Tronsmart Ara X5

Tronsmart Ara X5 Review: Windows 10 and Cherry Trail

The Tronsmart Ara X5 is an impressive mini PC. For under $150, you get a complete Windows PC running Windows 10 including in-built Wifi, storage and RAM. It’s more or less a plug-and-play option for those looking for a cheap Windows PC for office work and web browsing or a HTPC for movie lovers.

It’s also the first Windows mini PC on the market to feature both Windows 10 and an Intel Cherry Trail processor, the X5-Z8300. Thanks to Intel’s new silicon, the Tronsmart Ara X5 supports HEVC hardware decoding, USB 3.0 and improved GPU performance. It also packs in dual band Wifi, 32GB of eMMC storage and 2GB of RAM. So is this the ultimate mini PC?

I want to say thanks to GeekBuying for sending me a Tronsmart Ara X5 to review. Use coupon “HTLX5PC” to get $15 off!

Check Price at GeekBuying

Tronsmart Ara X5 Video Review

Tronsmart Ara X5 Technical Specifications

  • Chipset: Intel Cherry Trail processor with Intel HD graphics (Z8300)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC + microSD slot
  • Video & Audio Output: HDMI, 3.5mm Audio
  • Connectivity: dual band 802.1 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet
  • USB: 2x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

What’s in the Box?

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Inside-The-Box

Inside the box, Tronsmart have given the basics you need to get connected:

  • 1x Tronsmart Ara X5 Windows PC
  • 1x Power adapter
  • 1x HDMI cable
  • 1x English instruction manual

Tronsmart Ara X5 Demo

Tronsmart Ara X5 Design

Tronsmart have clearly focused on design for the Ara X5. Moving away from the black square designs of their Android devices, the Tronsmart Ara X5 uses an attractive grey and black two-tone color scheme. It’s subtle but looks fantastic.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-02

The case’s top is a black acrylic panel with a mirror-finish with Tronsmart branding and the power LED. I really like the look of it – when it was straight out of the box. As with any mirror-finish, it’s a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

The design is entirely fanless, with the bottom of the case is essentially all vents. This means that even during the quietest of movie scenes, the unit is completely silent.

The Tronsmart Ara X5’s design is more PC than media player. The ports are located at the front and back, with the sides being completely bare.

On the front, we have two fullsize USB 2.0 ports, 3.5mm audio output and the power button.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Front

The rear of the case features DC in, Ethernet, HDMI, a USB 3.0 port and a micro SD card slot.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Back

I did find the USB 3.0 port was too close to the HDMI out port for bulky USB devices. My Kingston drive’s case is a little bulky, meaning that it didn’t fit in though slimmer USB drives were fine.

Using It

The Tronsmart Ara X5 is booted by holding down the power button down for a couple of seconds. A cold boot only takes 19 seconds whilst resuming from standby is instant.

The Tronsmart Ara X5 is the first Windows mini PC to come with Windows 10 Home. It’s a 64-bit OS and comes activated out of the box. Windows 10 is clean out of the box, with Tronsmart not adding any bloatware. The C: drive has 16.8/28.5 Gb free.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Windows-Desktop

The Intel X5-Z8300 handles the OS brilliantly. I was able to navigate through menus and launch apps without any issues.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Media Playback

Video playback was tested using Kodi 15.1 due to its excellent codec support and suitability for HTPC use.

Video CodecVideo Performance (Kodi 15.0)
1080p 3D SBS H.264OK
1080p 3D ABL H.264OK
1080p30 H.264OK
1080p High Bitrate H.264OK
1080p60 H.264OK
720p50 H.264OK
1080i50 H.264OK
4K 30Hz H.264OK
4K 60Hz H.264Unwatchable (Skipped Frames)
1080p24 HEVCOK
1080p VP8OK
720p Hi10pOK
1080p Hi10pUnwatchable (Skipped Frames)
1080p MPEG2OK
720P RMVBOK
1080p VC1OK
Unencrypted Bluray ISO (Sintel)OK

Automatic frame rate switching worked well in Kodi, automatically changing my panel’s refresh rate to match the video.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Kodi

Media playback was impressive, being able to handle almost every codec that I threw at it. Thanks to Intel’s new processor, my 1080p HEVC video played perfectly so you’ll be covered as HEVC adoption grows.

Netflix

I was able to watch Netflix in HD via the Netflix Windows 10 app from the Windows Store.

External Storage Support

I was able to plug in my USB drive and 2.5″ HDD and play videos without any issues.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-05

Tronsmart Ara X5 Gaming Performance

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

Gaming performance on the Tronsmart Ara X5 was good overall, thanks to the Intel X5-Z8300’s improved GPU. Jetpack Joyride was perfectly smooth and I didn’t see any drops in framerate

Beach Buggy Racing on max settings maintained a solid framerate, even during high action sections.  This is far better than devices based on the Intel Z3735F such as the Minix Z64.

Switching over to the more demanding Asphalt 8, the game was still playable but the framerate often sits slightly below 30FPS.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Beach-Buggy-Racing

Gaming Controllers and Bluetooth

I connected my iPazzPort Bluetooth Keyboard over Bluetooth without any issue. 

My Tronsmart Mars G01 was recognized as a Xbox 360 controller and I was able to use it in both Beach Buggy Racing and Asphalt 8.

Steam Home Streaming

Unfortunately, I don’t have the most powerful hardware for Steam Home Streaming and my PC couldn’t handle encoding 1080p60 gaming footage. However, I was able to successfully play at 1080p30 and 720p60 over both wireless and wired connections. Wired was definitely more stable however, with the occasional brief pauses seen on WiFi gone entirely.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Networking Performance

To test out networking performance, I used iperf (iperf –t 60 -c SERVER_IP -r) to test networking bandwidth in both directions. My router is approximately 5m away, with a single wall between the router and the device. WiFi performance is heavily impacted by a number of factors so your performance may vary.

WiFi Performance

iPerf returned upload and download speeds of 10.9 Mbps and 36.3 Mbps respectively. In terms of real world usage, WiFi performance was great.  I was able to stream both 1080p and 4K samples from an NFS share on my server without buffering. Similarly, 1080p YouTube was fine.

Ethernet Performance

iPerf returned upload and download speeds of 82.3Mbps and 84.7 Mbps respectively.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-04

Tronsmart Ara X5 Benchmarks

3DMark

Ice Storm Unlimited18716
Ice Storm Extreme13210
Cloud Gate1622

PCMark8

Home Conventional 1193
Work Conventional 1369

Compared to devices running the Intel Z3735F, the improved 3DMark scores show off the improved GPU in the X5-Z8300. Whilst Z3735F devices typically score around 7500 in Ice Storm Extreme, the Tronsmart Ara X5 scored almost double at 13210. Whilst you shouldn’t expect to play the latest and greatest on it, it’s far more capable than other Windows devices I’ve tested to date.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.4

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-CrystalDiskMark

USB 3.0

Unfortunately, the Tronsmart Ara X5’s USB 3.0 port isn’t the fastest I’ve seen, at roughly 30% of the speeds I see when using the same USB 3.0 HDD on my desktop. However, how much of an issue this is depends on your use case.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-USB3-Toshiba

Tronsmart Ara X5 Thermal Performance

Heat is often a concern with mini PCs but thankfully, the Tronsmart Ara X5 performed well in my tests. At no point during my tests did I see any thermal throttling.

To test thermal performance, I loaded up the unit with HeavyLoad, a freeware application that simultaneously stresses the CPU and GPU.

After 30 minutes, the SoC temperature reached 86°C according to HWiNFO without any throttling. Ambient temperature was 20°C. Whilst this is close to the thermal maximum of 90°C, this test does represent an unrealistic use case where both the CPU and GPU are pushed to 100% for the entire 30 minutes. It’s unlikely real world use would replicate these conditions.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Power Consumption

Cherry Trail continues the excellent low power consumption of its Bay Trail predecessors. Even during stress testing, the system only drew 7.8W.

OffStandbyIdle1080p30 Video in KodiUnder Load
 0W 5.8W 2.8W 6W 7.8W

Should I Get One?

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-01

The Tronsmart Ara X5 is an impressive mini PC that showed impressive performance throughout my testing. Thanks to the addition of HEVC support, the Ara X5 had the most comprehensive codec support I’ve seen on mini PC to date. Adding to this, the improved performance handles simpler 3D games like a dream, although Asphalt 8’s framerate could have been better

Some design quirks do detract from the experience however. Placing the rear USB 3.0 port so close to the HDMI port makes it such a tight squeeze, making bulkier USB drives a challenge to fit in.

At $150, the Tronsmart Ara X5 is good value and a solid choice for those seeking a HTPC or Windows PC for office use.

Getting One

The Tronsmart Ara X5 can be purchased from GeekBuying. They’re currently running a  promotion to get various discounts on the Tronsmart Ara X5, with some getting the device for free! Use coupon “HTLX5PC” to get $15 off!

Check Price at GeekBuying

Additional Images

Tronsmart Ara X5 Impressions: Windows 10 and Cherry Trail for under $150

The Tronsmart Ara X5 is the first Windows mini PC on the market to feature Windows 10 and an Intel Cherry Trail processor, the X5-Z8300. This new chipset brings along some exciting improvements, including HEVC hardware decoding and improved GPU performance.

The Tronsmart Ara X5 also features dual band Wifi, 32GB of eMMC storage and 2GB of RAM.

I’m currently working on the full review but I thought you might be interested in getting a taste of how this exciting new box performs in the meantime.

UPDATE: Read our detailed review

I want to say thanks to GeekBuying for sending me a Tronsmart Ara X5 to review.

Check Price at GeekBuying

Tronsmart Ara X5 Technical Specifications

  • Chipset: Intel Cherry Trail processor with Intel HD graphics (Z8300)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC + microSD slot
  • Video & Audio Output: HDMI, 3.5mm Audio
  • Connectivity: dual band 802.1 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet
  • USB: 2x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

What’s in the Box?

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Inside-The-Box

Tronsmart’s inclusions are typical for those seen with other Windows PCs:

  • 1x Tronsmart Ara X5 Windows PC
  • 1x Power adapter
  • 1x HDMI cable
  • 1x English instruction manual

Tronsmart Ara X5 Impressions and Demo

Tronsmart Ara X5 Initial Impressions

So it’s clear Tronsmart have put some effort into designing the X5. The compact case uses an attractive grey and black two-tone color scheme which looks great. The top of the case features a black mirror-finish with Tronsmart branding and the power LED. It’s looks nice but unfortunately, it’s a fingerprint magnet.

The Tronsmart Ara X5’s design is definitely closer to a typical PC than some of the mini PCs of late, with ports located exclusively on the front and back of the unit.

On the front, we have two fullsize USB 2.0 ports, 3.5mm audio output and the power button.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Front

The rear of the case features DC in, ethernet, HDMI, a USB 3.0 port and a micro SD card slot.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Back

One of the big draws of the Tronsmart Ara X5 is that it comes with Windows 10. The OS is 64-bit and comes activated out of the box.

As anticipated, Tronsmart haven’t added any bloat to Windows 10. The new Intel Z8300 handles the OS brilliantly. Navigating through the menus is smooth and apps launch quickly.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Windows-Desktop

I briefly tested media playback using Kodi 15.1 to play back some 1080p H.264 and H.265 samples. My 1080p30 and 1080p60 H.264 played back perfectly as did my 1080p24 H.265 version of Tears of Steel. It’s great to be able to play back H.265 videos on a Windows PC finally!

In terms of gaming performance, the Z8300 showed off its improved GPU in my brief gaming tests. At 1080p, Jetpack Joyride was silky smooth whilst Beach Buggy Racing on maximum settings didn’t show any signs of slowdown – even when the onscreen action intensified.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-Beach-Buggy-Racing

Running 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme benchmark scored 13210. This is a significant improvement over the ~7500 we see on Intel Z3735F devices such as the MeLE PCG01.

Wifi performance was good during testing. I didn’t experience any buffering when playing 4K and 1080p samples from my NFS share via Kodi. HD YouTube also played back fine.

Verdict So Far

The Tronsmart Ara X5 has certainly made a strong first impression. For a sub-$150 device, you’re getting a stylish PC that performed really well in my (admittedly brief) gaming, video and web browsing tests. The Tronsmart Ara is definitely a device to consider if you’re looking at a new budget PC.

Getting One

The Tronsmart Ara X5 can be purchased from GeekBuying. They’re currently running a  promotion to get various discounts on the Tronsmart Ara X5, with some getting the device for free!

Check Price at GeekBuying

Tronsmart Ara X5 Features Windows 10 and Cherry Trail CPU

Tronsmart have announced the Tronsmart Ara X5, a new mini PC running Windows 10 and is powered by the Intel Z8300 Cherry Trail SoC. It also features 2GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage, dual-band WiFi and, most excitingly, USB 3.0 support. The unit is entirely fanless, making it a good option for HTPCs.

There are still some specifications that aren’t clear yet. The post didn’t mention Bluetooth 4.0 and if the WiFi chip supports the latest Wireless AC standard. However, I’d be surprised if both these didn’t make it into the final product.

Tronsmart-Ara-X5-01

According to Tronsmart, the Tronsmart Ara X5 will come with a licensed version of Windows 10.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Technical Specifications

  • Chipset: Intel Cherry Trail processor with Intel HD graphics (Z8300)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC + microSD slot
  • Video & Audio Output: HDMI, 3.5mm Audio
  • Connectivity: dual band Wi-Fi
  • USB: 2x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • OS: Windows 10

The Cherry Trail Z8300 is the first Intel Atom CPU to use a 14nm manufacturing process which should offer improved performance.

Getting One

At this stage, there’s no pricing or official release date. However, Tronsmart have said this information will be made available in August.