Overall and Final Verdict
When I heard that Asus was making a small gaming “Console” as they put it I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I am always on the hunt for better options for LANrigs. The GR8 fits that bill perfectly. You have a small form factor that is a third of the size of our Lunchbox 3 build. Asus packed an i7 and a GTX 750Ti in it as well. All configured you get a completely PC that is actually capable of gaming in a package smaller than the small PCs that you sometimes see sold in big box stores. Hell the GR8 is a lot smaller than the Xbox One and PS4 even! Along with the PC they pulled all of the stops out with their Gladius gaming mouse and the M801 TKL mechanical keyboard. The mouse and keyboard along account for well over $100 off the top of the price of the GR8.
In my testing I found that the GR8 is capable of playing any game you throw at it while I admit you shouldn’t expect mind blowing performance. You are getting the performance of a mid-range gaming laptop, but in a console form factor. That said the small form factor is perfect for a LAN rig or a small HTPC that you plan on gaming on. Toss your steam library on the GR8 and you are set! Getting the GR8 to LANs was as simple as packaging it in the front pocket of our LAN bag. It actually took up less space their one of our headsets. That small footprint helped open up space at our table during LANs as well.
It wasn’t all roses though, the decision to only put a hard drive in the GR8 was a big change for me. All of the PCs in our house and in the LanOC office run on SSDs, so going back to a hard drive as an OS drive reminded me just how much of a difference an SSD makes. Thankfully the GR8 has an easy to access additional hard drive slot and I was able to at least toss our games on an SSD to speed things up slightly. If I were living with the GR8 day to day I would drop an SSD in for the OS drive and use the 1TB drive for all of my games, while I did that tossing in a second 8GB stick of ram wouldn’t hurt as well. That said, you will still be a little limited by the laptop CPU. It did perform faster than our i3 NUC, but It was clear in testing that the CPU was still the biggest limitation.
When testing I was blown away when I did power usage testing. I expect a small build like NUC to have a small power footprint but the GR8 is still a gaming PC and it didn’t pull much more than our monitor did when testing in game even.
So is the build for you? Well I think it depends on what you are looking for. Asus has put together an awesome Steambox or a LANrig. I can see this being a great buy to get your kids when they start to get the gaming itch as well. You know what you are getting is going to play games, not kill your electric bill, and it even comes with the gaming mouse and keyboard that they are going to need to get rolling. People who enjoy building their PC just as much as using it might be a little disappointed, other than the SSD and ram upgrades you just can’t do anything with the GR8. That is the downside to making a compact build like this, swapping out the GPU or CPU would mean big changes to the cooling.
If the GR8 isn’t enough power for you, Asus does make the GR20, a full desktop with a similar design. That PC runs full desktop processors and you can even get it with up to a GTX 980. For me though, The GR8 fits the bill perfectly as a portable LAN rig that just might end up in the living room between events for a little living room gaming. Then I will stick to building a PC for my main rig!
Amazon link: HERE