A Look at Ubuntu on MINIX NEO G41V-4 and J50C-4 Mini PCs

MINIX Technology Limited recently released two new Gemini Lake mini PCs running Windows 10 Pro namely the MINIX NEO J50C-4 actively-cooled mini PC with an Intel Pentium Silver J5005 processor and the MINIX NEO G41V-4 fanless mini PC powered by an Intel Celeron N4100 processor.

Whilst each mini PC comes with 64GB of eMMC with pre-installed Windows 10 Pro together with 4GB of RAM they also support the addition of an optional 2280 M.2 drive and the MINIX NEO J50C-4 allows optional memory upgrades.

Prior to testing their performance under Ubuntu, I established a comparison baseline by updating Windows to version 1903 and then running my standard set of benchmarking tools first with the default configuration of each mini PC and then repeated having installed the official MINIX 2280 M.2 240GB drives for each device together with adding an extra 4GB RAM to the MINIX NEO J50C-4. The results can then compared them with other Intel mini PCs:

MINIX NEO G41V-4 vs NEO-J50C-4 Benchmarks
Click to Enlarge

Then for each device, I shrunk the eMMC Windows partition and created a new partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 18.04.3 ISO. I then repeated this process on both of the 2280 M.2 drives.

After installation, a brief check showed everything was working including Wifi, Bluetooth, and audio. On each of the mini PCs using Ubuntu from the M.2 drive I then ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:

MINIX NEO J50C-4 with SSD:


MINIX NEO G41V-4 with SSD:


I next ran my standard Phoronix Test Suite benchmarks on Ubuntu installed on the eMMC and then on the M.2 drive. The results can be compared with those from previous testing on other mini PCs:

minipc-g41v-4-j50c-4-ssd-systems
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minipc-g41v-4-j50c-4-ssd-linux-benchmarks-results-overview
Click to Enlarge

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:

Mini PC Comparison
Click to Enlarge

I’ve then run on each Ubuntu installation ‘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 2.0, 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 and similarly configured mini PCs as follows:

Ubuntu Linux Mini PC NEO G41V-4 J50C-4-Comparison
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For some reason, the Iozone performance results for both write and random write on the M.2 SSD in the G41V-4 fluctuated widely between successive test runs. Using the results for write from four runs (26343, 230330, 37355 and 199775) and random write (47856, 27992, 459239 and 42001) averages were calculated of 123451 and 144272 respectively.  Read (543158, 536353, 543698 and 536633) and random read (540914, 534103, 539760 and 539087) were more consistent however averages were still calculated of 539961 and 538466 and used for consistency. The M.2 SSD uses Silicon Motion’s SM2258XT DRAM-less SSD controller, and may be the reason for such write performance discrepancies although they did not show up on the MINIX NEO J50C-4 which, when tested with the M.2 drive, had double the memory at 8GB:

MINIX M.2 SSD

J50C-4 SSD & RAM
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Interestingly the poor write performance for the SSD in the MINIX NEO G41V-4 was also visible during the Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking:

mini pc iozone write benchmark

I also tested Geekbench 4 whilst running on the M.2 drives:

MINIX-NEO-J50C-4-geekbench4-ssd MINIX-NEO-G41V-4-geekbench-4-ssdand also ran the UNIGINE Heaven benchmark:

unigine heaven benchmark 4.0
Click to Enlarge

For real-world testing, I played videos in Firefox, Chrome, and Kodi on the Ubuntu installed to the eMMC. The results were very similar to other comparable mini PCs and the following tables summarise the tests and results. (J50C-4 result followed by G41V-4 result for each of web browsing, Kodi in general and Kodi playing specific videos):

Interestingly when I repeated the testing on Ubuntu installed to the M.2 drives the one significant difference was that the T-ara No. 9 video played without skips (compare J50C-4 against G41V-4):

J50C-4 tara-no9 played from ssd
On NEO J50C-4 – Click to Enlarge
G41V-4 tara-no9 played from ssd
On G41V-4 – Click to Enlarge

This may be due to the extra 4GB RAM installed (i.e. total RAM was 8GB) on the MINIX NEO J50C-4.

During the course of playing videos both devices’ internal temperature remained manageable (J50C-4 followed by G41V-4):

J50C-4 fan effectiveness
J50C-4 – Click to Enlarge
G41V-4 cooling effectiveness
G41V-4 – Click to Enlarge

I also performed some extreme stress (and therefore thermal) testing on the MINIX NEO G41V-4 which is the fanless device relying solely on passive heat dissipation and again the internal temperature remained manageable:

G41V-4 stress test & cooling effectiveness

Both devices offer limited gaming performance under Linux (J50C-4 vs G41V-4):

J50C-4 ubuntu gaming high settings
J50C-4 – Click to Enlarge
G41V-4-gaming-high-settings
G41V-4 – Click to Enlarge

and even with low settings, there are only marginal improvements (J50C-4 vs G41V-4):

J50C-4 gaming low settings
J50C-4 – Click to Enlarge
G41V-4-gaming_low_settings
G41V-4 – Click to Enlarge

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’ (J50C-4 then G41V-4):

G41V-4 network performance J50C-4 network performance

which is about on a par with similar Intel mini PCs under the same test environment.

Overall both devices perform well in Ubuntu with the only issue noted being the unusual write performance of the M.2 drive on the MINIX NEO G41V-4. The key benefit of the MINIX NEO J50C-4 is the accessible and upgradable RAM slots whereas the downside is that it does have a fan that is slightly audible under load.

I’d like to thank MINIX for providing the devices and storage for review. They currently retail at around $299 for the MINIX NEO J50C-4 and $275 for the MINIX NEO G41V-4 with the M.2 240GB drives at $45 each.

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1 Comment
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f-s-e
f-s-e
6 months ago

thanks for this detailed review!

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