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MINIX NEO N42C-4 – Review

MINI NEO N42C-4-2

Another small computer from the world-leading MINIX, we hear you say? Don’t be fooled by its size, though, as this Windows 10 Pro powered, upgradable mini-PC packs a heck of a punch.

The MINIX range of mini-computers offer the user a decent selection of packages, both in terms of hardware offered and pre-installed operating systems. However, the MINIX NEO N42C-4 is considerably different from its siblings in the MINIX stable.

Although looking virtually similar to the other MINIX offerings, the N42C-4 instead has the rather capable Intel N4200 CPU on-board, a processor that can hold its own against a Core i3 6100U and even the Core i5 6200U. With a base 1.1GHz clock speed, boosting to 2.5GHz when the going gets tough, this quad-core CPU offers great power-to-performance alongside virtualisation support, and the Intel HD 505 GPU.

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In addition to the good choice of CPU, this particular MINIX bucks the trend of its predecessors by being upgradable. This of course is the big selling point here, while the base model comes supplied with 4GB of 1600MHz SODIMM memory, you’re able to increase that amount to a very healthy 16GB; with a pair of 8GB modules.

Accompanying the upgradable RAM is the N42C-4’s storage. The built-in 32GB eMMC MLC can take the digital weight of Windows 10 Pro, but there’s not a great deal of space left once Windows has added a few updates and you’ve installed one or two extras on top. Thanks to a single 2280 M.2 slot, though, you’re able to boost the internal storage to 512GB.

Stick a good SSD in there, and you’re looking at boot times to the Windows 10 desktop in mere seconds. It’s also worth noting that the Windows 10 Pro license is built-in to the BIOS, so even when you upgrade the storage, which cuts out the 32GB eMMC option, you’re able to effortlessly install Windows 10 Pro without having to go through the rigmarole of locating and activating the license code.

Other hardware includes an internal 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi module, Bluetooth 4.1, gigabit Ethernet, three USB 3.0 ports and a single USB-C port; HDMI 1.4, Mini DisplayPort, optical SPDIF, VESA mount, and a 3.5mm audio jack completes the ensemble. Take into account that this is all on a case that measures just 139 x 139 x 30mm (with the VESA mount included).

The design of the N42C-4 isn’t too dissimilar to that of the other MINIX mini-computers. The black, matte-finish plastic case, with its embossed MINIX logo on the top, and ports located around the sides, looks great. It’s small enough to be discrete under the TV or monitor, or to fix to the rear via the VESA mount without too much trouble. Although this unit includes a CPU fan, whereas the other MINIX units have just a heatsink, there’s barely any sound emitting from it. And even when you push the N42C-4 to its limits, you’ll still find the fan extremely silent.

Most of the time the MINIX units are used as home media PCs, since they provide good performance from such a small footprint. The N42C-4 is certainly no exception, and thanks to its improved internal hardware, it makes for one of the best media PCs we’ve used in a lot of years. Our example came with 8GB memory and a 128GB SSD installed, giving it some extra oomph.

HD content played without any problems, as did 4K. While we expected the N4200 and HD 505 to handle 4K, it’s always good to see them playing content from both YouTube and Netflix, as well as stored on a NAS drive and locally, without the common screen tearing and lengthy buffering we’ve experienced in the past with other media PCs.

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Gaming isn’t the best, admittedly. While there are a lot of games available that the N42C-4 can handle relatively easily, don’t expect to play the latest triple-A titles in flawless HD resolutions at max settings. If you’re just looking at something like Minecraft for the kids, or yourselves, then you’re in luck. Obviously, retro gaming is something the N42C-4 handles without problems – even the often difficult to handle GameCube games via the Dolphin emulator.

Another good example of the N42C-4’s potential use is that of a coding base, or virtual machine host. With enough memory installed, together with a sizeable storage option, you can install any number of virtual machines, covering earlier versions of Windows, or different Linux distros. Use these to write cross-platform compatible code, or create virtual anonymity web-browsers. There’s plenty of choice, and thanks to the upgrade options available, we’re sure you’ll find the N42C-4 has quite a few strings to its bow.

In conclusion, the MINIX NEO N42C-4 is simply fantastic. It performs very well indeed, offers great upgrade potential, has a copy of Windows 10 Pro pre-installed on it, looks good, and is priced well. Consider that on its own a copy of Windows 10 Pro costs £219 from the Microsoft Store, and you’ll find it difficult to fault MINIX.

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