Sotec Afina AS7180AV Review

We were surprised by how fast the Afina system felt.
We were surprised by how fast the Afina system felt.
We were surprised by how fast the Afina system felt.

Highs

  • Solid performing
  • integrated TV tuner
  • small size

Lows

  • Mouse is too tiny
  • poor 3D performance

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Desktop Reviews > Sotec Afina AS7180AV Review

Key Specifications

Type
All-Purpose
Operating system
Microsoft Windows
Form factor
All-in-One
See All

Summary

Lifestyle computers are certainly starting to make more headroom in this specialized niche, and as we see more convergence between the home theater and computer realms we expect this market to grow.

The Sotec Afina is smaller than both Sony’s VAIO PCV-W20 and Apple’s iMac lifestyle computers, yet performs very close to the aforementioned systems. However, there are some quirks about it that may be hard for some to overlook.

Although the Afina lacks the polish and attention to detail which have become accustomed to from the Japanese market, it is still a unique product that will turn heads. The Sotec Afina would be the perfect computer for any kitchen, office or bedroom and is certainly worth a look.

Introduction

As with every lifestyle computer system being introduced these days, the Sotec Afina system puts a lot of emphasis on design and size while featuring some high performance components on the inside. Powered by an AMD Mobile Athlon 1800+ processor the Afina is the first lifestyle system we have had a chance to test featuring an AMD processor, and a mobile one at that. Imported by iCube.us with a price of $1699, the Sotec Afina touts being designed in Japan although it is manufactured in China.

Features and Design

The first impression the Afina system gave us was that it looked like an old IBM terminal of some sort, like something you would see at a bank. The stainless steel case and plastic shielded LCD screen tell you this is no office computer – it looks like more of an appliance. The Afina should look at home in the kitchen or bedroom. It would even look great in a coffee shop as an internet terminal.

Sotec Afina
The front of the Sotec Afina

iCube says the Afina looks like a “high heel” because of its rear mounted stand, and that it does. If you have a kitchen with stainless steel appliances the Afina system will definitely blend right in and keep the theme. The plastic screen shield will protect the display from smudges and other hazards which are more likely considering the Afina could be in a high-traffic area. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any sort of shield or membrane protecting the keyboard which means crumbs, liquids and other kitchen related material could get stuck inside the keyboard. Since the keyboard is attached to the system, you may have a hard time cleaning it.


The right hand side of the Sotec Afina

Performance

System Configurations:

Sotec Afina AS7180AV
Windows XP Home Edition; AMD Athlon Mobile 1800+, 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz, 8MB S3 graphics adapter, 80GB HDD

Gateway 200XL
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel Extreme Graphics; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB Hard Drive

Sony PCV-W20
Windows XP Home Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM; 32MB Intel Graphics; 60GB HDD

As mentioned above, the keyboard is not removable and is attached to the system directly as part of the overall design. Featuring both Japanese and American characters, the keyboard mapping is very close to the US standard, although there are some keys that seem to be strictly Japanese related with no other purpose. Since it is attached, if you adjust the angle of the display, this also slightly alters the angle of the keyboard. You can also not adjust the distance between the keyboard and display – much like on a laptop. These characteristics may prove to be uncomfortable to some users.

Sotec Afina Back
The rear of the Sotec Afina

The Sotec Afina features an AMD Mobile Athlon 1800+, 8 MB S3 video adapter, 256MB of memory (upgradeable to 1GB), a 12″ XGA LCD display, an 80GB hard drive and a built in TV-tuner. The integrated speakers are located at the front of the system and face the user. Located on the left side of the system is a Sony Memory Stick reader, headphone and microphone inputs, two USB ports, a modem port, an Ethernet port, and the power port. Around on the right side of the unit is the DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, S-video and antennae inputs, two more USB inputs and an audio input. Unfortunately, the Afina does not feature an integrated WiFi solution forcing you to use either a wireless Ethernet bridge or USB powered WiFi card if you do not have an Ethernet connection handy.

Setup and Use

The Afina system from iCube comes preloaded with Microsoft’s Windows XP Home Edition and is already setup and ready to run. Our review unit had been used before so we were not prompted by Windows to setup our network or other initial settings. If your system comes this same way, we recommend you run the internet connection wizard and adjust any other settings before using it. Since the Afina is a Japanese product imported to the US, it comes with a manual written in Japanese and a US version of this manual is not available. So, if you are relatively new to the computer world, you will probably need to call iCube to have them help you with any questions you may have. If you have decent computer experience then you shouldn’t have any problems.

As for features, the Afina is pretty cutting edge. It features both Ethernet and modem ports as well as USB 2.0 capabilities. With its integrated Sony Memory Stick slot, you can easily transfer pictures from your camera to this system – if of course your device takes a Memory Stick. We would have liked to have seen card readers for other media such as Compact Flash or even a PC card expansion port, so you’ll have to use a USB reader if you want to transfer items from other types of media.

The Afina comes with only a few programs preinstalled on the system. Included are Veritas RecordNow for burning CDs and Intervideo’s WinDVD Recorder for watching television, DVD movies and other video sources. As far as Veritas Record Now is concerned, it is a rather generic program, but it gets the job done. The Intervideo WinDVD software is great for watching both television and DVD movies. Since it supports multiple video sources and the TV tuner card, there is no need for multiple software programs that do similar things.

We were surprised by how fast the Afina system felt. After looking at the specifications and noting that it uses a mobile processor and only 256MB of memory, we expected the system to feel like an underpowered laptop; fortunately that was not the case. Even the DVD/CD-RW combo drive felt fast and quickly installed and read data quickly from any disc we put into it.

In our tests we decided to compare the Afina system to Sony’s PCV-W20 lifestyle computer and Gateway’s 200XL laptop. Since the Afina uses a mobile processor and most likely a motherboard designed for a laptop, these two other systems seemed comparable. The Sony uses a Pentium 4 processor running at 1.8GHz while the Gateway 200XL uses a Pentium M CPU at 1.6GHz. Now based on our experience with Pentium M processors, we expected the Gateway 1.6GHz CPU to come in first in our performance tests followed by the Sony system and lastly the Afina system. In our CPU Multimedia benchmarks this is exactly what happened.

In all of our tests the Afina trailed the Sony PCV-W20 system ever so slightly, but failed big time in our graphics benchmarks. When it comes to graphics, the Afina is pretty out dated. Using 3dMark 2001, we were only able to run the benchmark in 16-bit mode since the video adapter is incapable of displaying 32-bit colors. And with only 8MB of memory, the Afina’s S3 video adapter is only good for 2D applications. You can forget about playing games with this system.

Room for Improvements

The Afina system is a great idea. It is small, looks very urban and offers a lot of features. But there is still room for improvement. First of all the mouse that comes with the Afina is way too tiny to use for long periods of time. It offers two buttons, a scroll wheel and optical technology, but that is all wasted if it is too small to use. Those used to Japanese products will probably find this a non-issue, but those in the US will find this annoying to say the least.

Since the Afina has a built in TV tuner, you may expect that it would come with a remote control – sadly it does not. This greatly diminishes it’s usefulness in the kitchen or anywhere you want to watch TV while doing something else.

The overall appearance of the Afina system will have to appeal to a specific audience. On the outside, it looks like it fits in with the cutting edge designs from manufacturers such as Sony, JVC, Apple and Panasonic, but upon closer inspection the Afina falls a little short. From the tiny mouse with the see-through plastic to the logo stamped on the front of the unit, the Afina just lacks that certain polish we have come to expect from Japan’s imported products. For example, the JVC Interlink 7310 comes with a high gloss finish and a leather carrying bag, and Sony’s PCV-W20 turns into a clock radio when the keyboard is flipped up. It’s the little attention to detail which make these products unique and worth the extra money spent on importing them from Japan. At $1699 the Afina should be offering a little more we think.

Conclusion

Lifestyle computers are certainly starting to make more headroom in this specialized niche, and as we see more convergence between the home theater and computer realms we expect this market to grow.

The Sotec Afina is smaller than both Sony’s VAIO PCV-W20 and Apple’s iMac lifestyle computers, yet performs very close to the aforementioned systems. However, there are some quirks about it that may be hard for some to overlook.

Although the Afina lacks the polish and attention to detail which have become accustomed to from the Japanese market, it is still a unique product that will turn heads. The Sotec Afina would be the perfect computer for any kitchen, office or bedroom and is certainly worth a look.