Windows 10

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.

 

Windows 10’s Project Spartan Becomes Microsoft Edge Browser

Today at Microsoft Build 2015, Microsoft took the wraps off the official name for Project Spartan. Called Microsoft Edge, the new web browser comes with a brand-new rendering engine with the same name, as well as a host of new tools such as annotations and Cortana integration.

Following Windows 10’s multi-platform approach, Microsoft Edge is designed to run on a variety of devices, such as tablets, smartphones and the Xbox One.

Microsoft also took the opportunity to show off their “New Tab” page, which intelligently populates the page with your most commonly visited pages, various Windows apps and other information that is harvested from Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant.

Furthermore, Web Extensions written using HTML and Javascript can be used with the browser. According to Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, extensions can also be ported from browsers such as Chrome and Firefox with “just a few modifications”.

We aren’t done with Internet Explorer just yet however. Windows 10 will come with both IE and Microsoft Edge to accommodate those who (unfortunately) require the former.