Watching TV back in the day required large, clunky boxes and fiddly antennae. No more: today’s TV-watching can be done with small and sexy smart devices, compact PCs and video on demand (VOD) services like ShowMax and Netflix thanks to the magic of the internet. To help get you started on the road to digital entertainment heaven, ASUS has three products ideal for the modern home that pair compact beauty with exceptional functionality.
The ASUS VivoMini UN42
At only 131x131x42 millimetres, the VivoMini is a truly tiny PC, able to hide away behind a monitor or TV, in a drawer or even underneath a desk. Plug in the small power supply, attach your display and peripherals, and you’re good to go.
Inside the rounded square body of the UN42, you’ll find an Intel Celeron 2957U, 4GB of RAM, and a full version of Windows 8.1. That’s more than enough to get office, school and university work done, as well as effortlessly streaming your VOD service of choice when work time is over. Although that’s enough for most applications, if you need more power there are various re-specced versions offered by retailers.
And you’ll be accessing those movies, music and picture files fast, as the on-board storage is a 30GB SSD (upgradeable to larger capacities) so you’ll be booting up, browsing and accessing files as fast as you please. And while streaming doesn’t fill up your drive, you have access to ASUS’ cloud storage if you need any more.
The exterior is equally impressive: the tiny body is home to four USB ports, an SD card reader, a Kensington lock, Ethernet port, dual microphone/speaker jack and, finally, both HDMI and DisplayPort to handle the visuals. Those two options let you connect up multiple monitors without buying a splitter or using specialised software.
With all of this hardware supporting the full Windows experience, it’s quite surprising that you can hide this little PC behind your screen thanks to the VESA mount and forget all about it; but you can. With such a big punch packed into such a tiny box, the UN42 makes for a perfect media centre that can also be used to access video on demand services like Netflix and ShowMax.
ASUS Stick PC QM1
Was the VivoMini small, but not small enough for you? While the VivoMini wouldn’t fit in all your pockets, the ASUS Stick PC most certainly will.
At about the size and weight of a large USB thumbdrive, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Stick PC is just another USB drive, but it’s actually a complete PC that turns any screen with an HDMI port into a full-blown computer.
Stacked with an Intel Atom Z3735F, 2 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM and Windows 10, the Stick PC packs a lot of power. With 32 gigabytes of flash memory storage, it’s fast, too.
After you’ve connected it via HDMI, you only need to connect the included power supply to get going. You can also run it entirely without cables thanks to built-in WiFi for your internet access and Bluetooth for your peripherals.
If you’re a wired kind of person, you’ll also find a USB port to connect anything you want, as well as a MicroSD slot to expand the internal storage up to 64 gigabytes.
Despite saving space as a fixed-location PC, the Stick PC also shines as an entirely mobile computer. Either pop it back into its box with all its accessories, or into your pocket, and head on over to wherever there’s a HDMI port-equipped screen. The boot up time is impressive and set up is as easy as 1, 2, stream. The fact that everything is saved locally to the small device means you could turn any TV, monitor or screen into your PC.
Where this really shines, however, is negating the need (and the cost) of purchasing a smart TV. Not only are these TVs priced at a premium, but they sometimes come with proprietary software that doesn’t have a lot of third-party support, or they have a version of Android that only runs mobile apps. The Stick fixes this by instantly turning your “dumb” TV smart, with Windows, to do whatever you please. So if you already have a flat screen TV with an HDMI port but no Smart Hub for Netflix or Showmax, then this is your answer.
What you’re really getting here is a netbook of old, with the power and flexibility of more modern hardware. Plus, it’s a great party trick to smuggle an entire computer in your pocket.
ASUS RT-AC87U Dual-Band Wireless-AC2400 gigabit Router
Before getting into specs, this router is an absolute beauty, and looks more like a device you’d find on a secret airfield hiding a stealth fighter rather than something you’d use to connect to the web. It’s truly a testament to how far we’ve come from the boring and beige media equipment of the 1980s and 90s.
On the outside, you’ll see there are four antennae sticking up out of the router; these pair with the brilliant hardware inside to make sure you have a rock-solid wireless experience over the farthest distances.
Many of you are part of large families with easily over 10 devices all needing a connection at the same time. The RT-AC87U takes care of that by prioritising various devices on various bandwidths.
This is an AC class router, which means it covers a much wider connectivity area at much faster speeds than older N-class routers do. Some of your new high end Apple and Android devices run on AC Wi-Fi but not all routers offer AC, and the only downside here is that to take full advantage of these performance benefits, all connected devices will need to have AC-class WiFi adapters.
While Wireless-AC is more common on high-end PC and mobile devices today, without replacing your entire machine.
Even though VOD services, especially on mobile, are trying their best to reduce the data needed for transmission, you’ll need something fast to get the best resolution without annoying buffering, especially if you are connecting up to 5 or more devices wirelessly.
In the meantime, you should see performance improvements from your existing N-class devices, albeit relatively small ones.
You’ll also find a USB 3.0 port on the back of the router that facilitates faster transfers between network-connected devices and USB 3.0-compatible hard drives and memory sticks. This lets you use the router as a network attached storage device, with the ability to steam the USB content on your mobile devices via Apple/ Android apps.
A second port, this one only a USB 2.0, is also there to connect devices like printers that don’t benefit as much from USB 3.0’s faster speeds. Both the USB ports support 3G/ LTE failover and failback when a 3G/ LTE modem is plugged in, ensuring that your connection is always active even when the main line is down.
Finally, we come to the software, which is just as good as the hardware. Unlike the hard-to-use web interfaces of old, the one ASUS has designed for their latest routers is nothing short of superb. It’s simple, easy to use, and offers you a wealth of options regardless of your knowledge of such things. For those who are experienced and like to dig deep for those intricate options, you’ll find those here too.
The TrendMicro-developed AiProtection embedded in this router offers enterprise-level Internet security, and provides protection against malicious software, Trojan virus and hacking.
Overall, this is exactly the kind of router modern-day streamers and internet enthusiasts need. It’s really fast, it’s packed with options and is so easy to use it makes older routers look positively obtuse by comparison. Factor in the way it looks as well, and you have a true winner on your hands.