Looking for a small, cheap computer that runs Windows? There’s no shortage of options these days, with many models selling for $200 or less.
But some of these cheap mini-desktops suffer from a shortage of ports or poor WiFi performance. The Egreat i6 doesn’t suffer from either of those problems.
This little desktop features 802.11b/g/n dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz) WiFi and an adjustable antenna. The Egreat i6 may have stronger, faster wireless performance than just about any other Windows mini PC I’ve tested so far.
The computer also has HDMI and VGA ports which gives you more options for connecting an external display.
Geekbuying sells the Egreat i6 for $140, and the store sent me a demo unit to review. Here are some notes on the performance of this tiny desktop computer.
Like many cheap mini-desktop computers, the Egreat i6 basically has the specs of a cheap Windows tablet. It’s powered by an Intel Atom Z3735F Bay Trail processor and features 2GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC flash storage.
Unlike a tablet, this computer doesn’t have its own display and it doesn’t have a battery. So you might be wondering why you should invest $140 in a mini desktop when you could buy a cheap Windows tablet and just connect it to your display with an HDMI cable.
The answer is that you probably won’t find a tablet with full-sized HDMI and VGA ports, three USB 2.0 ports, and a 10/100 Ethernet. The Egreat i6 also has a microSD card slot and separate 3.5mm mic and speaker ports.
That makes it easy to treat the Egreat i6 like a full-sized computer: there are plenty of ports that you can use to connect a keyboard, mouse, speakers, and a display (or maybe even two… although I’ve only tested the computer with one display at a time).
The system measures about 5.3″ x 4″ x 1.3″ which makes it almost as compact as smallest Intel NUC computers.
It ships with a fully-licensed version of Windows 8.1 with Bing and should support most Windows software… or at least as many programs as you can fit on a device with 32GB of built-in storage space.
There is one weird thing about the Egreat i6: Windows thinks it’s a tablet. That means you won’t see a power icon at the top right corner of the Windows Start Screen, and when the computer boots to the desktop, you’ll be greeted by an on-screen keyboard that you probably don’t need.
The problem seems to be that the Power Platform Setting seems to be set to “Slate” instead of “Desktop.” You can change a setting in the Windows registry to bring the power menu to the Start Screen, but I’ve found it’s pretty easy to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del to bring up a power menu in the bottom right corner of the screen when I want to shut down or reboot the computer.
One other annoying side effect is that when you connect the Egreat i6 to a display with an HDMI cable, you might have to spend some time adjusting the display settings: the device thinks it has a built-in screen, so you may have to set it up to “mirror” the non-existent internal display to the monitor or TV you plug in.
I’ve found the image quality is best when I use a VGA cable instead of an HDMI cable with the monitor in my office. I can plug in speakers or headphones when I want to listen to audio.
So what can you do with this tiny PC? Just about anything you could do with a larger, more powerful PC… only slower (in some cases). I’ve used the Egreat i6 to write articles for Liliputing (including this review), edit photos, watch videos, and even to rip a DVD (using a USB disc drive).
Intel’s Atom chips are among the company’s cheapest, lowest-performance processors… so don’t expect to play bleeding edge video games on the Egreat i6. And it won’t perform CPU-intensive tasks like transcoding audio or video files as quickly as a system with a recent Intel Celeron, Pentium or Core series processor. But more basic tasks, like playing video work pretty well.
I ran a series of tests to see how quickly the Egreat i6 could convert audio and video files and create Zip archives from a folder with more than 2,000 files. For the most part, the Egreat i6 performed as well or better than other mini desktop computers with similar processors, including the Intel Compute Stick, Mele PCG03, and Zotac ZBOX PI320 pico. But none of those systems were as fast as the Asus Zenbook UX305, which is a relatively low-cost thin-and-light laptop with an Intel Core M Broadwell processor.
While the Egreat i6 has the same processor as the Intel, Mele, and Zotac mini computers, it’s possible that it scores better in benchmarks thanks to faster storage. I haven’t run disk speed tests on the other systems, but here are some read/write speed results for the Egreat i6.
I’ll think about including CrystalDiskMark results in future reviews… but the important thing is that in terms of real-world performance, this computer feels pretty fast… for a slow computer.
I’ve used the Egreat i6 to play HD video from local storage using the VLC media player and to stream movies from a shared network drive using the Kodi Media Center with no problems.
YouTube, Hulu, and other online video sites also work great (although online video may stutter a bit if you’re trying to watch while doing 5 other things with the computer at the same time: 2GB of RAM will only get you so far).
I’ve found myself opening a dozen or more browser tabs in Google Chrome without any problems, although the system does start to slow down a bit if too many of those tabs have Adobe Flash-heavy content or other features that can put a strain on the CPU and the computer’s 2GB of RAM.
These screenshots of the Windows Task Manager paint a picture of an average day’s use: CPU utilization can kind of be all over the place, but you probably won’t notice much of a slowdown unless it peaks and stays there for a while.
If you only expect to do some light web surfing or run one app at a time, you may not even notice that this computer has entry-level specs.
One of the best things about this computer is its wireless hardware. It supports both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz WiFi networks and it has an adjustable antenna: my internet connection is usually pretty speedy on this system even when I’m in my third floor office and the WiFi router is in the living room on the first floor. When the connection seems weak, all I usually need to do is adjust the antenna a bit.
Something to keep in mind is that the Egreat i6 has just 32GB of built-in storage. Some of that is used up by operating system files, so the first time I turned on the Egreat i6 the computer had only about 14GB of free space.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for music, movies, photos, documents, or other files, but fortunately the computer has plenty of ports so you can plug in a microSD card or USB flash drive or hard drive. On the other hand, if you want to install a lot of apps or games that take up a lot of space… you’ll probably want a more expensive computer with more storage and a faster processor.
Linux and other geeky things
When the folks at Geekbuying first told me about the Egreat i6, they suggested there were two things that made it special. One was the strong WiFi performance. The other was the fact that Egreat planned to release a build of Ubuntu Linux designed to run on the little computer.
While I’ve been able to confirm that this thing does have strong WiFi performance when running Windows, it turns out Egreat decided against releasing an official Ubuntu image for the computer. That’s because the developers couldn’t find a workaround for a bug that prevented HDMI audio from working in Ubuntu.
But there’s nothing stopping you from installing Ubuntu or another operating system on your own and plugging a speaker into the audio jack for sound.
You may also be able to use Ian Morrison’s script to get HDMI audio to work. But you’ll need an active internet connection first: I managed to get both Linux Mint 17 and Ubuntu Linux 15.04 to run on the Egreat i6, but WiFi didn’t work out of the box with either operating system.
You should be able to connect to the internet using the Ethernet jack. I did confirm that an Ethernet connection works when running Ubuntu, but I didn’t test this extensively enough to see if I could get HDMI audio to work.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you’re running Ubuntu, the Egreat i6 may report itself as a tablet rather than a desktop: I had no problems with the display settings when using a VGA cable, but when I connected a display with an HDMI cable and went into display settings, I realized that Ubuntu, like Windows, thought the computer had two displays: the monitor I had plugged in and a non-existent built-in display.
If you’d like to see what Ubuntu looks like on the Egreat i6, the folks at Geekbuying posted a video a few months ago:
As with other computers with Intel Atom Bay Trail chips, you have to jump through a few hoops to load a GNU/Linux-based operating system like Ubuntu or Linux Mint on the Egreat i6:
2. Download pasperwastage’s bootia32 file and copy it to the \EFI\BOOT folder on the USB flash drive. This basically lets you use a 32-bit bootloader to load a 64-bit operating system. When you’re done, insert the flash drive into the USB port on the Egreat i6.
3. Turn on (or reboot) the Egreat i6 and hit the Esc key repeatedly until you get into the Aptio Setup Utility.
4. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate to the Boot section, then chance the Boot Option Priorities and chance Boot Option #1 from Windows Boot Manager to the USB flash drive.
5. Go to Save & Exit and, well… save changes and exit.
If all that worked, the system should boot from the USB flash drive.
If you want to make other changes, the UEFI/BIOS menu is full of options that let you adjust settings for the CPU, USB, secure boot, and other features.
The Egreat i6 isn’t the smallest mini PC on the market, nor is it the cheapest. But it is pretty small and pretty cheap… and it offers decent performance for the price.
If you’re just looking for a small computer that lets you run Kodi media center and a web browser on your TV, you could probably save some money by picking up a different system. But if you’re looking for a low-power device that you can treat like a full-fledged computer, the Egreat i6 has a nice array of ports and excellent WiFi range, which makes it worth considering.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with this little computer… I just wish it didn’t think it was a tablet.
Thanks again to the folks at Geekbuying for sending us a demo unit to test. You can buy the Egreat i6 from
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