Minix Neo Z83-4 Pro review - one powerful device, many use cases.

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  • 32GB
  • 4GB
  • GPU
  • 4

Minix Neo Z83-4 Pro

  • OS
  • Wi-Fi
  • LAN
    Intel Atom Z8350
4 - 1

In the past year we've seen an explosion of small, Intel-based Windows 10 devices ("Wintel", as some named them). And new devices are announced, with all shapes and sizes, which is a sign that there's interest for them on the market.

Minix is one of the manufacturers that put a lot of time and effort in providing devices that hit the sweet spot between size, power consumption and device capabilities - all of these in a device that won't burn a hole in your pocket - not a sizeable one, anyway.

We'll cover in this article a few use cases for the Minix Z83-4 Pro fanless Mini PC, which I've been using as my main computer for a week, just to see if that's possible.

Where to buy Minix Neo Z83-4 Pro

Minix Neo Z83-4 Pro can be purchased from GearBest, GeekBuying .

Minix Z83-4 Pro BIOS settings

Before we start, let's check out the Z83-4 Pro BIOS settings.
Just as the previous model, Minix has added their special BIOS settings, some of which we'll mention later in the review :

  • - for the 3.5mm audio jack there's a switch between Apple or Nokia/Samsung earphone types
  • - option to start the computer when AC power is applied
  • - USB charging option - if enabled, you can charge your phone or tablet using the USB 3.0 port (even if Z83-4 Pro is turned off)
  • - Wake-on-LAN option
  • - RTC wake-up option - turn the computer on at a specific date (less useful) or at a specific time of day (much more useful)

Setup and first boot

I've installed the Minix Z83-4 Pro mini PC in just a few minutes - the device comes with a solid 12V/3A power supply and comes with weights quite a bit because of it's large heatsink, but as you can see below it does it's job perfectly.

I've attached the Minix Neo K2 wireless keyboard and a 32GB USB 3.0 stick, connected the Ethernet cable and placed the Z83-4 Pro behind my Toshiba monitor using the provided VESA mounting kit.

On the first boot the device surprised me - looks like you could use Cortana to on first-use ... but the mini PC does not come with a built-in microphone, so it's a mistery to me why Minix set it up this way.Maybe it was a requirement from Microsoft.

You can, of course, set up the device using a mouse and keyboard, so I did just that.
If you don't have a Microsoft account, you can choose "Offline account" when asked.Then you have to go through a bunch of privacy settings,
It was a nice surprise to see that Minix did not include any bloatware, the device boots into a clean version of Windows 10 Pro.
But I knew that the space is an issue with this model, so I took a screenshot with the space available before I started installing or downloading anything.

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - Windows 10 Pro Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - Windows 10 Pro settings

Then I started to install all the software needed for the review (see the Minix Z83-4 Pro benchmarks section), and also software I normally use on Windows.
Windows started to perform it's updates on the second day and soon after I got the "Low disk space" message, which was disappointing, but expected.
This is really the Achilles' heel for Minix Z83-4 Pro, and while there might be work-arounds, it's still very annoying.
As mentioned before, this is limitation is on Microsoft's requirements list for the free license that makes the entire thing possible (a Windows 10 Pro license costs more than the device itself).

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - space after first boot Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - space after first boot Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - low disk space

Minix Z83-4 Pro as a day to day computer

You might think that you'll need more processing power for day to day usage, but I found that for browsing, text editing, online video and light games Minix Z83-4 Pro is just enough.
In fact, most of this review is written using the Z83-4 Pro, while performing the benchmarks.

The system boots in less than 20 seconds, and Chrome, Firefox, Notepad ++ and other simple apps start instantly.
Keeping several tabs open at the same time is not an issue, and after a few days, when I ditched Chrome to test out Firefox 57, things got even better - the new and improved Firefox really shines!

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - browsing

Minix Z83-4 Pro as an HTPC

Eager to test the capabilities of the device to the maximum, I attempted to play a 4K trailer from YouTube, to no avail.
The same trailer runs perfectly at 1080p.

Then I proceeded to test with the most used media player programs for Windows.
For some reason, VLC was unable to play a 4K sample (3840x2160 at 29.97fps) - the CPU maxed out.
But the same sample was played without incident with Windows Media Player and "Movies & TV" app.

Playing 1080p MKV, MP4, and AVI files from an external HDD connected to the USB 3.0 port, but also from a NAS on the local network.
Playing high-bitrate files does, however work best with the Ethernet connection instead of wireless, but most files do play well regardless of the network Z83-4 connection type.

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - Youtube full HD Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - 4K video Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - 4K video rendering Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro - YouTube

Minix Z83-4 Pro as a Kodi box

If you just want a fast Kodi box, Z83-4 Pro can become one in a matter of minutes.
You can even hide Windows completely - even by using Win+R, then "shell:startup" to go to the Startup folder, then drag and drop a Kodi shortcut there and Kodi will start automatically.
Pair this with the Wake-on-LAN function, and you can start your Minix Z83-4 Pro from your phone (with an "Wake on LAN" app), then use a Kodi remote app to control Kodi - and that's it.

Did I mention that you can boot directly into Kodi, instead of just start the Kodi app when Windows starts?
You can use gpedit.msc -> User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System , double-click on Custom User Interface, and instead of explorer.exe Z83-4 Pro can boot right into Kodi.
You might want to use that right away, or in a year or two when you will decide that you need a new computer and you'll be able to repurpose the Z83-4 Pro instead of retiring it.

I've installed the latest 64-bit Kodi nightly and started the tests with the same 4K file mentioned above, which runned OK .

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro Kodi

Minix Z83-4 Pro as a thin client PC

If you're like me, you might carry your laptop home from the dayjob to finish or keep an eye on something while at home.
But with Z83-4 Pro I did an experiment - forwarded the TCP port 3389 at the office to my work computer and worked from home using Remote Desktop Connection.
Everything worked as expected, and I had setup a second monitor using mini DP to keep an on things.
Sure, Teamviewer is also a viable option and I had both running at times without having any issues (although after a hew hours Teamviewer tends to use a lot of RAM).

If you need extra security, you'd be happy to know that the device also includes enterprise features like a TPM 2.0 module. Add the Minix BIOS features to the mix and you've got a perfect device for this particular use.

Minix Z83-4 Pro - other use cases

There are other use cases that I haven't actually tested, but they are worth mentioning nonetheless :

  • - home VPN server : fanless, low power usage, can be turned on (and off) automatically at a certain time - sound great, right?
  • - digital signage : there's a big demand for digital signage devices and there are many devices claimimg to be the best for this... but Z83-4 Pro can really shine for this particular use.
  • - private cloud server : I haven't yet received the Orico HDD enclosure, but basically I plan to connect the enclosure to the USB 3.0 port, and use two hard drives in RAID 1 mode for data storage. Combined with the home VPN server we get a sweet setup.

Minix Z83-4 Pro benchmarks

I left the benchmarks for the end - here are the results for the most used benchmarking apps on Windows 10.

Benchmarks were consistent with the expectations: the 32GB ROM has average results in CrystalDiskMark, the temperature reported by CPUID HWMonitor proves that the large heatsink does it's job, and there was no thermal throttling detected even during heavy load.

3DMark CloudGate ~1766 points (2075 Graphics, 1162 Physics)
3DMark FireStrike ~230 points (248 Graphics, 1642 Physics)
3DMark IceStorm ~20608 points (23866 Graphics, 13946 Physics)
3DMark IceStorm Extreme ~14016 points (14248 Graphics, 13253 Physics)
Passmark ~691 points (1489 CPU Graphics, 237 3D Graphics, 527 Disk, 173 2D, 622 Memory)

Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - 3DMARK CloudGate Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - 3DMARK FireStrike Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - 3DMARK IceStorm Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - 3DMARK IceStorm Extreme Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - Passmark Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - CPUID Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - HWiNFO64 Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - HWiNFO64 Minix NEO Z83-4 Pro benchmarks - HWiNFO64

Minix Z83-4 Pro review conclusions

For less than the price of a Windows 10 Pro license (which retails at about $200), you get a full Mini PC... which includes the said license.
That in itself should mean that the Minix Z83-4 Pro is good value, but the device is much more than that.

I found the mini PC to be great for several use cases - just as expected.

There are some small issues, like the unconsistent wi-fi results (which most likely Minix can solve) or the low space on the 32GB ROM which on the long run might not be enough for Windows and programs (there are solutions here, too, but quite complex).

Having said that, I am enjoying the Minix Z83-4 Pro device and I will recommend it for sure.

Minix Z83-4 Pro is now available at GearBest for $189.99.
You can also use the coupon code GBCNA to drop the price - 14% off.

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