MINIX NEO Z64 Review: An Excellent Quadcore Windows Mini PC

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The MINIX NEO Z64 is a quadcore Intel mini PC by famed mini PC manufacturer MINIX. Whilst MINIX have traditionally played in the Android Mini PC space with popular devices such as the X8-H Plus, the MINIX NEO Z64 breaks the mold by coming in both Android and Windows variants. I was fortunate enough to review the Windows Edition, also known as the MINIX NEO Z64W.

Thanks to GeekBuying for providing me a sample to review. You can purchase the MINIX NEO Z64 from them.

Click here to view the Windows edition or, alternatively, click here for the Android edition.

 

What Is It?

A compact Windows mini PC powered by a quadcore Intel processor. Its low power requirements and fanless design make it an ideal HTPC or desktop.

MINIX NEO Z64 Technical Specifications

  • Chipset: Intel Baytrail quad core processor with Intel HD graphics (Z3735F)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC + microSD slot up to 128GB
  • Video & Audio Output: HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm Audio
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB: 2x USB 2.0 port
  • OS: Windows 8.1 with Bing (32-bit)

What’s in the box?

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Box-01

MINIX have given the basics to get started inside the box:

  • 1x MINIX NEO Z64 Mini PC
  • 1x HDMI Cable
  • 1x Power Adapter
  • 1x English Instruction Manual
  • 1x Warranty Card

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Inside-The-Box

I’m glad to see that MINIX have included a HDMI cable inside the box, as both Windows boxes that I have tested so far – the PiPO X7 and VOYO Mini PC – haven’t included one.

MINIX NEO Z64 Unboxing

MINIX NEO Z64 Design

As I mentioned in my impressions article, the MINIX Z64 looks identical to other MINIX NEO devices such as the MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. There’s no greater evidence of this than the large Android logo engraved underneath the case, despite running Windows. It’s a little odd but doesn’t have any meaningful impact on the device.

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Bottom-Photo

The device feels solid and has real weight to it which I haven’t noticed in other devices, even the excellent PiPO X7. This makes the Z64 feel like a “premium” device.

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Front-Photo

The front of the device houses the power LED and IR sensor, although without an included remote, I’m not sure what it is compatible with. Moving around to the right of the device, we have the power button, microSD card slot and 2 USB 2.0 ports.

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Right-Photo

Finally, the bulk of the ports are located at the rear. Moving from left to right, we have 3.5mm audio, HDMI out, Ethernet and DC In. A WiFi antenna also makes an appearance on the left side.

MINIX-NEO-Z64-Left-Photo

 

The biggest issue here is that MINIX have only included 2 USB 2.0 ports, which means you’ll only have a single USB port spare after connecting a mouse/keyboard. I’d definitely invest in a good USB hub to bridge the gap.

MINIX NEO Z64 Initial Impressions

In order to boot the device, you need to first press the power button. The Z64 boots quickly, with a cold boot taking just 13 seconds to reach a usable state. Resuming from standby is essentially instantaneous. Windows performance has been excellent so far, with everything feeling smooth and no hint of lag. During my brief bit of testing, I didn’t notice any heat-related throttling at all, which some people have complained about on some other Windows PCs.

Though the device comes with 32GB of eMMC storage, this isn’t all usable as it’s split into 3 partitions:  a 100MB system partition, a 4.1GB recovery partition and a 24.7GB main partition that the OS resides on. This means that out of the box, you have 20.1GB free to use. Thankfully, you can install an SD card to increase the available storage.

MINIX NEO Z64 User Interface and Included Apps

Start_menu_2015-03-09_05-06-56

It’s Windows 8.1 with Bing! There’s really not much to elaborate on, as Windows 8.1 is consistent across all devices. The Intel Z3735F is sufficiently powerful to handle Windows 8.1, with menu navigation and opening apps feeling fast and smooth. Windows 8.1 with Bing comes activated – although I’d expect no less from MINIX, given their reputation in the mini PC market.

MINIX NEO Z64 Media Playback

To test video playback, I fired up Kodi 14.2 RC1.

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Video CodecKodi 14.2 RC1

1080p 3D SBS H.264 OK
1080p 3D ABL H.264 OK
1080p30 H.264 OK
1080p High Bitrate H.264 OK
1080p60 H.264 OK
720p50 H.264 OK
1080i50 H.264 OK
4K H.264 OK
1080p HEVC Unwatchable (Too many skipped frames)
1080p VP8 OK
720p Hi10p Watchable (Some Dropped Frames)
1080p Hi10p Watchable (Some Dropped Frames)
1080p MPEG2 OK
720P RMVB OK
1080p VC1 OK
1080p VP8 OK

I was really impressed at how well the MINIX Z64 handled the media files I tested on it. I had no issues with the more demanding codecs such as 4K H.264, 1080p60 H.264 and, surprisingly, even Hi10p was watchable. Automatic framerate switching worked as expected.

MINIX NEO Z64 Gaming Performance

To test gaming performance, I installed 2 games – 1 2D and 2 3D titles:

Gaming performance was respectable given the relatively weak GPU in the device. Jetpack Joyride was silky smooth and even Beach Buggy Blitz maintained an excellent framerate on maximum settings. Even Asphalt 8 played relatively well, maintaining approximately 25-30fps at 1080p throughout several races. I didn’t notice any performance drops to suggest thermal throttling like I saw in the VOYO Mini PC which is excellent.

Gaming Controllers and Bluetooth

I connected my iPega 9025 controller over Bluetooth without any issue. I was also able to connect my Tronsmart Mars G01 which was recognized as a Xbox 360 controller and use it in both Beach Buggy Racing and Asphalt 8.

MINIX NEO Z64 Networking Performance

WiFi Performance

To test out WiFi performance, I used iperf (iperf –t 60 -c SERVER_IP -r) to test networking bandwidth. Wifi performance was good, with upload and download speeds of 13.6 Mbps and 15.1 Mbps respectively. Web browsing and watching YouTube videos over WiFi felt fast and I didn’t experience any buffering when streaming a 1080p video from an NFS share.

Ethernet Performance

Ethernet bandwidth was tested using the same procedure as WiFi, with the device connected to a Gigabit Ethernet port on my router. As expected, Ethernet speeds were good, with upload and download speeds of 90.1 Mbps and 87.4 Mbps respectively. This correlates with what we saw on the similarly specc’ed PiPO X7.

MINIX NEO Z64 Benchmarks

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme

MINIX-NEO-Z64-3DMark-Ice-Storm-Extreme

3DMark Cloud Gate

MINIX-NEO-Z64-3DMark-Cloud-Gate

PCMark 8 Home Conventional

MINIX-NEO-Z64-PCMark-Home-Conventional

PCMark 8 Work Conventional

MINIX-NEO-Z64-PCMark-Work-Conventional

NovaBench

MINIX-NEO-Z64-NovaBench

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3

Crystaldiskmark

Interestingly, the MINIX Z64 achieved signifiicantly higher read and write speeds across the board than the VOYO Mini PC.

MINIX NEO Z64 Temperatures

Temperatures were measured after a barrage of benchmarks using an IR thermometer. With an ambient temperature of 23.3°C, the top and bottom case temperatures were 43°C and 51.4°C respectively. I didn’t experience any thermal throttling, with temperatures maxing out at around 75°C under extreme load. It’s clear that MINIX have done an excellent job on keeping the SoC cool.

MINIX NEO Z64 Power Consumption

Powered Off Standby Idle Load
0 W 2.9 W 4.6 W 8.7 W

MINIX NEO Z64 Additional Photos

Getting One

I recieved my MINIX NEO Z64 from GeekBuying. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, you can purchase one from them: Windows or Android.

Alternatively, it’s also available from GearBest (Windows or Android) and Amazon (Windows or Android)

[minix-z64-deal]

Share Your Experience!

Have you bought a MINIX NEO Z64? What do you use yours for? How well do you feel it performs?

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Michael is a technology expert with over 10 years of experience in IT, Home Theatre and Automation. Feel free to send Michael a message here.