Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini Review
Though Viewsonic is a company better known for its displays, it has been known to dabble in the PC market in the past with, for instance, its NextVision M1200 ($2,000 street, ) in 2003. These days, the company is looking to be a more serious contender in the desktop PC arena, with the rollout of its compact Viewsonic VOT120 PC Mini ($349 list), among others unveiled earlier last September and at CES. The VT120 is a nettop (low power consumption desktop) PC designed for business, and it’s one of the smallest desktops I’ve ever reviewed.
The VOT120 is a roughly 5.2 x 1.5 x 4.5 inches (HWD) metal box, making it much smaller than the Apple Mac mini (Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz) ($599 list, ) or even the Zonbu Desktop Mini ($99 direct, ) we looked at back in 2007. You can hide the VOT120 anywhere, but it’s really designed to sit on your desk or be bolted to the back of your LCD monitor with the included VESA mount. Most business class displays and many HDTVs have a VESA standard “mounting interface” on the back so you can put the display on a wall or on an articulated arm bolted to your desk. The VOT120′s VESA mount uses the same space to attach the PC on the back of your monitor. The end result is like having an all-in-one desktop PC, where the “guts” of the PC are easily replaceable. This makes it easy for both frequent upgraders and IT folks who need to swap out components quickly.
The VOT120′s black metal chassis is compact, but it has a lot going on outside: There are four USB ports and an eSATA port. The Blue LED showing Wi-Fi activity can be annoying if it’s in your line of sight, but thankfully the VOT120 is easy to hide. There’s a DVI port for connecting monitors—I would have liked a HDMI port, but the systems simple Intel GMA 950 graphics couldn’t handle HD content anyway. The VOT120 is a drop-in solution, there’s no internal expandability to speak of, and you shouldn’t expect any in a nettop system like this one. Audio in/out, the power button, LEDs for power/hard drive, an Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock port round out the VOT120′s exterior features.
The VOT120 comes with a 160GB notebook-class hard drive and 2GB of memory, a notable addition since early compact nettops came with only 1GB. The 2GB is adequate for office work and the types of tasks you’d expect in a business setting (database entry/searching, clerical tasks, research on the web, QuickBooks). Likewise 160GB is more than enough for a low to mid-ranking office worker who won’t need to store large files like raw videos.
The VOT120 is quiet; the only way to hear noise from the hard drive and the internal fan is to hold the unit up to your ear. The VOT120 doesn’t come with a keyboard or mouse, which is a drawback. I’d recommend using a wireless keyboard with a USB plug-in receiver to minimize the wiring, but it will work with a wired USB keyboard and mouse, too.
The VOT120 is an energy-saving PC; we only measured a 16W draw for the system (using the P3 International Kill-a-Watt meter) while the VOT120 was running CineBench R10 tests. Contrast this with the power-saving Apple Mac mini, which uses 34W on the same task. Sure, the Mac mini can do so much more work, but 16W is sure impressive if you just need a Web browsing or word-processing PC. The VOT120 doesn’t get our GreenTech Approved rating, because it lacks certifications like EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) and Viewsonic doesn’t have a take-back/recycling program for the system.
Befitting a business-oriented system, there is a distinct lack of bloatware on the system. Bloatware are all those unneeded trialware programs and other detritus that clogs up your desktop and start menu. The only “extra” software on the VOT120 is the 90-day trial of Trend Micro Internet Security, which is moderately useful. I’d rather see a truly useful 1-year version, but it’s a god thing that the VOT120′s hard drive is mostly clear.
If you only need the VOT120 for simpler tasks like running Office, using business software, and researching the web, then the performance should be adequate. Unfortunately, because the system is running Windows XP and has integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics, we could only run CineBench R10 on the VOT120. The other benchmark tests require stronger graphics, a Vista/Windows 7 operating system, or both. In any case, the VOT120′s CineBench R10 score of 849 is par for the course for single-core Atom-powered desktops. If you have more demanding users, like those who need dual-core processors for graphics apps or utilities, then steer them clear of the VOT120.
That said, the VOT120 was able to view multimedia files like SD-quality YouTube videos, and the system was able to playback audio in the background while working on an Office app in the foreground. Keep it simple, and the VOT120 user will be fine.
Compared with other nettops, the VOT120 shows some shortcomings: The more multimedia-oriented Polywell Giada ION-100 ($450 Street, ) has better performance, but then the Giada ION-100 is a lot more expensive at $449. The Acer Veriton VN260G-U2802 ($399 list, ) is a more direct competitor, since it’s also a nettop for business users. The Veriton comes with HDMI, but it’s physically larger, comes with bloatware, and only has 1GB of RAM. Our current Editors’ Choice nettop, the more-expensive Lenovo C300 (3012-2DU) ($549 list, ) is a better choice overall, since it has a dual-core Atom processor and built-in screen giving you a one-box solution to finding a cheap desktop for home or for work. The VOT120 has the ability to use any monitor you have lying around, plus the price discounts (should you buy several at once) are sure to make it a valid choice for the cost-savings at your business.