to twenty ‘office’ systems in an business with Sapphire EDGE HD3′s then the power savings over the course of a year would certainly rack up. In this tough economic climate this should not be underestimated.
The EDGE HD3 has full support for Windows XP, Vista and 7, and you would be able to use it with a server based operating system for home, or small office duties. I tasked the machine throughout the last week and found it was surprisingly capable in a variety of areas. It is very appealing to know that the system requires less than 20 watts when idle, and therefore won’t add a huge amount to your electricity bill every quarter, even if you left it on all day, seven days a week.
By comparison a high end gaming system in our office, with an overclocked Core i7 3960X EE and two GTX590′s consumes over 900 watts of power and I wouldn’t want to be leaving this on 24/7, thats for sure. Want a reality check? The EDGE HD3 consumes 45 times less power under full load.
It goes without saying that the EDGE HD3 is not suited to heavy tasks. 3D rendering, and video encoding are not a forte of the low power design. It might seem obvious, but using applications such as 3D Studio Max with a E450 APU are a painful experience. This is compounded by the very poor performance from the 2.5 inch 5,400 rpm Samsung HM321HI drive. If so desired the system could always be taken apart to accommodate a Solid State Drive. The overall cost of ownership will rise significantly however.
This system absolutely excels as a high definition media device, not only because of the low power demand at the socket, but thanks to the HD6300 graphics and the latest drivers, the image quality is class leading, as detailed in our HQV Benchmark testing earlier in the review.
Sapphire claim that the product will be released shortly at around £300 inc vat in the United Kingdom. At this price it is very hard to fault, although be aware you need to factor in the cost of the Windows Operating System if you don’t already own a copy.
  • Almost silent.
  • Tiny power drain at the socket.
  • decent performance for a majority of tasks.
  • Looks great.
  • It really is small!
  • very slow hard drive installed.
  • not ideal for more serious duties, such as 3D rendering or video encoding.
  • Need a copy of Windows XP, Vista or 7 to get it up and running.
බලු කුක්කා නම් කියන්නේ: A fantastic, low power system with a multitude of uses, especially as a 24/7 ‘always on’ device.
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