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Android 4.4 mini-PC packs 64-bit quad-core Atom punch

Sep 2, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Minix is prepping a sub-$150 mini-PC running Android 4.4 on a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F and featuring WiFi, Bluetooth, IR, Ethernet, and USB connectivity.

Intel’s Atom Z37x5 system-on-chip, the second generation of its 22nm Z3000 (Bay-Trail-T) family, is beginning to appear in Android- and Windows-ready tablets such as the Toshiba Excite Go, as well as a “Sharks Cove” single board computer from Intel and Microsoft. Now we’re starting to see mini-PCs built on the tablet-focused SoC. Last week Zotac unveiled a tiny Zbox P1320 Pico computer that ships with Windows 8.1, and now Minix is prepping a Minix “Neo Z64″ miniPC for those who would prefer to run Android 4.4.



Minix Neo Z64 mini-PC
(click images to enlarge)

This is the first x86-based mini-PC for Minix, which bears no relation to the venerable, Linux-like Minix OS. The company publicly confirmed a Sept. 1 Fudzilla report about the Neo Z64. The mini-PC is due to ship in October for “under US$150″ with Android 4.4 pre-installed, according to a Minix forum post by a Minix rep. We have encountered a number of Atom-based mini-PCs over the years, but the new Minix and Zotac computers are the first Atom Z3000-based models we’ve seen. Intel offers a version of its Intel NUC mini-PC with the similarly 22nm fabricated, but embedded-oriented Atom E3800 (Bay Trail-I), but the NUCs are designed to run Linux instead of Android.

Like the $199 Zotac Zbox P1320 Pico, the Minix Neo Z64 uses the Atom Z3735F, one of at least nine variants of the Atom Z37x5, such as the very similar Z3735G model used on the Sharks Cove board. The Atom Z37x5 SoCs feature improved Intel HD Graphics. In the case of the Atom Z3735F model used here, the graphics run at 311MHz, or 646MHz in burst mode.

The quad-core Atom Z3735F is further equipped with 2MB of cache, and it supports clock rates of up to 1.83GHz. According to Fudzilla, Neo Z64′s standard Atom SoC supports 1.33GHz (1.58GHz in turbo mode), although 1.83GHz is listed as the top speed on the data sheet. Intel does not list TDPs for the Bay Trail-T SoCs, but the SoC is said to burn 2.2 Watts as measured by the chipmaker’s more generous Scenario Design Power (SDP) scheme.

Like the Zotac Zbox P1320 Pico, the Minix Neo Z64 can run either Android or Windows 8.1, but it ships with only one OS: in this case, Android v4.4.4. The Atom Z3735F’s 64-bit architecture suggests the Neo Z64 should also be able to run the 64-bit compatible Android L (perhaps Android 5.0?), which is expected this fall.

The Neo Z64′s sub-$150 price includes 2GB of DDR3L RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage. More storage is potentially available via the microSD slot and the dual USB 2.0 slots. According to Fudzilla, you can blame the lack of USB 3.0 not on the Neo Z64, but rather on the underlying SoC, which lacks support for the newer USB version.

The Neo Z64 offers 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, as well as a 10/100 Ethernet port that is said to support WiFi hotspot sharing. It provides an HDMI 1.4 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an IR receiver and remote for media player duty. The system is further equipped with a DC 5V power supply with included 3A adapter. No dimensions were provided for the device, which appears to be larger than the Zotac offering.

According to Minix team-member John’s announcement of the Neo Z64 on Minix’s discussion forum, “It comes with Android 4.4.4 OS, but Windows 8.1 may also be installed (however, dual-boot is not possible). Also, the great thing about Intel is that it’s completely open source. There are none of the issues related to N.D.As associated with RockChip and Amlogic, everything developers need will be freely available. So hopefully this will make a great developers box, and I’m sure in time Ubuntu and other Linux distros will be ported to the NEO Z64.”

 
Further information

The Minix Neo Z64 should be available in October for “under US$150.” More information may be found in this Minix Forum posting, which notes that the company is “still finalizing pricing” for the Z64.
 

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