Here we sit upon that which is the latest HDMI stick that Azulle has brought into the world. Sit, might not be the best word, but I do have it sitting right next to me right now, and it has passed quite the test with us. The stick in mention is the Access Plus Mini HDMI PC Stick, the next model in the line that takes the place of the original Quantum Access.
The new Access Plus is a little larger in size compared to the previous model, but it also packs a little more boost within. Where there previous stick fared well enough to earn a pretty decent score with us, the new one fills the missing gap with enough added performance.
The purpose of the Access Plus is to add or replace the smart apps on your TV by adding the option of a full Windows 10 desktop experience. Just as its name claims, it is a miniature PC. A full copy of Windows 10 Home edition is loaded on board and it functions like any other Windows PC. It just isn’t as fast as a full-size desktop or laptop. However, you would be surprised with the performance it does offer. Especially when you hold it in your hand and appreciate how little space it consumes.
It plugs into the back of your TV via its HDMI port and powers with wallpaper. The rest is a mouse and keyboard solution and you are good to go. Like any PC, you can use any wireless USB mouse and keyboard solution. All you need is the little USB receiver plugged into the Access Plus and you are set. They do offer bundles that include a Logitech keyboard with built-in touchpad to get you started with, but currently those bundles are limited to the previous Access stick and not the new one. You can always simply buy the keyboard on it’s own though or buy any other one you’re heart desires.
You also have the option of built-in Bluetooth, allowing you to use a Bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse solution as well. The kind of option that doesn’t come with a receiver because it was designed to connect without one, to a tablet or phone.
Everything else is featured on-board, including built-in WiFi and Ethernet for connecting it to your network with. There is 32GB of flash-based capacity inside for storage (including Windows itself). If this isn’t enough for you (which it most likely will not be), you have an SD slot to add more memory with. Your best bet at the moment would be a 128GB SD card since they are so affordable now. Especially if you consider buying into one of these around Black Friday, where SD cards almost always end of featured in specials.
You also have the option of plugging in any kind of USB-based external storage. You would more than likely be using a flash/thumb drive, however you could always connect an external hard drive as well. There are two USB ports located on the stick. You get one USB 3.0 port (for anything) and one USB 2.0 (usually for your keyboard, mouse or other things that don’t depend on transfer speed). Both of them are located on the same side of the unit.
Two USB ports is a great improvement compared to the last model as it only had one, which forced you to buy and attach a small USB hub if you wanted to use anything other than the keyboard and/or mouse.
Another improvement is they added a 3.5mm output for sound. This is in case you wanted to connect headphones (an odd move since you probably wouldn’t want to be attached to the TV with a wire) or to send sound to a separate device other than the TV, such as a soundbar (which would make more sense). It is located on the back side of the unit, to the right of the Ethernet port.
In case it doesn’t properly stick out of the back of your TV via the HDMI port–depending on if the HDMI is back-firing or shoots off to the side (ideal scenario), this new model comes with an HDMI extension cable, allowing you to position the HDMI stick however you want on the back of the TV. This is in case you have the TV mounted and your HDMI port fires backwards towards the wall (which would make it quite difficult to install without the cable). If you do need to take this route, you could always attach to the stick anywhere you want on the back of the TV via something like velcro.
This one scored pretty high with us. As we mentioned, it stepped up where the previous model lacked slightly. Video playback was smooth and quick and as long as you aren’t running any heavy games on it, it functions quite well. You have to keep in mind, this is a tiny little PC, not a laptop or full tower. It may play a number of games from the Windows store, such as games you’d normally find yourself playing on a tablet or phone, but resource heavy games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield will have to step aside.
Inside, you have an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 1.44GHz processor with 2GB of memory (1.85GB usable). There is a 4GB model as well which would open the potential of further multi-tasking as well lend Windows itself a further hand in performance of the OS. That one costs a little more though, which we will cover in a moment.
It’s built-in WiFi does wonders and even performed better than their Byte Plus PC, scoring itself 85.43MBps downstream and 11.80MBps upstream (22ms ping time). Given, we have a pretty strong network here that can peak around 200-300MBps (Internet) via WiFi alone during low traffic conditions in our office. Usually, laptops and other gadgets (phones, tablets, etc) score somewhere between 20-50MBps download on WiFi, so this little stick performs like a beast.
Boot times are also great like Azulle’s other mini PCs. We clocked the first boot (which leads to Windows setup) at 43 seconds until the first screen of setup popped onto screen. Once Windows was fully setup, we ran all available updates from Windows Update and then sought out the average normal boot time from there, which was around 22 seconds until you reached the Windows login screen.
We also noticed that for the first time, it was not necessary to manually set the sound properties to HDMI for default audio device. With previous models of Azulle mini PCs as well as others, we always had to manually set the playback device else it would try to default to regular headphones/speakers, which would be fine if you were connected to the headphone/line-out jack. This was an interesting bonus and we don’t know if this is something unique to the Access Plus or if Microsoft finally updated something in Windows that allows it to more efficiently detect playback devices and make the right choice on its own.
Both Netflix and Youtube streamed quite fairly for us with little to no interruptions at all. It seems these resources are just enough for pulling this off as long as you don’t have too many applications running in the background. Again, you only have 2GB of onboard memory to play with and most of it is going to be used by Windows itself.
It isn’t 4K, but it does spit out 1080p just fine with these conditions and results mentioned. This makes for the perfect TV companion when you compare to something like Roku, which only offers you apps. Now you have a full desktop to play with. A familiar user interface and full web access using any browser you want. Of course, you may have to download your browser as Windows only comes with Microsoft Edge by default (and Internet Explorer is buried deep still if you know where to look for it). Chrome, Firefox or Opera (or anything else that floats your boat) would have to be downloaded from their respective websites.
We tested it against an 11-inch touch screen HP laptop we had sitting nearby at the time. We didn’t want to choose a laptop with killer specs to be fair, so we figured this would do the job just fine. This laptop was made for Windows 8.0, but it was eventually upgraded along with most the systems around here to Windows 10. It features a similar processor (AMD) in performance but from a slightly larger series (in physical size) and 4GB of system memory. In some cases, it felt like the Access Plus actually out performed the HP laptop. I am sure if the laptop was built for Windows 10, it might have fared better, but Windows 10 seems to have slowed it down some. The winner was clearly the Azulle Access Plus as long as you are only looking at performance and not features (obviously).
As mentioned, there is a 4GB version as well, however how it benefits you will depend on where you buy it. We recommend buying it direct from Azulle as you can find it on their website here for only $159.99 (which is only $20 more). With double the memory, you will find yourself running more applications at the same time while Windows has even more memory for its own purposes as well. Amazon (surprisingly) has the 4GB model for closer to $199, which is a 36% increase in price and not worth it in our opinion. You can get the 2GB model there or at their website, but we recommend their website if you shoot for the 4GB model.
We don’t have so much as a list of “cons” as we do suggestions or things we’d wish for. I mean, it’s a really great mini PC and performs pretty well for what it is. There is always room for improvement though.
For example, it would have been nice to see more internal storage (like 64GB this round). You do have an option to expand your capacity with an SD card, but leaving more room for the main C:/ partition allows Windows to stretch its legs better (cache and so forth).
Also, the USB ports would benefit from being a little more spread out from each other. The USB 3.0 port is snuggled between the USB 2.0 port and the power input, which may make it difficult to use certain flash drives in that port if they are thicker in size than normal.
As for the power input, it would be nice if it could be powered via USB on the back of the TV instead of having another wallplug used up. So for a clean one cable solution running to the TV, an AC cable with multiple inputs (grounded or ungrounded) will be needed to power both TV and device unless there is an outlet box in the wall directly behind the TV (mounted). However, most TVs only put out at most around 1A from a USB port. This is ok for smaller less power hungry devices, but the power adapter the Access Plus comes with puts out 3A, so you can see why it is needed vs the easier option of USB power. Our wish is there, but we also have to be reasonable.
So there you have it! Our rundown of the new Azulle Access Plus! The verdict? We love it. It’s small, really small. At least when you compare it to any PC (tower or laptop). The Access Plus is like sticking your phone directly into the back of your TV and leaving it there (only your phone also has a full Windows 10 desktop in this scenario). We felt close to the same with the original model towards the beginning of this year, but this new one fill in a lot of gaps making it a great PC solution for your TV that hides out of sight. It was even featured on our Holiday Gift Guide this year. Thanks to the improvements, it scores a 9 out of 10 in our books based on our modern day tech expectations.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
2GB RAM DDR3L – 4GB RAM DDR3L
USB 3.0 (1), USB 2.0 (1)
USB mouse wired & wireless support
USB keyboard wired & wireless support
Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4G / 5G Dual Band), Bluetooth 4.0
Intel® CherryTrail™ T3 Z8300 Quad-Core, 1.44 GHz (up to 1.84 GHz)
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.