Sunday, 31 December 2017

A brief look at the MINIX NEO N42C-4 running Windows 10 Pro


The MINIX NEO N42C-4 is a Pentium Apollo Lake mini PC featuring configurable RAM and storage. Displaying 4K video both at 30HZ (HDMI) and 60Hz (mini DisplayPort or Type-C) it also supports digital audio (HDMI, mini DisplayPort or S/PDIF) as well as analogue audio (3.5 mm jack). It includes USB ports (both 3.0 and a Type-C) together with connectivity through Gigabit Ethernet, Dual-Band WiFi and 4.1 Bluetooth:


The device features an Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 SoC and comes with 32GB of eMMC storage plus 4GB of RAM with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled and fully licensed. It also features a very quiet internal fan for cooling.

MINIX provided me with a device for review and it came in a presentation box complete with a power adaptor, VESA mount and a simple user guide pamphlet.


Looking at the detail specifications:


the first point to note as that the Type-C port only provides video output and not audio output and that there is no SD card reader. The RAM is configurable by having two SODIMM slots and the storage includes an optional M.2 slot.

The device is slightly larger than earlier MINIX models measuring 139mm (or around 5.5”) square by 30mm (or just over an inch) tall.

Once booted it sets up Windows which becomes fully activated after connecting to the internet:


with just under half the storage used by Windows:


Unfortunately the preinstalled Windows is version 1703:


meaning the large (over 3GB) Fall Creators Update is required which repeatedly failed when I tried to update:


The simple solution was to download the official Windows ISO from Microsoft and perform a fresh installation after which Windows automatically activated:


As I had removed the original partitions a new disk layout was created:


leaving just under half the storage available as free space.

So given that the basic hardware matches the specification:


running my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:











confirms the performance to be as expected for an N4200 SoC and shows an improved eMMC performance because of using 5.1 compared with other Apollo Lake devices:


Note that to hear audio the correct device must be selected:


Looking at real-world Windows usage cases the first tested was watching a 4K video using Microsoft Edge which worked perfectly:


and similarly when watched using Google Chrome:


Running Kodi on Windows with a VP9 codec encoded video used software for decoding resulting in very high CPU usage:


compared with a H.264 codec encoded video which uses hardware to decode:


and similar for videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:


however no issues were encountered playing the videos.

Power consumption for the device was measured as:
Power off – 0.6 Watts
Boot menu – 4.0 Watts
Idle – 4.3 Watts
4K video – 7.4 Watts
The BIOS has a reasonable selection of settings but does not include an option to select Linux as a boot OS:


As mentioned the device includes an internal fan:


which is both effective and quiet. It uses a 4-pin connector and being temperature controlled means it is not spinning continuously at a single speed.

Storage can be increased by adding an M.2 SSD. Officially described as a taking a 22mm wide 80mm long (2280) M.2:


I found though I was not restricted to just this size and could also insert both an 2260 and 2242 SSDs. However using the supplied spacer makes the 2242 slightly prominent:


compared with:


so a shorter spacer should be used to prevent the SSD touching the base of the device.

RAM can be added to the additional slot which enables dual-channel:


and obviously the amount is flexible up to the supported limit of 16GB.

So having added a 240GB M.2 and an additional 4GB RAM I booted up the device:



Performance of the M.2 was as expected:


I then wiped both drives and reinstalled Windows on the M.2 SSD:


and Windows auto-activated without issue:


confirming that the Windows license is valid use on the M.2 drive.

Power consumption was slightly increased to:

Power off – 0.6 Watts
Boot menu – 4.6 Watts
Idle – 5.1 Watts
4K video – 8.4 Watts

The elephant in the room is the price. At USD 299 it may seem that this device is not competitive with similar devices. However the reality is there are not that many comparable devices when you factor in the Pentium processor, faster eMMC, upgradeable RAM and storage and inclusion of Windows 10 Pro license which means it does provides value for money.

A review of how to install and performance under Linux will be published shortly.

2 comments:

  1. Hi, thanks for the work you are doing with the ubuntu versions. I currently have a meegopad t02 and would need the modified ubuntu. How can I download the .ISO?

    Greetings from Argentina


    Thank you very much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can download the 'Atom' ISO from my latest post (http://linuxiumcomau.blogspot.com.au/2018/02/second-look-at-ubuntu-1804-or-bionic.html).

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