A tiny desktop PC

On the one hand...
By Harold Glicken

 

I have mixed feeling about the Nexbox mini PC.

On the one hand, for a desktop PC, it’s tiny: 5-by-5-by-1.3 inches, small enough to fit easily into a briefcase. It’s light, too – about two pounds.

 

Despite its small size, it comes with 4 gigabytes of RAM, a 64-gig hard drive (expandable with a micro-SD card and even an attachable hard drive).  It comes with Windows 10, has four USB ports, one of which is a high-speed USB 3.0. There also are an HDMI port (a  short cable is included), bluetooth and a VGA port. Both the HDMI and VGA ports are designed for attaching the Nexbox to a monitor or TV, and therein lies the other hand.

 

The  $183 PC has to be connected either to a TV or a computer monitor. If  you don’t have a monitor handy, like when you’re traveling, you’re out of luck. If you do have access to a monitor, you still have to carry the HDMI or VGA cable with you. You don’t have to carry a TV with you, however.

 

My full-size desktop monitor is connected to the PC with an HDMI cable, so I simply disconnected one end from the computer and attached it to the Nexbox. The picture quality on my high-end monitor was quite good.

You also have to carry either a bluetooth keyboard and mouse or ones than plug  into the USB ports. My bluetooth keyboard did not pair with the Nexbox, so I had to use one that attached to the box via USB.

The box has a quad-core Atom processor. It’s not very fast for much more than word processing and Internet. It has only the slower 2.4G wifi capability in a world where 5G is standard on most PCs. The 2.4G wifi makes loading web pages a bit slow, a deal-breaker in itself.

The best part of the device is it will handle a 2.5-inch extra hard drive, and USB drives can be added, too. But one screw on the bottom plate of the Nexbox wouldn’t move. Figure that the extra drive and plate that holds it in would add at least another pound. It would be bulkier, too.

Than I did the math:

Nexbox -- $183 (on Amazon)
Portable bluetooth keyboard and mouse -- $35
64-gig MicroSD card -- $40
Extra hard drive -- $60
VGA cable, if you need one for the monitor -- $8

Or, about $300, and that doesn’t include a monitor. Using a TV would make that expense go away. A basic monitor costs at least $100 from Dell or HP. Then there’s the weight. With the box, attached extra hard drive, keyboard, mouse and cables, you’re on the serious side of 5 pounds. That puts it in the league of chrome books and basic laptops. A very basic laptop costs about $250 or less, while a chromebook, which the box most closely resembles, comes in at less than $200. Naturally, a laptop or chromebook already come with a built-in keyboard and a monitor. If you’re a Mac person, Apple’s Mini, which is similar in size to the Nexbox, comes with a 500-gig hard drive and a much faster processor for $500.

There are cheaper and smaller devices that compare to the features the Nexbox has; they start at less than $100 for a device that looks like an oversize thumb drive, and there are several in the Nexbox price range. I didn’t try any of the others.

So, what to do nex ? I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse, especially given the slow wifi speed and the extra peripherals I’d have to take with me on the road. It will either end up in my “why’d I buy this?” box, or it will be returned.

If you’re looking for a small, portable PC, get a chromebook or a laptop; if you like gadgets – and the Nexbox fits my definition of a gadget – something I can live without – you’ll love the Nexbox.

The Nexbox is a fully equipped mini PC

On the one hand...
By Harold Glicken

 

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