MINIX Mini HD is a cheap, barebones, low-power desktop with an Atom chip

MINIX may be best known around these parts for making tiny computers and TV sticks featuring ARM-based processors and Google Android software. But the company’s also got a line of small motherboards and desktop computers featuring x86 chips.

The MINIX Mini HD, for example, is a small form-factor desktop PC with an Intel Atom D2550 dual-core Cedar Trail processor. It’s available from Geekbuying for just $119.

minix mini hd

While that sounds like a great price (and it kind of is), keep in mind that this is a barebones system. While it includes the CPU, system board, case, and power supply, you’ll need to supply your own memory, storage, and operating system.

That said, you can pick up some cheap RAM and an inexpensive hard drive and install a free operating system like Ubuntu and build yourself a full-fledged desktop PC for around $200. A Windows license would likely drive up the price.

Intel’s Atom D2550 chip is a low-power Atom processor designed for desktop computers. The 10 watt chip was released in early 2012, and it’s a bit more powerful than the processors Intel offered for netbooks around that time.

The system also has a pretty impressive array of ports, including 2 Ethernet jacks, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, VGA and HDMI outputs, mic, line in and line out audio jacks, and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.

The board has 2 SATA II connectors, a PCI Express slot, and support for 5.1 channel audio.

Not bad for a system that measures just 7.6″ x 7.3″ x 2.4″.

minix mini hd_02

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend building a home theater PC around a device with an Atom chip, you should be able to watch 720p HD video without too many problems.

Overall the MINIX Mini HD PC seems like it would be a good device to use for less demanding tasks. You could use it to make a kid’s computer (and maybe they’d be more likely to do their homework than play games since the CPU isn’t really made for hard-core gaming). It could also make a decent home media server, or even a work or recreational machine if you don’t need a system to do much more than run a web browser and some office software.

via CNX Software

  • MrJazz

    Sooo… price-wise, you’re entering Chromebook territory.

  • nards barley

    Geekbuying: “Powered by the built-in-high-definition (HD) video decoder, it is capable of performing full HD-decoding for MPEG2, VC1, AVC and H.246 videos. In addition, MiniX Mini HD PC is capable of supporting Blu-ray 2.0 movies.”

    Lilliputing:”While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend building a home theater PC around a device with an Atom chip, you should be able to watch 720p HD video
    without too many problems.”

    Are those two statements contradictory? What is “full HD-decoding”?

    P.S.

    Geekbuying, I didn´t see weight or shipping weight, which is important for international buyers that may user shipping services.

    • http://www.fanlesstech.com/ FanlessTech

      I trust Brad. GMA 3650 (from Imagination Technologies) is hair pulling inducing.

    • CyberGusa

      GMA 3600/3650 is capable of handling full HD video up to just over 20Mbps bit rate Blu Ray file type with low CPU usage and good power efficiency… It can even handle multiple HD video at the same time…

      Issue is getting it to work all the time as you need to make sure everything is set up properly, DXVA, etc. for it to work as it should… Otherwise you default to software decoding and the processor performance isn’t up to doing much better than 720P…

      Flash doesn’t support this GPU either… So youtube performance may be a bit limited but should handle 720P just fine and some 1080P as well, but not of too high bit rate…

      While only experimental 64bit drivers were ever released and you’re pretty much stuck using Windows 7… The XP drivers were also experimental and don’t work 100%…

      • Keith

        So I’m a little confused. If these GPUs don’t have driver support for OSs anybody wants to run (except for maybe 32-bit Win7)… what was the target market and why did Intel ever use them?

      • CyberGusa

        OS support for Linux wasn’t a priority, mind Windows had about 90% of the market at the time when Cedar Trail was released… Support would eventually come for Linux but it would take time, like it did for the previous times Intel had used Imagination PowerVR GPUs… Namely for the GMA 500/600 used in the Z-Series ATOMs.

        Imagination not supporting Open Source didn’t help of course…

        But basically, it was bad timing… Cedar Trail was intended for the netbook market, providing significant improvements in power efficiency, graphical performance, and lowered costs, but it was released just before the netbook market collapsed.

        So there was suddenly no real market for it anymore and thus development for it ceased and Intel refocused their resources to re-developing the ATOM for the mobile SoC market.

        Some models, like the D2700 were even discontinued the same year…

        However, you can still run linux on it though, you just won’t be able to make full use of the GMA with only generic drivers.

        While there has been limited success with porting drivers developed for the GMA500/600 but those were based on the SGX540 and the GMA 3600/3650 used in Cedar Trail are based on the SGX545.

        While you can probably add Windows 8 32bit as well… Since Clover Trail Z2760 used the same GPU but since it’s only 32bit then the drivers available are also only 32bit.

        While keep in mind these were all short term products as Intel was working on the SIlvermont architecture that Bay Trail and Merrifield will be using, which returns the ATOM to Intel’s own iGPU.

        Along with a scalable architecture they can improve upon for each generation, like they have the Core i-Series… So driver support will be improved and will become long term…

      • Corporal Lint

        “Cedar Trail was intended for the netbook market, providing significant improvements in power efficiency, graphical performance, and lowered costs, but it was released just before the netbook market collapsed.”

        FWIW, I think that the Cedar Trail machines had something to do with that collapse. Manufacturers generally took advantage of the low power draw to create very small and light and cheap machines, and got rid of things like slotted ram (to save money) and access panels (to create a more compact design). The result was machines with 1gb running Windows 7 Starter Edition. You couldn’t upgrade the ram, so Windows ran terribly and there wasn’t much sense upgrading from the crippled Starter Edition. That killed a lot of sales for regular users. You also couldn’t install Linux, because of the issues with the graphics drivers, which killed sales among more techy users. If you wanted 2gb of ram and a machine that ran Windows 7 well you needed to get one of the more expensive HP netbooks, or a more expensive machine running on something like an AMD E-350.

      • CyberGusa

        Windows 7 Starter Edition actually required the system be sold with only 1GB… So that started earlier… but it was one of the factors that lead to the eventual collapse of the netbook market…

        Things just got worse with Cedar Trail release as the locked down systems became more common… though, not all of them were strictly un-upgradable… but not everyone could just take apart a system that was not intended to be upgraded by end users to reach the RAM slot hidden within…

      • http://romanovskis.blogspot.com romanovskis

        I have D2700 running W7x32 as htpc. As far as I remember, Windows 8 would boot and work in desktop mode, but clicking on any metro-app would crash and reboot the whole system. Did anything change since that time? Did anybody try Android-x86 on those boards?

      • CyberGusa

        You shouldn’t have any serious issues with W8 anymore… Cedar Trail GMA uses the same SGX545 GPU as the present Clover Trail Z2760 does for all those Windows 8 tablets that have been coming out for nearly the past year…

        While, getting GNU/Linux or Android running isn’t the real problem… it’s getting fully functional GPU drivers working that’s so hard and means features like hardware acceleration will not work.

    • Labmouse

      I am assuming “full HD-decoding” means 1080p video decoded in hardware. The hardware should be capable of it, but the quality of the drivers for the GMA 3600/3650 are pretty atrocious.

      Basically, Minix is reading you the hardware brochure which can be a bit optimistic.

      Lilliputing is telling you what you can realistically expect.

      Shipping weight is about 5 lbs…depending if they double-box or not.

  • Arrdee

    The D2700 gets you hyperthreading and a faster GPU. That said, Intel is awful about drivers for the onboard GPU in this SoC family, which limits your choice of Windows versions and forces you to run 32-bits instead of 64 as a desktop box. ASUS sells a few small barebones units in either D2550 or D2700 and deactivates the on-die GPU supplementing it with nVidia GEFORCE hardware instead… better for Windows but not so good for Android-x86. You can run Home Server 2011 (64 bit) just fine on these headless though, using the default VGA support if you have to use the on-die GPU.

    • CyberGusa

      It’s mostly Imagination fault about the GPU driver support or lack thereof…

      Intel is just a IP licensee of Imagination for the PowerVR GPU used in the 3600/3650 GMAs, and like driver support for discrete graphic cards… Intel relies on Imagination to work with them to provide those drivers and it’s the second hand nature of this arrangement that causes the poor driver support issue…

      It doesn’t help that Imagination has never really ever supported Open Source drivers for Linux for those who want other options besides Windows.

      While the D2700 was discontinued last year… only surplus left…

      http://www.fudzilla.com/home/item/27010-atom-d2700-last-shipment-in-late-q3-2012

      Intel provides much better support for their own iGPU’s though… So like the earlier Intel iGPU based GMA ATOMs, Bay Trail should provide driver support for Linux as well as Windows and even Android.

      Android and Windows 8 are even officially listed as supported…

      While Intel has made improvements to their driver support management system…

      Even Charlie Demerjian, from semiaccurate, wrote a positive article about the improvement… and that’s virtually unheard of from him, the positive part that is… :P

      http://semiaccurate.com/2013/05/28/intel-finally-fixes-their-graphics-problems/

  • Juraj

    what is the GPU?

    • CyberGusa

      GMA 3650, which is based on Imagination PowerVR GPU SGX545, clocked at 640MHz…

      http://www.notebookcheck.net/Intel-Graphics-Media-Accelerator-GMA-3650.60195.0.html

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdssQs1fQjM

      It was chosen because Imagination PowerVR is a mobile range GPU series that’s optimized to use very little power and it was better in performance than what Intel could provide at the time for it’s low end, as their better performing iGPUs consumed too much power to be useful in devices that needed to maximize battery life.

      For mobile devices the PowerVR is used by most of the mobile market… Notably by companies like Apple and even Samsung…

      Like noted in other comments, though, driver support is a weakness if you need variety in your OS support…

  • Guest

    I’d rather have a $99 Chromebox. They don’t exist. But they should.

    If a Chromebook can cost as little as $199, why can’t Acer take away the screen, battery, track pad, keyboard, and camera, and sell that?

    • Labmouse

      Because developing another piece of hardware costs money?

      The margins on that $199 chromebook must be razor thin. It’s also assumed and hinted that Google subsidizes chromebook development.
      They probably did it because they had a surplus of parts they couldn’t offload any other way.

      I think Acer would be slitting it’s own wrists selling a $99 “chromebox”

      At $99, they’d be competing with those android powered USB-stick computers made in China.

      • Guest

        “Because developing another piece of hardware costs money?”

        But they don’t have to develop “another” piece of hardware. Acer could actually just remove those parts I listed from their C7 Chromebook, and sell what’s left as a cheaper Chromebox.

      • Labmouse

        Sure they do. Just adding another product SKU code costs money, especially with a company the size of Acer.

        If you don’t care that what you’re suggesting will look like a frankenstein prototype lab reject, I’m sure you can find a chromebook C7 on ebay with a busted screen you can take a hacksaw to for around what you want to spend. Good luck with warranty and support.

        Repackaging the guts of the C7 chromebook into another finished retail product at the $99 pricepoint appears to be asking too much at the moment.

        Basically, any full PC with an x86 processor and an HDD blows that budget out of the water.

        Maybe in another round or 2 of product cycles it may be feasible, maybe never. Or maybe Google may subsidize a company willing to develop and sell one. You never know.

        I am personally of the belief that the chromebook C7 is a marketing experiment by Google. A market anomaly if you will. It will only last until the cheap contract price supplies of the intel celeron 847 chips are used up.

        Maybe we’ll see a replacement next year running a silvermont based atom processor for around the same price.

  • Morgo

    Can’t wait for Bay Trail mini boxes. Especially ones smaller than mITX cases like this one. I’ll be putting Arch Linux on it. Not sure why anyone would get this one. Then again, I don’t understand people getting ARM boxes where you can’t install any OS you want and need to rely on whatever outdated image the OEM provides. Which usually is a not so useful Android image that hardly gets updates.

    • MK

      You also can install the same Archlinux on arm boxes, if sources are available. You always can compile your own kernel and uboot. Rarely do arm boxes have two lans usb3 and sata :(

      • Jeff

        How likely are the sources available for these ARM boxes? How likely will they be updated. Just because they’re open doesn’t mean people will update them. I can flip switches and compile kernels but I’m certainly not capable of fixing bugs and adding features to the drivers.

  • Dan

    Hmmm. Newegg sells an Ubuntu 12.10 system with a Celeron 1007u, 4g ram, and 500g hard drive for $230US, shipped. Add $70 for a similarly configured system with 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium. I can’t find more info (drivers download, etc.) on the manufacturer’s website, though…

  • Mason

    Dual ethernet? This would make a nice little SOHO router, gateway, or firewall.

    • Edsjag

      Heeeeeeeeeeeells yes. This is exactly what I have been looking for for a firewall. Should be spot on, here’s hoping anyways.

  • Labmouse

    I picked up the Atom D2700 powered version of this barebones system earlier this year to make an HTPC box. After several months tearing my hair out trying to find 64-bit drivers, I’ve relegated it to a pfsense firewall appliance for my home network, which it is perfect for. Just use the 32-bit version of pfsense.

    Oh, and this is just a mini-ITX motherboard in a tiny box with a laptop PSU.

    Can’t wait for Bay Trail…

    If you want something for HTPC duty, I’d recommend the Avatar system on newegg that Dan below mentioned: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883258040

    It’s based on Ivy Bridge, cheap, and a complete system at $229 (sans monitor).

    The system appears to be based on the Gigabyte GA-C1007UN-D with a soldered on Celeron 1007u at 1.5ghz so finding drivers should be as simple as going to Gigabyte’s website.

    if you want just the mobo itself for your own custom builds:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128598
    (Newegg screwed the pooch and didn’t put it where it belongs with the other integrated mobos)

    If I hadn’t already built my HTPC box, that’s what I’d use.

  • David

    I agree with a lot of the posts here. Skip this one because of the locked-up GPU drivers, especially if you’re running Linux. Wait for Bay-Trail with Intel GPU’s.

    • Labmouse

      Depends on what you want to do. If you want to make a general computing platform, I agree. Skip it. There are better alternatives out there right this minute.

      However, if you want to create something like a networking appliance, something where GPU drivers don’t matter, this box has merits.

      Most notable is the dual Broadcom gig-ethernet ports. It’s hard to find something in this size and price range with even dual gig-ethernet ports.

  • iAMunderDOg

    It looks nice, but its seriously weak.

    I can compare this Atom chip with old AMD’s C50 9 watt chip for tablets that ran some games well like Killing Floor, World Of WarCraft, etc.

    They should have used A4-1200 Temash that consumes just 4 watts or A4-1450 that consumes 8 watts and its 3-5 times faster. This is pathetic.

    Wait for Bay Trail or if they ever decide to release Minix with Temash/Kabini APU.

    • CyberGusa

      I think you meant A4-1250, as the only model that ends with 1450 is the quad core model A6-1450 and it only starts off at 8W but goes higher at full performance mode.

      While all of those are mobile solutions and this is a bare bones mini-desktop solution… The D-Series ATOMs are specifically nettop/desktop range…

      Otherwise, I’d agree those would have been better choices than an old pre-SoC 32nm ATOM but they’re probably either trying to get rid of stock or got a good deal on these old chips…

      Also, it may still be a little early to expect Temash in too many products… even the design wins they’ve gotten already, like the updated Acer Aspire V5, are taking a bit of time to come to market and they’ll likely prioritize tablet and laptop usage over the anything desktop related for now as it usually takes most of a year before we start seeing mobile chips put into non-mobile devices…

  • PePas

    An important piece of information is missing from this review: what kind of storage it has room for in the box. It does not have room for a 3.5″ harddrive, but you can fit 1 2.5″ harddrive (which unfortunately disqualifies it for my use, I want a 3.5″ drive).

    • Fatriff

      SSD’s don’t come in 3.5″.. SSD’s are pretty much the norm now.

  • Anonymous

    Looks an awful lot like this OEM barebones kit I ran across today: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856205007