CHUWI GBOX Pro Review – Intel Atom x7-E3950 mini PC Tested with Windows 10 & Ubuntu 18.04

CHUWI Gbox Pro Review
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CHUWI has released a new mini PC called the GBox Pro. This is a passively cooled mini PC that uses the slightly older Apollo Lake Intel Atom x7-E3950 CPU which is a quad core 4-thread 1.60 GHz processor boosting to 2.00 GHz with Intel’s HD Graphics 505.

The GBox Pro is somewhat physically larger than typical recent mini PCs and consists of a 189 x 139 x 39 mm (7.44 x 5.47 x 1.54 inches) rectangular case with a front panel that includes the power button, micro SD slot, a couple of USB 3.0 ports and a Type-C USB port and then on the rear, a headphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit ethernet port, an HDMI (2.0) port and a VGA interface. The full specifications include:

CHUWI GBox Pro specification

The GBox Pro comes with 64GB of eMMC with pre-installed Windows 10 Home (version 1809 OS build 17763.316) together with 4GB of soldered LPDDR4 RAM. The GBox Pro also supports the addition of an optional 2.5” SSD and an undocumented (see below) 2280 M.2 drive:

CHUWI GBox Pro Motherboard
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In the box you get a mounting bracket for attaching the device to behind a monitor together with a power brick, a cable and a manual.

Starting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification:

Chuwi GBox Pro Windows 10 System Info
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After fully updating Windows to version 1903 OS build 18362.329 (which took a long time) I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

and to compare with other Intel mini PCs:

mini pc benchmarks table windows 10
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The results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading because mini PC benchmarks are heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed.

Broadly speaking however the GBox Pro benchmarking performance appears comparable with a low-end Gemini Lake processor with the exception of the JavaScript engine’s performance (Octane 2).

Additionally, I also tested with Geekbench 4 and got a single-core score of 1244, a multi-core score of 3817 and an OpenGL score of 10153:

CHUWI GBOX PRO GeekBench 4 CHUWI GBOX PRO GeekBench 4 ComputeI next looked at real-world usage and the performance of the GPU by playing videos under Windows using both Edge and Chrome browsers.

In Windows both [email protected] and [email protected] videos played fine in Edge and Chrome although there were a few dropped frames in Chrome at the start of the video:

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However, it has to be noted that both Edge and Chrome were slow to launch and using YouTube as an application felt laggy.

Videos played using Kodi on Windows with both VP9, H.264 and H.265/HEVC codec encoded videos used hardware for decoding and played fine:

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The following table summarises the testing and results:

CHUWI GBOX Pro Windows 10 browser & kodi
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I also installed and ran the UNIGINE Heaven benchmark with which scored 81 at 3.2 fps:

24-windows-unigine-heaven-benchmark

Therefore the GBox Pro will offer very limited gaming performance.

Next I shrunk the Windows partition and created a new 20GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 18.04.3 ISO:

CHUWI GBox Pro Ubuntu Partition

After installation a brief check showed everything working including Wifi, Bluetooth and audio. I then ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:


Playing videos in Ubuntu was slightly worse than on other Intel processor-based mini PCs. Firefox [email protected] was unwatchable

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but was fine when played at 1440p.

Firefox 4K @ 60fps and 1440p @ 60fps videos just would not play. At 1080p @ 60fps 493 frames were dropped right at the start of the video and then it played but with occasional stuttering. Only at 720p @ 60fps did the video play smoothly:

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Chrome in Ubuntu was similar to Firefox. 4K @ 30fps was unwatchable but fine when played at 1440p although there was the occasional micro-stutter due to dropped frames:

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Again 4K @ 60fps and 1440p @ 60fps were unwatchable but so too was 1080p @ 60fps and even at 720p @ 60fps the video was juddery with dropped frames:

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Videos played using Kodi on Ubuntu played fine as VP9, H.264 and H.265/HEVC codec encoded videos used hardware for decoding:

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The following table summarises the testing and results:

CHUWI-Gbox Pro ubuntu browser & kodi
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Interestingly when I ran Octane the result was slightly higher compared to that of Windows at 10,010 vs. 9,699:

33-ubuntu-octane2
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So I installed and ran the UNIGINE Heaven benchmark under Ubuntu which scored 83 at 3.3fps:

chuwi-ubuntu-unigine-heaven-benchmark

which indicates that the GBox Pro will offer very limited gaming performance under Linux.

The GBox Pro is a fanless device relying solely on passive heat dissipation.

Cooling seemed to be effective as under Ubuntu I ran a VP9 video in Kodi for 30 minutes and the internal temperature whilst it climbed throughout the playback remained manageable and seemed to peak at the end of the video at around 75°C:

CHUWI GBOX Pro cooling effectiveness
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At this time the external temperature of the device reached a maximum of 37.3°C with an average of around 35°C to 37°C across the top of the device, noting that the ambient temperature was 17°C.

I also ran a stress test to see the effect on the cooling capabilities:

CHUWI Gbox Pro Ubuntu stress test
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The CPU temperature before the test commenced was 56°C and during the test quickly climbed to 66°C. Five minutes after the test had completed the temperature had dropped to 54°C.

Given the optional storage expandability of the GBox Pro I also installed an internal SSD by following the included guide which documents its installation. It involved removing six screws and the baseplate to reveal an SSD mount:

CHUWI Gbox Pro SSD installation

I then went further by removing an additional six screws to take the base off completely followed by the four screws that secured the motherboard to the top of the case. Then after removing the two Wifi connectors, I could completely remove the motherboard and access an undocumented 2280 M.2 slot on the underside into which I installed an Intel SSDSCKJF180A5 SATA 180GB 2280 M.2:

CHUWI GBox-Pro M.2 SSD installation

This M.2 drive had both Windows and Ubuntu previously installed on it. I first booted Windows from the M.2 drive and installed some missing drivers which I took from a Double Driver backup from the Windows installed on the eMMC. I then confirmed that Windows was indeed activated:

Windows-10-activated-chuwi-mini-pc

and that the newly installed SSD was also visible:

chuwi-windows-10-m2-sata-ssd

I then re-ran some benchmarks including CrystalDiskMark, PassMark and Novabench:chuwi m2 ssd crystaldiskmark

Passmark chuwi gbox pro Novabench chuwi gbox pro

Obviously having a faster drive has slightly improved the overall benchmark results.

I then booted Ubuntu from the M.2 drive:

chuwi-ubuntu-m.2-ssd
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and again confirmed that the SSD was visible.

Having updated to the latest Ubuntu 18.04.3 software running the Ubuntu 4.15.0-60 kernel I then ran some Linux benchmarks which I’ve previously explained in details in “Intel Mini PCs Linux Performance Comparison” post.

I first ran my standard Phoronix Test Suite benchmarks and compared with my previous results from other mini PCs:

phoronix benchmarks
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phorinix benchmarks M.2
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As the full results might be a little confusing because for some tests, higher is better, whereas for others, lower is better, the following bar chart may be easier to understand:

phoronix charts chuwi gbox pro review
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I’ve then ran ‘sbc-bench’ which is a small set of different CPU performance tests focusing on server performance, ‘glmark2’ from the standard repositories which is a benchmark for OpenGL (ES) 2.0. and only uses the subset of the OpenGL 2.0 API that is compatible, some real-world timing tests for the compilation, zipping and unzipping of the Linux mainline v5.2 kernel, ‘iozone’ also from the standard repositories which is a filesystem benchmark tool and finally ‘Octane 2’ which is a JavaScript benchmark and was run in Chrome.

A summary of the results from each of the above benchmark tests was compared with previously tested mini PCs as follows:

mini pc linux benchmark results
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Interestingly the I/O read speeds for the GBox Pro were similar to the Beelink X45 and X55 devices and were nearly half that of the other devices.

For the sake of completeness, I also ran the same Linux benchmarks on Ubuntu running from the eMMC. As expected some of the results were lower for those that were impacted by the slower storage. For example, the ‘real’ time taken to compile the kernel went from 24m6.891s up to 27m18.329s and zipping it went from 2m56.538s up to 3m22.797s. For anyone interested, the ‘sbc-bench’ results for eMMC can be found at http://ix.io/1UdJ.

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’:

chuwi gbox pro network throughput

Power consumption was measured as follows and is lower than comparable Gemini Lake devices:

  • Powered off – 0.4 Watt
  • Shutdown – 0.4 Watt (Windows)
  • BIOS*  – 4.3 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.2 Watts
  • Idle – 3.4 Watts (Windows) and 2.4 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 8.0 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback** – 5.8 Watts (4K in Windows) and 6.9 Watts (1440p in Ubuntu)

* BIOS (see below)
** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

Finally, the BIOS is fully unlocked and a brief overview is available in the following video:

Overall the device performs well in Windows playing 4K video however, in general, it is rather sluggish compared to more recent mini PCs.

I’d like to thank Chuwi for providing the GBox Pro for review. It currently retails at around $190 for the tested configuration.

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Gaetano
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Gaetano

The Intel HD5xx does not hw-decode H265/10bit, so this will not play the most part of 4K mi contents we can find anywhere.

dimtass
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dimtass

Intel 3940 and 3950 are really powerful CPUs and are great for tvbox and overall multimedia boxes. But you pay the price for that and you need to run Windows, which I dunno, I just don’t like it personally…

What’s weird is that the Atom dual role USB (otg) performs much much better on Linux compared to other ARM CPUs. Also it has enough endpoints to create complex composite devices, which is not possible on ARM CPUs with less endpoints.

Finally, from my experience, the Intel’s PREEMPT-RT kernel (used in the Intel Yocto layer) has better latency compared to mainline PREEMPT-RT kernel on rk3399.