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Dueling NUC mini-PCs run Ubuntu on Broadwell

Apr 9, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 6,173 views
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ZaReason and System76 have each launched Intel NUC style mini-PCs running Ubuntu on 5th Gen. Intel Core “Broadwell” processors, starting at about $500.

ZaReason and System76 have been competing in the pre-configured Linux laptop and PC market for years. Now, the companies are going head to head with the ZaReason Zini 1550 and System76 Meerkat, two Ubuntu Linux-equipped mini-PCs adhering to the Intel (Next Unit of Computing) reference design.


Logic Supply
ML100

Like Logic Supply’s rugged, industrial ML100, the consumer-focused Zini 1550 and System76 Meerkat use Intel’s 5th Generation Core (“Broadwell”) processors in Intel NUC form factors. ZaReason’s newly announced Zini 1550 is designed for “mini-desktop, media center, portable gaming device, etc.” applications. The Meerkat, which was announced last month, is designed for applications including media player, home or SMB server, hacker board companion, or as a Steam in-home streaming client for gaming.

At 4.5 x 4.3 x 1.2 inches, the ZaReason Zini 1550 is slightly smaller and lighter than the 4.5 x 4.4 x 1.9-inch Meerkat, which is in turn a bit more compact than Intel’s Bay Trail Celeron based NUC Kit DN2820FYKH. They both ship standard with an Intel Core i3-5010U, which like other Broadwell processors, is slightly faster and more power efficient than 4th Gen Cores, while offering greatly enhanced Intel HD 5500 Graphics. A Liliputing story that tipped the Meerkat in early March prior to it going on sale said System76 was planning a faster Core i5 version, but this does not appear to be currently available.



ZaReason Zini 1550 (left) and System76 Meerkat
(click images to enlarge)

Specs for the two NUCs are very similar, including the standard 4GB of DDR3 RAM, expandable to 16GB. The main difference is that the $549 and up Zini 1550 ships with a 120GB SSD, while the $499 and up Meerkat ships with 32GB. Whereas the Zini 1550 gives you options to upgrade to 250GB or 500GB, the Meerkat appears to offer a second drive bay, enabling up to 2.5GB of storage in various storage option combinations.

Both systems supply a gigabit Ethernet port, WiFi-ac, and Bluetooth, and give you mini-HDMI and mini-DisplayPort connections with HD audio. They similarly provide four USB 3.0 ports, an audio jack, VESA and Kensington support, and optional speakers and keyboard/mouse kits.

 
Zini 1550 ports and specs



ZaReason Zini 1550 rear view
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the ZaReason Zini 1550 include:

  • Processor — Intel Core i3-5010U (2x 5th Gen “Broadwell” cores @ 2.1GHz); Intel HD 5500 Graphics
  • Memory — 4GB DDR3-1600, expandable to 8GB or 16GB
  • Storage — 120GB M.2 SSD, expandable to 250GB or 500GB; optional Slim USB DVD-RW drive
  • Display:
    • Mini-HDMI port
    • Mini-DisplayPort
    • Dual display and HD audio support
    • Optional Asus LED displays
    • Optional display cables
  • Wireless — 802.11ac (Intel Wireless AC) and Bluetooth 4.
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O — 4x USB 3.0 ports (2x front-facing); 3.5mm audio jack (audio upgradable to Asus USB Soundcard)
  • Other features — Silent fan; VESA mounting; optional Kensington lock, speakers, and keyboard/mouse kits
  • Power — Silent ext. power adapter; optional “extra” adapter
  • Weight — 1 lb
  • Dimensions — 4.5 x 4.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Operating system – Ubuntu Linux; supports other open source OSes

 
Meerkat ports and specs



System76 Meerkat rear view
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the System76 Meerkat include:

  • Processor — Intel Core i3-5010U (2x 5th Gen “Broadwell” cores @ 2.1GHz); 1MB cache; Intel HD 5500 Graphics
  • Memory — 4GB DDR3-1600, expandable to 8GB or 16GB
  • Storage — 32GB Crucial M.2 SSD, expandable in two drive slots to 128GB, 250GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSDs and RPM drives or 2.5TB total; optional Slim USB DVD-RW drive
  • Display:
    • Mini-HDMI 1.4a port
    • Mini-DisplayPort 1.2
    • HD audio support
    • Optional displays
  • Wireless — 802.11ac (Intel Wireless AC) and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O — 4x USB 3.0 ports (2x front-facing, 1x powered); 3.5mm audio jack
  • Other features — Silent fan; VESA mounting; Kensington lock, speakers and keyboard/mouse kits;
  • Power — 19V, 65W AC-DC adapter; multi-country plugs
  • Weight — 1.2 lb (0.544 k)
  • Dimensions — 4.5 x 4.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Operating system – Ubuntu Linux

 
Further information

The ZaReason Zini 1550 is available now starting at $549 with a 120GB SSD, and the System76 Meerkat is available now starting at $499 with a 32GB SSD. More information and pricing options may be found on the ZaReason Zini 1550 and the System76 Meerkat product pages.
 

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