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Asus ExpertBook BR1204F review
2:23 pm | May 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel® Processor N1000, 0.8 GHz (up to 3.4 GHz, 4 cores)
Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR5 onboard (Max up to 16GB)
Storage: 128GB UFS, expandable via 1x M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0x4 slot
Rear Ports: Not specified
Front Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supports display/power delivery), 1x USB 2.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack, 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) Dual band 2*2 + Bluetooth® 5.2 Wireless Card
Audio: Audio by Dirac, built-in speakers, built-in array microphone, Cortana support
Camera: 720p HD camera with privacy shutter, 13.0M world-facing camera
Size: 12.2-inch touchscreen, WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10, glossy display with Corning Gorilla® Glass
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro Education
Accessories: Optional MPP 2.0 garaged stylus

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a robust and flexible laptop specifically designed for educational facilities. It provides students and teachers with workstations that meet standard academic course criteria while allowing easy upgrades and repairs.

From the ground up, this laptop is crafted with its intended audience in mind, resulting in a functional, if slightly unexciting, design. We've tested out loads of the best student laptops, and unlike many sleek modern devices with high-end CPUs, GPUs, and storage, this Asus model offers a more traditional word processing-focused approach, at least on first look.

The Intel Processor N200 easily handles Windows 11 Pro for Education and standard word processing applications. It even supports applications like Tinkercad without issues, making it one of the best laptops for engineering students and 3D modellers - but only if your needs are pretty simple or you're just starting out. While Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom can run, performance could be enhanced with a slight HD and RAM upgrade from our review unit.

While it looks like a traditional laptop, the BR1204F features a flip-over design that sees the keyboard flip under the screen, transforming the machine into a tablet and very capable creative tool. It features an outstanding touch screen protected by Gorilla Glass, ideal for less delicate students. Apps such as Microsoft's garage project Sketch360 and the native drawing app function smoothly.

Overall, this machine is designed with a focus on education. For educational-based fun and games, it performs well, though it's not intended for video or image editing. However, some graphics and creative applications are feasible with its flip screen design. It's a well-made, and designed educational tool, with straightforward maintenance requiring just a few tools.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Introduction

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a laptop specifically designed for education as part of Asus's Education product line. Consequently, many high-end features typically promoted are not the focus here. The Intel N200 CPU and standard Intel graphics are sufficient for office applications and academic study, rather than multimedia playback or overly distracting games.

The machine is tailored to meet classroom demands, equipped with Windows 11 Pro for Education, a stylus, and a flip screen design, enabling students to use it as a screen, tablet, or laptop, offering versatility.

When used with Microsoft Teams, the whiteboard feature is invaluable, allowing students to interact with the class by drawing directly on the board without leaving their seats. Class materials and formative and summative feedback can be easily distributed through the Teams Classroom environment.

Of course, the classroom is just part of what an education laptop needs to address. With decent battery life in use and standby mode, the system has enough power to last through a day's worth of lessons between charges. Charging is quick via a standard USB Type-C connector, and the machine offers a good array of other connection options for connecting devices such Lego Mindstorms, 3D printers, Laser Engravers and networks.

One of the most appealing features for education is the ease of maintenance, with a five-point procedure for maintaining, repairing, and upgrading, making it quick and easy for any IT technician or anyone with basic IT hardware skills.

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is fully geared toward education, and in that environment, the choice of hardware makes complete sense. Outside that world, the limited storage space and processing power might be restrictive.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Price & availability

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The ExpertBook BR1204F is designed for education and is part of the Asus Education Solution program. For more information on purchasing the machine please visit your local education supplier.

  • Price: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Design & build

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The laptop's size is compact, measuring 297mm x 213mm x 22mm and weighing 1.47kg, making it easy to carry or fit into most bags or backpacks. Its relatively flat shape allows easy stacking of several BR1204Fs in a secure cupboard or custom computer stand.

Designed for classroom use by students, the laptop’s overall construction is tough, though not to the standards of a tough book, so it will withstand knocks and far more abuse than most but will not survive submersion in water or drops from significant heights.

The robust construction is evident when picking up the laptop, as it feels more solid than similar general-use laptops. Aside from the stylus integrated into the case design, there are no protective doors or components that can be easily dislodged. Additionally, access to the inner electronics is secured by cross-head screws to prevent young engineers from making hardware alterations in class.

Once the lid is lifted, the robust build is clear, with large, thick monitor hinges designed to be extremely strong. If a student wants to walk around with the laptop open, held by the monitor, it should withstand this handling, although it is obviously not ideal.

The general layout includes a small touchpad, a keyboard, and a 12.2-inch monitor. While the touchpad and keyboard are standard, the monitor stands out as a full touch screen toughened with Gorilla Glass, making it more resilient in a classroom.

The laptop’s left and right sides feature connection ports, including 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, USB 2.0 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and the stylus on the left, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supporting display/power delivery), USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and a 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack on the right.

An interesting feature are the two cameras: one above the screen and another above the keyboard. This second world-facing camera can be used with applications like Microsoft Office Lens. When the keyboard is flipped under the screen the now rear-facing camera can scan documents or students' work with the preview appearing on screen, essentially think mobile phone. The captured image can then be cast to a whiteboard or stored for portfolio work.

The flip screen means that the laptop can be used as a touch screen tablet or part open can be used as a stand so the laptop can sit on a desk as a handy screen, enabling class materials to be cast during presentations and the Teams Whiteboard feature to be used by the entire class for interactive sessions.

Using the laptop reveals more to its design compared to standard off-the-shelf machines, with features updated to ensure better functionality within a classroom environment.

The final aspect of the design is crucial for education IT engineers. The BR1204F is modular, meaning it can be purchased as is and expanded as needed for each intended use. Our review unit was suitable for most office applications, but with upgraded RAM and storage, it could edit HD footage and images. More importantly, the modular design simplifies maintenance.

The Panel, I/O ports, Keyboard, Thermal Module, and Battery are all quickly accessible, serviceable, and replaceable. Unlike other laptops, where removing these parts can be time-consuming and delicate, requiring specialist intervention, the modular design of the BR1204F simplifies the process significantly.

  • Design: 5/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Features

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The BR1204F is designed from the outset as a durable and versatile laptop, tablet, and screen for educational environments. It may not be the best rugged laptop we've tried, but built for its intended use, it's more durable than most devices of its size and specifications, meeting MIL-STD 810H US military durability standards, with a fingerprint-resistant finish, full rubber bumper, and spill-resistant keyboard.

The display is a 12.2-inch touchscreen, protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for durability, with a 16:10 aspect ratio and TÜV Rheinland certification for low blue-light emissions.

Standard storage options are relatively small at 128 GB of integrated UFS 2.1 storage, ideal for educational environments where multiple students use the same machine and files are stored in the cloud. For additional storage, there is an expansion slot for up to 1TB. The laptop also features advanced AI-powered noise-cancellation technology to isolate background noise during video calls, enhancing call quality.

Connectivity is well-catered for, with Wi-Fi 6E and 4G LTE ensuring fast connections for online learning, whether in the classroom or remote. An essential feature for tablet use is the inclusion of a garaged stylus, held on the left side of the machine and charged while docked, providing a more accurate tool than a finger for using and drawing on the touchscreen.

Beyond student use, the Asus BR1204F's design is fully serviceable, with a modular design allowing easy access and upgrades to internal components.

  • Features: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Performance

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 1709.58MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 923.20MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 2754
GeekBench CPU Multi: 1220
GeekBench Compute: 3891
PC Mark: 2824
CineBench CPU Multi: 2300
CineBench CPU Single: 794
Fire Strike Graphics: 1204
Fire Strike Physics: 379
Fire Strike Combined: 379
Time Spy Overall: 430
Time Spy Graphics: 376
Time Spy CPU: 2444
Wild Life: N/A
Windows Experience: 8.0

Ordinarily, processing power is a primary concern for any computer, but within an educational environment, you just need a machine that works, runs the necessary apps, is durable, and can be fixed when the inevitable happens. With the BR1204F, Asus has provided exactly that, and if more is needed, the RAM and storage can be upgraded.

In use for all Microsoft Office applications, the BR1204F works smoothly, handling word processing and all the features of Teams with ease. Most importantly, the connection to a wireless network is robust, and the ability to link to the wired network as a backup adds resilience compared to some alternatives.

Outside of office apps, the lack of storage at 128GB is somewhat restrictive, allowing only small additional apps to be installed before running low on space. A base of 256GB would have been better, given the size of the Windows installation.

The integration with Teams is the major advantage here, with classroom apps enabling interactive sessions, and the touchscreen allowing all class members to engage with the lesson. The touchscreen also adds flexibility to the laptop’s use, and while drawing apps are not super quick, they are fluid enough to be enjoyable.

The benchmark results for the Asus BR1204F highlight its capabilities in handling educational tasks. The 3DMark Fire Strike graphics score of 1109 and a combined score of 379 suggest it can handle basic graphics and interactive classroom applications smoothly. Time Spy's overall score of 430, with a graphics score of 376 and CPU score of 2444 highlights its ability to run multi-threaded tasks, ideal for applications like Tinkercad and Lego Mindstorms.

Cinebench R23's multi-core score of 2300 and single-core score of 794 indicate moderate performance for multitasking and single-threaded applications like Microsoft Office, so just running one possibly two applications at a time is advisable. GeekBench 5 scores, with 2754 for multi-core and 1220 for single-core, underscore its ability to handle general computing tasks and most educational software well. The CrystalDiskMark read and write speeds of 1709.58 MB/s and 923.20 MB/s respectively ensure quick data access and saving, beneficial for handling large files and applications. 

PCMark 10's score of 2824 and a Windows Experience Index score of 8 reflect the laptop's robust performance for productivity tasks, again highlighting all Office applications, making it well-suited for extensive use with Microsoft Teams and classroom features.

  • Performance: 3/5

Should you buy the Asus ExpertBook BR1204F?

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a solidly built, education-focused laptop offering a robust and versatile solution for students. Its durable design, coupled with a flexible touchscreen and easy maintenance, makes it ideal for the demands of a classroom environment. While the base model's storage is limited, the device's modular design allows for easy upgrades, enhancing its longevity and utility in education. Overall, it's a superb educational tool that prioritises function and durability over high-end specs, making it a worthwhile investment for schools and educational institutions.

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and these are our top picks

ZimaBlade review
9:35 am | May 15, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

The ZimaBlade single-board computer looks surprisingly similar to an old-school portable cassette player. 

Specifications

CPU: Entry-level Dual-Core N3350, High-Performance Quad-Core J3455

GPU: Entry-level 650MHz, High-performance 750MHz, 12 execution units

RAM: Upgradable up to 16GB of DDR3L, none supplied in the box

FLASH: 32GB eMMC

USB: 1 x Type-C, 1 x USB3.0, 2 x internal USB2.0

Display: 1 x 4K MiniDP, 1 x DP over Type-C, 1 x eDP internal

PCIe: Four lanes 2.0

SATA: 2 x SATA3.0

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit LAN

Power Consumption: About 15W

Size: 107mm x 80mm x 32mm

It competes with the Raspberry Pi 4, being in the same price bracket while offering an Intel x86 architecture. The SBC has plenty of connectors, which makes this hacker-friendly platform versatile and unique. The built-in PCIe 2.0 x4 connector accepts various cards out-of-the-box, and with two SATA3 ports, the board can morph into a portable NAS storage device.

Since the ZimaBlade supports up to 16GB of DDR3L, it can run applications requiring large amounts of memory, such as databases and VMs. The main let-down is the outdated CPU, with the speediest version of the board based on a Quad-Core 2.3GHz Apollo Lake CPU. The SBC features a single USB Type-C, which supplies power and drives a DisplayPort output.

IceWhale Technology, the maker of the ZimaBlade, held a Crowdsupply campaign to finance the board's new version. Various perks are available; the most basic, containing a Dual-Core Intel Celeron N3350, is available for $64. The ZimaBlade 7700, built around a Quad-Core J3455 CPU, sells for $96. Except for the CPU, both have the same hardware and require a DDR3L memory module to boot. 

ZimaBlade front view.

(Image credit: Future)

ZimaBlade: Design

The ZimaBlade computer comes with a male-to-male Type-C and one SATA cable. The passively cooled unit measures 107mm x 80mm x 32mm and weighs 175g. The small case sits perfectly flat on a desk, with no mounting holes and only four tiny rubber pads on the bottom. Being very light, connecting various cables can become problematic as the case can topple easily.

The Zimablade designers have worked hard to produce an enclosure that showcases the computer’s internal components. A transparent plastic top displays the SODIMM memory but not the CPU. With no power button available, the hardware turns on when plugging a Type-C cable. A single status LED, barely visible from the side of the case, indicates if the board is powered. The PCIe socket location does not allow easy card insertion. The card’s metal bracket has to be removed before use.

Under the hood, the ZimaBlade sports a J3455 quad-core Intel Celeron CPU clocked at 2.4GHz for the highest performance board variant. Geekbench shows the ZimaBlade handily outperforms the Cortex A72 ARM CPU found in the Pi4 but scores well below the new Pi5’s Cortex A76 CPU. One aspect not found on similar-priced platforms is expanding the memory to 16GB using DDR3L SODIMM.

The ZimaBlade targets an audience that strives for high-speed interfaces. Seven connectors provide connectivity for many use cases with throughputs above the gigabit mark. Two SATA6 and one Gigabit Ethernet socket turn the ZimaBlade into a redundant storage server. One USB3, a USB Type-C with DP, and a mini-DP connector capable of 4K at 60Hz complete the list of external ports. Three internal connectors, two USB 2.0 connectors, and one eDP socket allow additional peripherals.

ZimaBlade side view.

(Image credit: Future)

ZimaBlade: In Use

The owner can use the ZimaBlade simply by plugging a USB Type-C cable into a screen supporting a Type-C display. The computer then boots CasaOS, a lightweight cloud-accessible platform with an ever-increasing number of applications. ZimaBlade is extremely fast at booting, taking just five seconds to display the Linux login.

After entering the default username and password, the user has root access to the Linux-based OS stored in 32GB eMMC storage, with 24GB left for user applications. A lean OS means a lowly 20% RAM utilization with an 8GB memory module. With the 1G LAN connected, software updates run automatically and keep the platform secured.

In addition to being affordable, the ZimaBlade builds on a user-friendly OS where the UI is viewed entirely through a web browser. This cloud concept could have been a miss, but thanks to modern technologies like Docker containers, using the desktop is very snappy. The installed software includes a file explorer and an app store containing forty applications ranging from a retro emulator to home automation. 

Running Geekbench6 on the ZimaBlade involves installing through SSH. The board's power consumption reaches 15W, with the case becoming 

hot at more than 60 degrees Celsius, and decreases to 6W when idle. With a score of 300 in single-core and 911 in multi-core benchmarks on Geekbench6, the J3455 CPU won’t blow you away with its computing prowess but will be sufficient for everyday basic tasks.

ZimaBlade top view.

(Image credit: Future)

ZimaBlade: The competition

Thanks to the ZimaBlade, finding an affordable x86 single-board computer with lots of connectivity and expandable memory has become more accessible. Hardkernel’s Odroid H3+ is very similar to the ZimaBlade, being passively cooled and possessing various high-speed connectors. The H3+ costs more than twice as much, with the Odroid H3+ being bigger with an oversized heatsink and consuming more power. The quad-lane PCIe connector on the ZimaBlade makes it a valuable testbed for PCIe cards, something not found in the Odroid H3+. 

ZimaBlade: Final verdict

IceWhale’s ZimaBlade makes a tremendous entry-level computer with many options for adding extra hardware. The PCIe slot is the product's standout feature, allowing the use of high-end gaming graphics cards, for example. The single SODIMM socket gives the user an upgrade path to more memory. The onboard eMMC storage memory turns the unit into a self-contained product. Finally, a price below $100 tilts the balance, making the ZimaBlade a must-have gadget this year. 

We've listed the best business computers.

OWC Jupiter Mini review
9:17 am | May 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

OWC Jupiter Mini: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: 2.2 GHz Intel Xeon D-1518 4-Core
Graphics: VGA
RAM: 32GB ECC RAM.
Storage: 5 x 4TB 3.5" 7200 rpm SATA HDDs
Rear Ports: Includes 2x 10GbE and 2x 1GbE network connections, USB-A 3.2 Gen 1.
Front Ports: 2 x USB-A 2.0
Connectivity: 2x 10GbE and 2x 1GbE network connections
Audio: n/a
Camera: n/a
Size: 325 x 220 x 230mm
OS installed: TrueNAS SCALE.
Accessories: n/a

In the background of most offices and studios, there's usually some form of server with access to mass storage working away. This storage is typically found in a secluded area and accessed only by a qualified IT professional. While such network systems are complex and can be tricky to administer, their functionality is essential for any business, essentially supplying a centralised resource where all staff can access shared files of all types. 

The OWC Jupiter Mini is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system that, while not a fully integrated server, performs all the storage jobs that larger enterprise technology handles in large institutions. The Jupiter Mini, though smaller and easier to administer, still offers the potential for a substantial amount of storage, up to 100TB and can be accessed by multiple users without the system slowing down, making it an ideal solution for small to medium-sized businesses and professionals working with TB of photos or video files and needing a professional storage solution.

The Jupiter Mini integrates with your network and can be subdivided into network drives (datasets) that can then be accessed by anyone on that network or remotely, given the correct permissions.

While there are many alternative NAS systems on the market, which may seem considerably cheaper, the Jupiter Mini offers incredible value, considering the performance, storage, and support provided. Unlike many consumer units designed for occasional access, this NAS can connect to the network with a 10GbE connection and is supported by powerful internal hardware capable of handling substantial data flow and multiple concurrent connections without faltering.

We've tried out plenty of the best NAS devices, and in our tests, the speeds over the wired connection were impressive. 140 GB was transferred to three machines in around 30 minutes, which is significantly faster than a consumer unit used to compare.

The speed of the connection makes a considerable difference when storing files, allowing multiple users easy access over the network in a small studio setting using smb shares. This means project folders and files can be quickly downloaded to a working drive and restored once finished. Additionally, equipment forms, risk assessments, and other regularly accessed files are easily reachable on-site, which is invaluable when internet connectivity is unreliable.

Ultimately, if you're a small to medium-sized business and need an easy mass storage device that is fast and easy to access with great support, then there is little to fault with the OWC Jupiter Mini.

OWC Jupiter Mini: Price & availability

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The OWC Jupiter Mini is available directly from OWC and from many technology outlets. However, buying directly ensures that you get the exact specifications and build you require, whether for personal use or your business. Units start at the base level of 20TB, which we've examined in this review, and begin at $2,999.

  • Score: 4/5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Design & build

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

NAS boxes typically have a functional style with quick-access drive slot doors on the front and various ports around the back, often resembling an enlarged external hard drive. OWC, however, has enhanced this design principle with the Jupiter Mini, adding aesthetic touches such as blue anodised door lever locks on the front, giving the drive a stylish edge over competitors.

Despite its aesthetic appeal, this unit's true value lies in its features and functionality. The drive is available pre-configured from OWC and many other retailers, saving at least a couple of hours of setup time. This means it can be quickly integrated into your network and ready for use, providing instant, high-capacity storage without much fuss.

For many small businesses, this easy access to large storage capacity will be more than enough, having a drive that you can simply plug in and then browse the network located the drive login, and the Jupiter Mini network drive just appears on your desktop, ready to use, all very simple. However, the Jupiter Mini is far more, and the appeal of the machine isn't just the simplicity of connection but the ease of use when it comes to the administration of that storage for the people accessing the drive. Administration is handled by the TrueNAS interface, which is pre-installed and enables an administrator to log in and allocate different storage areas to groups or individuals in the form of datasets, as well as enable external sharing and check drive health. 

The drive also offers future expansion options, so you can start with the 20TB version and then expand the storage as needed. Drive replacement is made possible in a couple of ways, either by replacing the drives physically in the mini and then creating a new pool/dataset/share with the new drives. Or replace one drive in the pool with the larger one, let it resolve, replace another, let it resilver, and continue until you have replaced all 5 drives. Once this is done, you can then expand the pool to take up additional space on the drives, which is done with a single button press in TrueNAS.

If you like to explore the system, you can connect to the Jupiter Mini directly. It has a VGA port at the back and can be connected to a keyboard and mouse. This approach is far more akin to enterprise-level solutions, and for most users, the GUI of the TrueNAS browser version will be a far easier environment to navigate.

  • Score: 4/5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Features

The hardware of the Jupiter Mini is designed to meet the needs of creatives and support the large file types that tend to be handled in these environments, which is where similar capacity but lesser-powered NAS boxes struggle. The Jupiter Mini base capacity is 20TB (expandable to 100TB) and uses ZFS RAID for data protection; this leaves 16TB of usable space. The box comes pre-configured as RAIDZ1 (similar to RAID 5). One of the advantages of this is that the ZFS automatically caches your most frequently used and recent files in RAM, providing faster access to files at flash-like speeds. It also features a high-speed 10GbE network connection, providing faster file access compared to standard NAS drives, with all the processing down to its enterprise-grade Xeon Processor and 32GB of ECC RAM. Using the Jupiter Mini as part of a studio or office setup allows multiple users to access the NAS simultaneously, with automatic file caching for swift retrieval of frequently accessed files.

The system comes preloaded with the TrueNAS SCALE, which enables the easy management of the drive and its storage. This allows different network drives to be created and access permissions granted, ensuring a straightforward setup and management and a system that is fully compatible with both Mac and PC systems.

While the drive's overall handling is quite straightforward, if you do get stuck, there's plenty of documentation online, as well as a comprehensive single-source warranty and outstanding Pro Support from OWC. This support offers assistance during the setup and beyond, ensuring that help is just an email away if you have any questions or issues that may arise.

  • Features: 4.5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Performance

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Network storage is a significant asset in any studio or office environment. It enables the sharing of large-format files among colleagues. In a studio setting, this is particularly beneficial for transferring large video files across the network, eliminating the need to copy everything onto portable hard drives and move them from one person to another.

While there are plenty of NAS solutions available, the Jupiter Mini stands out as one of the few options tailored for small to medium-sized businesses, boasting ease of use and operation, power, and scalability without requiring extensive IT experience.

The initial setup and use of the Jupiter Mini were notably straightforward, with the device connecting to the back of the EERO 6 wifi router and becoming accessible throughout the studio and home. This centralised resource proved its value by allowing quick access to essential video and image files for projects. The speed of file transfers was instantly impressive over the wifi connection, with 140GB of data downloading in about an hour and a half, compared to six hours with our existing NAS. 

However, when connected to the studio's wired network, the download time for the same files dropped to less than 30 minutes as the files were transferred to the OWC ThunderBlade X8. The OWC ThunderBlade X8 was used as a local working drive and enabled the fast transfer speeds required by the best video editing software for cutting and grading. 

In the test, the network here is not the fastest 10GbE network at 2.5GbE. However, the speed was impressive for a self-managed system. After a week, the potential of faster network storage became obvious, and TrueNAS was used to create additional datasets for different groups and users. This enabled different areas of the storage to be assigned as a network drive, with permissions to users and groups assigned. Once the dataset is created, it can then be shared through smb. Another nice feature is that you create a zvol, which then enables you to format that segment of the drive in another file format. There is also a host of apps that can be downloaded and used if you need an on-site web development environment, and again, you can assign part of the storage to this. 

Through the test all administration was managed through the browser TrueNAS GUI. While there was a learning curve, it proved to be a powerful tool with plenty of documentation to support its use. As previously mentioned, if you do want a little more, then you can access the command-line version of TrueNAS by using a VGA monitor, keyboard, and mouse, a setup more common in server environments than in small offices.

One key consideration was whether the OWC Jupiter Mini could serve as shared network editing storage for software like Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, or Premiere Pro. While technically possible with the correct setup and network speed, this NAS is not specifically designed for such intensive tasks, a role better suited to more powerful and expensive solutions like the OWC Jellyfish. However, lighter tasks, such as a centralised resource for photo or graphic design, are well within the Jupiter Mini's remit.

The OWC Jupiter Mini offers an easy-to-maintain, out-of-the-box NAS solution that provides enterprise-level performance, far surpassing what is achievable with consumer models and is scalable up to 100TB to meet the growing data storage needs of home, office, or studio environments.

  • Performance: 5/5

Should you buy the OWC Jupiter Mini?

The OWC Jupiter Mini is designed for creative professionals and small businesses that require a commercial network storage solution with substantial storage potential without the need for extensive IT know-how. Commercial NAS boxes, although ideal in functionality, often become completely impractical due to their design, cost, and often complex command-line administration. Conversely, smaller consumer models may offer ease of use but rarely offer the speed or power for multiple concurrent connections, capacity, connection features or ready support. These are all areas where OWC and the Jupiter Mini excel.

As a basic NAS, the Jupiter Mini is straightforward and efficient, making it particularly attractive to videographers and photographers needing reliable storage for projects and files. Its compatibility with the ThunderBlade X8 as a local working drive enhances its functionality. In a home environment, investing time in TrueNAS allows for segmenting the storage and providing dedicated areas for network or shared storage needs within the office or household.

The real advantage lies in its appeal to those seeking commercial-grade network storage that is both high-performing, expandable and reliable. The system includes a built-in support email system to alert users of potential issues with the hardware, preventing drive failures or other significant problems. In an office or studio setting, this single unit can be configured to provide various storage spaces for different groups, with tailored allocations and access, mirroring the capabilities of a large company's IT system.

Although the initial investment in the OWC Jupiter Mini is significant, the value it offers in storage capacity and the ability to self-manage—backed by OWC's excellent support—makes it a great choice. For studios or small offices in need of a network storage solution, the OWC Jupiter Mini stands out as one of the fastest, easiest-to-use, and most versatile systems available.

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro mini PC review
9:57 am | May 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel Core i9-12900H
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 64GB Dual-channel DDR4-3200MHz
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 SSD and up to 1TB M.2 2242 SSD SATA
Rear Ports: 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x USB 2.0 Type-A, 2x USB 4 Gen 3 Type-C (supports Power Delivery), 1x RJ45, 1x DC in
Front Ports: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x 3.5mm front stereo headset jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Audio: 3.5mm front stereo headset jack
Camera: N/A
Size: 117 x 111 x 38.5 mm
OS Installed: Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: VESA mount included

Geekom is one of the big players in the mini PC field, and the XT12 highlights exactly why. Firstly, the small machine features an understated design with a high-quality metal surround topped with a matte white plate. It's all incredibly small and neat and will suit any stylish office or home.

However, the internals are less discreet. They boast a powerful Intel Core 12th Gen Alder Lake i9-12900H CPU. Our review sample packs in 32GB of RAM and a 1TB ultra-fast SSD, with the option to boost this to a maximum of 64GB of RAM and 2TB of ultra-fast M.2 SSD storage. That's not all; there's also the option to install an additional M.2 2242 SSD SATA up to 1TB, which can be further complemented by external network or USB 4 storage options.

Out of the box, this compact machine can handle office software, multimedia, and creative apps without breaking a sweat, but where this small machine differs from some of the best mini PCs we've tested is the inclusion of USB 4 ports. This lets you expand on storage capacity as well as giving you the ability to link into a powerful eGPU. This means that if you are fully accessorized, you'll essentially have a very compact and powerful machine that is a fraction of the size of most desktop machines. However, that optional eGPU will challenge desktop space.

eGPU and expansion options aside, the base unit's overall performance is superb, even over extended periods of use when editing standard 4K video from the Sony A7 IV. The cooling system kicks in to keep things ticking over and running smoothly.

While as a standard mini PC, this machine is impressive, enabling Office, creative use, and moderate gaming, it's when it's plugged into an eGPU that you can really unlock its potential and extend its use.

As it stands, the XT12 Pro is without accessories and packs a great deal of power for its size and will suffice for all office applications, photo editing, and even running some of the best video editing software. If video editing gets more advanced, then the addition of an eGPU along with the ability to upgrade the RAM, main SSD, and a small additional 1TB M.2 2242 SSD SATA slot along with USB 4 expanded storage means that this Mini PC has serious potential and options for expansion.

Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro: Price & availability

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Geekom ST Series XT12 Pro is widely available in the standard configuration, which consists of a Mini PC with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB HD. The machine is available for $699 directly from the Geekom website, most electronics stores, and Amazon.com.

  • Score: 4/5

Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro: Design & build

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Despite the small size, you can instantly tell that the Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro sits in the mid to premium range of Mini PCs. Firstly, the look of the machine is understated, with a metal surround featuring honeycomb cut-outs to enable plenty of air to flow through the system. Then, the plastic top is finished in a high-quality matte white but moulded into the ergonomic design of the casing.

That casing, with the venting and high-quality detail, all helps to ensure that the inner workings remain as cool as possible during operation and keep on top of the power of the Intel Core i9-12900H. Thankfully, unlike some other high-powered Mini PCs, Geekom has opted to go for the Intel CPU coupled with the Intel Iris Xe Graphics, which offers decent but not outstanding performance, enough for moderate gaming but definitely not to be pushed.

On the front are two Type-A USB ports, a 3.5mm headphone socket, and a power button. Around the back are the main HDMI, USB 4, USB Type-A, and DC power socket. While the layout is neat, it is quite cramped due to this Mini PC's compact nature.

One of the big features of this small PC is the upgradability, and access to the inside is made by removing the four screws on the base of the machine. Once loosened, the bottom of the machine can be removed, and the top flipped over to reveal the RAM and SSD slots, adding a small M.2 2242 SSD up to 1TB in capacity.

The design of the XT12 Pro makes it a very powerful PC in its own right. Still, with the addition of the USB 4 ports, this also gives you the ability to make a lot more of this machine than many other Mini PCs as it firstly enables you to plug in high-speed and high-capacity external storage such as the OWC Thunderblade X8 or attach an eGPU to boost the graphics processing performance.

As a Mini PC, this is one of the smallest, but the build quality and weight highlight that this is something a little more than the usual compact computing solution.

  • Design: 4.5/5

Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro: Features

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Geekom XT12 Pro Mini PC features a powerful 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900H processor, with 14 cores and 20 threads, making it a great choice for heavy-duty tasks such as 4K video editing and 3D modeling software. The XT12 Pro comes with 32GB of RAM as standard and supports up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200MHz RAM. Although this is the older DDR4 rather than DDR5, it should still ensure decent performance for multitasking and handling large files and applications. The XT12 Pro offers several storage expansion options beyond the 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD that comes pre-installed. This slot can be upgraded to a 2TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD and an additional 1TB M.2 SATA SSD slot for extra storage.

Display capabilities support office and creative work, with the possibility of attaching up to four 4K displays simultaneously or a single 8K display. Connectivity options include USB 4 Gen3 ports that support power delivery and external GPU connections, enhancing its use in gaming and professional video and modelling applications. The XT12 Pro also includes dual HDMI 2.0 ports and 2.5G Ethernet for high-speed networking.

The compact unibody aluminum chassis helps ensure that the XT12 Pro is not only aesthetic but also durable and resistant to scratches and fingerprints. Although it is heavier than many mini PCs at 546g, it's still a viable comp[act alternative to the best business computers (or even the best business laptops). To ensure that everything stays cool, the XT12 Pro features the innovative IceBlast 1.0 cooling system, which employs copper pipes and a large silent fan to ensure the unit operates coolly and quietly under load.

  • Features: 4.5/5

Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro: Performance

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 5095.80MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 4406.81MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 9925
GeekBench CPU Multi: 2300
GeekBench Compute: 14235
PC Mark: 5692
CineBench CPU Multi: 10132
CineBench CPU Single: 1714
Fire Strike Overall: 5031
Fire Strike Graphics: 5513
Fire Strike Physics: 21822
Fire Strike Combined: 1791
Time Spy Overall: 1793
Time Spy Graphics: 1573
Time Spy CPU: 8732
Wild Life: N/A
Windows Experience: 8.3

The Geekom XT12 Pro mini PC delivers impressive performance through real-world tests with Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, multimedia, and some moderate gaming. From the outset, the fast boot into Windows 11 Pro sets a precedent for the use of this machine. Benchmark tests show strong results, with a PC Mark score of 5692, reflecting how the XT12 Pro handles tasks from the outset.

Checking a few easy tasks to start, streaming 4K content through Netflix, Apple, and Amazon Prime is seamless and showcases the strength of its Wi-Fi connection. Checking the disk speed, the Crystal Disk Read and Write scores are 5095.80MB/s and 4406.81MB/s, respectively, more than enough for simple multimedia playback tasks. What this transfer rate highlights is the machine's ability to handle large files for creative applications. However, while the XT12 Pro handles Photoshop and Lightroom Classic with ease, Adobe Bridge strains under high-resolution image scrolling, revealing the limitations of the integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics, reinforced by the GeekBench Compute score of 14235.

Video editing in DaVinci Resolve is manageable for 1080p and basic 4K projects. For more complex tasks involving RAW video, the system reaches its limits, corroborated by the Fire Strike Graphics score of 5513 and a Time Spy Overall score of 1793, indicating moderate graphical processing power. Gaming is feasible at 1080p for Red Dead Redemption II and Cyberpunk 2077, albeit with reduced settings necessary for smooth gameplay. For both video editing and gaming, connecting an eGPU can significantly enhance performance in both disciplines.

Overall, the XT12 Pro is versatile, handling a range of tasks from office work to creative projects and light to moderate gaming at lower resolutions. Its array of benchmark scores from GeekBench, CineBench, and 3D Mark highlights its capacity to balance performance across various uses, making it a suitable choice for professionals and creatives who require a compact computing solution.

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Geekom XT Series XT12 Pro?

The Geekom XT12 Pro Mini PC offers robust performance, versatile connectivity, and strong upgrade potential, making it a great choice for professionals and creatives. Its Intel Core i9-12900H processor and dual storage options cater to demanding tasks, while its compact design does not compromise on power. With USB 4 ports for expansion and eGPU compatibility, it delivers excellent value for its price and is a scalable solution.

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and these are our top picks

Rabbit R1 AI companion: An adorable but half-baked idea that you can ignore
7:00 pm | May 6, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Tags: , | Comments: Off

While I hesitate to call the Rabbit R1 AI companion device useless, I would not describe it as useful. This is a cute, orange gadget that has spent much of its brief time in my pocket. I have little to reason to pull it out. And why would I? It does nothing better than my iPhone 15 Pro Max and the dozens of apps I have on it. It's not even a better AI device than a smartphone with Gemini, Copilot, or ChatGPT. 

Even the design, which gets points for solid construction and cute, retro looks, fails to inspire. The touch-screen, physical scroll wheel navigation is one of the worst system interaction strategies I've ever encountered. RabbitOS's incredibly linear navigation only exacerbates the problem. I can't remember the last mobile piece of consumer electronics that didn't know to return to a home screen if you weren't using it. I'd argue the developers took the "rabbit hole" metaphor a little too seriously and designed an operating system that is nothing but rabbit holes and the only way you get out of them is by carefully backing up.

Rabbit R1 was supposed to be different. it was supposed to be special. It's not a smartphone and was never intended to be one or even compete with one. Instead, Rabbit tossed traditional smartphone and app tropes out the window and developed something new: a way of connecting your intentions to action without the need for apps. A new AI or Large Action Model (LAM), would connect spoken requests to app logins and then handle all the interactions and execution for you.

Specs

What's in the box: Rabbit R1
Weight: 115g
Dimensions: 3in. x 3in. x 0.5in.
Battery: 1000mAh
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB
Display: 2.88in. TFT
Connectivity: WiFi (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5, SIM card-support
Location: GPS
Camera: 8MP
CPU: MediaTek MT 6765

In practice, this means that you're logging into your Uber, Door Dash, Spotify, and Midjourney accounts through the Rabbit Hole desktop interface and then using the Rabbit R1 hardware, its push-to-talk system, and on-board AI to request rides, food, music, and generative images.

Would it shock you to hear that most of that didn't work for me? It's not all Rabbit's fault. Spotify won't accept third-party music requests unless you have a paid account. Doordash couldn't complete the sign-in. Midjourney works but the image generation is happening in Discord and not inside the Rabbit.

LAM turns out to be unimpressive and somewhat jerry-rigged. The built-in large language model that works with Rabbit Vision is somewhat better but why would I buy another $199 piece of hardware to duplicate something I can do with a cheap phone, much less the best phone currently available? I wouldn't, and neither should you.

Rabbit R1: Pricing & availability

The Rabbit announced the Rabbit R1 AI companion at CES 2024 in January. It shipped in April, lists for $199 (about £160/AU$290), and is currently available in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. The first run is done and new orders are shipping in June 2024.

  • Price score: 3.5 / 5

Rabbit R1: Design & features

Image 1 of 4

Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)
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Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)
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Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 4

Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)

You have to give Rabbit and design firm Teenage Engineering credit: the Rabbit R1 looks nothing like a traditional smartphone and that difference helps broadcast its intentions, which are ultimately nothing like your phone's.

Rabbit R1 is a 3x3in by a half-inch thick orange paint-covered and fairly sturdy slab. It has a tiny 2.88-inch color touch screen, an enclosed, rotatable 8MP camera, and below that a large, slick scroll wheel. If you look on the side adjacent to that wheel, you'll see a small gray push-to-talk (to the device) button that goes right through it. On the opposite side is a USB-C charge port (the device does not ship with a cable or charge adapter).  Below that is a SIM slot that you can open with a fingernail, a nice change from all the phones that require a special pin.

There's a pair of microphones along one edge and on the back is a large speaker grill (one inch by about 0.5 in).

Rabbit r1

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Inside is 4GB of RAM, which doesn't sound like much but considering how little Rabbit R1 does on board it's probably enough. There's a surprising 128GB of storage that will mostly go unused. The MediaTek MT 6765 is a middling CPU but it's unclear how much of an impact since the Rabbit R1 is usually talking to the cloud. AI image generation through Midjourney, for example, is not performed in-device. Instead, it sends prompts to the cloud where Midjourney on Discord handles them, generates images, and then sends them back to the Rabbit R1 to be displayed on the tiny, albeit sharp, screen.

Considering how important that cloud connection is to Rabbit R1's operation you'd think it would do a better job of maintaining it, but often when I picked up the Rabbit R1, it would say "establishing connection" while I waited. If I had it connected to my smartphone, the connection would often drop out. You can, by the way, buy and install a SIM card to deliver a constant, dedicated connection to your mobile network. Still, without the ability to make calls or even send and receive texts, what's the point of that?

  • Design & features score: 3/5

Rabbit R1: Performance & Battery Life

Setup is mostly pain-free, though to use Rabbit R1, I had to get it on a network, which required typing in a WiFi password into a really tiny virtual touch screen. The Rabbit R1 wouldn't work, though, until I plugged it in and accepted the first of what would become a series of regular updates. 

There isn't much about Rabbit R1's operation that I'd call familiar. If you pick it up, you'll notice the screen is dark until you press the talk button. The default screen is a graphical rabbit (Rabbit's logo) with battery life and time. There's nothing else on the display. Touching or tapping the screen does nothing. It's important that you get used to talking to Rabbit R1, as it's the only way to access its limited feature set. At least Rabbit R1's microphones are powerful enough to pick up my requests even when I whisper them.

Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)

Rabbit R1 doesn't do much of anything on its own. There's the cloud-based large-language model (LLM) that does a decent job of answering questions about the weather, history, and other general-interest topics. It's also quite good at reading labels. I noticed that when I pointed it at a rocket model, it accurately identified it and then walked me through the bullet list of details on the box. The built-in camera is not for taking pretty pictures (what do you expect from an 8MP sensor?) and is instead used with Rabbit Vision.

The camera is usually hidden but when I double-click the Talk button, the camera swivels to face out from the back of the Rabbit R1 – you use the scroll wheel to flip the camera from front to back and vice versa. I can hold the button down to ask Rabbit R1 to, for instance, describe what it's seeing. After a few seconds, it usually responds accurately and in surprising detail.

Rabbit R1 Review Rabbit hole

(Image credit: Future)

It did well identifying a banana, a camera, and me as a late middle-aged man. But when I asked it to to help me plan a meal based on what it could see in my refrigerator, it only described what it saw in the fridge and told me there were many options. However, it did not describe a single dish and when I followed up and asked it to suggest a meal based on what's in my fridge, it said it could not order food.

Rabbit R1 Review

(Image credit: Future)

I don't speak any other languages, so I tested Rabbit R1's real-time translation abilities by letting it listen to some Japanese language videos on YouTube. I told it to translate Japanese to English and, when I held the talk button to let it listen and then released it, the Rabbit R1 quickly displayed on screen and repeated the conversation in English. That was pretty impressive, though, the lack of on-screen guidance on how to make this work was frustrating. Most people not comfortable with technology might just give up.

I can relive all these interactions with Vision through the online "Rabbit Hole," which keeps the text and images from each interaction in calendar order. There's no search function but each entry includes a trashcan icon so you can delete it.

Rabbit R1 doesn't include communication, email, messaging, social media, games, or anything that might prompt me to engage with it more regularly. It's just an AI wrapped inside a device.

Rabbit r1

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There are some settings and controls for things like volume control. To access them you have to press the Talk button and then, I kid you not, shake Rabbit R1. To navigate the menu, you'll need to use the large orange scroll wheel. This wheel is one of Rabbit's worst decisions. I found it slippery and hard to turn. I hate it.

Navigating the Settings menu required a series of turns and presses. You navigate down to a menu item and then reverse those steps to get back home. It's almost as if the designers never used a smartphone. If I weren't testing the Rabbit R1, I might've pitched it out a window.

Rabbit R1 Review

Rabbit R1 gets points for cute graphics. This is what I saw when I recharged the handset. (Image credit: Future)

Initial battery life on the Rabbit R1 was not good and I watched as it lost a quarter of it's battery life in the space of an hour. Subsequent updates seemed to help that a bit but I still think battery life drains far too fast (even when you're not using it). The average smartphone is more efficient and lasts far longer.

  • Performance and Battery Life Score: 2.5/5

Rabbit R1: Final verdict

If all it took to achieve success in consumer electronics is to deliver an adorable design at a relatively affordable price, Rabbit R1 might be a success. But that's not the real world.

Rabbit R1 doesn't do enough to replace your smartphone or even operate as a decent companion. It's limited, and poorly thought out and much of the magic it promises happens – slowly – in the cloud and then is delivered back to this underpowered orange product.

If Rabbit hopes to lead the AI gadget charge, it better go back to the drawing board for Rabbit R2.

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Minisforum Venus NAB9 mini PC review
9:32 am |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Minisforum Venus NAB9: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel i9-12900HK
Graphics: Intel Iris XE 
RAM: 32 GB DDR4Storage: M.2 2280 PCIe4.0 ‎1 TB SSD (Up to 2TB)
Rear Ports: Dual 2.5G Ethernet Ports, 2xHDMI ports and 2xUSB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (1 DP only), 2xUSB-A 3.2 Gen 2
Front Ports: 1xUSB-C, 2xUSB-A, 3.5mm audio
Connectivity: Wi-Fi6, BT5.2
Audio: 3.5mmCamera: n/a
Size: 180 mm x 208 mm x 67 mm.
OS installed: Windows 11 Home
Accessories: 120W GAD power Supply, SATA Expansion cable

Minisforum has designed the NAB9 targeting power users as its base, those who need the robust capabilities of a CPU to power through office and creative tasks but without the extensive GPU power that gaming requires, thereby keeping heat generation down.

Equipped with an Intel i9-12900HK and Intel Iris XE graphics, along with 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD, this mini PC handles most office tasks, Photoshop jobs, and general 4K video editing software with relative ease. It is also well-equipped when it comes to connectivity, offering plenty of USB Type-C and Type-A ports, facilitating a range of accessories, although it's worth noting that one of the USB Type-C ports on the back is for display use only.

With two HDMI and two USB Type-C ports on the back, the machine allows for connecting up to four monitors without issue. The connectivity options are well catered for, with the M.2 2230 Wi-Fi support card ensuring a powerful wireless connection beyond most other mini PCs. For those needing the reliability of a wired connection, there are two RJ45 2.5G LAN ports.

Like many of the best mini PCs we've tested, this machine, while powerful, is all about balance. Handling image and video files is perfectly possible, though it's more suited for entry to mid-level work rather than professional tasks. However, the USB Type-C ports allow for storage expansion through external hard drives, and the data transfer rate for Premiere Pro and Photoshop is sufficient to keep up with workflow demands. The introduction of USB 4 would enhance data transfer and enable the use of eGPUs, but this would add considerably to the cost of this compact machine. Additionally, while 32GB of RAM is the baseline for video editing and is adequate in this system, it uses older DDR4 rather than the latest DDR5, but it handles video and image content well as long as video productions are simple and short.

Switching to gaming, most games run fine, with Portal 2 running smoothly. However, more recent games like Cyberpunk and Red Dead Redemption II require lower graphics quality—this is where USB 4 and DDR5 would have boosted performance, especially with the addition of an eGPU.

Considering the price, this mini PC has plenty to offer, and the i9 CPU, along with the RAM, storage, and generous cooling, ensures that the Minisforum NAB9 runs fast for extended periods. While it may not be the best choice for the latest games, it is a superb machine for everything else.

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Price & availability

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Minisforum Venus NAB9 is widely available and can be purchased directly through the Minisforum website or Amazon.com. It is available in a variety of options; the 32GB, 1TB version reviewed here will set you back $509. Additionally, there is a barebones version available, allowing you to select your own SSD and RAM.

  • Score: 4/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Design & build

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Minisforum Venus NAB9 sits in the mid-range when it comes to mini PC size, featuring a standard footprint and a slightly taller frame that accommodates the additional cooling required for the powerful Intel i9-12900HK CPU inside. The choice of case design helps keep the machine cool when working at full throttle, and the metal sides with vent slots and silver plastic top all contribute to giving this mini PC a slightly premium look and feel.

There are some nice touches to the design, such as the layout of the rear ports. The LAN ports take center stage, flanked by HDMI and USB ports on either side, USB Type-A on one side, and the power socket on the other. This arrangement makes it extremely easy to set up on a desk, with the ability to neatly arrange the cable layout into monitors, keyboards, mice, and accessories.

Likewise, the small selection of USB and audio ports on the front, along with the small power-on button, make plugging in headphones and other accessories convenient.

As the machine has a variety of configuration options, including barebones, it's nice to see easy access to the inner workings. Accessing the SSD and RAM is simply a case of pushing down on the front of the top plate; it then clicks, releases, and can be removed. Inside, everything is clear and easy to access in case of a component swap-around or upgrade. One of the features that will appeal to anyone wanting to boost the standard 512GB or 1TB storage is that this machine can be upgraded to 2TB. If that's still not enough, the lid of the machine is designed to hold a 2.5" SSD with the screws and cables provided in the box, although the purchase of the SSD is separate. This means if you want to pop in an 8TB SSD, you can, and this connects through the SATA expansion cable. Likewise, the 32GB of RAM in the review machine can also be upgraded to a maximum of 64GB, which could be ideal if you are looking to use the machine for photo or video work.

As a compact business computer, the design is very neat and discreet, with the metal silver finish giving it an understated yet stylish look.

  • Design: 5/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Features

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The MINISFORUM Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC is designed for business use, blending high performance with a sleek, compact form factor. If you wanted a portable business laptop alternative, this will adequately fulfil that role. At its core, the Intel Core i9-12900HK processor features a hybrid architecture with 14 cores and 20 threads, capable of speeds up to 5.0GHz. Combined with Intel Iris Xe Graphics, this setup provides ample processing power for office, multimedia, creative tasks, and moderate gaming needs.

Connectivity is a major feature of the NAB9, with dual 2.5G Ethernet ports enabling a variety of networking options such as ultra-secure firewalls and file storage servers. For convenience in wireless connectivity, the NAB9 includes dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 on a replaceable M.2 2230 card, which not only ensures a robust wireless connection but also future-proofs the unit to some extent for upgrades.

Monitor connection is another area where the NAB9 provides plenty of options. It supports up to four displays at 4K resolution and 60Hz, made possible by two HDMI and two USB-C ports.

Our review unit arrived pre-equipped with 32GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory (max 64GB) and a 1TB M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 SSD (max 2TB), both of which can be upgraded easily thanks to a user-friendly pop-up design of the top. There's also the option to secure a larger capacity 2.5" SATA drive into the lid to expand storage.

Cooling is critical and can often be an issue with the mini PC format; the NAB9 addresses this with an innovative cooling system that includes dual heat pipes, dual air vents, and a new active solid-state heat sink complemented by side cooling openings. Unlike some other mini PCs, the NAB9 does not include boosted graphics, so while it is powerful and capable of moderate gaming performance, the focus here is on the processing power for other uses. 

  • Features: 4/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Performance

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 4805.93MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 3900.54MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 10689
GeekBench CPU Multi:
 2300
GeekBench Compute: 14636
PC Mark:
 5872
CineBench CPU Multi: 12081
CineBench CPU Single:
 1654
Fire Strike Overall: 5002
Fire Strike Graphics:
 5350
Fire Strike Physics: 26384
Fire Strike Combined: 1851
Time Spy Overall:
 1807
Time Spy Graphics: 1577
Time Spy CPU:
 10625
Wild Life: 11983
Windows Experience: 8.3

The Minisforum Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC's performance is impressive, especially considering its compact size. This is primarily due to the Intel Core i9-12900HK processor, which provides substantial processing power for a range of applications, from office productivity to creative media work. Minisforum has carefully considered the components used in this small machine, focusing on the essentials needed for a fast office machine rather than gaming. This does mean there is a compromise, with no DDR5 RAM, USB 4 ports, or higher-end graphics.

Starting with everyday tasks, the NAB9 handles Microsoft Office applications with ease, ensuring smooth operation across all Office apps without any noticeable slowdown. This performance is reflected in its PC Mark score of 5872, indicating strong general productivity capabilities with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

When it comes to creative software, the NAB9 manages processor-intensive tasks well, with Adobe Photoshop tasks like image manipulation and enhancement being handled efficiently. However, the absence of a dedicated GPU means it faces challenges with high-resolution graphic data in Adobe Bridge, a common compromise in mini PCs. Its performance in Adobe Premiere Pro is decent enough; editing 1080p footage is smooth, and even 4K footage remains manageable unless you push the machine to edit log3 quality footage, at which point it begins to falter.

This machine is ideal for businesses where some image and video enhancement is needed. Its power and cooling mean it can handle those demanding tasks with relative ease. It's suited for footage captured on phones or using standard quality settings for images and stills before switching to RAW or Log formats.

For gaming, the NAB9's limitations become apparent when dealing with graphically intensive titles like Red Dead Redemption II and Cyberpunk 2077 at native 4K resolution. While the device struggles at higher settings and resolutions, lowering the resolution to 1080p allows for a much better gaming experience, albeit at the cost of visual fidelity. This is corroborated by its 3D benchmark scores, with Fire Strike and Time Spy graphics scores of 5350 and 1577, respectively, indicating that while capable, it's not intended for high-end gaming.

The device's storage performance is fast, with Crystal Disk scores of 4805.93 MB/s read and 3900.54 MB/s write. This ensures that data transfer and loading times are exceptionally quick, which is beneficial for applications requiring frequent access to large files.

Benchmark scores in other areas further reflect the NAB9's strengths and weaknesses. Its GeekBench scores show a strong single-core performance at 10689 but a lower multi-core score of 2300, suggesting it handles single-threaded tasks well but may lag in more intensive multi-threaded operations. Similarly, CineBench scores highlight good performance, especially in multi-core tests, which is crucial for tasks like video rendering and software compilation.

Overall, the Minisforum Venus Series NAB9 mini PC is a solid business-focused mini PC ideal for those whose work involves office applications, moderate use of the best video editing software and photo editors, and occasional gaming at adjusted settings. Its performance benchmarks in real-world applications highlight that the NAB9 balances compactness with capability, making it a great option for a variety of uses.

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Minisforum Venus NAB9?

The MINISFORUM Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC excels as a business and creativity-focused system, powered by a robust Intel i9 processor and ample connectivity options. While it efficiently handles office tasks and moderates creative and video work, its gaming capabilities and the absence of the latest ports like USB 4.0 and DDR5 RAM might deter more tech-savvy users seeking cutting-edge specifications. Nevertheless, for professional environments and typical productivity tasks, it offers great value, ensuring high performance without the risk of overheating, thanks to its efficient design and cooling system.

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and here's the ones we rate

Huawei’s new Kirin 9010 brings minor CPU improvements
4:53 pm | April 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: | Comments: Off

Huawei announced the Pura 70 series today, and once again offered no details regarding the chipsets. However, early benchrmarks confirmed they feature a new platform called Kirin 9010, which has an 8-core CPU, identified by apps as 12-core unit due to hyperthreading. Hyperthreading is nothing new in the chipset industry, as the Taishan cores have been supporting the technology for some time; it has been part of the Kirin 9000s and now is a part of the 9010 as well. First Geekbench results revealed a minor improvement in raw performance, coming from slightly faster core speeds. The...

Zyxel WBE660S review
2:47 pm | March 21, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Zyxel’s new WBE660S Wi-Fi 7 access point quickly and reliably brings fiber-like transfer rates to wireless devices in only a few steps. With an aggregated bandwidth of over 22 Gbps, the AP is no longer the bottleneck around the office. The three-radio system, each with four streams, increases utilization by providing a dedicated backhaul channel in a mesh configuration.

Wi-Fi 7 technology increases power consumption. The higher frequency means more energy is wasted as heat, which helps explain the sizable heatsink at the back of the AP. In fact, with its 1.4kg, it is one of the heaviest units we’ve seen at TechRadar Pro. The mobile app makes integration into Zyxel’s cloud infrastructure straightforward. The AP supports up to 8 SSIDs with over one thousand simultaneous clients.

Since the Wi-Fi 7 standard has been out for less than a year, expect the price to be much higher than Wi-Fi 6 or 6e access points. The WBE660S is four times as fast as previous generations, justifying the hefty price tag of $799, which also carries a two-year warranty. The WBE660S is on special right now on Amazon for $499

Zyxel WBE660S front view

(Image credit: Future)

Zyxel WBE660S: Testing

To thoroughly test the WBE660S access point, we used a BE200 Wi-Fi 7 WLAN card to exercise the new 6GHz channel in both directions. An Iperf Linux server connected to the AP through the 10Gb interface tested clients' throughput at one meter. 

Zyxel WBE660S: Design

Right out of the box, the Zyxel WBE660S Wi-Fi 7 access point shows many differences from the previous generation. The white oblong-shaped unit has a gray metal back, which doubles as a heatsink. It is twice as wide as the previous Zyxel Wi-Fi 6e model, measuring 31 cm x 17.8 cm x 5.6 cm and weighing 1.4kg. The mounting kit includes a backplate that secures the AP to a wall or ceiling. Another difference from previous APs is that the Wi-Fi 7 model can quickly dismount from the backplate by rotating a blue locking knob.

Specifications

 Model: Zyxel WBE660S

CPU: Quad-core Qualcomm 1220 CPU

RAM: 2GB

Storage: 256MB NAND

Radios: One 4x4 for 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 / 6e, One 4x4 for 5GHz Wi-Fi 6, One 4x4 for 2.4GHz

Wireless throughput: Theoretical 22Gbps

Ports: 10Gb Ethernet with PoE, 1Gb Ethernet

Weight: 1.4 kg

Dimensions: 31 cm x 17.8 cm x 5.6 cm

Power Consumption: 17W with one client connected; 41W maximum consumption

The WBE660S utilizes three radios, offering an aggregated bandwidth of 22 Gbps. In addition to the regular 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, the new 6GHz frequency allows 11.5Gbps in optimal conditions by using a channel bandwidth of 320MHz, twice what is available in Wi-Fi 6 and 6e. A 10G Ethernet port supplies power over PoE and the necessary bandwidth to drive such a high data rate. Zyxel offers a secondary 1G Ethernet port on the access point, which can turn the AP into a rudimentary 10G/1G switch.

A single multicolored LED on top of the case provides information about the AP’s operation. Full green means clients are connected, while blue indicates that the AP is boot-up. The built-in antenna offers a maximum of 5dBi of gain, which, together with -104dBm of RX sensitivity, translates into a speedy connection even when located far from the access point. Connected devices can reach throughputs of 500Mb/s at ten meters or more.

The WBE660S features a Qualcomm Pro 1220 chip, which includes a quad-core A73 CPU clocked at 2.2GHz. The platform offers up to 12 spatial streams to sustain the 22 Gbps bandwidth. Coupled with 2GB of DRAM and 256MB of storage, the IPQ9574 CPU can easily accommodate over one thousand clients connected to eight SSIDs. The enclosure, which serves as a heatsink, becomes warm over time, reaching a peak of 50 degrees Celsius.

Zyxel WBE660S side view

(Image credit: Future)

Zyxel WBE660S: In Use

The easiest way to power the WBE660S is through the Uplink port, which provides up to 45W using PoE. Even without a power injector or switch supporting PoE, the device can still be powered through the built-in Type-C connector, requiring 12V at 45W. The AP boots in less than two minutes when connected to a 10G Ethernet port. The front LED slowly blinks green if everything goes well, indicating that clients can connect. With one client connected, the AP consumed only 17W.

Unlike the previous WBE from Zyxel, the new Wi-Fi 7 model is surprisingly more tolerant of regular Ethernet cabling, even at 10G. We had no linkup issue using a five-meter Cat-5 cable connected to a Zyxel 10G switch. The unit does not provide any visual means of knowing the Ethernet speed, so we used the Nebula portal to see if the connection was optimal.

Configuration can be done using Zyxel’s mobile application by scanning a QR code on the back of the unit. Adding the access point to the app is recommended before performing the hardware installation. The Nebula portal allows users to configure and update other Zyxel network devices besides the WBE660S.

Zyxel WBE660S back view

(Image credit: Future)

Zyxel WBE660S: Performance

The yet-to-be-ratified Wi-Fi 7 standard improves on the 6th edition by having higher throughput per channel and more channels in the 6GHz band. This results in an upper limit of 46 Gbps, more than four times Wi-Fi 6 aggregated bandwidth. We validate the performance of the WBE660S with a BE200 module, supporting a maximum speed of 5Gbps provided by two streams. At one meter, the maximum throughput was 2.5Gbps downstream and 3.7Gbps upstream. Latency is 1 ms with a jitter of 0.1 ms. 

Zyxel WBE660S: The competition

The Ubiquity U7 Pro access point offers Wi-Fi 7 connectivity on a budget. At $239, it is one of the cheapest APs available. However, if one invests in Wi-Fi 7 technology, one will likely favor throughput over monetary savings. The U7 Pro has six spatial streams compared to the twelve offered on the WBE660S, resulting in half the throughput. The Ethernet connection is also slower at 2.5Gbps instead of 10Gbps.

Zyxel WBE660S: Final verdict

The WBE660S lives up to the expectations brought by the arrival of Wi-Fi 7. With three radio channels, the unit supports legacy standards such as Wi-Fi 2.4G and 5ac. The 6GHz radio sets it apart with four simultaneous streams, each having a higher bandwidth than Wi-Fi 6. The access point does not suffer from range loss since it covers over 1000 square feet with throughput degradation similar to previous generations. Using the WBE600S is straightforward, thanks to its flawless integration into the Nebula ecosystem. 

Having an extra channel with higher bandwidth comes with its challenges. The WBE600S uses much power, about twice as much as previous generations. As a result, the metal case is much bigger and heavier. The higher power will also hurt the wallet and increase the electricity bill. This access point remains an excellent tool for applications requiring high bandwidth, such as augmented reality and 8K videos.

We've also listed the best UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply).

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro review: Samsung’s MacBook killer gets Intel’s latest CPU
7:21 pm | March 13, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Two-minute review

If you like the look of Apple's MacBooks but prefer or simply require the Windows ecosystem, well, you can do a lot worse than the new Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro. Like its predecessor, the very similar Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro, it owes its overall look and feel to the MacBook.

Thanks to its sleek wedge-shaped chassis, it's most similar to Apple's now defunct MacBook M1 Air in terms of design. But for features and performance it probably falls somewhere in between the newer and boxier MacBook Air 13-inch (M3) and the base model MacBook Pro 14-inch.

Available in both 14-inch and 16-inch formats, this 14-inch model has both advantages and weaknesses compared to Apple's alternatives. The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro's OLED screen is a definite highlight with incredible image quality plus 120Hz refresh. It also supports touch input. Apple simply can't compete.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro's speakers disappoint and its trackpad is merely OK. Apple definitely does those things better. As for performance, it's a close-run thing compared to the Apple M2 chip, though the latest M3 is arguably a step above. You get Intel's hot new Meteor Lake CPU in Intel Core Ultra 7 155H configuration with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores.

Samsung says the new Intel chip improves the Galaxy Book4 Pro's already impressive battery life by about 10% and we found you can get nearly 14 hours of video playback and over 11 hours of more intensive use. Put simply, this laptop offers genuine all-day longevity.

On the downside, the design is definitely derivative, the speakers are very disappointing and the trackpad is merely OK. But overall, this isn't just one of the best Windows alternatives for MacBook fans. It can take the fight to any competing laptop in our best laptop 2024 guide.

 

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro in use on a desk showing the screen

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? $1,449 / £1,599
  • Where is it available? Available in the US and UK

Priced at $1,449 in the US and £1,559 in the UK for the entry-level model with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD, the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro is definitely premium priced but it's not outrageously expensive. It's a little pricier than a comparably specced MacBook Air, but cheaper than the entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro.

On the other hand, Dell's XPS 13 can be had with the same Meteor Lake CPU with matching memory and storage specs for a little less money, and the XPS 14 for about the same money. 

However, the XPS 13 can't be had with an OLED display and with the XPS 14 an OLED panel can be configured, but adds $300 / £200 to the price. All of which means the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro isn't cheap, but it does still offer a strong value proposition.

  • Price score:  4 / 5

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Specs

The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro comes in two configurations, 14-inch and 16-inch versions.

  • Specs score: 4 / 5

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro next to a MacBook Air

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Design

  • Good build quality
  • Apple-derivative design
  • Very portable

There's no denying it. The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro wouldn't look like it does were it not for the Apple MacBook and more specifically, the MacBook Air and its wedge-shaped chassis. The Galaxy Book4 Pro is awfully, awfully similar, from the tapering chassis thickness to the keyboard design, the look of the trackpad, and the way the screen lid hinges and closes.

Samsung has also come pretty close to matching Apple's signature build quality and engineering. The keyboard bed is super rigid and the chassis feels strong even if the way the various parts fit together doesn't quite match Apple's peerless precision.

There are other details where Samsung can't match Apple. The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro's speakers don't even come close to those of the MacBook Air, let alone the MacBook Pro. That's a real pity and it's hard to understand why Samsung can't give this laptop high sound quality to match the stunning OLED screen. That display, of course, is a touchscreen, which adds an extra string to this Windows laptop's bow that no MacBook offers.

The trackpad, meanwhile, is fine by Windows laptop standards, but isn't quite as precise and satisfying to use as Apple's haptic trackpad. On the other hand, Samsung has managed to offer better port selection than the MacBook Air. Along with a pair of Thunderbolt USB-C ports, you get a legacy USB-A, a full HDMI socket, microSD, and a headphone jack.

That's impressive given the compact form factor which comes in at just 11.6mm thick and 1.23kg. This is an extremely portable laptop, a fact that's only helped by the teeny-tiny 35W USB-C power adapter.

So, this is a very nicely designed and engineered machine on pretty much every level. Among Windows laptops, few if any are better built. But it is, ultimately, a pretty derivative machine in aesthetic terms. Dell's XPS portables are much more distinctive, while Apple's MacBooks are ultimately the real deal.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro in use on a desk showing the screen

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Performance

  • Intel Meteor Lake CPU is punchy
  • OLED screen is stunning
  • Good storage performance
Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Benchmarks

Here's how the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 22,295; Fire Strike: N/A; Time Spy: 3,343
Cinebench R23 Multi-core: 7,016 points; Single-core: 1,579
CrystalDiskMark 8 SSD sequential: 5.047MB/s (read); 3,993MB/s (write)
CrystalDiskMark 8 SSD 4K: 72MB/s (read); 175MB/s (write)
CrossMark: Overall: 1,601 Productivity: 1,466 Creativity: 1,803 Responsiveness: 1463
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm: 38fps
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 11 hours and 48 minutes
1080p video playback battery life: 13 hours and 54 minutes

Intel's new Meteor Lake CPU isn't a radical step forward for performance. But it does deliver all the performance you could reasonably ask for in a thin and light laptop like this.

The Intel Core Ultra 7 155H gives you six meaty Performance cores running at up to 4.8GHz, plus eight Efficient cores capable of 3.8GHz. For day-to-day tasks like web browsing and content consumption, the combination of the Intel chip plus 16GB of fast DDR5 memory and a really quick Samsung SSD makes for an ultra-speedy and responsive experience.

But you also have plenty of performance in hand for some pretty serious workflows like image and video editing. Really, the only limitation involves graphics performance. The new Intel Meteor Lake CPU has a good integrated graphics processor. But it can't quite match that of the integrated GPU in AMD's competing Ryzen laptops APUs and it isn't up to the job of playing modern PC games.

Of course, you can get similar performance from a whole slew of Windows laptops that offer Intel's new Meteor Lake chips. But it's still impressive to experience this level of performance in such a compact and portable laptop.

Another highlight is the AMOLED screen. It's just so vibrant and offers perfect per-pixel lighting control, so the HDR experience is truly spectacular. No LCD screen, even one with local dimming, comes close. It's also much brighter than comparable desktop OLED monitors. What's more, it runs at 120Hz for extreme smoothness and responsiveness and has touchscreen functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro in use on a desk showing the screen

(Image credit: Future)

The only slight flaw involves the screen's dynamic refresh mode. It can switch between 60Hz and 120Hz on the fly and according to application demand. The idea is that running at 120Hz increases battery load, so the screen only steps up to 120Hz when significant on-screen motion is detected. We noticed very occasional stutters that may be related to this feature. It's not a major flaw and, in any case, you have the option of running in conventional 60Hz and 120Hz modes.

Overall, our only significant reservation regarding the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro's performance is those aforementioned speakers. By Windows laptop standards, they're OK. But if you are familiar with Apple's MacBooks and thinking of making the switch, you'll be very disappointed. 

Where watching movies and video content on MacBooks, perhaps while on holiday, is a really enjoyable experience, thanks to some great speakers, on the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro you'd have to bring an additional Bluetooth speaker to get a similar experience. That's a pity.

  • Performance score: 4 / 5

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro in use on a desk showing the screen

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Battery life

  • Even better than before
  • Genuine all-day battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro already had great battery life. With the upgrade to Intel's latest CPUs, it just got better. For movie and video playback, you're looking at the thick end of 14 hours, more than enough for pretty much any plane flight.

Even under heavier loads browsing the web and undertaking more demanding workflows, well over 10 hours is possible. That means with light and occasional use, you'll get multiple days out of this laptop. And when you're getting important work done, you can rely on it lasting all day away from the mains.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro?

Buy it if...

You want a MacBook-style Windows experience
The Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro looks and feels a lot like Apple's MacBook machines and that's mostly a good thing.

You want great battery life
With around 14 hours of video playback and well over 10 hours with more demanding use, all-day battery life is genuinely achievable.

Don't buy it if...

You want to play games
The Intel Meteor Lake CPU is great for just about everything. But despite an improved integrated GPU, that doesn't include games.

You want to watch movies and video
The OLED screen is fabulous. But the built-in speakers are very disappointing and spoil the content consumption experience.

Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro: Also consider

If our Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro review has you considering other options, here are two laptops to consider...

How I tested the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro

  • I tested the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro for a week
  • I used it both on a desk and while travelling

I used the Samsung Galaxy Book4 Pro as my main workhorse for a week, including as a desktop machine plugged into monitors, when on the move, lounging on the sofa, the works.

That gave me a good idea of how it coped with all kinds of tasks, how portable it is and how well the battery lasts in the real world (spoiler, it lasts really well). I have a MacBook Air of my own, so it made for an intriguing comparison. And I have, of course, been testing and reviewing laptops since the early Mesozoic period, so I have plenty of context to draw on.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed March 2024

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC review
8:44 pm | March 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel Core i5-1340P
Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
Rear Ports: 3 x HDMI, 2 x Ethernet (RJ45), 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack 
Front Ports: None
Side Ports: 2x USB 3.1, 2x 2.0, USB Type-C, MicroSD
Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 
Audio: Integrated high-definition audio, HDMI audio support, headphone jack
Camera: N/A
Size: 167 x 114 x 36mm
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: Power adapter, VESA mount 

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC should be seen as something other than an everyday PC that you have on your desktop to open files and browse the internet. It's definitely not a machine that should be considered for creatives to edit videos and images. When it comes to gaming, you'll need more than patience if you want to play anything with any significant graphics processing. 

However, looking at the hardware contained within the i5 version that we have in for review, coupled with three HDMI ports and one of the most powerful Wi-Fi connections of any of the best mini PCs we've tried, you'll start to see what this is designed for. The manufacturer, Azulle, highlights that this machine is designed for interactive kiosks, digital signage, and any device where a screen is either required to show a display or used as a simple interactive kiosk.

When it comes to hardware, the machine is available as a barebones system, enabling you to configure it to your intended use, which is why our review system has arrived with the bare minimum of 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. While the processor is a powerful i5, the lack of RAM makes running even standard Windows tasks a slow process. However, for running back a simple 4K slideshow on a large monitor, this is more than you need. With the backing of a full version of Windows Pro 11 to support the system, you can be sure that it will keep on running with reliability, which is hard to match with less sophisticated systems.

In this review, I've put the machine through its paces as a standard PC, utilising Office applications, creative programs, and games to see how it would perform under the usual use-cases of the best business computers. However, the machine's intended use extends well beyond this. As such, I've also left it playing back a slideshow for a week and interacted with the machine remotely through the Wi-Fi connection. From the beginning of the test, it was obvious that without additional RAM, doing anything other than playing back slideshows and videos was going to be difficult, so I popped in 16GB of RAM to enable a little more flexibility with the use for the benchmark tests the machine is run on 4GB of RAM as it arrived. 

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Price & availability

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

When you switch from consumer goods to industrial, the pricing quickly escalates, and here, with the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC, the price premium for its intended audience is instantly apparent. However, this machine is designed with a specific purpose, and its features and design have been tailored to that use. This means that while it may not pack the power of other machines when it comes to reliability and resilience, it stands alone and warrants the relatively high cost. The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is available from Adorama, B&H Photo, as well as many other professional outlets.

  • Score: 3.5/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Design & build

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Ordinarily, units designed for industrial use are encased in tough, no-fuss metal, prioritising strength over design. With the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC, however, there's a mix of materials. It features a tough plastic case and metal base that includes VESA mount holes ready for the optional VESA mount, which can be purchased separately.

Visually, at first glance, this mini PC looks more like some approximation of the best small business routers rather than a computer, with two large antennas that stick out from the back of the machine. Next to these are a line of three HDMI sockets, and then no other ports aside from a 3.5mm audio jack. If you need USB, these are all clustered on the side of the machine, which makes sense if you consider that for much of the time, this computer is only going to be connected to a monitor or monitors and power.

A notable addition to the usual ports and sockets is the MicroSD card slot. This enables you to quickly load up files, slideshows, videos, or presentations. You can also run applications for touchscreens and run updates if and when needed.

When it comes to design, there is some product design going on here, but really, this mini PC is designed to be functional and easily mounted. On this front, along with the VESA option, the small rubber feet are easily adjusted to ensure that the machine sits flat and level. These feet, if fully removed, also double as four of the six securing screws to access the machine's inner workings.

Once those screws are removed, the base can be lifted aside, and that's when you start to see the big difference between this and many other Mini PCs. There's a large fan over the RAM and SSD for a start, then the huge copper heat sink and dual-channel RAM slots with plenty of space. Our review unit may be minimal, but there's plenty of scope for expansion, and the all-important cooling system is in place and ready to see this machine work non-stop for days or weeks without downtime.

  • Design: 3/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Features

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Azulle Byte4 Elite is a powerful barebones mini PC featuring an Intel Core i5 13th Gen Raptor Lake processor, with i3 and i7 versions also available. This versatility in customisation depending on use means our review system came with Windows 11 Pro installed, but you can opt for IoT, Linux, or nothing at all. Essentially, the operating system, RAM, and storage can all be adjusted to meet specific needs, making it an ideal choice for a wide array of industrial applications, from IoT to edge computing.

One of the Byte4 Elite's standout features is its ability to serve as a high-performance replacement for thin clients, significantly reducing the chances of downtime. Its build is robust, and the design of the cooling system should ensure that the machine can run continuously for long durations. This makes the Byte4 Elite an ideal choice to power kiosks such as self-service consoles, although more than the 4GB of RAM in our review sample will be required.

In home office setups or home theatres, the Byte4 Elite's compact form and powerful Wi-Fi connection will really stand out. Again, a RAM boost to 16GB is recommended to leverage what the system has to offer fully.

For IoT applications, the Byte4 Elite can drive smart solutions, allowing businesses to explore new ways to optimise their processes through Windows IoT. This feature underscores the Byte4 Elite's suitability for innovative projects and broader development. Digital signage is another area where the Byte4 Elite excels when paired with any of the best business monitors, thanks to its support for 4K resolution. Again, the powerful Wi-Fi link is a huge benefit.

  • Features: 4/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Performance

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 2140.72MB/s
Crystal Disk Write:
982.77MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single:
2143
GeekBench CPU Multi:
4439
GeekBench Compute:
9163
PC Mark:
4969
CineBench CPU Multi:
8161
CineBench CPU Single:
1687
Fire Strike Overall:
1933
Fire Strike Graphics:
2231
Fire Strike Physics:
18555
Fire Strike Combined:
578
Time Spy Overall:
n/a
Time Spy Graphics:
n/a
Time Spy CPU:
n/a
Wild Life:
n/a
Windows Experience:
5.9

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is far from being a standard Mini PC and shouldn't be considered a machine that can be used in the home or standard office environment. The features and performance are there to be customised by you for your intended use, so the barebones system is just the start. 

When it comes to performance, we have to understand how the Byte4 Elite measures up in various computing scenarios, particularly in its designated roles, such as IoT, POS systems, thin client replacements, and digital signage.

The Byte4 Elite's storage performance, as indicated by Crystal Disk Mark scores, shows a solid read speed of 2140.72MB/s and a write speed of 982.77MB/s. These figures suggest that the system is more than capable of handling large data transfers quickly; this is crucial for applications that require quick access to substantial amounts of data, such as digital signage and kiosk systems.

When it comes to processing power, the GeekBench results provide a comprehensive look at the Byte4 Elite's capabilities. A single-core score of 2143 and a multi-core score of 4439 reflect a balanced performance, adept at managing single-threaded tasks as well as more demanding multi-threaded operations. This result would be OK for a mini PC used for running day-to-day office applications, and here, for a machine that would be run in a thin client setup to power complex interactive kiosks, it should be more than enough.

The GeekBench Compute score of 9163, alongside CineBench scores of 8161 for multi-core and 1687 for single-core CPU performance, further underscores the Byte4 Elite's proficiency in handling compute-intensive tasks. Such capabilities are essential for edge computing solutions and IoT applications, where processing data quickly and efficiently is, of course, important.

In terms of graphical performance, the Fire Strike scores paint a picture of a system that, while not designed for high-end gaming, offers ample power for digital signage and other visual applications. An overall score of 1933, with graphics at 2231 and a particularly impressive physics score of 18555, indicates that the Byte4 Elite can handle 4K video playback and graphic-intensive presentations with ease, making it an ideal choice for content-rich digital signage. When it came to the scores for Time Spy and Wild Life, in both instances, this machine didn't have the graphic processing to handle those tests. 

It's also worth noting the relatively modest Windows Experience Index of 5.9, which suggests that while the Byte4 Elite is a strong performer in many areas, there may be limitations to its capabilities, particularly anything where graphical performance or ultra-fast data processing is required. This aligns with the expectation for a device that's optimised for specific industrial and commercial applications rather than general high-performance computing.

The performance metrics of the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC show that this machine is tailored to environments that demand reliability, efficiency, and the ability to handle a diverse range of tasks. Whether it's serving as the backbone of a kiosk, powering digital signage, or facilitating edge computing, the Byte4 Elite's test scores highlight the focus of its intended use. 

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC?

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is a remarkably capable machine specifically designed for industrial and commercial applications. Its performance, alongside a suite of features tailored for roles such as digital signage, kiosks, and IoT solutions, positions it as a top contender in its niche. When considering its value for money, it's clear that the Byte4 Elite is not your everyday consumer device but a specialised tool meant for specific, demanding tasks.

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...


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