A Decent Compact Desktop System
When purchasing a pre-built small form factor gaming PC, there are a number of criteria to look at, most notably performance, price, and design. The Asus GR8 II succeeds in two of these three areas, which makes it a decent though not outstanding choice for those after a compact desktop system.
The hardware in the GR8 II is great at each of the main price points, with Asus offering an Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 or Core i7 CPU along with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB M.2 SSD. While not the most powerful mini PC going around, this hardware is well suited to 1080p 60 FPS gaming with quality presets ranging from high to ultra. Asus claims it’s also suitable for virtual reality, although I tend to think you really need a GTX 1070 for a decent VR experience.
This hardware is competitively priced, with Asus undercutting MSI and their competing Trident 3 mini-PC across the board. Impressively, you can get a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM with a Core i5 CPU for under $1,000, while the top end model with a Core i7 processor is just $1,200. In both cases, the GR8 II is cheaper than an equivalent Trident 3 by $100-300.
I also appreciate how the best value configuration – the mid-tier $970 option – prioritizes RAM and storage space over a faster CPU. There is only a marginal or negligible difference between the Core i5-7400 and Core i7-7700 in games, so you’ll benefit more from increased RAM and storage that Asus provides relative to its competitors.
There is also a decent amount of overclocking headroom for the GTX 1060 inside this mini PC: I managed to push it to a similar degree to a standard desktop GTX 1060. The CPU is unfortunately not overclockable, as it’s a non-K model and temperatures are toasty on the CPU at load in any case.
My main concerns regarding the GR8 II mostly revolve around its design. The exterior chassis is pretty ugly thanks to the copious use of ‘gamer style’ elements and aggressive angles. There’s even some RGB lighting thrown in, which doesn’t work with the rest of the chassis from a design perspective. It is a compact system, though; similar in size to an original Xbox One.
It’s disappointing to see that neither the CPU or GPU are upgradeable in this system, which severely limits the upgrade paths for the GR8 II when next-generation processors or graphics cards are available. You do have access to a 2.5-inch drive bay, an M.2 slot, and a single DIMM slot, but upgrading these parts aren’t going to give you much more gaming performance. The GR8 II’s limited cooling solution is also loud while in games, and can be heard over in-game audio if it’s located on your desk.
Despite these issues, the GR8 II is still a good buy if you’re after a compact gaming system with enough power for games at 1080p. But I would recommend hiding it away where it can’t be seen or heard.
Pros: Decent hardware and performance for the price. Well suited to 1080p gaming at very high quality presets. Small chassis is only marginally larger than modern consoles.
Cons: Neither the CPU nor GPU are upgradeable. Loud under load. Ugly design with way too much ‘gamer style’.