A new contender in the desktop mini PC arena, the Azulle Byte4 ($224.99) is a slightly larger version of the Azulle Access4 we reviewed in September 2020. The Byte4 offers the same modest component lineup—Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage—and is similarly underpowered. Neither machine is well-suited for anything approaching regular Windows use, but either can serve as a streaming device or as a way to add Internet connectivity to an old TV or monitor. You’ll need to find a bit more room behind your display or in your home-theater cabinet for the boxy Byte4 versus the Access4—it’s closer in size to a Mac mini than a Mars Bar—but the advantage you get from the larger chassis is a greater selection of ports and the ability to expand the memory and storage. Like the Access4, the Byte4 is fanless and operates in silence, making for an inconspicuous addition to your living room or den, or for powering digital-display signage in a business or shop.
The Azulle website lists only one configuration for the Byte4: an Intel “Gemini Lake” Celeron J4125 processor, 4GB of memory, and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. The company explains that this keeps the system’s price down—it pays $25 for a Windows 10 Pro license, and that cost would increase to $150 if the machine were sold with more RAM or storage. As is, the mini desktop’s $224.99 total cost is only $75 more than a full Windows 10 Pro license. Plus, it’s easy to expand the Byte4’s memory and storage on your own, and Azulle will even sell you additional RAM or a second SSD.
On the bottom of the system, the four rubber feet double as thumbscrews. Remove them and two tiny screws on the back panel, and you can remove the bottom plate. Inside, you’ll find two SO-DIMM slots (for laptop-style memory), one of which is occupied by a 4GB module. Intel says the Celeron J4125 supports a maximum of 8GB of RAM, but Azulle says the system will run with 16GB without issue. (I didn’t test the system with anything more than the 4GB it came with, but I can’t think that 16GB of RAM will suddenly turn this Celeron PC into a power machine.)
Also inside the case is a free M.2 slot to expand the storage, as well as SATA data/power cabling to add a 2.5-inch solid-state drive. The system includes a metal bracket you can attach to the inside of the bottom panel to mount the drive.
The Celeron J4125 is a 10-watt, quad-core CPU running at 2.0GHz and able to hit a burst frequency of 2.7GHz. It doesn’t provide enough muscle to power Windows 10 without experiencing significant lag, whether that’s opening menus or switching apps. You’ll find yourself waiting for the simplest tasks to complete, and the wait times increase greatly when attempting to do anything that might resemble multitasking. The Byte4 is best used for a single purpose like powering a kiosk or a digital sign, or to add smarts to a “dumb” TV or monitor.
Measuring 1.5 by 5.1 by 3.8 inches (HWD), the Byte4 looks like a smaller and much less polished Mac mini. The Apple’s small desktop is 1.4 inches in height and 7.7 inches square (and its $699 starting price is more than triple the Byte4’s).
Despite sharing a similar shape, the Byte4 lacks the brushed-aluminum luster of the Mac mini. It’s a plastic chassis with a metal bottom plate. A blue racing stripe on the sides adds a bit of flair to the otherwise drab, dark gray plastic enclosure. The large power button on the front features an “A” icon that lights up when the system is powered on. The concentric-circle vents on top look cool and also help the fanless system dissipate heat.
You can choose to add a remote control or webcam to the Byte4 when ordering from Azulle, but must bring your own keyboard and mouse. The only extras included in the box are a power cable and the 2.5-inch drive bracket. The cable is only six feet long, which might limit where you can position the Byte4 in your home theater setup without an extension cord.
Though small, the Byte4 offers a wealth of expansion ports. They’re found on the rear and left side of the system.
On the left are four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB-C port, and a microSD card slot. It’s handy to have both types of USB ports to save you from needing to use a dongle to connect your USB devices to the Byte4.
Around back, you’ll find HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, and VGA video outputs. There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack and a pair of Ethernet ports, one of which supports Power over Ethernet (PoE) so you could run power to the system via an Ethernet cable. The rear panel holds two Wi-Fi antennas, and the system also features Bluetooth 4.0 support. Azulle says it will add an option for cellular connectivity in January 2021.
Underpowered mini PCs often don’t have the goods to complete our full suite of benchmark tests, and the Byte4 is no exception. Its 4GB of RAM is insufficient to run our Photoshop test, and our PCMark 8 Storage test crashed a few minutes into it. The latter may be down to the pokier-than-SSD eMMC flash memory aboard as the main storage—we usually see eMMC flash in Chromebooks, not desktops. (See how we test desktops.)
I rounded up a group of mini PCs for performance comparisons: Azulle’s own Access4, two from Zotac’s Zbox line, and the latest Liva-family model from ECS.
The Zotac Zbox Edge CI341 features the Celeron N4100, an even more underpowered CPU than that of the Byte4 or Access4. The Zotac Zbox CI622 Nano is a slightly larger mini desktop that uses the Intel Core i3-10110U, while the ECS Liva Z3 Plus is the most powerful of the bunch, with an Intel Core i5-10210U processor.
PCMark 10 is a holistic performance suite developed by the benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
Despite sharing the same specs as the Access4, the Byte4 enjoyed a not-insignificant edge in PCMark10, but was miles behind the Core i3-based Zotac ZBox Nano and Core i5-based ECS Liva.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
The Byte4 trailed even the Access4 in Cinebench, a strong indicator that the system is not built for media-editing tasks.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of SteelTears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
The Byte4 finished the job five minutes faster than the Access4, but 40 minutes is a long time to encode a short video—most PCs we test take no more than a quarter of that time. Again, it’s a streamer, not an encoder.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
The Byte4 is no more a gaming PC than a media-editing machine. Then again, no system with integrated graphics delivers the goods for gamers, whether it has a Celeron or Core i5. While the Byte4 is a poor fit for creating media, it can certainly let you consume it—it was able to smoothly stream 4K video without issue.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
The Byte4 was the only machine here able to run our Superposition test at 1080p resolution, but its frame rates were nonstarters. AAA gaming at 720p or 1080p is not going to happen.
The Azulle Byte4 certainly didn’t set our testing bench afire with scorching performance, but it’s not built to play 3D games, perform multimedia editing, or even multitask in Windows. Its chief attractions are its low price, compact dimensions, silent operation, and ability to stream HD video.
Then why choose it over a streaming stick from Amazon or Roku that’s even less expensive? For the added versatility of running Windows and being able to browse the web, as well as for its wide array of ports for USB peripherals and a variety of displays. You can connect the Byte4 to any modern monitor via HDMI or DisplayPort, or even to an old VGA monitor, if you like.
Need another reason? The ability to upgrade. You can add more RAM and bolster its eMMC storage with a SATA or M.2 solid-state drive, which would let you not only stream video but store a large, local library of videos and photos.
The Byte4 is a well-designed mini PC that makes for an affordable, silent addition to your living room, to say nothing about its commercial applications of powering a retail kiosk or digital signage. That is where its real strengths lie.Source