Welcome to Asus’ upgrade to its prior prosumer mini-PC, the VC65R. It’s slightly larger than your everyday NUC style PC, but Asus has upgraded nearly every component within. The result is a powerful media box, but one that comes with a price tag that is hard to swallow.
The interior of the chassis is two litres, and squeezes in a standard Mini-STX motherboard based on the Intel H170 chipset. It’s small enough to fit onto the back of most displays using the included VESA mounting kit, though it is 74.1mm deep, which will push your display further out from the wall.
Asus is really pushing this as a 4K playback media device, and we found it played back 4K video files effortlessly. This is thanks to the Intel 7th Gen Core i5-7400 within, which features hardware acceleration thanks to the Intel HD Graphics 630 iGPU and media acceleration engine (note that this can up or downgraded at the time of purchase). This CPU can handle both VP9 and HEVC 10-bit acceleration, which is what makes it such a potent 4K playback device. Despite having a mere 65W TDP, it’s a quad core chip that can Turbo all the way up to 3.5GHz. Asus claims that under normal operating modes it’ll only use around 19W of power, which probably explains why it’s so quiet, hitting a mere 19dB of fan noise when idling.
It’s possible to install up to three different hard drives inside the chassis, though our version only had a single 256GB Hynix SSD. With one M.2 drive in place, there’s room for two more 2.5 inch drives, or a single 2.5-inch drive and ultra-slim optical drive. Putting a Blu-ray drive in would make this a very capable media box indeed; it’s just a shame there aren’t any Ultra-slim Ultra HD Blu-ray players on the market yet, which would make this an all-rounder 4K playback box. Thanks to the H170 motherboard, the drives can be connected in RAID 0,1,5 or 10 modes, which would make this a rather powerful – albeit expensive – NAS solution.
A mere 8GB of DDR4-2400MHz of memory was included in our review sample, but this can be upgraded to 32GB. Just bear in mind that it’ll have to be of the SO-DIMM form factor due to the small size of the memory slots. Intel’s integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi 8260 chipset is included, which is a dual band solution using 2×2 antennae, which also delivers Bluetooth 4.1.
Up to three displays can be connected simultaneously to the VC66R thanks to the four different video outputs – DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Unfortunately we weren’t able to connect three monitors simultaneously, but it’s highly doubtful the Intel iGPU would be able to run three independent 4K streams. As far as USB options go, there’s plenty here – two USB 3.0 Type-A on the rear, plus another three on the front, though only two of those are USB 3.0, one of which is Type-C.
Overall this is a very versatile mini-PC, able to operate as a standard desktop PC, media player or point of sale system. However, it does so at a very high price point when compared to the likes of Gigabyte’s Brix systems or even Intel’s NUC range, though these don’t include storage or memory. We appreciate just how much Asus has managed to fit into such a small form factor, it’s just a pity that the price is far too high for the hardware within.