Azulle Byte3 Mini PC Review – Windows 10, Linux Support, Benchmarks, and Video Playback

The Azulle Byte3 is a fanless Apollo Lake device featuring both M.2 slot and a SATA connector, as well as supporting HDMI and VGA. It includes USB (both 2.0 and 3.0 including a Type-C port) as well as Gigabit Ethernet:

 

It features an Apollo Lake N3450 SoC and comes with 32GB of storage plus an option of either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a further option of either with or without Windows 10 Pro meaning Linux users can save around USD 20.

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Azulle provided me with a device for review and it came in a presentation box complete with a power adapter, and remote control together with a quick guide pamphlet.

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Whilst the power adapter includes an interchangeable plug it only came with one suitable for the US.

Looking at the detail specifications:

 

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it is important to realize that the Type-C USB is USB 3.0 which provides a theoretical transfer speed of up to 5 Gbps, and that this particular device does not support “alternate mode” protocols meaning it cannot be used for HDMI output.

The device under review is the version with 4GB of RAM together with Windows Pro installed which became fully activated after connecting to the Internet:

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The basic hardware matched the specification:

with just under half the storage used after Windows updates:

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Running my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

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The performance is as expected for the N3450 SoC and is comparable with other Apollo Lake devices: ECDREAM A9, BBen MN10, and Beelink AP34 Ultimate.

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Next I installed Ubuntu to the eMMC as dual-boot. Fortunately, the BIOS supports Linux by configuring the setting under Chipset/South Bridge/OS Selection:

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So it was only necessary to change the OS from ‘Windows’ to ‘Intel Linux’ and use a standard Ubuntu ISO. Alternatively you could leave the setting on ‘Windows’ and respin a standard Ubuntu ISO using ‘isorespin.sh’ script with the ‘–apollo’ option.

Performance is again as expected:

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and can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake devices:

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Revisiting the hardware using Linux commands additionally shows the full-sized SD card is running the slower HS200 interface:

and that ‘Headphones’ shows up in the sound settings only when an external speaker is connected through the 3.5mm audio jack:

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Turning to real-world Windows usage cases the first tested was watching a 4K video using Microsoft Edge which worked perfectly.

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The same video when watched using Google Chrome resulted in the very occasional dropped frame:

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with the GPU having to work harder.

Watching the same video and changing the video quality to high definition (1080p resolution) results in zero dropped frames:

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Unfortunately the same video in Google Chrome on Ubuntu at 4K was unwatchable with excessive dropped frames and a stalled network connection after a short while:

 

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At 1080p the video is watchable with only the occasional dropped frame:

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Running Kodi on both Windows and Ubuntu show similar ‘differences’ in the results.

On Windows if the video is encoded using the VP9 codec then decoding is using software resulting in high CPU usage:

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However when the video is encoded with the H.264 codec then Windows uses hardware to decode:

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and similar for videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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with no issues playing the videos.

On Ubuntu hardware is used to decode all three codecs:

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However some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

 

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As previously mentioned the device is passively cooled and does not require an internal fan:

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although the device can get quite warm:

with the highest observed reading being 45°C.

Inside the device it is possible to mount both an SSD and an M.2 SSD:

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To open the case you only have to remove the outer four screws as the inner four are used to secure the SSD. The M.2 slot is for the longer 2280 card and you are meant to attach one of the included thermal strips to the aluminium heat sink for best results. I found that you could use the heat sink to effectively hold down a smaller 2242 M.2 card in place through a combination of force and gravity if you don’t have the correct size. The included instructions do not cover installation in detail however Azulle have uploaded the following useful videos online:

 

Once both SSDs were connected I then installed LibreELEC (or Just enough OS for Kodi) to the M.2 and Linux Mint to the SSD. Interestingly the M.2 showed up as a UEFI device in the boot menu which may mean installing Windows to an M.2 card is relatively simple although licensing should be considered. The SATA connected SSD was accessible through GRUB as the original Ubuntu installation had already created an NVRAM entry for ubuntu:

which when selected provides a GRUB menu updated with entries for Mint after the installation:

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Notice how the GRUB menu also includes an entry to boot Windows from the eMMC which works despite the OS now being set to Linux in the BIOS. There is also a working entry to access the BIOS (System setup).

Finally the BIOS is reasonably open with the key settings being available.

I’ve found this device to be very flexible. Storage is not an issue given the ability to expand through additional SSD or M.2 or even by using an SD card. Although the memory cannot be upgraded you do have the initial choice of either the 4GB or the 8GM device. Also having a BIOS that supports Linux means that you are not restricted in what OS you can install so the device is a viable HTPC especially as there is no residual noise from a spinning cooling fan. The connectivity and ports including their location on the device are also well planned. I’d like to thank Azulle for providing the Byte3 for review. The mini PC is also sold on Amazon US for $199.99 and up.

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Gabe
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Gabe

45 degrees Celsius isn’t that warm.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@Linuxium: Just to confirm: DC-IN is 12V/2A using the typical 5.5/2.1mm barrel plug? And are you able to do a quick iperf3 test between the box and another host known to exceed 930 Mbits/sec?

paul M
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paul M

are you able to give power consumption figures for idle, 100% CPU but idle GPU, and when fully loaded CPU and GPU? thanks!

paul M
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paul M

isn’t available on Amazon UK yet 🙁

roel
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roel
roel
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roel

On first sight, it’s also the same mainboard as the mele pcg35 apo.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@roel
Oh, you’re totally right. And Jean-Luc already provided GbE performance numbers in the 2nd part of his Mele review 🙂

R00KIE
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R00KIE

This looks interesting.

If you still have ubuntu installed can you get the output of ‘lspci -nn’ and ‘lsusb’?

Do you know what changes when you select “Intel Linux” vs “Windows” vs all the others in the uefi setup? I don’t see many reasons why it wouldn’t boot linux when “Windows” is selected if there is a uefi bootloader signed with MS keys or if you have a way to disable secure boot. Or does it go around and change more settings?

Could you also run the Intel-SA-00086 Detection Tool found here: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/articles/000025619/software.html

Tomm
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Tomm

Gemini Lake prosessors will use “UHD 6xx” graphics, better wait next year for awesome cheap laptops / mini PC releases 🙂

https://www.cnx-software.com/2017/12/08/lattepanda-alpha-delta-kaby-lake-gemini-lake-development-boards-support-windows-10-pro-or-linux-crowdfunding/

Paul
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Paul

paul M :
are you able to give power consumption figures for idle, 100% CPU but idle GPU, and when fully loaded CPU and GPU? thanks!

I second that. You did consumption figures for the PGC35 Apo but the very high Idle of 9.3W masks the board spec by including the mechanical HDD.

Are you also able to measure the 2.4GHz transfer rate ?

Linuxium
Guest

I’ll run some ‘iperf’ tests and the other command requests including power consumption and post the results shortly.

Linuxium
Guest

@tkaiser
Yes, the power adapter is Shenzhen Honor Switching Adapter Model ADS-25D-12 12024E with output of 12V/2.0A.

I’ve also checked the ethernet throughput using ‘iperf’ and download is 941 Mbits/sec and upload is 938 Mbits/sec.

Linuxium
Guest

@paul M
Power consumption with both the M.2 and SSD installed:

Power off – 0.6 Watts
Standby – 1.1 Watts
Boot menu – 6.4 Watts
Idle – 6.8 to 8.0 Watts (Ubuntu) and 5.8 to 5.9 Watts (Windows)
CPU stressed – 10.0 Watts (Ubuntu)
4K video – 10.1 Watts (Ubuntu) and 8.4 to 9.6 Watts (Windows)

Power consumption for the base device with no additional storage installed:

Power off – 0.7 Watts
Standby – 1.2 Watts
Boot menu – 5.4 Watts
Idle – 4.7 to 4.8 Watts (Ubuntu) and 4.5 Watts (Windows)
CPU stressed – 8.8 Watts (Ubuntu)
4K video – 9.0 Watts (Ubuntu) and 6.3 to 7.2 Watts (Windows)

@roel
The board has ‘PCG32’ stencilled on it and appears to be also similar to the MeLE PCG03 Apo as well. I’ve taken some additional pictures of the front (https://goo.gl/xbjmzE) and back (https://goo.gl/XpjY6T) of the board.

@R00KIE
Here is the output of the two commands requested:

I’ve not been able to establish what changes are effected when selecting “Intel Linux” vs “Windows” as the OS in the BIOS.

Both the Windows and Linux output for the Intel-SA-00086 Detection Tool is unremarkable other than to confirm ‘This system is vulnerable’. Here is the output from Ubuntu:

and here is an image of the Windows output: https://goo.gl/kFshxX

@Paul
See above for power consumption figures.

I’ve checked the 2.4 GHz wifi throughput using ‘iperf’ and download is 53.2 Mbits/sec and upload is 45.1 Mbits/sec and 5.0 GHz throughput download is 148 Mbits/sec and upload is 140 Mbits/sec.