Introduction, Design Features
Azulle is a purveyor of pint-sized PCs, most notably the Access PlusByte Plus. This time around, we’re taking a look at its newest model: the Byte3. This palm-sized PC has tablet innards, but is still powerful enough to run Windows 10 Pro. It’s got enough RAM and storage for light multimedia tasks, kiosk duty, or service as Grandma’s email and Pinterest machine. At just $199.99, it’s quite affordable for a Windows desktop.
Mini PCs like the Byte3 have been around for what seems like an eternity at this point, and usually are infused with either tablet parts on the low end, or laptop parts on the high end, as with Intel’s “Skull Canyon” NUC. Despite its low price, the Byte3 actually has a decent hardware payload: it rocks a quad-core “Apollo Lake” Celeron CPU, which is capable of 4K video playback, according to Intel. (We’ll get into that in our Performance section.) This is an upgrade from the previous “Cherry Trail” Atom processors Azulle was using, as power usage has doubled from 2 watts for the previous chips to 4 watts for this one. It’s still a very low-powered CPU, but that’s a big jump from the previous generation.
Riding shotgun with the Celeron is a decent 4GB of RAM, but 8GB is also an option. However, the upgrade adds a staggering $138 to the sticker price, so we recommend you stick with 4GB. There’s also 32GB of eMMC storage onboard, the slower type of flash memory commonly used in Chromebooks. Though it’s definitely faster than a spinning hard drive, it lags behind the NAND flash used in modern solid-state drives. You can expand the storage yourself, though, which we’ll explain in a bit.
Mini PCs like the Azulle usually come in three flavors: with all the parts you need including an operating system; no OS and just some of the parts; or nothing more than a motherboard and enclosure. The Byte3 is in the first category, so you don’t need to purchase any additional hardware aside from a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
The Byte3 has more width than most cube-shaped PCs, measuring 5.6 inches across and 4 inches deep. It’s a scant 1.5 inches tall, which is typical. There’s an antenna out back for Wi-Fi reception. From what we can tell, the unit is not VESA compatible, so you can’t mount it on the back of an LCD.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Byte3 is the smorgasbord of expansion ports on the side and back of the system. The right side sports an SD slot for easy storage expansion, and there’s also a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port.
On the back, you’re met with a surprising number of ports and connectors, including one HDMI 2.0 port, which allows 4K playback at 60fps. There’s also a VGA port for legacy monitors, two more USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, Gigabit Ethernet, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock. Whew! This is more ports than we see on some laptops, let alone mini desktops. The Byte3 also comes with a small remote to turn it on or off and perform various Windows functions such as opening the Start menu, tabbing between open windows, and adjusting the volume. For Internet connectivity, it has dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, as well as the aforementioned Ethernet jack.
On the software side of things, the Byte3 comes with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled, but you can also buy it without an OS if you want. The price change for OS versus non-OS is a shockingly low $20.
Inside the Chassis
We cracked open the Byte3 by easily removing four screws and were greeted by a desolate expanse. It turns out all the installed components are on the underbelly of the motherboard, so there’s not much to see on top of it aside from a lone M.2 SATA port and a SATA cable for adding a 2.5-inch drive. It’s pretty sweet to have two storage upgrade options, and with the price of SSDs these days, you could easily have yourself a nice little box with plenty of fast storage. We tried removing the motherboard, but we didn’t want to break the attachments. We were mostly curious to see if the RAM on the underbelly was soldered to the motherboard or removable, but tablet-level RAM is usually not upgradeable. However, 4GB of memory should suffice for this PC’s intended functions.
As far as the Byte3’s competition is concerned, it’s lonely at the top—and crowded at the bottom. At $199.99, the Azulle is one of the least expensive Windows 10 PCs on the market. The ECS Liva ZArches Canyon NUC from Intel has a competitive cost of $249. Overall, the aggressively priced Byte3 is the least expensive mini we’ve seen with these types of specs. But how aggressively does it perform?