Review: ASUS ROG GR8 II Mini Gaming PC

A compact, console-sized gaming PC with the power to drive the latest games at 2K and beyond is a dream that’s been beyond reach for many gamers. But advances in motherboard design, system cooling and GPUs, in particular, are making those dreams come true.

Certainly, that’s the idea behind the new ASUS ROG GR8 II Mini Gaming PC. Rocking the latest Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32 GB RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU, it promises “unstoppable 2K & Full HD gaming”, ASUS tells us. A while back, we looked at this, the ASUS GR6 (read the review) and found it to be a decent option that couldn’t quite hit the highs of a full-blown desktop gaming. Two years on, can the dream finally become reality?

Let’s take a look.

Specifications

Priced from around $899, this four-litre “console PC” is available in a number of configurations. Capable CPU selections range from an Intel Core i5-6400, through to the range topping 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-7700 which drives our review model, paired with 8 or 16 GB DDR4 RAM (2400/2133MHz, upgradable to 32 GB).

An NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 3 GB GDDR5 isn’t the fastest GPU around, but balances compact dimensions with manageable heat output, allowing it to operate comfortably in the GR8 II’s chassis (88 x 299 x 281.3 mm (WxDxH)).

Running on the lower-end Intel H110 chipset, with a locked CPU, there’s little chance of enthusiast features such as overclocking. But then, that’s not really the point of this device, which is designed for the mainstream market. That said, there’s internal support for Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, DDR4 RAM and a PCIe 3.0 interface for the GPU, while storage options include a choice of a 2.5″ SATA hard drive (500 GB to 1 TB) and/or faster M.2 SSD (128 GB Up to 512 GB). Our model includes a 1 TB SATA drive and 512 GB M.2 SSD, which is more than adequate for most gamers and all but the largest media libraries.

In terms of connectivity, the GR8 II packs an impressive selection into its diminutive form. A front panel supports twin USB 3.0 ports plus 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. Around the back, there’s Gigabit Ethernet, of course, alongside integrated Wi-Fi (courtesy of the 2×2 AC/Bluetooth adapter) twin HDMI and a single, full-sized DisplayPort, two additional USB 3.0 ports and a type A and type C USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (boasting 10 Gbps data transfers). Audio out includes optical S/PDIF and 3.5mm speaker connections and there’s even a Kensington lock to keep the desktop secure.

Note that video output, however, is restricted to the GTX 1060 GPU. The GR8 II offers no access to the integrated GPU of the Kaby Lake processor. For most users, that’s not going to be an issue, but if you’re hoping to take advantage of proprietary features like Intel Quick Sync Video, that’s not going to be possible, as we’ll see later.

Design

Arriving in smart, branded ASUS carton, the ROG GR8 II is no ordinary looking black box (strictly, it’s brown, but you know what I mean). Standing vertically, its ‘A’ shaped chassis is accentuated with asymmetric grooves and chamfers that clearly mark it as a Republic of Gamers device. A bronze stripe along the top and front of the PC adds a touch of class, but these features aren’t purely aesthetic. ASUS has cleverly integrated grilled vents into the case that blend seamlessly into the futuristic industrial design of the GR8 II.

Gaming devices aren’t famed for their subtlety and ASUS ROG branded kit is often guilty of splashing far too much red around. However, the GR8 II’s design is quite reserved, which means that it doesn’t look out-of-place when fitted into an AV cabinet. The sharp lines and angles, however, ensure it’ll shine on the desktop too.

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If you’re opting for a big screen position, then you can see that – laid horizontally – the GR8 II is slightly narrower (face on) than an Xbox One S with its top edge rising higher than the Microsoft gaming device. It fits very well into a typical AV cabinet, though – a true console sized PC. ASUS can only work so many miracles, though – you’ll also need to hide away a reasonably large PSU. It’s fortunately wide and not too high, so you should be able to slip it behind or alongside the PC.

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Overall, ASUS has done a fantastic job with the design of the GR8 II. There’s just enough aggression to highlight the PC’s gaming prowess while retaining the compact form factor and sophistication of a first-class media device.

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