Nexbox N9 review - best choice for low budgets
I was looking forward to test Rockchip's new low-cost SoC ever since it was announced - the specs are almost too good to be true - RK3229 is used in Mini PC's that cost below $30 and they still managed to add a quad core SoC with a 1GB of RAM, a decent GPU and 4K2K 10-bit H.265 @ 60 fps.
Nexbox N9 is one of the first Mini PC's to hit the shelves and the kind people at Nexbox did send a sample for review, so here we are.
You can read more about the specs and get acquainted with the device on our Nexbox N9 unboxing.
Setup and first boot
The small Mini PC comes with a power adapter, IR remote and HDMI cable - all it takes to turn it on (except for remote batteries).
As you can see below in our menu walkthrough, Nexbox N9 boots surprisingly fast and comes with a colorful skin that does well on the big screen.
The main menu consists of some colorful tiles that are easy to work with on the big screen :
- Online Video
- My recommend - basically you can add there your favorite apps
- My Apps (all apps)
- Local with gallery, video and file explorer
- Memory clean
Below the main tiles there's a custoomizable row with apps - it's very easy to add your own apps there, just select the apps you want to see.
The device goes in standby on a short press of the off button found on the remote, but there's also a poweroff menu that pops out when you press the same button a bit longer.
There are still some minor things that remind you that Android (at least this version) is meant for tablets and not Mini PC's (or TV boxes, if you like) - like the FOTA section mentioning the battery or the "Airplane Mode" menu option on the poweroff menu, but that is somewhat to be expected.
Nexbox N9 comes with several preinstalled apps, many of them commonly found on TV boxes (Facebook, Netflix, Gmail, Kodi 16).
There's also an interesting app called "CloudTV", which, as the name suggests, allows you to watch quite a few TV channels (some even HD), from all over the world (don't ask how legal this is).
If you are not a big fan of the launcher Nexbox prepared for you, there's always the possibility of installing another one - like Nova launcher, or maybe even one of the launchers that other manufacturers published on Google Play.
Nexbox N9 Firmware upgrades
Not surprisingly for such a new device the current firmware is just a couple of weeks old and there is no new update available for now.
But the good news is that Nexbox N9 seems to have an FOTA updates infrastucture in place.
Controlling your Nexbox N9 Mini PC
Nexbox N9 comes with a small IR remote that has all the keys you need in order to use the Android-based device properly.
Although the "TV control area - Press to learn from the TV IR remote to control TV" phrase in the User manual led me to believe the small remote might have an learning function, I couldn't find any instructions on how to do so and I had to give up eventually and just assume that it was a printing error, probably some leftover text from another device.
The IR remote that comes with Nexbox N9 is quite responsive and easy to work with, it even has an "mouse mode" that let's you move the on-screen cursor using the arrow keys.
Of course, you can use an airmouse as well. As with any other Android Mini PC, using an airmouse with qwerty keyboard is far more convenient than the IR remote with the on-screen keyboard.
Nexbox N9 benchmarks
Nexbox N9 was tested with the usual benchmarking apps, I was looking to compare the RK3229 vs Amlogic S905 performance as per our article here.
The results were not stellar, but nothing we couldn't really anticipate.
Funny enough, CPU-Z identified the CPU as RK3066, but it's not the first time the app failed to identify newer CPU's.
|AnTuTu Video Tester||928 points, 27/30 fully spported|
|Ice Storm Unlimited||3114|
|Ice Storm Extreme||2219|
|GeekBench3 (Single core)||352|
|GeekBench3 (Multi core)||1153|
|Wifi Speed Test||~29bps up, ~48Mbps down|
Nexbox N9 video playback
I always let the AnTuTu Video Tester to help me with this section of the review - before opening Kodi and testing the usual files from my NAS drive.
The N9 comes with Kodi 16 preinstalled, but you can install your own version from Google Play.
As far as video tests are concerned, Nexbox N9 did a good job with the commonly used files with 4K H264 only at 30 fps, but 4K H.265 was OK at 60 fps.
If you want to use Skype on the device you could use an UVC camera, like Logitech C270, which worked fine.
There were no issues connecting an external 1TB HDD (with it's own power source) and a 32GB SD card worked also flawlessly.
The device runs surprisingly very cool - even after some stressful tests (benchmarks, 4K videos rendering), the device barely got warm, which is uncommon, especially because I don't think it has a heat sink as the more expensive devices have.
Nexbox N9 review conclusions
Nexbox N9 exceeded my expectations - a Mini PC selling for $25 has never been this good. I mean really, what else could be expected from a device with this price tag?
If you need more, there are plenty of Mini PC's to choose from, but with $25 you simply can't go wrong with Nexbox N9.
RK3229 really shines on this price range, and if only Rockchip could provide some better alternatives for Android 4.4, they could sell this SoC for a while.
There are devices with RK3229 that are advertised as having Android 5.1 - so maybe an update will be possible in the near future.
And an answer for a question that is beaing asked often lately: "is RockChip RK3229 as good as Amlogic S905" - we have an entire post about that here.
Nexbox N9 is the first RockChip RK3229 mini PC that arrives for a test drive on MiniPCDB.com