Mini PC SZBOX N100 12GB mini-PC

Brief review of a no brand mini-PC powered by an Intel N100 CPU with 12GB DDR5 and 2280 slot.
Intel or AMD mini PC's like the Intel NUC or the Quieter 3.

Item details

Item cost: 155
Where purchased: Aliexpress
Important edit: this computer can be found under different brands. There is already another review on this site for a very similar PC by MoreFine. That article is better worded and clearer than mine, even has pictures of it, the packaging, the accessories included and the internals, so I encourage you to check it out first.

Link to the review.

Today we will be taking a look at this minuscule computer:

1000036397.jpg

Its from the brand SZBOX but looking around you can also find It with the MoreFine and MeLe stickers on it.


It runs a N100 processor with 12GB of DDR5 (soldered, too tiny for SODIMM) and a M.2 slot for 2280. I got the "No storage" option from our beloved asian supplier and It came in like 1 ½ weeks with no import fees or any other issues. Price was 155€.

All seems legit


It came in a very nice hard carton box with padding inside. It includes an HDMI (ha! Ever hear of headless?) and a power adapter, 12V 3A with USB-C plug (not modular and runs ONLY 12v, so dont use it anywhere else). It also runs on PD but didnt try with QC, still (*). I didnt notice any difference between 12v and PD so thats nice, no need for 12v if we are running a small mount like I do.

HWinfo642.png
HWinfo643.png


TDP for this beast of a CPU is 6w, so I expect around 10w total at normal usage if the power management is really crappy (i hope, because the battery I got is only 88wh)(*). The temps go crazy high with heavy loads, nothing was below 88°C during the updates and installs but during normal use is pretty tame. Beware the fan, at max speeds It can get loud. The SSD suffers the most, in this pictures does not look like it, but it gets tosty (maybe I will add a heatsink or a thermal pad).

1000036395.jpg

It has three USB-A 3.2, two HDMI, ethernet and audio ports and a kensibgsomething lock. The USB DONT GIVE ENOUGH JUICE FOR AN EXTERNAL NVME SSD. Maybe yours works, Idk, my Samsung Evo970 gets detected and mounted but when trying to do anything It just goes down. This doesn't happen in my laptop so... I blame the very tiny power allowance for peripherals that this thing must have in order to keep this size and power needs.

I´d run some test for the storage:

CrystalDiskMark 8 with default settings on a Samsung 970 EVO 500GB

TESTn100SSD.png

The test runs nicely but the computer slowed down a bit, but I blame also the remote desktop for this.

Now, for the external options, same software, same settings but with a Kingston DataTraveler 3.0 64GB

TESTn100EXT.png

I don´t know what to think of this. I only use this to backup the session and move it to my powerhouse of a computer but wanted to see how it goes. The numbers are okey, and with my current file size (24mb) it will take 2s (in a synthetic environment) to send the image from the ssd to the external drive.

Just to be sure, I checked Drive 3´s temperatures (HVInfo64 calls it that way) because it is the hottest. First a synthetic test, same software and configuration but using a 1GiB test sample:

wow.png


It gets to 100ºC while reading. Not good.
For a more realistic one, I copied the NINA framing assistant cache to the USB drive. It took around 4 minutes and the highest temperatures were of around 78ºC.

I would really LOVE an extra USB-A or even a type C just to connect It to a nice powered hub. There is a Wanderer Box Plus V3 (USB+DC hub) coming in so thats solved.

There is a WiFi adapter inside, sadly soldered. It´s a Intel AX201 WiFi chipset. I dont have knowledge of this being also the bluetooth adapter but it has one. I run a test in the first site that i found after searching "network test free" on google. Not an standardized testing but good enough to check if it works.

WiFi test.png


I did run Furmark´s CPU-burner and the usual benchmark. The first one went without issues while I writed this, but the second only give us 305 points and the incredible amount of 5 FPS. After this, the computer needs some time to get back to working order.

About usage:

I cracked It open to install the SSD (another 970) and closed it. First things I see:
Tiny screws but they go into inserts, nice, anyway I dont recommend opening it very often.
The electrical insulation for the SSD is some sort of electricidad tape... Not the best choice but at least they put something.
No ventilation at all for the drive, so dont get high hopes about crazy speeds or install a very expensive one. It has some aluminium heat spreader on the plastic cover and maybe It does help with the right thermal pad(*).


After getting a Windows installation media (an old USB drive is good enough for this) I installed and updated W10 Pro (must be pro, very important) with my very slow internet while ASCOM, PHD2, Synscan software, ASTAP and NINA installers where downloaded. This took around 6h mostly because of the slow internet, but as soon as I got Windows up to date I did setup ASCOM and all the rest while the data for ASTAP and NINA's offline cache finished the download.


All this time I was working with the HDMI port and a bluetooth keyboard. The machine was responsive most of the time without any freezes or unexpected shutdowns.

The real test was making It work in remote mode...

This took me good part of a day:
I started with Google Chrome Desktop, works 10/10 but needs an Internet connection and I dont like that. Then I tried Windows Remote Desktop and It isnt as pretty but It works even without internet.
But hey, where do i get the network? I have the WiFi network from the mount (Star adventurer GTi) but something inside of me tells me not to trust its wifi adapter. So I need a hotspot.

Did I bought one? No, I didnt! I just made the Pc broadcast a new Wifi for my phone or laptop to connect to. I also modified some parameters in BIOS and scheduled some task. Now, everytime I give it power the PC starts, logs in, turns on the WiFi hotspot and starts NINA. For the mount I choose the USB cable. I trust cables, you should too.


Now comes the worst: the wait for clear skies. In the meantime, I will take some pictures of the creature to spice this up a bit and expand a few things (all the things marked with * will get updated). But really wanted to write SOMETHING about this and help anyone thats on the same place as me three weeks ago. I should run some benchmarks for the people interested, but I dont think they are really needed for our use cases... Maybe RAM and write/read speeds for internal/external drives, but not CPU because processing here is nuts.

So, to conclude

The GOOD:
-Cheap.
-Power adapter included
-New CPU with low power needs
-New fancy DDR5 RAM, it's so fast I don't mind not being able to expand it, but dont use Chrome :ROFLMAO:

The BAD:
-Thermals. They are normal (for a device of this size, I mean) but could be better.
-Noise
-Cheap plastic. Sounds brittle so don't drop It.
-Lack of ports or too many, Idk. For what is worth, a single USB-C 3.2 and a good old 2.0 just in case would be perfect but... Instead we got 3 USB-A that don't have juice

Probably, in the near future, I will find a solution for the thermal issues and will post about it.
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Reactions: Tracy

Latest reviews

Great review
Pros
  • Gives a lot of performance data that was not in the other review of a similar unit
This review provides the end user quite a bit of data on the actual performance of this unit (and it's twin the MoreFine M10) that my review did not. This, for many, is an important aspect for their choice in selecting a mini PC for use in this field.
Recommends this review

Latest questions

Would you consider this more a simple capture based system for use with the telescope or does it have enough processing power to do image processing with?
I know my I5 system struggles when I try to process images - none of which I am proud enough to show since I need a good mount.
Bilis
Bilis
No, I would not use It to process anything.

Some live stacking may be fine but the stock product suffers from heat management issues under heavy loads. The SSD has the worst and gets really throttled

Item information

Category
Hardware
Added by
Bilis
Views
112
Reviews
1
Questions
1
Last update
Rating
5.00 star(s) 1 ratings

Additional information

Pro:
Price
Modern CPU
Accessories included
Very fast DDR5 RAM

Con:
High temperatures
Cheap plastic
Noise
Poor connectivity

Would recommend:  Yes

Rating: 4.00 star(s)

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