The ASUS GR8 has been out for quite some time now. It was ASUS first attempt at trying out something bold and new, a gaming console PC. Although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, ASUS, also a laptop manufacturer, has taken the Core i7 laptop processor and hardware, housing them in a casing similar sized to an game console. This small form factor was made possible because it doesn't need to include a battery, screen or touchpad. The ASUS GR8 uses an external power brick.
Starting off with the specifications, the ASUS GR8 is powered by a Core i7 4510U processor and GeForce 750Ti graphics. This was a good move by ASUS to not use a mobile GPU. The GTX 750Ti performs better than most mobile GPUs and is slightly better than the GTX 860M. It comes with 8GB of 1600MHZ DDR3 RAM and a 1TB 7200RPM HDD. ROG GR8 aims to perform well at PC gaming at maximum resolution of 1080P without any thought of 4K or multi-monitor, making it targeted at that large Full HD TV in your living room.
Design and Features
The side of the ASUS GR8 sports the Republic of Gamers logo.
Over at the front, the GR8 shows off its console-esque with audio/mic jacks and a pair of USB 2.0 ports on the front, along with the power and Miracast buttons so the GR8 can act as a receiver for media that you stream from your Smartphone or tablet to your TV. Only one of the USB 2.0 ports at the front supports USB Charger function.
The rear of the GR8 carries four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort, optical S/PDIF and an array of audio jacks. ASUS played it smart by making all of the USB ports at the back USB 3.0 ports but it would have been nice if we could see some USB 3.0 ports in the front too. Optical S/PDIF would be useful when connected with your home theatre system for a good surround sound living room entertainment experience.
Network connections are well handled either by Intel Gigabit with GameFirst III traffic shaping or Realtek 802.11ac and Bluetooth. ASUS also added a few neat ROG features such as USB Charger Plus (which works even when the system is asleep or off), SupremeFX audio and a headphone amp. They are still pretty useful features.
Performance and Benchmarks
Performance is pretty decent on this build as what you've expect from an i7 and a GTX 750Ti.
The GR8 still manages to show off decent frames while games still looking good at 1080P. The GTX 750Ti desktop GPU clearly shines here as a good step taken by ASUS rather than putting in a mobile GPU.
Disassembling the ASUS GR8 is fairly easy. The side panel slides off easily, revealing the 2.5" bay cover and the RAM cover.
ASUS officially allows you to add another 2.5" drive with ease with support of up to 1TB on a single slot. I would recommend adding another SSD and making that your primary OS boot drive for a good computing and game loading experience.
The RAM cover on the other hand comes off easily by just peeling the cover open. The ASUS GR8 is capable of being upgraded in DDR3L RAMs up to 16GB.
We digged in further, removing more screws on the panel we had in front of us, it revealed the back of the board. Here, we saw the MIRACast card, the usual DDR3L RAM slots and drive slot seen earlier and to my surprise, a USB port.
Turn it around and we have the GTX 750Ti GPU heatsink and copper pipes from the processor. From the design, we could judge that the cooling is focused primarily on the GPU than the CPU since its a mobile processor which also means less heat dissipation.
We have the 1TB 7200RPM drive here that performs decently similarly to desktop grade hard drives. The maximum stated for drive upgrades per slot is 1TB so you're not going to be replacing this any time soon unless you plan to replace it with a SSD.
So the only things you could upgrade in the ASUS GR8 is the RAMs and the drives. The GTX 750Ti being embedded into the motherboard is one of the steps taken in order to keep it small factor. Upgradability is limited similarly to a laptop.
Cooling is a pretty important topic when it comes to small form factor PCs. Cool air is drawn in from the bottom and vented to the top so laying the GR8 on its angled side isn’t recommended.
ASUS has done an amazing job with the cooling of the ASUS GR8 as the CPU idles at 36 degrees and the GPU at 29 degrees. Under load the CPU temp rises to 60 degrees then drops back to 50 degrees as the cooling fan automatically increases in speed. It is clear that the cooling system can easily handle either the CPU or GPU when either one gets hot and only has to work a little harder when both CPU and GPU are pushed to the limit. The processor heat dissipation isn't much so the cooling is more focused on the GPU than the CPU itself.
The GR8 is good system with balanced aspects. It should be able to play most titles at Full HD BUT with some tweaks on the graphic settings. CPU intensive games like Grand Theft Auto V will definitely put a load on a mobile CPU. ASUS has kept the specification down to a certain level with the tempting price, providing us with a small and quiet system. The GTX 750Ti was a good move by ASUS instead of a mobile GPU but I'm afraid it wouldn't last for long especially with all the top titles being released this year.
Its ability to run most games at decent image quality is still a steal. Turning on Steam Big Picture Mode on the ASUS GR8 really gave a console feel too. Though an SSD would have been preferred for better booting performance on a mobile CPU. I noticed it being a little sluggish on the boot time but I guess that was due to the mobile processor. It would definitely compete with the consoles in your living room but with it being priced twice as much as a PS4 or Xbox One, it wouldn't make much sense being named a console killer then. There will be a ASUS GR8S SteamOS version coming up soon with Intel® Core™ i7/i5 processors and NVIDIA® GeForce® 9-series graphics. While exact details hasn't been released, I'd recommend holding on to your seats for that. SteamOS can be less preferred than Windows but who knows, we might be getting a Windows version too.
- Small form factor.
- Sleek and cool design
- Good temperatures and runs quietly
- Intel Core i7 doing a good job despite having only two cores.
- ASUS decided to use a desktop GPU than a mobile GPU
- Has useful features ported from ASUS ROG platform
- GTX 750Ti wouldn't last long enough for upcoming titles
- ASUS GR8S releasing soon with 900-series graphics card
- No SSD to compensate for mobile CPU computing performance