While AYANEO's existing line up of products showcases some excellent portable gaming devices, the Retro Mini PC AM01 is anything but. To use the AM01, you'll need a concoction of wires, peripherals, and constant power to use, but that doesn't make the AM01 less worthy of praise than the other AYANEO devices. In fact, I'd argue it's one of the most interesting of them all.
The first model of AYANEO's new series is the AM01, with the AM02 release date already coming up. While the AM02 is, undoubtedly, more powerful on-paper than the model I'm reviewing today, the AM01 is a budget-friendly gaming PC that will let you play some of the most exciting indies, or easily emulate classic titles, without breaking the bank.
Of course, the most eye-catching element of the AM01 is the classic Mac-inspired chassis that disguises the technology inside. On the top of the unit is the dark panel which is meant to be the "screen" of the original Macintosh, but obviously, that doesn't work here. However, the floppy disk drive has been turned into a cosmetic detail, while holding the very tactile-feeling power button along it.
In place of the Apple logo, which AYANEO obviously couldn't use, is a magnet that can hold a variety of little magnets that you can use to personalise. All of the various magnet options come with the AYANEO Retro Mini PC AM01, alongside plenty of stickers to further customise your little gaming PC.
On the front, there's a USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and flipping it round to the back, you'll find the power port, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports, three USB 3.2 and one USB 2.0 ports, and of course, an Ethernet port. There's a wide range of connectivity options that will suit any user and their setup.
All of that being said, the unassuming retro chassis hides a surprisingly powerful and great little PC within it. Of course, don't expect to be playing Cyberpunk 2077 in Overdrive RT mode, unless you want to start a fire. But, from my experience, playing indie games that don't require high-end components to run was smooth as butter.
Before we go any further, the AM01 that I'm reviewing is the 5700U with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD model. There's a weaker 3200U variant, as well as some 5700U versions that offer more storage and RAM. The one I've got sitting on my desk is pretty much the middle point, both in price and hardware.
I jumped into games like Hades, Neon White, Marvel Snap, and Half-Life 2 via Steam and had absolutely pleasant experiences. Hades would, occasionally, have stutters during some hectic moments, but overall, it was certainly playable. Running PS1 and PS2 emulation had no major problems, and I didn't even attempt PS3 emulation, because I doubt it would work well at all.
The most surprising thing about the AM01 is how quiet it is. While it's on, even in games that make it stutter occasionally, the noise from the fan is minimal. When compared to portable PCs like the ASUS ROG Ally and the Steam Deck, it's very quiet. If you've found that loud PC fans have annoyed you, it may be worth opting for the AM01 Mini PC, even if you've got a main gaming PC in a different room.
As long as you don't buy the barebones versions of the AYANEO AM01, it comes with a pre-installed Windows 11 Home Edition, as well as the AYASpace application. Windows can be a bit heavy sometimes on such a budget-friendly device, but it's fine for most people. I imagine Linux would run better, and in the future, I hope to run HoloISO or something similar in order to see if it works better.
AYASpace is... not great, in all honesty. It's designed with AYANEO's main product lines in mind, for a primarily portable experience, but the AM01 version of the app suffers from a variety of issues, like some buttons not working, the application not accepting certain inputs, or just generally not working well. It's not required, but AYANEO markets the software quite heavily, so if that is a major selling point for you, I'd recommend going in with an open mind.
It's worth mentioning that changing OS isn't the only thing you can adjust with the AYANEO AM01. If you can find parts small enough, and feel like you can handle tinkering with PC components, the internals of the AYANEO are completely replaceable. The open-ended nature of personalising the AM01 instead of AYANEO using proprietary components is such a breath of fresh air in the hardware world.
But there's obviously an elephant in the room. When it comes to picking between the AM01 and AM02, one is obviously the better device overall, at least on-paper, that being the AM02. If price isn't a problem, and you don't mind which design you'd prefer, the AM02 is likely the better choice for you as it offers better specs. However, the AM01 is definitely a great budget-friendly device that will certainly suit those looking to play some classic PC titles, indie games, or emulate some iconic PS1/2 and older games.
In conclusion, the AYANEO Retro Mini PC AM01 proves that you can have style and substance. As long as you're not expecting RTX 40-series levels of performance, and looking to have a good time playing some classic or indie PC titles that you've missed, the AM01 is an exciting little device. However, the AYASpace software is pretty terrible, and we'd argue to go for one of the stronger models if you decide to buy one.