A small PC packed with plenty of potential.
We’ve seen a number of small-form factor PCs recently, from the more traditional Shuttle-looking chassis models through to the newer PC on a stick examples. Clearly there’s a need for ultra-small PCs, whether it’s for media centres or super-small desktops attached to the backs of a monitors.The Neo Z64 is the newest entry in the small PC range and comes from Minix. This is an extremely capable unit that features an Intel Z3735F 64-bit processor running at 1.3GHz, 2GB DDR3L memory and 32GB eMMC of flash storage, onto which Minix has pre-installed a copy of Windows 8.1 Bing Edition. The processor used is the same Z3735F that Intel is currently trialling inside its Compute Stick system. It’s an energy efficient CPU that delivers a decent amount of processing for normal, day-to-day computing duties. The graphics are handled by an Intel Bay Trail, which runs at 311 MHz with a boost frequency of 646MHz.
Further to the above, the Neo Z64 has 802.11n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a HDMI 1.4 port, 100Mbps Ethernet port, micro-SD card reader and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. All that packed into a device that measures just 115 x 155 x 20mm.
The Neo Z64 is a neat little black box, with Minix debossed into the top of the unit. There’s a large wi-fi antennae protruding from the left of the unit, with the HDMI, power, Ethernet and headphone socket at the rear and the two USB ports, a MicroSD card reader and power button located on the right-hand side. It’s all very neat, compact and competent.Booting the Neo Z64 takes mere seconds and, once in Windows 8.1, the desktop is snappy and useable. With about 20GB free on the eMMC flash storage after Windows has taken its share of the space, there’s still a bit of room for storage even if you’re not connecting other drives.
Naturally, the processor in the Neo isn’t going to allow you to play the latest AAA games, but it is capable of running standard office applications and playing HD media content without any hint of a struggle. We tested it on our home network setup and play back from the networked NAS drive was as perfect as you could wish for.
We were quite impressed by the fact that despite being left powered on for several hours and through play back of the aforementioned HD content, as well as various installations, configuring and updates, the little Neo was barely warm to the touch. We’ve had a few fanless micro PCs over the years and they all tend to get a little hot under the collar after just a short period of intense processor work. Not so for the Neo, though.As an under the TV media centre, the Neo Z64 is excellent. It’s quiet, reasonably quick and superbly presented. The amount of space left on the drive may not be a huge amount, but considering most users these days store their content on a NAS or some other server, it’s more than adequate for Windows, Office and any number of media players or servers. We even found a use for it as a retro emulation PC for under the TV gaming.Its use as a terminal PC in offices has a lot of potential too, thanks to the low power, low cost and decent performance. At a very reasonable £130 (with the Windows 8.1 Bing Edition license included) there’s certainly a lot that can be had from such a small box.The Minix Neo Z64 is a fantastic micro-PC, that ticks all the right boxes and could offer the average Windows user a far better option than a traditional desktop. David HaywardAn excellent hand-sized PC for general use.