We have yet another mini PC slash TV box review for you and this time it’s the Ainol Mini PC we’ve got our hands on. Ainol once have been a big number on the Chinese tablet market but eventually missed some important inventions and completely disappeared from the market for more than a year. With their first mini PC they entered the market again this year and tried to do something completely new. The actually combined the concept of a power bank with a slim mini PC in one device, and the Ainol Mini PC is the result of that “marriage”.
Ainol Mini PC Review: Unboxing, Design & Build
Since Ainol have lots of experience and are a rather big company they obviously haven’t been satisfied with ugly standard boxes you see most Chinese electronic products being packaged in yet took care about the appearance of their product since that is an important part when building your initial impression about any device. They went for a nice-looking matte-black box this time, which shows the Ainol Mini PC from every side on its front along the Ainol logo and the obligatory “Intel Inside” logo. The rear contains some information about the manufacturer, a QR code to their website and some certification signs, CE and FCC being among them. Inside Ainol place the mini PC, a quality gold-plated HDMI cable to connect the device to your monitor or TV, a power supply and a quick start guide.
The Ainol Mini PC itself left a very positive first impression with us as well. It’s almost entirely made from thick, non-bendable black aluminum with the only exception to this being the front and rear panels which house the mini PCs ports and slots. The device is very well made and looks really nice, being perfectly suitable for living-room use right next to your television. At only 14.5mm it is very thin and the remaining dimensions of 150 x 114mm are pretty slim as well. The weight is pretty high at 351g though. The front of the mini PC features 2 USB 2.0 host ports, a status LED and the on / off switch. The rear offers an OTG port, a micro SD card reader, a mini HDMI port and a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as the DC-in port. Rather strange are the left and right sides which at the first look feature cooling vents, but those are actually just printed on there. Cooling isn’t much of an issue though, but more about that later.
Ainol Mini PC Review: Hardware
The Ainol Mini PC, like most of its competitors, is based on x86 tablet hardware. This means we have an Intel SoC going on there, which is the Intel Atom Z3735F. This chipset offers four cores with a base-clock of 1.33GHz and can go up to 1.86GHz in turbo-boost mode. This chipset is combined with the usual 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 32GB of EMMC memory.
Those specs enable the Ainol Mini PC to reach an operational speed that absolutely satisfying for tasks like office work, surfing the internet or using the device as a media center PC. Games and demanding applications like Photoshop and video editing software quickly max the SoC out however, so don’t expect to do seriously editing work on this little machine.
Those of you who want to use the Ainol Mini PC as a media box probably wonder how well it performs in terms of media playback. Well, we tested quite a lot of formats and got the following results using Kodi (formerly XBMC):
- 720p50 H.264 = Smooth
- 720p Hi10p = Framedrops
- 720p RMVB = Not working
- 1080p30 H.264 = Smooth
- 1080p hohe Bitrate H.264 = Smooth
- 1080p60 H.264 = Smooth
- 1080i50 H.264 = Smooth
- 1080p HEVC = Not working
- 1080p VP8 = Framedrops
- 1080p Hi10p = Framedrops
- 1080p Mpeg2 = Smooth
- 1080p VC1 = Smooth
- 4k H.264 = Smooth
- 1080p SBS 3D H.264 = Smooth
- 1080p ABL 3D H.264 = Smooth
Ainol Mini PC Review: Software
The Ainol Mini PC comes with a legal and fully activated copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing which by the way is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 which will be released on July 29. It also comes with a free 1-year Office 365 personal subscription, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, One Note and Outlook as well as free 1TB OneDrive storage.
The operating system doesn’t come with any pre-installed bloatware and thus is naked like Microsoft wanted it to be. For you this means that you get plenty of free memory with the Ainol Mini PC which is about 25GB. In case that isn’t enough for all your files you can of course use micro SD cards of any size to expand the memory.
In case you wanna use the Ainol Mini PC inside your living room you should make sure to get some air-mouse since using a standard mouse and keyboard is kinda complicated on the couch. For this purpose we got the Mele F10 Deluxe (priced at $25 at GearBest), which is working very well. We never had to hook-up a real mouse or keyboard onto the mini PC since the F10 Deluxe was instantly recognized and operational to set everything up. Stay tuned for a dedicated review of the Mele F10 Deluxe.
Ainol Mini PC Review: Heat & Energy Consumption
If you remember back our review about the Pipo X7S you will know that this one had some issues getting rid of the SoCs heat, which caused it to clock down fairly quickly resulting in a reduced performance. After this experience we had certain doubts about how well the cooling inside the thin Ainol Mini PC would work out, but those worries came out to be pointless.
It seems like Ainol use the aluminum body to cool the device since the body becomes hot very fast yet the SoC stay comparably cool all the time. We never exceeded temperatures of 65°C which is perfectly normal and allows the SoC to turbo-boost to 1.86GHz at any time.
In our set-up we decided to let the Ainol Mini PC run as an “always-on” device which means that we never shut it down during the review period of more than two weeks. One thing that made us do that is the low power consumption. We measured a maximum of 1 – 2 watts in idle mode, and 8 – 9 watts under 100% CPU load. Watching HD videos consumes about 5 watts. We didn’t experience any crashes to date.
Ainol Mini PC Review: Network Connection
As long as you don’t have any OTG Ethernet adaptor available you will need to live with Bluetooth 4.0 and 54mbps Wi-Fi connections only. Unfortunately we have been a little disappointed with the Ainol Mini PC’s Wi-Fi performance. It’s not unusably bad, but significantly behind for example the Pipo X7S. This is caused by all the metal around the device and the mini PC not offering an external Wi-Fi antenna like the Pipo X7S does. Essentially this means that you might face issues connecting to routers that are one floor above you. You might want to use a repeater or some USB Ethernet solution in this case.
Ainol Mini PC Review: Battery & Power Bank
One of the key features the Ainol Mini PC has to offer is its integrated battery. The cell offers 7,000mAh, which is true going after the time this battery enables the mini PC to run independently from a power socket. We got about 6 – 10 hours out of it depending on which applications have been running. Believe it or not but a TV box / mini PC being able to run independent from a power socket is a very handy thing to have. Imagine watching a movie on the TV and members of your family wanna take over. Simply let them do and carry the mini PC to another monitor and continue watching, all without any reboot. Also in case you use the mini PC for work you can always carry it around without the need to reboot it.
Unfortunately we have to say that the device is anything but a power bank. Ainol really should stop promoting this since this feature simply doesn’t exist. The USB ports don’t offer any power output if the PC is shut down, which doesn’t make sense at all. Also, they can’t deliver more than 500mAh of current, which is by far not enough to charge any phone in a reasonable time. Thumbs down for that!
Ainol Mini PC Review: Verdict
The Ainol Mini PC promises to be a power bank and a mini PC but in reality just is a mini PC that is able to run independently from a power socket thanks to its integrated battery. It’s space saving, silent and stays cool. Perfect for both the office and the living room. Since the Ainol Mini PC is priced at only $98 we don’t have to think for a long time to give you a full purchase recommendation despite the non-existing power-bank feature. The overall package you get there is definitely worth a closer look and this device for sure is one of the better-looking mini PCs out there.
Thanks to GearBest for shipping the Ainol Mini PC to us.