There are times when you need a desktop computer, but you don’t necessarily have desktop space. Or, maybe you need to roll out a large number of computers (say for a school), and you don’t have the budget for a standard desktop. It’s situations like these where you turn to small form factor PCs. And generally speaking, these machines are a dime a dozen. Of course there are some nano-type computers that deliver far and above what you might expect. Those machines, however, tend toward the pricier side of such hardware. So when you drop down to the sub $200 USD range, things start to get a bit dicey.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by the Chuwi GBox pro. It’s small (Figure A), offers enough ports to connect to your peripherals, and performs surprisingly well.
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Let’s take a look at why this might be your next small form factor PC purchase.
The GBox pro comes in two different flavors:
The specs include:
- CPU – Intel Atmo X7-E3950 64Bit 4Cores-4Threads 2.0 Ghz turbo boost
- GPU – Intel HD 505 with 18 execution units clock up to 650 MHz with 4K Hard-Decoding
- RAM – 4GB DDR3
- STORAGE – 64 GB EMMC (expandable, via microSD) to 2TB.
- OS – Windows 10
- USB – 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, and 1 USB-C.
- Network Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet and Dual Band WiFi
- Dimensions – 7.4″ x 5.4″ x 1.5″.
- Body – CNC aluminum.
- Monitor ports – VGA and HDMI (supports dual monitors)
As you can tell, by the specs, the GBox Pro won’t blow you away. So, you won’t be doing any serious gaming or crunching massive numbers. However, it does perform relatively well (for having a relatively out of date CPU).
Speaking of which…
I could go on about how applications were snappy, and there was very little lag in moving windows, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead, I took a different approach to testing the GBox Pro.
One particular tax that tends to bog down (and sometimes cripple) such devices is content streaming. This also happens to be a task that everyone does. I’m talking Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And so I decided to stream as much content as I could with the GBox. After connecting it to my test network, I logged into four different streaming services:
- Amazon Prime
I set this box up in my exercise room and used it (in place of my regular work-out entertainment) to stream TV and movies. So, the device was used on a regular basis.
For comparison, my regular streaming device is a System76 Leopard Extreme with an i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, running Ubuntu Linux 19.04. Even that machine gets bogged down with buffering issues on occasion. So naturally I expected a device with considerably less resources to suffer considerably under the weight of such a heavy networking load.
After installing Firefox (Because who wants to use the Windows 10 default browser for anything but downloading other browsers?), I logged into the streaming services and prepared myself for frustration.
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To my surprise, the only streaming service that caused me any level of difficulty was Spectrum. Anyone who is a Spectrum customer expects this (as their product is simply not up to par with the competition). Outside of that, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all streamed like absolute champs on the device. I even paused video between workouts, returned back to it the next day, logged back into the device, and unpaused the video without a hitch.
I encountered very little buffering issues. The only issue I ever saw with the three viable streaming services was, at times, the GPU couldn’t offer smooth playback of video. On occasion playback would appear slightly choppy. And, if I didn’t restart the browser after a few days, audio could get out of sync for seconds at a time. These issues almost always worked themselves out.
But for a sub $200 PC, the performance far exceeded my expectations. Given what it was being used for, that’s pretty impressive.
What you get
In the box you’ll find:
- GBox Pro
- Power cord
- Vesa mount (to mount device behind monitors)
What you should expect
As I said, this isn’t a gaming machine. In fact, I suspect the lower-end specs of the GBox Pro would cause constant problems for many modern video games. Chances are, however, you’re not going to use such a PC for serious gaming. Instead, you’ll use the GBox Pro for standard web usage, video/audio streaming, typical productivity, and not much more. Or maybe you could purchase the Linux variant, insert a large-capacity microSD, install Nextcloud, and use it for an on-premise cloud for a home office or small business. But for fairly standard usage, the GBox Pro is more than enough–especially when you’re on a budget or space is tight.
For $189.99, you could certainly do worse.
If you’re looking for a small form factor PC that will serve as a means to a typically productive or entertaining end, I suggest you give the GBox Pro a go. If, however, you’re looking for serious performance, look elsewhere.