There's Always Room For a Mini PC!
It might not be you – perhaps you are the well endowed family tech genius – but you might know someone that could make use of a small fanless and fully featured computer. Read on to see about one such device from Azulle.
This 1.5 inch tall, palm sized device looks more like a router then a fully functional desktop replacement computer: for certain usage cases as will be discussed. The top photo should give some sense of scale, seeing as how I’m holding it.
$224.99 with no accessories
$323.99 with remote & webcam
$277.94 with Logitech K400 bluetooth keyboard & webcam
Looks Like A Router?
It’s not. As you can see, it looks pretty much at home next to your other AV gear or around your Christmas decor. What’s the blue sticker on top about? Well, it’s a warning about the top becoming hot. However, during my own testing the top did not get appreciably warm after bench-testing or hours-long Netflix streaming. The logo in the front acts as a power / sleep / off button and indictor. Red glow = off, blue glow = on.
The physical appearance is definitely on the utility side in my view. I did not picture it here, but the bottom includes mounting holes for attaching to a wall hanger or screen hanger – as in, hanging it off the back of a monitor. The main casing is all grey plastic with an eye catching pattern on top, while the bottom is a metal plate. Since the Byte4 has all the remote access built in, driving an almost invisible wireless display with a full-fledged Windows 10 installation would become trivial using it.
Also, it’s Christmas time, and I like my snowman-glowing-globe-light-up-thing. Hmm, it probably bends the wifi signal around the globe (j/k).
Full Array of Ports+
The most obvious appendages are the two non-detachable wifi antennas, which allows the unit to operate at up to 802.11AC frequencies. Starting across the tiny back panel, there is the 12v wall-wart style 2 amp power input right next to one of the cooler featured ports I think the unit has: the 2nd ethernet jack which is labeled POE. POE stands for Power Over Ethernet. This means the system can be hardwired for networking, and via an appropriate switch or POE power injector, it can also receive the electricity required to operate. This is a nice feature for certain installations. Personally I am also a fan of hardwiring devices over relying on wifi, if the installation can support it.
There’s another 1 Gbps LAN port flanked by a Display Port 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 port capable of 4k60, and another odd port you usually only see on laptops – the Kensington lock port. That is an obvious anti-theft advantage when this little computer is deployed in places with public access.
Rounding out the ports on the back are a VGA port – don’t sneer, it’s still very useful with many existing (expensive) projection systems – and an analog stereo audio output jack.
Turning the corner, there is a microSD card reader, 4 USB 3.0 ports and a single USB Type C port. All of the USB ports are of the 5 Gbps variety. Theoretically, this system could drive at least 3 or even up to 7-8 displays (depending on compatible adapters) at the same time, contingent on what was on them. Think of a use case like airport screens showing schedules or an overhead menu in a fast food restaurant as an example; or even being able to load in data via the SD card slot for non-networked updates or a boot source.
On the other short side, there are a few vents to pass some air into the case. It does not seem like much, but in testing, that seemed sufficient to keep the unit from getting overly warm.
Will it Cinebench
Yes. Yes, it will. The results are pretty much as expected for the quad core Intel Gemini Lake J series CPU our review sample was equipped with, ending up with a score of just over 1400.
You can see that the CPU actually hit an average of 2.1Ghz, and peaks of 2.7Ghz in the HWInfo pictures, nicely exceeding the 2Ghz base frequency rating for that chip and boosting to 2.7. The top temps from the next picture show the cores maxing out at 87°C during the Cinebench 23 run. The clock speeds and temps topping out below the tjunction max of 105°C indicates Azulle really did their engineering homework on how to get the most computer performance out of their thermal envelope, given what CPU and support chips they were working with.
The CPU Inside
Here’s the CPU-Z look inside. If I said the quad core, 4 thread Intel Celeron J4125 was on the 14nm process, would that come as a surprise? The 64bit J4125 Celeron is a 10w TDP part, released in Q4 of 2019 and can address a maximum of 8GB of RAM. The PCIe bus from this Celeron is 2.0 only, with a maximum of 6 lanes. One of the interesting parts revealed here is that the board manufacturer is listed as Azulle themselves, running an AMI bios with a freshness date of early November 2020. It’s nice to see them making their own boards and keeping them up to date. Onboard graphics are UHD 600 while RAM is laptop style DDR4-2400. There’s a fifth pic below where you can see the CPU-Z processor comparison bench tab. TL; DR; -> single core this system-in-a-box single core is 77% of an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, but 308% over it in multi-core!
There are some benchmarks that might be appropriate for a machine such as this, right? Well, Skydiver from the famous 3D Mark test suite shows this system storming up to a score of 1452 – eh … not all that good. That benchmark also estimates Fortnite on this machine would run at about 20fps. Oof. Not to say that you cannot game on this system, because you can. Just pick your entertainment carefully. Like gaming on a business class laptop – it can be done!
I connected the Azulle Byte4 up to my 1Gbps wired network (10 Gbps coming here soon!) using the non-POE port. The two ethernet ports are run by Realtek 8168 hardware. DHCP worked immediately, and I ran my favorite internet speed test from dslreports.com – result below. My other desktops get about 900Mpbs and over 40Mpbs as well – so right in line for a testing scenario. I suspect we could bog down the Byte4 with multiple simultaneous transfer streams, simply because the CPU would become saturated shuffling and processing data.
The other metric was taken by having the system connected to my local network over wifi (an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265), on the AC band, to a Ubiquiti Unfi UAP-AC-Pro access point. A nice hefty file was moved from my Unraid server to the Byte4 where the Unraid server is hardwired to the base network and traversed 2 switches. Speeds reached almost 11MB/s, which translates to over 85Mbps and not that far from a “real world” 100Mbps speed often seen over a quiet 801.11ac network. My network is far from quiet.
Let’s Take it Apart
How could I resist taking this apart and checking out what expansion capabilities lurked within? After unscrewing the rubber feet and removing the 3 lower screws from the back plate, the bottom literally dropped out.
Prominently visible are the 2 SODIMM slots for the DDR4 2400, one of which is empty. This 4GB stick would double the ram; remember 8GB max on this Intel Celeron. Also visible are the SATA 6 cables for connecting another SSD, which can be mounted to the plate using the four holes to the right. No word on what the white button does, likely a hard reset or bios clear. I was in the middle of testing it or I would have pushed it a whole lot.
Adding an SSD
It was super easy to just connect up a fresh SSD, and I used a Micron 5100 Pro for testing. No extra configuration needed, it was found by the installed Windows 10 immediately after boot, formatted and mounted up. As previously mentioned, attaching it permanently would be easy using the 4 mounting holes in the bottom plate.
Just to the left of the SODIMM at the lower part of the picture is the NVME connector, which is limited to M.2 x 2 lanes. Look at the next section below for a more clear shot of this.
The two CrystalDiskMark pictures below show the speeds for the internal storage first, and for the Micron 5100 Pro second. Clearly the speed of the internal storage is … moderate … in light of how fast the SATA bus on the Byte4 actually could be, which is at least around the mid 500MB/s. In fairness, the included storage is via an eMMC chip – the Foresee NCEMASLD-64G. That chip can be seen in the pictures with the green dot on it and its data transfer max is 400MB/s, so ok. It does support trim however, according to the datasheet.
The CPU Heat Spreader
Removing the four board mounting screws allows us to peel back the final layer, looking for that patented heat spreading design. Ah, there it is. The entire top of the case is a sheet of metal with a slug extended towards the cpu. The entire board mounting action essentially clamps the CPU to the interior metal “roof”, which has a very generous amount of gooey thermal paste. I just put that right back together again, because. BTW, the swirled patterned top is not vented.
Who Is This For?
Despite what appears to be a rather low spec device, the Azulle Byte4 actually does have a number of reasonable and very legit use cases. Also note that for any of the situations this might be used for, that the Byte4 is also a full fledged Windows 10 operating system PC having plenty of ports, and can also run general utilities and perform other functions as opposed to a singularly dedicated device. It can also be repurposed.
- Azulle sells a video conference package, pretty much ready to go so that’s obviously a prime use
- Retail or informational kiosk public access displays
- If you really like Cortana, here’s a device you can set up in 1 go and start talking (just add microphone!)
- Remote learning or work – as an inexpensive “take-home” device for an employee or student. Remember, the Byte4 base is $225
- Cloud gaming! It’s a thing
- Netflix or other living room entertainment or info access – Azulle also sells a package with bluetooth devices, aimed at livingroom use
We spent time using this device in the living room, navigating web sites using bluetooth keyboard and mouse, watching Netflix and YouTube. It worked just fine, but I am not a personal fan of consuming computer content from across the room. I have a phone for that. While watching videos with the Byte4, there was an occasional issue with the audio dropping out over HDMI after resuming from pause. Switching the receiver away from the Byte4 input and back again seemed to re-synced it. That would happen if we paused a Netflix show, and I am not sure what to blame for that as there are a variety of HDMI versions, switching and protocols going on there.
The Azulle Byte4 is probably not a device I would place in my home personally, but I can see where it has definite business applications and I would consider giving one to certain people as a gift as I think they could get a lot of use out of one. It’s a great device if you have the requirement to run a dedicated PC / Windows (or perhaps Linux?) application as more of an appliance rather then a general purpose computer. For the modest price of $225, you get an entire fully “ported” unglamorous computer that you can easily connect to an existing TV or monitor – or just run it headless – and away you go with your app. Could be a set of Taco Bell wall monitor menus, or the share-to / Zoom video conferencing & You Tube device in your new home office conference room.
I could recommend this device for certain use cases, as long as there was an understanding that it needed to be managed and treated like a real Windows machine and not like an Amazon Firestick, Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
This is what we consider the responsible disclosure of our review policies and procedures.
How Product Was Obtained
The product is on loan from Azulle for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The product remains the property of Azulle but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
Azulle had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Azulle for this review.
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