Ever since Intel’s NUC or Next Unit of Computing units were unveiled, manufacturers have been pushing the boundaries on how much they can shrink the size of a PC whilst also ensuring that it can cope up with a user’s needs. To cap it all, it also has to be cost effective. There’s no point in cramming all that technology into a form factor the size of a small envelope if ye average Joe can’t afford it. On the lookout for devices of this sort, I came across the Biostar Racing P1. A SFF (small form factor) PC costing only Rs. 26,000/-. Curious to see what the big deal about it was, i decided to take a look.
Unpacking the Biostar Racing P1
The packaging itself looks rather attractive. The box has a large “P1” on the front with a faux brushed aluminum texture graphic running across the entire box giving it that racing look and feel. Opening up the box gives access to the Racing P1 itself and a host of accessories. For starters, there’s the Racing P1 itself. Measuring 129.4mm*83mm*27mm and weighing just 285g, the Biostar Racing P1 is about the same weight as half a brick or a high capacity power bank.
Taking the Biostar Racing P1 out of the box gives access to the rest of the accessories which are an AC/DC power adapter with two types of plug options, headphone and microphone breakout cable, driver DVD, and manuals. There’s also a VESA bracket and screws. This means that you can actually mount the Racing P1 to the back of a VESA compatible monitor or TV and keep the device hidden from view thus saving space (not that it takes up a lot either). The AC/DC power brick is rated at 5v at 4A and outputs a total of 20 watts. All accessories come in their own individual plastic resealable bag so packing everything up once you’re done is simple and fast.
The Biostar Racing P1
The device itself looks a lot like a Router or a large hub. Framed in a sturdy plastic shell, the Biostar Racing P1 looks quite professional and also looks cute. The top of the device has an RGB LED indicator that has several lighting modes such as breathing, pulse, static and music. I’ll talk about that later on. In terms of connectivity, the Biostar Racing P1 has one USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port in the front along with a MicroSD card slot, Headphone/Microphone jack and the power switch. There’s also an RGB header. So if you have an RGB LED strip, you can connect it to this header and control the lighting effects of the strip via additional software.
The rear of the device houses an RJ-45 LAN port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port for display and the port for the AC power adaptor. The sides of the Biostar Racing P1 have grills on it so as to draw in cool air and dissipate hot air. The bottom of the unit features four rubber legs, VESA and mounting holes.
Powered by an Intel Z8350 Quad core CPU, the Biostar Racing P1 is backed up by 4GB of DDR3 memory. In terms of Storage, you’re looking at a 64GB of storage which is more than enough to get you started. There’s no internal cooling and all thermal dissipation is carried out via the heat fins located along the sides of the body. No cooling fans also means that the Biostar Racing P1 generates absolutely no noise at all even when under heavy load. The device also has inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you can even connect a wireless keyboard and mouse if cable management is not your forte.
Setting up the Biostar Racing P1
Since the Biostar Racing P1 comes with storage and memory preinstalled, there’s actually nothing to carry out in terms of an upgrade. On the other hand, this also means that the device is ready to be used straight out of the box. All you need to do is install an Operating System. That part is entirely up to you. The test unit I received was running Windows 10 so i decided to go along with it.
To my surprise, I found that the Biostar racing P1 actually has an UEFI BIOS. the interface is similar to that of their gaming motherboards but with less features. For example, there are no overclocking settings or any other settings because it’s already preconfigured. You can still change the boot drive order but that’s about it in terms of boot devices. Interestingly, you can change settings for the RGB lighting from the BIOS itself without logging into the Operating system. The Windows application gives you essentially the same information such as controlling the RGB LEDs. You can also view the H/W monitor which shows you real time system temperatures etc.
Speaking of Windows, as I mentioned earlier, the review sample of the Biostar Racing P1 i received came with Microsoft Windows 10. Boot times were fairly fast and I was able to get to the desktop from boot in a little under 20 seconds. Using the Racing P1 is fairly fast as well. In fact, this article was typed using the device itself. The quad core CPU is capable of handling your day to day needs such as browsing and surfing the internet via Google Chrome, listening to music and even typing word documents.
Gaming and Video playback
The onboard Intel HD graphics are capable of delivering HD content without any issues but don’t expect to be able to play any demanding games or anything of the sort. It’s just not cut out for that sort of task. You can however run some older games at low to medium settings and get by with minimum frame rates. For example, I loaded Burnout: Paradise and was actually surprised that the game ran decently on the Racing P1. Albeit at low resolution and all graphics settings turned low. Similarly games downloadable from the Windows store such as Asphalt, Modern Combat and Dead Trigger 1 & 2 are playable.
I also ran a benchmark to test the maximum heat that the device outputs. My tool of choice was Prime95. This is a distributed computing project dedicated to finding new Mersenne prime numbers. It has been converted into a benchmarking application and also as stability testing utility as it can push the CPU’s floating point units extremely hard, causing the CPU to become extremely hot. Running the test for 20 minutes gave the following results.
What can you use the Biostar Racing P1 For?
Since the device is a fully fledged PC, you can pretty much use it to do pretty much anything that a regular full sized PC could do, apart from perhaps CPU and GPU intensive applications. Apart from that, if you’re looking for a cheap PC for your children to learn on, or perhaps you’re looking for a system to act as a media hub or streaming PC for a bit of Netflix, the Biostar Racing P1 can handle it. It can even be used as a point of sales unit at your local supermarket.
Not looking for a Microsoft environment? No issues. You can even install Linux and use the Biostar Racing P1 as a Ubuntu system. Again, the choice is entirely up to you. The catch is that you can’t expand the storage or increase the memory (RAM) as it already comes preinstalled. Apart from that, the Biostar Racing P1 does exactly what one would expect from a device with these specifications. If you’re on the lookout for a new SFF PC, then by all means, do give the Biostar Racing P1 a go.