fit-PC3 mini-PC review – impossibly small & remarkably powerful
‘Small and tough’ is probably the best way to describe fit-PC3 mini-PC. But does this miniature computer actually perform? Dmitri Popov is the man to ask…
Pros: An impressive amount of technology and connectivity crammed into an impossibly small package. The fanless design, modularity, and easily accessible innards.
Cons: fit-PC3’s impressive functionality comes at a price. The most basic model will set you back $328 — and that’s without shipping and VAT.
More info: fit-PC3 homepage
Right from the start, it’s apparent that fit-PC3 is not your run of the mill computer. The machine itself is really — and we mean really –small. It’s roughly the size of a portable CD player (remember those?). Wrapped in a die-cast housing, fit-PC3 feels solid and robust, and obviously can withstand harsh treatment. Probably the most impressive feature of fit-PC3 is its fanless design, where the entire housing acts as a giant heat sink. This is, indeed, a marvel of thermal design which ensures that even under heavy load fit-PC3 never gets uncomfortably hot.
Considering its diminutive size, fit-PC3 is not a bad performer. The machine is powered by an AMD G-series Embedded Fusion APU featuring a dual-core 64-bit processor and Radeon HD 6xxxx GPU combo. Our particular model came with an AMD G-T40E 1.0GHz processor and a Radeon HD6250 graphics card, backed up by 4GB of DDR3-1333 RAM. While this is not the most powerful fit-PC3 configuration available, it handled pretty much all the tasks we threw at it with aplomb.
fit-PC3 is available in several configurations. Our model featured 4GB RAM, a Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n card, a 4 USB FACE module (more about this later), and no hard disk. The most basic model — called fit-PC3 Value Barebone — comes with no embellishments at all, so you have to add RAM, a hard disk, a wireless card and other components yourself. Thanks to the well thought-out design, stuffing fit-PC3 with additional components or upgrading existing parts is an absolute breeze. To access the hard disk bay, you need to remove one standard screw. The bottom plate of the housing is held by four screws, and removing the plate gives you access to all the machine’s components.
Another fit-PC3 highlight is its low power consumption. According to official documentation, the fit-PC model based on the T40E APU consumes just 7W when idling and up to 15W under full system load with dual head display. These numbers refer to fit-PC3 running Windows 7, and we would imagine that they will be even lower with Linux.
For such a small device, fit-PC3 sports a mind-boggling array of ports. On the back of the machine, there are two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a dual-head display HDMI connector, a DisplayPort, and a digital 7.1 S/PDIF connector. The port galore doesn’t stop here: a swappable FACE front module boasts four extra USB ports. FACE stands for Function And Connectivity Extension module, and it’s a unique feature of fit-PC3. Currently, only a few FACE modules are available, but CompuLab (the company behind fit-PC3) provides complete documentation and reference designs for creating third-party FACE modules. fit-PC3 is optimized for running Linux, and certain fit-PC3 configurations come with Linux Mint preinstalled.
Since our model didn’t have a hard disk, we added a 64GB SSD and installed Lubuntu 11.10. The installation went without a hitch: all hardware was recognized automatically, and the system duly prompted us to install a proprietary graphics card driver. All in all, fit-PC3 is an impressive little machine, indeed. Its small form factor, modularity, fanless design, and low power consumption make it a perfect machine for a variety of uses.
The only niggle is the price: the most basic Value Barebones model costs 328 US dollars. Add to this shipping, VAT, and the cost of additional components, and you are looking at a rather hefty price tag. That said, its innovative design and remarkably high-end features don’t come cheap, but you do need to decide for yourself whether they justify the price in your specific circumstances.
fit-PC3 has a lot going for it: diminutive size, solid housing, fanless design, and a slew of ports. Built around the AMD G-series processor and the Radeon HD 6xxx-series graphics card combo, the little machine is a decent performer, too. But fit-PC3 is not cheap – the price you pay for having cutting edge PC tech in such a tiny package.