Forty-six years ago, a man named John Blankenbaker ended up changing the entire world. John was the developer of the Kenbak-1, the world’s first personal computer. While computing was beginning to be used in business and governments, the consumer had no sense of what a computer even was.
Purchasing price of the Kenbak-1 was $750 or $4,576.11 in today’s dollar and for this high price tag, you didn’t even get a screen. In fact, it didn’t have much of anything of importance to the everyday user. It lacked a microprocessor, a CPU, and stored 256 bytes of memory; that’s just bytes, not KB, MB, or GB.
Look at where we’ve come today. In our Tech Support Forum building section, people at home are building their own computers with trillions of bytes worth of memory and storage space. Everything we do today is because of the personal computer and how we continue to do things will be based on computing.
Following modern day computing, in 2011, Google picked looked at how they could improve it. What exactly do people do when they’re on their computers? Chances are, many of us just spend time on the internet. A good portion of our time on the computer is spent using a browser window. Video, email, working, banking, you name it, it is most likely done through a web browser.
Noticing this, Google began to develop and sell their Chromebook laptops. An inexpensive laptop that did one thing, offer you a portal to the internet. The concept was simple, give the user a web browser and don’t have it cost a fortune.
With inexpensive laptops being a thing due to the Chromebook, desktop computing is still quite expensive. Or is it?
When I use the term “desktop computer” many of us will think of a picture with a large computer tower that stores a CPU cooler, CPU, memory, motherboard, power supply, and a GPU. They’re bulky, require a lot of electrical power to operate, can be costly, and take up a lot of room.
So, where is the breakeven point? You want/need a desktop computer to do some task for you, but a Chromebook or inexpensive laptop seems overkill.
Enter, Azulle’s Byte Plus mini PC. With a surface area about the same size of my hand, consumers can have a full Windows-based computer on their desk and not even notice it. Using an Intel CPU, 4GB of memory, and a fair amount of rear-facing I/O, the Azulle Byte Plus may just be an option for you on a new computer.
Welcome to my review of the Azulle Byte Plus. Throughout this review, I will be discussing the following topics: the design, performance, functionality, and my final thoughts.
Think back to what I just said a minute ago. What does a personal computer look like? A big case, lots of components which require cooling, power hungry, and can be bulky to put up on a desk. Azulle’s computer is the opposite in every way.
Everything inside the Byte Plus is solid state and uses its exterior casing to cool the internals. This translates to a truly silent PC; there’s not even a fan.
The body of the Byte Plus is constructed out of an aluminum block which acts as a giant heatsink for the Intel CPU. Around the aluminum block, there is a matte black plastic casing that holds everything together.
Its measurements are only 8 x 6 x 3 inches, which makes it almost a perfect square PC. Its tiny size gives it the advantage by allowing it to be placed almost anywhere. There are even mounting holes in the bottom allowing it to be hung on a wall if desired.
On the front of the unit, you’ll find just a lone power button that glows red for off and blue for on. Rotating the unit to the right contains a microSD card slot for additional storage; more on this later. Then, on the back of the unit, you have a fair amount of I/O.
There are VGA and HDMI video outputs, followed by not one or two, but three full-sized USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0 ports. Furthermore, the Byte Plus contains a directional wireless antenna and RJ45 Ethernet jack. You will also find the power input and a Kensington lock back here.
Wrapping up the design, the Byte Plus is an atheistically pleasing device that can either be displayed in the open or tucked away in a corner. There aren’t any breathing holes, so the inside will never need to be cleaned of dust.
If somebody could figure out how to open the Byte Plus, I would love to see what is inside and how it’s all laid out. Nevertheless, we’ll have to go by the Speccy specification sheet to see the components that get the Byte Plus operating.
Azulle installed an Intel Atom CherryTail T3 Z8300 Quad-Core CPU that is clocked for 1.44GHz operation. My model also supports the 4GB of memory followed by 32GB of internal storage. For a lesser cost, there is a 2GB/32GB model, however, running Windows on 2GB of memory nowadays is not recommended.
The 32GB of storage inside the Byte Plus is hindered almost immediately due to the Windows 10 64Bit install. In reality, you only have about 15GB of storage on hand. Now, this isn’t a lot of storage and recognizing that this is where the microSD card slot reader comes into play. In my case, I ended up installing an additional 32GB microSD card to store any movies and videos on the Byte Plus.
To my surprise, the Byte Plus ships with Windows 10 64bit, 64bit! Installing the Windows OS was the same as any other OEM computer setup, so we’ll move on to how it performs.
Oddly, Azulle disables Windows Update in Windows 10 by disabling the service. My only thought for doing this is because Azulle may be afraid that future Windows 10 updates may break a driver install or start to take away from the 32GB of storage from the user. I wanted my unit to be fully up-to-date so I ended up turning it back on.
On the front of the product box for the Byte Plus, it says the Byte Plus can read, watch, play, explore, and connect. Almost all of those are true with the “Play” claim being a tale. Anybody with a little bit of hardware knowledge is going to know that an Atom CPU running at 1.44GHz is not going to be a video game player. The unit won’t even play games such as Minecraft and browser games can even add a stress to the processor. So, we’ll omit that part from the review.
Browsing the internet on the Byte Plus couldn’t have been smoother. I was generally surprised at how easy and smooth it was to operate the Microsoft Edge web browser.
I began testing the Byte Plus by watching 1080p Twitch.TV and YouTube videos. There wasn’t any distortion, lag, or struggle on the Byte Plus’s side. In fact, I was even able to watch two things at once and I left the Byte Plus to run a 1080p nature video on YouTube while actively watching a Twitch stream.
This browser testing was also done all over wireless. You have the option for a wired connection, but the wireless antenna on the Byte Plus is quite superior and able to keep up with all of my bandwidth.
Next, I tested the Byte Plus on Plex TV content. I connected the unit up to a small 32-inch TV where I loaded Plex and began to watch my 1080p TV shows. Just like Twitch and YouTube, the Plex content was the exact same. Loading times were quick, video was smooth, and it just worked as intended.
Azulle says that the Byte Plus can handle Office 2016 productivity, so I installed Office and gave it a try. Sure enough, it worked as intended, with letters showing up as I typed them. At this point, I am wondering what this PC struggles at.
Lastly, I intended the Byte Plus to be a downloader of content from a server or other source. I also wanted to use it as a gateway to transfer files from one PC to another, somewhat like a NAS. Downloading content from the internet was a little slow. In fact, it was slower than I wanted it to be, but eventually, it did chug away and complete the download. Moving files through the network wasn’t the fastest thing either. It seems that as a downloading box or a NAS you may want to look for a unit dedicated to those tasks.
You do have to remind yourself here of two things. What I am doing with the Byte Plus requires very little processing power and Windows 10 is excellent at managing its available resources for a smooth operation. I’m not saying that the Byte Plus can’t do more than what is listed here, but you may run into troubles on more CPU intensive programs.
Finally, you may be wondering how hot does the Byte Plus get during operation. Surprisingly, it does a decent job at keeping cool. The sides and bottom remain at room temperature, but the top aluminum block can get a little toasty. You can keep your hand on the aluminum top if you do desire, but eventually, some temperature discomfort would set in. My only advice here would be to keep the top clean and to leave nothing resting on it.
Azulle makes a lot of different types of mini PCs. Other models are based around or on an HDMI port, very similar to the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Yet, I asked to review the Byte Plus because of its physical size, lots of I/O, and for what I wanted to use it for.
Using both VGA and HDMI, the Byte Plus can support two displays at the same time. Impressive, considering just a few years ago some graphics cards had a tough time on dual screens. I ended up using one screen at 1080p and then swapped over to using TightVLC to remote into the Byte Plus.
There is full USB mouse and keyboard support, however, I opted to use the Bluetooth method to connect a keyboard with a built-in trackpad. What I noticed from this is that the Bluetooth signal was somewhat weak. As I got farther away, but still maintaining a line of sight, the mouse would stutter.
In terms of Windows operation, there wasn’t much to say. I found it to be universally okay with settings, Windows apps, and programs opening in a timely manner. The only Windows problem I ran into was when TightVLC would crash and not allow me to connect to the Byte Plus remotely.
Resource management was adequate with programs getting what they needed and I did my best to give the Byte Plus a light working load by not having a bunch of open internet tabs at once.
For power, the Byte Plus uses a tiny 12V power adapter and has an okay length on the power cable. Regardless of the cable length, it sure does make it very easy to travel with and it’s easy going on your power bill as well.
One last comment to make is that when then Byte Plus arrived, there was a sticker on the top of the unit. This sticker warned that the unit may get hot after use and to be careful when touching the Byte Plus. The meaning of the sticker was fine, but when peeling away the sticker it left traces and glue in its place. See the image below of what I mean and hopefully, this is fixed for the future. I had to use plastic tools as well as rubbing alcohol to remove it.
My Final Thoughts
For $179.99 the Byte Plus makes for an excellent casual personal computer. It does what the Chromebook does best and gives you access to the internet without costing a fortune. I see the Byte Plus being used for children who want to be on a computer or for those who solely browse the internet. While the lack of any gaming is disappointing, it does everything else smoothly and efficiently that I can forgive the “play” claim.
Including Windows 10 64bit and running Office 2016 makes it so you can get along during the day and still get everything done. Apart from the low hard drive storage, I couldn’t find any major complaints about the Byte Plus and would recommend it to anybody who seeks something small, yet powerful enough to get their tasks done.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
Tagged Amazon, Azulle, Byte, computer, Deskto, Fanless, Micro, Mini, PC, Plus, review, Windows.