Viewsonic is a brand associated with monitors and carries the same pedigree as great names such as Iiyama, Mag Innovision, Tatung and Taxan (remember them?) in this field.
But while the aforementioned firms have all but disappeared from our radar, Viewsonic is still going strong and has actively diversified, which brings us to today's product, the VOT550 which is a tiny computer that bears some resemblance with the Mac Mini.
Viewsonic doesn't manufacture its own computers, instead prefering to use OEMs instead.
No surprises therefore to find out that it uses the MP45-BDR from Aopen, a fantastically good looking barebone chassis that's solidly built and boosts a Piano black colour; one that wouldn't mind having it by the side of your AV receiver.
It is just slightly bigger the Mac Mini and comfortably sits on the palm of your hand. However, its diminutive size hides a real powerhouse.
The VOT550 hides an Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 CPU running at 2.1GHz, 4GB RAM, a 320GB 2.5-inch drive, plus a slot-loading Blu-ray Combo drive, a remote control and 802.11n WiFi.
You will find the classy power switch as well as two USB ports and a tiny eject button for the slot-in Blu-ray reader on the front. The VOT550 uses a Realtek ALC888HD audio codec onboard which is a fairly standard feature.
The power supply is a 90W AC "brick" power adaptor (ed : when will someone come up with a more elegant solution?). At the back you will find four more USB ports, an eSATA port, DVI (with a bundled DVI to HDMI dongle plus a Y-cable), a Kensington lock, a GbE LAN port and three audio sockets including a SPDIF out one. The underneath of the PC is padded with a layer of thick rubber.
Interestingly, Aopen mentions that the HDMI dongle provided can send audio and video simultaneously. Other accessories include a nice remote control, an antenna and a couple of CDROMs.
Viewsonic (or rather Acer) did not consider a card reader to be a necessity and the GMA X4500MHD graphics engine won't allow you to play recent games if ever you wanted to. Apart from those two issues, there's not much to criticise the VOT550.
The sample we received was powered by Windows 7 Home Premium but did not carry any Windows 7 stickers. Disassembling the device is a fairly mundane tasks as there are no screws to hold the case apart.
The performance of the VOT550 should be in line with our expectations, unfortunately the model that was given to us did not power up at all.
Just remember that the graphics subsystem is adequate for normal tasks and will struggle with anything other than a bit of web surfing and playing games from the first half of the last decade.
We couldn't find the VOT550 on sale at any online retailer in the UK which is really a shame but we've been informed that the suggested retail price of the top of the range model will be only £499, a price that we will need to confirm given that its little brother, the VOT530 (opens in new tab) costs £434 at Scan and comes with half the memory, a 160GB hard disk drive and "only" a DVD writer.
Dell also has a potent competitor, the ZinoHD, which is powered by a significantly less powerful AMD processor (but more capable X3200 chipset) and costs around £599.
The real threat however comes from Nvidia ION based products like the Acer Aspire Revo R3610 which come with a lesser processor and lacks a few crucial features but cost almost half the price.
As for the future, we expect Viewsonic to release a follow up to the VOT550 later this year with the GP7A-BDR barebone chassis instead.
This one will come with the Nvidia ION chipset, a card reader, a serial COM port (???), both HDMI and D-Sub ports (but not DVI). All in all, a great little powerhouse that is let down only by a few easily solved issues, the most irritating one being the quasi complete lack of stock at any popular online retailers in the UK.
Find out more about the VOH150 here (opens in new tab).
(Update : We've also been informed, albeit a bit late, that the VOT550 has been EOLed by Viewsonic and will be superseded by the soon to come VOT560 which might look like the one in the picture below.)