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Asus Nova P22 review: Asus Nova P22

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The Good Attractive; fast 802.11n Wi-Fi; docking station port hints at future expandability; included stand that lets you stand it on its side; pen holder

The Bad 1GB of RAM kills performance; no easy upgrade path; expensive compared to its competition

The Bottom Line The Asus Nova P22 makes a decent attempt at competing against the Mac Mini. If you want a small form factor PC with 802.11n networking, this system is your best option. Otherwise, Asus can't compete with Apple or other Windows vendors on price, features, and performance.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 6

Review Sections

Asus and its laptops have had some success in recent years, but we haven't seen too much from the Taiwanese vendor on the desktop side of things. Enter the Nova P22. This small form factor desktop makes a direct run at Apple's Mac Mini. It succeeds in that the $899 Nova P22 has better networking capability than the Mac Mini. Unfortunately, that's not enough. Unless you demand 802.11n Wi-Fi in a tiny desktop, Apple and other vendors offer better features for the price.

Like most Windows PCs that try to compete with Apple's tiny Mac Mini, the Asus Nova P22 is a little bigger. It weighs just more than four pounds, about a pound heavier than the Mac. When you lay the Nova flat, it measures 2.1 inches tall, just barely taller than the Mac Mini, and 9.8 inches wide (counting the plastic fin on one side with built-in pen holder), and 7.25 inches deep, making its overall volume larger (compared with the Mac Mini's 2x6x6 inch measurements).

The Asus Nova P22 includes a metal stand that allows it to stand upright.

It's larger than the Mac Mini, but the Asus Nova P22 gives you a bit more setup flexibility thanks to an included metal stand that lets you stand it upright. Otherwise, your customization options are limited, as Asus offers no upgrade options for this system. You can likely make upgrades yourself post-purchase, but getting inside the Nova P22 involves removing four screws hidden by stickers that indicate if they're removed, you void the system warranty. Once you're inside, you'll need to remove the DVD drive, and possibly other parts as well, to get at the memory slots. We like to return products we review in full working order, so we didn't drill all the way down.

  Asus Nova P22 Apple Mac Mini
Price $899 $799
CPU 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) Intel GMA 3000 graphics chip 64MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 graphics chip
Hard drives 160GB 5,400 rpm hard drive 120GB 5,400 rpm hard drive
Optical drive Slot-loading, dual-layer DVD burner Slot-loading, dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 802.11n wireless, Gigabit Ethernet 802.11b/g wireless, Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium Mac OS X

You'll see in our spec chart how the Nova P22 compares with the latest Apple Mac Mini we reviewed, which was the 2.0GHz base model. That basic Apple configuration gives you a faster CPU than the Asus system, but also a smaller hard drive. The Nova P22 has a more recent integrated 3D graphics chip from Intel, but we wouldn't use either for gaming. The Nova also has wide bandwidth 802.11n wireless networking, which can transmit larger files more quickly across a network, provided you have an 802.11n-capable wireless router. The Mac Mini only has 802.11b/g, which is adequate for most networking needs, unless you need to transmit at a long distance, or have a lot of systems on the same network.

As much as we like Nova P22's 802.11n Wi-Fi, we don't believe most of you will find that alone worth the $100 price increase over the Mac Mini. The Asus systems' larger hard drive and more recent graphics chip are also selling points. However, for $749 you can get the lower-end Mac Mini with the same CPU as the Nova P22, as well as an upgraded 160GB hard drive. Compared with that configuration, the Nova P22 essentially costs $150 more for a negligible graphics chip upgrade and faster Wi-Fi.

If you'd be willing to spend just $50 more than $899 for the Nova P22, you can get Hewlett Packard's new Pavilion SlimLine S3330f. The HP system includes a faster CPU, a full-fledged 3D card, and a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive, albeit in a slightly larger chassis. If you're single-minded about 802.11n Wi-Fi, we can offer no major alternative in the small desktop category. However, if you're interested in a small form factor desktop for home entertainment or general computing purposes, you have several better options to choose from.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Nova P22

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Nova P22

Cinebench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Sony VAIO TP25
Apple Mac Mini
eMachines T3642
Asus Nova P22

You can see from our performance charts that the Asus Nova P22 is not a strong performer compared with the Mac Mini, or any other desktop comparable by either size or price. The only system that came close is the eMachines T3642, a budget midtower PC with a single-core CPU that goes for $350, or less than half as much. We should point out, since both the eMachines and the Nova P22 are Vista systems with only 1GB of RAM, their Photoshop scores are significantly slower than either the Mac OS X-based Mac Mini, or any of the Vista 2GB systems. That laggard performance makes the lack of easy upgrading especially painful.

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