I have had the pleasure of covering a number of Azulle’s mini PCs that have come into the office here over the last few years, some of which have really blown me away in performance. They split between two design styles, including a box style that is smaller than a typical wall-powered external hard drive or router, and an HDMI stick (style) that is about the size of a small candy bar plugged into the back of your TV. All of which run Windows 10 quite nicely.
Now, Azulle is back with their new Byte3 Mini Desktop PC and it is better than ever. Perfect for those looking to fill a small footprint vs having to find a place to store a full-size PC tower without it being an eyesore. The Byte3 fits perfectly into the environment as it looks like nothing more than an addition to your home entertainment equipment.
Design & Connectivity
The design of the unit is wonderful, featuring an aluminum and plastic mix, giving it the feel of durability while keeping the weight of it down. As mentioned it is about the size of a wall-powered external hard drive or router, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot for it. There is a small antenna in the back that sticks up to provide a smooth WiFi experience and rubberized feet on the bottom to keep it from sliding around.
There is a nice blue stripe accent that shoots across the front side of the unit, encircling the Azulle logo in the middle, which is also the power button to boot the system with. The bottom-right corner features the Byte3 logo and the bottom-left corner features an IR receiver.
The left side of the unit features a grille where hot air can naturally (there are no fans) release and the right side begins your input options with an SD card slot and two USB ports (including one 3.0 and one 2.0).
The backside of the unit contains the bulk of your inputs/outputs, providing you with the necessities of a modern PC. Starting from the left, you have a headphone jack (or audio output to another device such as a speaker) and a laptop lock slot to secure the unit with if you are using it in an office or open show floor. Next, you get two more USB 3.0 ports (bringing your regular USB type A ports to a total of four), an ethernet input for wired internet/network, an HDMI output to run to your display from, a VGA port (because some people still live with the dinosaurs when it comes to displays), an input for the power cable and finally a USB 3.1 Type-C input for the latest in USB technology.
Breaking it down further, the Byte3 gives you more than enough USB connectivity to cover the needs of almost anyone. There is a large number of keyboard/mice combos available in stores and online that share a single USB receiver and even if you decided to buy them separately and need two ports for two receivers, you are still ready to continue accessorizing with the three ports that are left. Typically, you might find yourself plugging in a USB flash drive or an external hard drive. This still gives you a minimum of two ports left, including a Type-C which is perfect for high-speed data transfers (including smartphones, tablets, and more) and display devices (monitors). Although the Type-C port doesn’t support Thunderbolt, it still provides more than enough speed for the average consumer.
You can of course use your USB ports for a number of other things, including a microphone, webcam so that you can Skype people (without any lag or troubles), slideshow clicker/pointer, and so much more.
Also, on top of it all, it also features built-in Bluetooth for connectivity to Bluetooth devices such as keyboards, mice, controllers, printers, scanners, speakers, headphones (and more).
In a normal scenario where you aren’t using an external hard drive, the only cables that ever require to be running from the unit include the power cable and the HDMI for the display–keeping things quite clean. You do have the option of opting to use the VGA output vs the HDMI but let’s face it, these dinosaurs are finally becoming less common and will more than likely be used less than a vacuum cleaner in an all-male dorm room.
I could easily sum this out as: Not bad!…not bad at all. However, where would the fun be in that without breaking it all down to the nitty-gritty? We have already spent a lot of time with the unit, allowing us to get comfortable with it and throw a lot of rocks at it to see how it holds up (disclaimer: we didn’t actually throw physical rocks at it).
The initial boot of the unit (right out of the box and plugged into a display) took about 40 seconds to get to the first setup screen, where we began your typical setup of Windows 10 (choose your language, keyboard layout, enable/disable Cortana, log into a Windows account, etc). Upon getting to the desktop, we allowed Windows to do an update check to make sure it has the latest of everything before we started testing further–since you don’t want all of that bogging you down on the back end as you are trying to test everything out.
Once Windows was finished updating everything (Windows updates always take a little time to run through), we gave it another reboot just for kicks and then shut it down for a boot test. It took exactly 24 seconds to go from pressing the button on the front, to the Windows login screen (not bad). This lives up to most entry to intermediate notebooks and middle-of-the-range tower PCs. In other words, you are not going to get better without modding a system typically.
Although you have an ethernet connection on the back, you will more than likely find yourself using WiFi out of the pure convenience of it. Although ethernet will give you faster connectivity, it is a small little PC and not a wickedly custom-built gaming system–thus you probably won’t be doing much that will require anything more than WiFi. That being said, we found WiFi to hold up pretty well. It wasn’t mind-blowing when it comes to speed, but it was great when it comes to range (on par with any laptop). Even though speed wasn’t mind-blowing, it still provided what a typical consumer needs. Plus, most consumers don’t have a connection fast enough yet, to overtake the WiFi speeds it does deliver.
In our WiFi benchmarks, we found the unit to have a fast response time (ping) of around 16ms. We bottlenecked around 76Mbps in our downstream and around 32Mbps in our upstream. Since the average consumer still carries around a 30-50Mbps connection, this fits in quite well. It won’t be until “gigabit” internet becomes a norm across the nation that the average will slip beyond the capabilities of its WiFi, and when that happens, I am sure Azulle will have an even better unit out (or six).
It is important to mention that the two networks we tested the unit against include a 300Mbps and a 1Gbps+ access scenario (including a WiFi network that can more than handle it all).
Overall system performance is fantastic, on par with a (modern) laptop that would typically run you anywhere from $400-$500. Windows boots quickly and app/software response time is excellent. In fact, I have a small 11-inch $350-$400 HP Laptop (11-e115nr) sitting on my desk right now that the Byte3 does circles around.
The “Quad-core Intel Apollo Lake N3450” inside is a 1.10GHz Intel Celeron Quad CPU with 2M Cache and burst of up to 2.2GHz. It includes Intel’s HD Graphics 500 integrated into the chip. The unit features 32GB of onboard storage, as well as 4GB DDR3 RAM at 1600MHz (integrated, thus not upgradable), which is good for most basic to moderate tasks (again, not a sick modded gaming setup). They do offer an option for an 8GB model, which does bring it to more of modern RAM capacity, however, it is $138 more, making it a little difficult to compare it to our score of the model we are reviewing.
Even Adobe Photoshop ran quite fine on the unit, as well as some of the basic games via the Microsoft store, such as Minecraft, Angry Birds, and more. I wouldn’t try running Crysis 3 or working on a heavy project in Adobe Premiere with it–but then again, that isn’t what these systems are made for.
We did find some issues with USB devices, specifically high-speed SSD thumb drives. We found this to be an issue with a past unit as well, so this is unfortunate. It seems to be a power distribution issue since these drives require a little more punch to make use of. For one, we couldn’t get any of the USB Type-A SSD Flash Drives to function via the USB 3.0 ports (but they would work fine with the USB 2.0 port). In addition to that, once one of these drives was plugged in, the USB keyboard/mouse receiver(s) we had plugged in became shoddy at best when it came to range, forcing us to either move the adapter to the side of the unit (in front of the flash drive plugged into the 2.0 port) or simply remove the drive. Thankfully this was the only real problem we ran into.
This is what really makes it nice. You have so many options when it comes to increasing storage capacity. You have the SD card slot or the option for an external drive or thumb drive. However, if you prefer to maintain a clean footprint and SD isn’t your preference because you’d like a lot more transfer speed, you can pop the unit open via the four corner screws on the bottom (no other screws need to be taken out) to reveal that there is a LOT of open space inside the unit. Within this space, there is internal connectivity for hard drives.
Inside, you have the option of adding a 2.5-inch SATA drive (just like a laptop), allowing you to add a regular HDD or preferably an SSD for much faster performance. They even provide the SATA cables for both power and data readily waiting for you inside the unit. If M.2 drives are more your style, you have the option of going that route instead, as there is an M.2 port to the left of the SATA cables/connections (with a screw to secure it down with). The M.2 port is SATA and not PCIe, so you won’t gain anything on a regular SATA drive when it comes to speed, but it will take up a much smaller footprint. Plus, why not see if you can fit both and really add to your storage capacity?
Besides what we have mentioned above (SD, USB, etc), that pretty much covers the upgradability of the device. RAM and CPU are both integrated into the board itself, so there is no changing these. However, for what it is already, you have a pretty wicked-fast PC compressed into a tiny little box. If you wanted more upgradability, you would be shopping for a tower PC and not something small like this.
Included Remote vs Optional Remote with Mouse/Keyboard capabilities
It does come with its own basic IR remote for controlling it. The top sections include buttons for power, Windows settings, and mute/unmuting your sound. You get a directional pad to control your selection, with a left-click/select button in the center. Below that you have the option of controlling the volume up and down, a button to act as a shortcut to your main menu within apps, a back button, and a home tab button. Real short and simple.
If you are looking for something a little more advanced in a remote and don’t want to break out a full mouse and keyboard, Azulle does have an optional Lynk remote you can buy, that functions as a remote, wireless mouse, and keyboard all in one. A lot like the remote you find with some of the higher-end TVs, it can act as a mouse when you wave it around and has a fully functional QWERTY keyboard on the back. It typically runs around $29.99.
Personally in our experience though, we find it easier to use a small wireless keyboard with a built-in trackpad. It feels more natural when it comes to using a PC.
This is a fantastic PC solution for those looking for something small and neat, and are not looking for high-end gaming or video editing station. This handles everything from checking your email to playing certain small to mid-sized games and even editing in applications like Photoshop. Perfect for watching Netflix and other streaming sources, browsing the web, calling your friends using Skype (webcam required) and so much more. For how small the unit it, it provides a great PC experience for home, work, or even events if using it on the back of a TV for presentations or signage. For the price of just $199, it delivers the performance of a $400-$500 (modern) laptop.
|Buy from Amazon | Buy from Best Buy | Buy from B&H Photo
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|Quad-core Intel Apollo Lake N3450
|Windows 10 / Ubuntu Linux
|Wake ON LAN / PXE/ BIOS reset
|4 GB / 8 GB
|eMMC 32 GB / 2.5” SSD Supported or M.2 Supported
|Intel HD Graphic 500
|Dual Band 2.4 Ghz / 5.0 Ghz
|VGA Port x1
|x1 Port, 4K @60fps
|x3 3.0 Ports/ x1 2.0 Port / x1 Type-C
|SD Card Slot
|Up to 256 GB
|3.5 mm Jack
|12V / 2A
|5.6 in x 4 in x 1.5 in
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.