Perhaps you’ve heard about our concept for the Velcro PC: a computer so small, light, and unobtrusive that you could literally affix it to the back of your HDTV.
That concept might have finally arrived in Giada’s i50 PC. Similar to the original Giada Ion-100, the i50 is a serious step up over the original box.
The most noticeable upgrade is in the brains department: The original Ion-100 sported an Nvidia Ion 2 chip coupled with a 1.3GHz Atom 330; this new model features a 1.2GHz Core i5-430UM processor. It’s not wickedly fast, mind you, but despite its 100MHz lower clock, it’s several times faster than the weak-sauce Atom 330 part.
The Giada i50 sports a Core i5 CPU and is small enough to be hidden behind your HDTV.
In graphics performance, however, the Arrandale-based Core i5 falls short. The older Giada with its Ion 2 walks all over the i50 in anything graphics-related. In fact, the Giada is the slowest we’ve ever seen in an HTPC. Some of that is the fault of the older graphics core in the Core i5, and some is the fault of the single-channel DDR3 RAM running at a leisurely 800MHz. For integrated-graphics folks, system RAM speed matters.
But does gaming performance really matter in a box that’s meant to be an HTPC machine? We don’t believe so. The Giada is more likely going to be used to stream content from various websites. The original Giada, despite its faster 3D performance, wasn’t up to that task given its slow Atom chip. The Giada i50 is. We had no issues playing HD video from YouTube, Vimeo, or Netflix. Granted, much of Atom’s performance issues have been mitigated by Adobe’s addition of GPU acceleration to Flash, but unoptimized players such as QuickTime will still trip up Atom systems. We expected the i50 to sail through our QuickTime test—playing a 1080p Iron Man 2 trailer from the hard drive—but were surprised that the 1.2GHz Core i5 didn’t have the chops for it. Is it the machine's fault or Apple’s, though? The trailer played perfectly fine from Windows Media Player and also from the VideoLAN player. We were originally prepared to hold it against the Giada but ultimately decided that it’s probably better to blame the QuickTime Player, which is an even bigger pile of poo than we had suspected.
Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, and four USB ports adorn the back of the Giada i50.
Is the Giada i50 the best HTPC we’ve ever tested? No, our heart still belongs to Asrock’s Vision 3D with its 2.4GHz Core i3 and discrete GeForce GT 425M part. But then again, the Asrock tips the scales at $800 to $1,000—without the OS. The Giada isn’t cheap at $650 with Windows 7 Home Premium installed, but we’ve seen it for $500 on the street with the OS. The Giada is also quite a bit smaller than the Asrock machine and therefore truly suitable for those who want to mount it behind their HDTV Velcro-style. The i50 even comes with a VESA mount, too. It’s not the fastest HTPC, but it’s the smallest, most-capable-for-its-size machine we’ve encountered to date.