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Appeared on: Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Minix Neo Z83-4 Windows Mini PC review


1. Features

We do like products that have been designed to cover specific consumer needs and are not delivered just because the competition requires it. Just think about what the end-user needs, get the concept, customize the device in a user-friendly manner to make it fit the consumers' needs and ideally, offer it in a good price. Sounds great? Well, that is not exactly the situation in today's market, but some Asian hardware makers have given themselves the freedom to design devices such as smartphones, small PCs or media players that offer functionality beyond the typical forms.

Honk Kong-based Minix has become popular among consumers for its compact, feature-packed devices and top performance. Recently Minix announced a new Windows -based mini PC / TV box hybrid, the Neo Z83-4.

The device is based on the low-power Intel Cherry Trail X5 Z8300 Quad Core processor. As a real all-rounder, you can use the device for work, gaming and of course as a media center PC. The minix neo Z83-4 is bundled with the Windows 10 (x64) operating system and its passive cooling concept help it achieve a perfect balance between speed, temperature and power, and remain completely silent.

The NEO Z83-4 is very energy efficient and consumes approximately 80% less energy than traditional desktop PCs.  On board users will find 4 GB of DDR3L RAM and 32GB eMMC (5.0) internal storage. With two monitor ports (Mini DP and HDMI), the NEO Z83-4 can be also used as a thin client solution.

- Specifications

Processor / CPU

Intel X5-Z8300 (64-bit) Quad Core

Video processor / GPU

Intel HD Graphics

Memory

4GB DDR3L

Internal Storage

32GB eMMC 5.0

Compounds

802.11ac Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz / 5.0GHz), Bluetooth 4.2

Operating system

Windows 10 (64-bit)

Video Output

Mini DP + HDMI 1.4

Audio Output

3.5mm Stereo Jack

Ethernet port

RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet

USB Ports

USB 2.0 port x 3 USB 3.0 port x 1

Ports

Kensington lock ready, microphone and headphone jack (combined)

Power

DC 12V, 3A adapter included (CE, FCC certified)


2. Package

The Minix Neo Z83-4 Mini PC is available on Amazon for about 160 Euros. Below you see the retail package of the device, which is rated for 24/7 operation mainly due to its fanless design with no moving parts inside, and the low-power, Intel Z-8300 processor:

Inside the box the mini PC is wrapped into an anti static bag. You will also a mutli-language setup guide/product brochure, an HDMI cable, a power adapter and an external wifi antenna:

In order to get the box running you will need to connect an external mouse/keyboard . There are several options to do this; in our case we used the Logitech K400 keyboard that includes a touch pad.

Below you you see a picture of the top side of the device:

An operation LED is located at the front side (ON blue, green in standby):

The power button, a microSDHC/SDXC port, three (3) USB2.0 ports and one USB3.0 port are located at the right panel of the PC:

The rear side includes a mini displayPort (DP) v1.20 and a full sized HDMI v1.4 port. More over, there is an 1Gbit LAN port, a dual microphone & headphone jack and the 12V DCin power adapter jack.

At the left side there is the Wifi Lan jack for the included antenna and one hole for Kensington Locks:

 


3. Booting up, BIOS, Windows

The Minix Neo Z83-4 comes conveniently with Windows 10 Home x64 edition pre-installed.

The system is based on the popular AMI BIOS and it is easy to navigate. The system came with v0.90 BIOS installed, and we updated it to the latest v1.03. You can easily update the box under Windows (double click update.bat). Here are some screenshots of the various BIOS settings:

After the first boot, you will be asked to configure the Windows 10 Home x64 installation:

Following the first boot, the free space left for us was limited to 13.1GB out of the 28.6GB of the available memory:

Note here that the Windows 10 Anniversary update is NOT pre-installed on the MINIX NEO Z83-4, at least in our sample unit. Trying to use the default update method failed since there is not enough free space for the new Windows installation. A workaround for that is provided over Microsoft's forums. For our review needs, we made a clean installation of Windows 10 Home x64 with Windows 10 anniversary update included. Many device drivers were missing after the installation, but they are all available for download here . In addition, you need to make some manual adjustments as explained here. After some more re-boots, the device was fully operational.


4. CPU tests

Following the WIndows installation, the system had the following components:

The Minix Neo Z83-4 uses the Intel Atom X5 Z-8300 processor, a popular SoC typically used in low-budget mini PCs. The Atom x5-Z8300 is a 64-bit quad-core system-on-a-chip introduced by Intel in early 2015. This ultra-low power SoC has a scenario design power of 2W and operates at a base frequency of 1.44 GHz with a burst up to 1.84 GHz. It supports up to 2 GB of memory and includes an  HD Graphics (Cherry Trail) GPU:

The CPU-Z's benchmark provides a rough idea of what you can expect from the Intel Atom X5 Z-8300:

The "middle-to-low" performance indicates that the system is powerful enough for office use . The installed memory runs at 1600MHz at CL11:

The 4GB DDR3L memory runs at single mode and cannot be upgraded since it is soldered on the main board:

If the installed RAM was running at dual mode, its performance would be much higher:

Below you see more benchmark results and comparisons among various systems, based on the online PassMark software archive:

The PCMark 7 software returned an overall score of 2446:

Below you see the PCMark 8 tests:

The OCCT software showed that the system;s temperature never exceeded the 57 degrees Celsius and no CPU throttling occurred:


5. GPU tests

The system's Intel HD Graphics supports:

Integrated Graphic Information
GPU HD Graphics (Cherry Trail)
Execution Units 12
Displays 2
Frequency 200 MHz
Max frequency 500 MHz
Max memory 2 GB
Output Embedded DisplayPort, HDMI
DirectX 11.1
OpenGL 4.3
OpenCL 1.2
OpenGL ES 3.0
HDMI 1.4b
Vulkan 1.0
DP 1.1a
eDP 1.3
Max HDMI Res 1920x1080 @60
Max DVI Res 1920x1080 @60 Hz
Max DSI Res 1900x1200 @60 Hz
Max DP Res 2560x1600 @60
Max eDP Res 1920x1080 @60 Hz

You can drive two external monitors using the HDMI and miniDP ports. However, the HD Graphics only support mini-DP to D-Sub conversion or direct mini-DP to mini-DP/DP connection. Mini-DP to HDMI or mini-DP to DVI is not supported. 

The GPU-Z provides more details:

The PassMark 8 software gives us an estimation of the system;s strengths. You really shouldn't expect any serious performance from an integrated GPU. At both 2D/3D Marks, the HD Graphics is much slower than AMD Nvidia graphics solutions:

The popular FutureMark 3D benchmarks returned the results you see below, which are very low compared with Intel HD 530 / 510 Graphic cards:

Test
HD Graphics HD Graphics 510
3D Mark 05
4155
9510
17009
3D Mark 06
2445
6136
10388
3D Mark Vantage
Ρ1326
P3142
P6175
3D Mark 11
P353
P897
P1631
3D Mark Sky Driver
975
2049
3808

As you realize, the Intel Graphics will only allow you to play DX9 games running at medium quality and probably to a resolution lower of 1280x720p.


6. Storage, HD Audio/Video tests

Storage Tests

The Minix Neo Z83-4 comes with a Samsung 32GB eMMC 5.0 storage device. Our tests showed an overall acceptable performance, slightly higher than what we would get if the system used a traditional HDD, but much lower a typical SSD:

A/V Tests

The Minix Neo Z83-4 can be also potentially become the media center box of your living room.

The box offers two digital A/V ports to support two independent screens, using DisplayPort or HDMI. Both outputs support the Ultra HD / 4K resolution, Quick Sync Video and Clear Video HD technology. For all the Audio/Video Tests we used the following setup:

TV: Panasonic 55CMX710E (4K +3D capable) with the latest firmware installed
A/V Receiver: Yamaha RX-V775 (7.2 capable)
with the latest firmware installed
Wifi Router: TP-Link VR200 (802ac,b,g,n) with the latest firmware installed

The HD graphics card supports full H.263, MPEG4, H.264, H.265 (HEVC), VP8, VP9, MVC, MPEG2, VC1, JPEG hardware decoding and HD Audio. We connected the device to a Yamaha RX-775 A/V receiver through an HDMI cable, and tested several l audio/video files available from KODI Wiki. We also used the latest K Lite Codec pack and the Kodi platform.

In order to get HD Audio, you need to make some settings first. At the Media Player Classic (part of the K Lite Codec) you need to set the external filters. In KODI, you have to set audio to the WASAPI HDMI of the TV Display, 5.1 channel and at the same time, you should enable all the corresponding modes of your A/V Receiver.

Audio HD Tests
HD Audio K Lite Codec Kodi 17.0 beta
LPCM 5.1
PCM 2.0 at A/V Receiver PCM Passthrough (5.1 at A/V Receiver)
LPCM 7.1
AAC 5.1
AAC 7.1
Dolby AC3 5.1
Yes Yes
Dolby Digital
Plus 5.1
Yes
Dolby Digital
Plus 7.1
Yes (only 5.1)
Dolby True HD 5.1
Yes 5.1 at A/V Receiver Yes (5.1 at A/V Receiver)
Dolby True HD 7.1
Dolby True HD 7.1 Atmos
DTS-HD HRA 5.1
DTS 5.1 at A/V Receiver
DTS 5.1 at A/V Receiver
DTS-HD HRA 7.1
DTS-HD MA 5.1
DTS 5.1 at A/V Receiver DTS 5.1 MSTR at A/V Receiver
DTS-HD MA 7.1
DTS:X 7.1

As you see above, with KODI you will get HD-Audio passthrough up to 5.1 (DTS) and a perfect audio playback, while with Media Player Classic you only get PCM 2.0 with AAC/LPCM formats.

4K Tests x264 (AVC)

Test Clips K Lite Codec Kodi 17.0 beta
4K 10-bit H.264 video sample @ up to 160 Mbps Jerky playback jerky playback
4K-HD.Club-2013-Taipei 101 Fireworks Trailer (AVC, High@L5.1, 29.970fps, 2 Channels AAC, 100mbps bitrate) Yes Yes
4k_QHD_RoastDuck_30p (AVC, High@L5.1, 29.970fps, 2 Channels AAC) Yes Yes
big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps (AVC, High@L5.1, 30 FPS, 2 Channels Mp3) Yes Yes

big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps
(AVC, High@L5.1, 60 FPS, 2 Channels Mp3)

Yes Yes
Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps] Yes Yes
linkin_park_ultra-hd (H264, 50-60fps) Yes Yes
NoiseRed-25fps-SlowMotion-120mbs (AVC, High@L5.1, variable FPS) Yes Yes
Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps] Yes Yes
Sony_Alpha_7R_II_video-test-4K (H264, up to 30fps)
Yes Yes
Snow Monkeys in Japan 5K Retina 60p (Ultra HD) (2160p 30fps) Yes Yes
BluRay 1080p AVC DTS-HD MA 7.1 x264 file (AVC, High@L4.1, 6 000 Kbps, DTS-HD MA 8 Channels) Yes Yes
[1080p][16_REF_L5.1][FLAC_5.1]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP Yes Yes

The HD Graphics engine can playback most of the H264 encoded files. But note that using 10bit files will result in interrupted playback, even with low-bitrate files.

4K Tests x265 (HEVC - 8 Bit)

Test Clips K Lite Codec Kodi 17.0

Astra-11112_H_22000-Fashion TV UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate (8Bit HEVC)

Yes Yes
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4 Yes Yes
DivX-HEVC-UHD-4k_QHD_RoastDuck_30p Yes Yes
Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia (8Bit HEVC)
Yes Yes
Hispasat-10730_V_30000-Hispasat 4K HEVC 65.3 Mbps bitrate (8Bit HEVC) Yes Yes
Sintel_4k_27qp_24fps_1aud_9subs (8Bit HEVC) Yes Yes
LG Demo DolbyVision Comparison Yes Yes

The system also showed a great compatibility with the H265 videos we tried, and had no problems with all the 8bit files. However, due to a limitation of the Intel HD Graphics engine, the Minix Neo Z83-4 cannot playback 10bit or 4K VP9 videos properly.

Overall we are pleased with the performance of the Minix Neo Z83-4 and combined with the Kodi 17.0, it will give you hours of entertainment


7. Final words

The Minix Neo Z83-4 is a complete mini Windows PC / TV box armed with Windows 10 operating system and with Intel's Atom X5 Z-8300 processor our of the box. This totally silent system and operate 24/7 and consumes not more than 4Watt.

The mini OC is equipped with 4GB of DDR3L RAM and offers 32GB eMMC (5.0) of internal storage soldered on the main board, meaning both cannot be replaced or upgraded. For sure we would like the option to have more storage (64GB) since the Windows 10 installation leaves just 13.8GB free for use. Of course you have the option to add a microSDHC/XC card to further expand the internal storage.

The device also offers the essential 802.11ac Wifi (with External antenna) and the 1GBit LAN connectivity, which will help you playback heavily bitrated files over your local network/Internet. There are also several USB ports (2.0 & 3.0) that should cover most of your needs. In addition, two Video output ports (mini DP and HDMI) can be used to drive two monitors at the same time (perhaps displaying KODI in one screen and Normal windows at the second screen..)

 

The box includes a licensed version of the Windows 10 Home Edition x64 operating system. Booting with the included 32GB eMMC 5.0 HDD is very quick and most essential installations can be completed in an acceptable time, provided that you are familiar with the features of the Intel Atom ecosystem. Minix also offers a full set of drivers in case you need to install any other Windows version (but of course you will loose original the licence). Minix also plans to port Linux soon for this little system.

Performancewise, this little baby can be used for most everyday tasks (office/internet) without any problems. Gaming with an Atom device is not a good idea.. However, playback of 4K content will not be a problem. With either KLiteCodec or KODI , you will have a good overall experience. HD Audio is present, although down to 5.1 due to limitations of the Intel platform. If you are using 10bit files, this box won't keep up with your expectations as well.

The Neo Z83-4 mini PC is very compact, totally silent and offers the benefits of a Windows-cased system. It's more expensive than Android-based systems but you get convenience and interoperability with the Windows software ecosystem, many hardware features and a great support from Minix.

Visit Minix

 

Positive
+ Complete retail package
+ Compact size
+ Totally silent, 24/7 operation
+ 4GB included DDR3 memory
+ Licensed Windows 10 Home Edition x64 included
+ Build quality
+ 802.11ac Wifi with external Antenna
+ Many I/O ports (USB2.0, USB3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, 1GBit Lan)
+ Proper cpu cooling keeps temperature low even under full load (never above 58 degrees Celsius)
+ Intel HD graphics support up to 4K content
+ HD Audio passthrough works great (up to 5.1)
+ Kodi 17.0 works great with this box
+ Frequent firmware updates and support from Minix

Negative
- Only DD/DTS 5.1 playback (Intel Atom platform limitation)
- Cannot playback H264/H265 10bit files (Intel HD Graphics limitation)
- Slightly higher retail price than competition
- Memory/HDD cannot be upgraded
- Included HDMI port is v1.4 (4K @ 24Hz) and not 2.0 (4K @ 60Hz + HDR)



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