The Intel Alder Lake line of processors are low-cost, low-power chips that debuted earlier this year as a solution for budget laptops, tablets, and mini PCs. And over the course of 2023 we’ve seen a lot of cheap mini PCs with 6-watt Intel N100 or 15-watt Intel N95 chips.
But we haven’t seen a lot of systems powered by the middle child: Intel’s 12-watt Intel N97 processor (which may actually deliver better CPU performance than either of the other models). But now a number of Intel N97 mini PCs have arrived, including multiple models that sell for under $200.
For example, there’s a version of the KAMRUI AK1 Plus available from Amazon with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of solid state storage. While this model has a list price of $300, it’s on sale for $167 for Black Friday, (when you clip the on-page coupons), and I suspect the “list price” is inflated enough that this thing will rarely sell for more than $250.
The AK1 Plus has two HDMI ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and one special feature: a detachable base with support for an optional 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD.
Or you can pick up a Blackview MP80 mini PC with similar specs (but without the hard drive base) for $180 during a Black Friday sale. You’ll also have to clip the on-page coupon to save $20. This little computer’s stand-out features include three HDMI ports and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.
And if you’re looking for something a little different, there’s a version of the ACEMAGIC S1 mini PC powered by an Intel N97 chip. This little computer has a small status LCD display on the front, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, dual Ethernet ports, and two HDMI ports. This model also supports two M.2 2280 SSDs, although only one can support NVMe storage while the other only supports SATA SSDs.
What all three of these little computers have in common is the Intel N97 processor, which is a 4-core, 4-thread chip with support for CPU speeds up to 3.6 GHz and a 1.2 GHz Intel UHD integrated GPU with 24 execution units.
It’s not the highest-performance member of the Intel Alder Lake-N family. That would be the Intel Core i3-N305. But it comes in a close second, delivering better CPU and graphics capabilities than the Intel N95 chip, while consuming less power.
|Intel Alder Lake-N family|
|Chip||Cores||Threads||Base / Boost freq||L3 Cache||GPU||Power|
|Core i3-N305||8||8||Up to 3.8 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (32EU / up to 1.25 GHz)||15W|
|Intel Processor N97||4||4||Up to 3.6 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (24EU / up to 1.2 GHz||12W|
|Intel Processor N95||4||4||Up to 3.4 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (16EU / up to 1.2 GHz||15W|
|Core i3-N300||8||8||Up to 3.8 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (32EU / up to 1.25 GHz)||7W|
|Intel Processor N200||4||4||Up to 3.7 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (32EU / up to 750 MHz)||6W|
|Intel Processor N100||4||4||Up to 3.4 GHz||6MB||Intel UHD (24EU / up to 750 MHz)||6W|
You still shouldn’t expect blazing fast speeds from this budget processor. It’s designed as a cost-efficient solution that’s just barely good enough for basic tasks. But it’s still a pretty nice step up over Intel’s previous-gen Jasper Lake and Gemini Lake chips, with significantly better CPU and graphics performance-per-watt.