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MINIX NEO Z83-4U – Review

MINIX NEO Z83-4U
  • Company: MINIX
  • Website: http://minix.com.hk/
  • Price: £149.90
  • Available: From 4th March 2019

A fresh addition from the stable of one of the best mini-PC designers. But does this Ubuntu-powered, palm-sized, micro PC have what it takes to deliver the goods?

Since its inception in 2008, Hong Kong mini-PC developers MINIX has always strived to produce quality, high-end products for a reasonable price. Combining a mixture of Windows, Android and Linux-based operating systems, the company’s tiny PCs have, thankfully, hit the mark and ticked all the right boxes: a decent hardware specification, excellently designed cases, and all at a cost that puts a lot of other min-PC designers to shame.

Ubuntu Power

Now though, there’s a new addition to the MINIX range, the NEO Z83-4U. This model differs only slightly from its older sibling, the NEO Z83-4, featuring a new CPU, double the storage in the form of a 64GB eMMC 5.1 flash, and, as we’ve already mentioned, pre-installed with a copy of Ubuntu 18.04.01 (the Bionic Beaver).

Other hardware includes 4GB of DDR3L memory, three USB 2.0 ports, and a single USB 3.0 port, HDMI 1,4 and Mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio jack, micro SD card reader, gigabit Ethernet as well as dual-band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.3. The aforementioned CPU is now an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 Cherry Trail quad-core processor, running at a maximum of 1.92GHz and including an Intel Graphics HD 400 GPU.

MINIX NEO Z83-4U

All this, mind you, is packed into a stylish, and solid, case that measures just 127 x 127 x 27mm and weighs a mere 350g. This is MINIX’s forte, cramming a tasty selection of hardware into a compact unit that, remarkably, doesn’t overheat, even when under pressure, and actually looks pretty good too.

The case is a black, hardened matte-effect plastic, with the ports located on the sides, an embossed MINIX company logo on the top, and four rubber feet on the bottom. The screw-on antenna is located to the back of the unit, opposite the power button, USB ports, and micro SD card slot, with the remaining ports to the right-hand side. In the box you get a 12V/3A power supply complete with EU, US and UK plug adapters, a HDMI cable, VESA mount, the WiFi antenna, and a user manual. Even the box is slightly different for this model, with MINIX utilising the purple and orange colouring of the Z83-4U’s host operating system, Ubuntu. It’s just one of many nice touches the company has incorporated into the new model.

MINIX NEO Z83-4U

Ubuntu is an interesting choice of OS. While personally, we would have opted for the, in our humble opinion, far superior Linux Mint, Ubuntu 18.04.01 works extremely well in this instance. As you would expect, everything works out of the box, all you need do is enter the pre-defined MINIX user password (as detailed in the instruction booklet), and update the system, adding a new user if you prefer. You will of course need to install the usual media codec extras and so on, as while this is a customised version of Ubuntu, so that it works with the hardware in the Z83-4U, it’s still the core Ubuntu build.

While the company has specified that the Z83-4U is designed for the likes of digital signage, that’s not to say that it can’t be used for a small home media setup, retro gaming station, or even a coding base. It’s not the most powerful processor available, but it’s more than enough to be gently coaxed into a number of different setups and scenarios.

Overall, the MINIX NEO Z84-4U is an excellent addition to the MINIX fold. It’s a solid little PC, and one that can be easily adapted for several situations. The Ubuntu portion of the Z83-4U may take a little work for those who aren’t familiar with Linux and its many peculiarities, however there’s plenty of documentation online, as well as the MINIX support forum to turn to should you get stuck.

In short, well worth the £149.90 asking price.

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