With the dimensions of a sandwich, the CloudGate X delivers more on speed and responsiveness than most desktop towers in its price range. The practical engineering of the X demonstrates how tower PCs no longer have a place in the typical home, office, or classroom.
Compared to the previous generation of this device, the CloudGate X is a little bigger, at 12cm², but adds all the necessary functionality which makes it a feasible desktop replacement. The X weighs a quarter of a kilogram, around 32 times lighter than a run-of-the-mill tower PC. The X runs off just 10W of power, drawing less than 5% of the power a typical tower PC would.
The front of the mini-computer provides two USB ports, an SD card slot, and the power button. The side holds more ports, like the power jack, another USB, an HDMI, an Ethernet, and an audio jack. A VGA port on the back of the device is a pleasant surprise: a nice addition for those who want a computer replacement without getting a new screen.
The computer houses an Apollo Lake Intel Celeron Quad-Core CPU, clocked at 1.1GHz, which can be boosted to 2.2GHz. It contains 64GB of eMMC solid state storage and 4GB memory. The internal storage can be bumped up by another 128GB on request or replaced with up to 320GB with m.2, one of the fastest storage standards.
The chipset provides 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. For office environments, a gigabit LAN port is available.
Once the screen, mouse, and keyboard are set up, Windows 10 starts with the usual setup options at Microsoft account sign-in. This was easily replaced with Ubuntu 18.10 in a matter of 12 minutes.
Thanks to its fast solid state drives and quad-core CPU, the speed at which the computer set itself up after the installation was remarkable.
This continues to be a theme while using the computer: its snappy performance leaves most budget tower desktop configurations feeling sluggish. We ran a storage benchmark test against another tower desktop with a 7200rpm hard drive and the CloudGate X come out 4.5 times faster at reading data from its solid state drive.
In terms of Office applications, this means that the X delivers on performance with fast application start-up times of around 3 seconds for Word and responsive document editing. The X has no performance issues with running other business-critical applications, like Pastel, SalesForce, and Sage. Typical office applications had great performance and multitaskingl.
For playing HD video, it does well without stuttering, which could prove useful when used as a media centre computer. This is due to the latest integrated Intel HD Graphics, which now decodes H.265/HEVC video more efficiently than previous processors. Media centre applications are generally good for HD video playback.
Keeping in mind that this computer is not a gaming computer, it handles most pre-2013 games well on medium settings. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion saw around 30 frames per second on medium graphics settings. The Sims 3 scored around 35 frames per second on medium-high graphics settings. Overall, less graphics-intensive games perform well on the X.
Development tools fare well on this computer. Visual Studio 2017 V15.8 was used to create, edit and build web applications with a few other apps open. Creating and editing web page code was smooth but the builds were surprisingly fast.
“Even though the Intel Core CPUs may have higher clock speeds and more cache, the N3450 in the CloudGate X will outperform them due to the extra cores – especially when it comes to multitasking,” says Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate and CloudWare.
Ranging between R3 500 and R5 200 (depending on the chosen configuration), the CloudGate X is a powerful system that delivers on several use cases across industry sectors. Even more significant, the cost of the Windows-based device includes a Windows 10 Professional licence (priced at R2 500).
Outperforming most office desktop towers, the CloudGate X shines as an affordable option to replace traditional tower desktop computers.