Ayaneo’s NES-inspired mini PC isn’t just a nostalgia hit

Mini PC is misunderstood. It’s easily dismissed as underpowered, overpriced, or just plain ugly; we intuit that a computer with a small footprint means a compromise. Ayaneo is famous for its best Windows the game handheld devicesthere is branched out included small desktops with retro-inspired designs. Thankfully, Ayaneo’s AM01 and AM02 mini PCs have a lot more to offer, but their first draw over their competitors, I won’t lie, is the nostalgic appeal.

Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember using the original Macintosh that inspired it AM01 and if Nintendo ever reimagined real NES, I hope it’s similar AM02. Both computers log on different specificationsbut to save typing multiple configurations The AM01 starts at $200 and has modest specs that are good for retro gaming and general office tasks. The AM02 is priced between $440 and $630, and all variants come with an AMD 7840HS APU, better suited for PC gaming and heavier tasks like video editing and even music production.

Ayaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PC.Ayaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PC.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

As someone who plays a lot of retro games and doesn’t mind playing PC games on low or medium settings, the AM02 is quickly becoming my primary gaming system. Partly because the AM02 strikes a good balance between retro and modern design, so it fits well in my grown-up living room. It’s also really well built. I’m not so sure about the four-inch touchscreen (more on that later), but the overall design blends in nicely with the modern decor without drawing too much attention to itself.

The AM02 I tested came fully loaded with 32GB or RAM and 1TB of storage, but there are enough ports that even with a lower-end model you can add more storage or even an eGPU (thanks to the USB 4.0 port) down the line. There are also two RJ45 ports, one of which is 2.5Gbps, making the AM02 somewhat future-proof and making it well suited for streaming media from network storage. This model also comes with USB-C, making it more “portable” than its Mac-inspired sibling, which uses a laptop-style power brick. In theory, you could power a display from the AM02’s USB 4 port and have an easily portable PC. Yes, that’s what they invented laptops for, but the advantage of mini computers is that they are not difficult to move around.

I suggested the AM02 would work great in a living room, and it does, but the placement of the built-in display suggests it’s meant to live on a desk. When Ayaneo announced these mini PCs, marketing shots showed them in horizontal and vertical configurations. Unfortunately, neither model makes sense in vertical orientation. At least because they both have ports on the side facing the table. Even worse, the AM02 has a delightful NES-inspired front cover that covers the USB and 3.5mm ports. Press the red button and it opens happily, but it will be face down in a vertical setup. After that, it cannot be said that all the cables will come out from above.

It’s kind of confusing since I was hoping the built-in display could be seen from across the room, but you can only see it if you’re close enough to look down. Plus, at least now the screen is more of a novelty. By default, it shows performance statistics like FPS, CPU usage/temperature and fan speed, which are useful for some people. You can even change the TDP/power draw right from the screen, but to be honest, given that this thing is plugged in, I just leave it at the max setting of 45W.

Swipe left on the screen and the view changes to the date and time widget. Swipe one more time and there’s a virtual volume control along with the option to turn off the screen. Fun fact, there is currently no option to turn it back on. I restarted the computer through Windows and it still didn’t come back to life. I tried again with the physical power button and it worked, the latest firmware has a neater solution. On that note, Ayaneo hopes that users will create their own widgets for this display, so there’s definitely potential here. I’m sure Doom will run exactly on linux with that display.

Ayaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PCAyaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PC

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

If you only want to use this for gaming, then you’ll have to decide whether to use the company’s own launcher. On Ayaneo’s handhelds, it’s useful for quickly changing power settings and performing other tasks that can be a pain for a handheld. Booting on such a PC is sufficient, but you may want to find your own PC or leave it for the most part. I installed AM02 for direct download Launchbox/Big Box it handles all my retro/Steam/Epic games well and gives a more console-like experience. But that’s the joy of Windows for gaming, I think you can do what you want with it.

Despite their small size, mini computers are not always cheap. Like their full-size counterparts, prices vary greatly depending on their performance, maintenance and components. Ayaneo’s handhelds have almost universally fallen into the “premium” price category, with nearly all Windows models costing more than the Steam Deck they’re trying to rival. The two minicomputers buck that trend, and both models offer, at worst, fair market prices and beat the competition at best.

Most direct competitors to the AM02 don’t have a built-in display (some do) or have a fairly good selection of inputs and outputs. That said, overall the AM01 and AM02 are reasonably priced for what they are, and even more so if you can get them during the early release window. Still active for AM02.

Ayaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PCAyaneo AM02 NES-inspired mini PC

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

There is a small elephant in the room though. That said, if you’re looking for a true gaming PC, there are better ways to spend your money. The lowest spec AM02 costs more than the PS5. Or the same as the docked LCD Steam Deck. Then there’s the Mac Mini (with less storage and RAM, but the M2 processor is no joke) starting at $600. So if your only goal is gaming, then there’s a niche where the AM02 is best served – those looking for a mix of retro and PC titles, as well as the flexibility of other media tasks (an easier way to watch Netflix with a VPN, for example) that gets just the right amount of attention. in one package. Or maybe you love it for its design and the features work for you.

Basically, it’s a promising new direction for a company that has made a name for itself trying to take Steam Deck to task. It may not have been truly successful in this particular mission, but it won itself a lot of fans along the way with high-spec handhelds that helped rebuild portable gaming as an exciting category. As Ayaneo enters the more general PC market, it could find a niche where it can excel against a very different type of competition.

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