MINIX NEO N42C-4 Pro Review – Part 3: Ubuntu / Linux

In the second part of MINIX NEO N42C-4 review (and on linuxium website), we looked at the device and the performance using Windows.  In this third part, we will look at how to install and the performance of using Linux (Ubuntu).

The BIOS does not include an option to select Linux as a boot OS and a standard Ubuntu ISO written to a USB will not boot. So to install Ubuntu to the eMMC as dual-boot first it was necessary to respin a standard Ubuntu ISO using my ‘’ script with the ‘–apollo’ option, and which after creating a LiveUSB using the ‘dd’ command was used to boot and install Ubuntu.

First let’s remind ourselves of the hardware configuration by running some standard Linux commands:

This shows the memory will be dual-channel once the second slot (bank:1) is populated and also confirms that the eMMC 5.1 (mmc0) is running the faster HS400 interface. Headphones shows up as ‘Line Out’ in the sound settings and are selectable along with HDMI/DisplayPort and S/PDIF audio output:

Running my standard set of benchmarking tools shows performance is as expected:

and can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake devices:

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Looking at real-world usage cases the first tested was watching a 4K video using Google Chrome was unwatchable with dropped frames:

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however at 1080p the video is watchable:

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Running Kodi videos encoded with the VP9, H.264 and H.265 or HEVC codecs used hardware for decoding:

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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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The internal fan was inaudible but works and prevents the device from heats up playing videos:

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with the external surface temperature not exceeding 38°C during continuous video playback:

Ethernet throughput measured using ‘iperf’ shows 941 Mbits/sec for download and 940 Mbits/sec for upload. For Wifi connectivity the 2.4 GHz throughput showed 42.2 Mbits/sec for download but only 30.1 Mbits/sec for upload. However 5.0 GHz throughput is good with download measuring 133 Mbits/sec and upload of 146 Mbits/sec.

Power consumption for the device was measured as:

  • Power off – 0.5 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.0 Watts
  • Idle – 4.1 Watts
  • CPU stressed – 10.0 Watts
  • 1080p video – 9.3 Watts

When I reviewed Windows on the device I also added 4GB of RAM and installed a 240GB M.2 SSD. The updated memory hardware configuration now looks like:

After successfully installing Windows to the M.2 drive I also installed Ubuntu to the eMMC:

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And then after successfully reinstalling Windows on the eMMC flash, I also reinstalled Ubuntu on the M.2:

with no issues booting either OS from the BIOS boot menu (F11) showing that there is flexibility in installing Ubuntu either as dual-boot sharing a drive or using a dedicated drive.

Power consumption increased slightly with the extra RAM and M.2 drive and was measured as:

  • Power off – 0.5 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.6 Watts
  • Idle – 4.6 Watts
  • CPU stressed – 10.9 Watts
  • 1080p video – 8.5 Watts

Finally given the price it is clear that MINIX have positioned this device as a Windows platform as evidenced by the lack of a Linux option in the BIOS. It performs well under Ubuntu however if that was to be the only installed OS then an Intel NUC or similar barebones device should probably be considered because the primary selling point for this device is the inclusion of the activated Windows 10 Pro license.

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