Chuwi Larkbox 4k : test / reviewCategory: Crowdfuning
[b][b]Chuwi is a Chinese manufacturer that has been mainly producing tablets and laptops for a few years. Chuwi has decided to use crowdfunding for its new product: the Larkbox 4k.[b][b]I regularly buy products through crowdfunding and always think before buying because crowdfunding always involves risks. The risk for the Larkbox was very low because Chuwi is an existing company that can largely afford to produce the Larkbox without crowdfunding, they probably tried to use crowdfunding for the visibility that this kind of project can offer but I'm sure they could have done it without Indiegogo.[b][b]I was among the first 500 to buy it and more than 7000 people have joined the fundraising campaign since the launch, it is very likely that Chuwi raises more than $800 000 and offers bonuses to the participants.[b][b]CAMPAIGN RISK LEVEL: LOW[b][b][b]What is Larkbox? [b][b]The Larkbox is a small computer that fits in the palm of your hand. Chuwi was clearly not the first to launch this kind of initiative but with crowdfunding, they offer a complete mini pc for only 130€. To find an equivalent configuration on Amazon today, you have to count more than 200€. So it's not a revolution from a technological point of view, it's mainly the price and the small size that interested me.[b][b]Here is a video presentation produced by Chuwi:[b][b][b]
Possibilities[b]The Larkbox is mainly intended for office and multimedia use, it is not designed for gaming. The configuration should allow you to use it for common tasks under Windows or Linux, you should also be able to watch movies in 4k.[b][b]
Time line [b]23/06/20: I bought the Larkbox on Indiegogo for +/- 130€.[b]02/08/20: the campaign is close to 800 000€, Chuwi will offer a wireless keyboard as a bonus[b]04/09/20: I received the Larkbox[b][b]
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Unpacking[b][b]One of the selling points of the mini pc Chuwi Larkbox is its size, so I was surprised to receive a big box. The box contains obviously the Larkbox which occupies a very small place in the box, a big part of the packing is intended to protect the computer. In the box, we find the Larkbox, a power cable (in USB-C) and a support to attach the Larkbox to the back of a screen. As I bought this product on Indiegogo I got a bonus, I also received a USB charging station.[b][b][b][b]
Size/size/format[b][b]Chuwi's promise was to deliver a mini PC that fits in the palm of your hand. Even if the format is a bit peculiar, they took up the challenge because the case is barely higher than a Lego character. Mini PCs often use a flatter and wider format to accommodate a motherboard, Chuwi made another choice and stacked the different components of his PC to create a mini tower with reduced dimensions. The tower measures 4cm in height, 6cm in width and length. The complete case weighs 127 grams.[b][b]Even if the design is a little bit particular, I think it's quite successful. There is a power button on the front, on the back there is an HDMI output, 2 USB outputs and the connector for the power supply. On one side there is a headphone jack and a micro SD card reader. The case is cooled by a fan that ejects hot air from the front and top.[b][b][b][b]I opened the case to see how it was assembled. It is possible to detach two floors of the tower, you can add an SSD hard drive in M2 format. The box is equipped with a basic capacity of 128 Gb in eMMC format.[b][b]
Technical Specifications[b]I'm not going to flood you with technical details here, I'm going to focus on 4 elements: the processor, the graphics chipset, the memory and the storage.[b][b][b]CPU[b][b]The CPU defines the performance of a computer and more specifically its ability to execute tasks more or less quickly. The CPU is involved in just about everything, so it is important that it provides sufficient performance so that the computer is not too slow to use. The Larkbox is equipped with an Intel Celeron J4115 processor. If you don't know anything about CPUs, it doesn't matter, just be aware that Celeron CPUs are not performance machines. The Larkbox is designed for office and multimedia use (ex: playing videos), this Celeron is sufficient for this kind of use but don't expect more.[b][b][b]GPU[b][b]The GPU (graphic chipset) takes care of the display and calculation necessary to display images on your screen. The Larkbox is equipped with an Intel HD 600 graphics chipset. As for the CPU, this type of chipset is not designed to deliver high performance but again this was not the goal of Chuwi. With this chipset you will be able to display images/videos in 4k. This should allow you to play all kinds of videos, I'll see if it's really able to play 4k in a fluid way because if the performance is not enough, the image will be jerky.[b][b][b]Memory[b][b]If you don't know anything about the world of computers, you should know that there are two types of memory, there is the random access memory which is usable as soon as the computer is turned on and there is the storage memory which continues to exist once the computer is turned off. The Larkbox has 6Gb of random access memory (also called RAM memory) which allows you to launch programs, store them in memory and switch from one program to another without too much difficulty. With 6Gb, Windows 10 can work but you won't be able to run too many greedy programs at the same time.[b][b][b]Storage[b][b]To store Windows and your files, the Larkbox offers a 128Gb storage memory. If you do not store large files such as movies, this storage space should be sufficient for office/multimedia use. If you want more storage, you will need to use an extra memory card (you can insert one on the side) or add an SSD hard drive (inside). The latter possibility offers better performance and more storage capacity.[b][b]The Larkbox is not a machine designed to break performance records, it is aimed at a public that does not want to be burdened with a computer that takes up space and is satisfied with office and multimedia use. [b][b]
Performance[b]I used Passmark's software to measure the performance of the Larkbox. There are a lot of software to measure the performance, I chose this one because it provides generic benchmarks while many of those tools are benchmarking the gaming experience. The software tests the CPU/GPU performance of the processor, memory and storage. I've added the results produced by this software below:[b][b][b][b]The performance test confirms what I was saying in the previous paragraph, it is a machine designed for office and multimedia tasks.[b][b]Here is a summary of the performances:[b]- memory (among the 3% slowest)[b]- graphics chipset (among the 14% slowest for 3D and 10% for 2D)[b]- storage (among the slowest 19%)[b]- processor (among the 12% slowest)[b]We see here that the weak point is the performance of the memory, which is far behind the other components. This means that the programs stored in the RAM will not react quickly, the trick is to see if this will cause a problem in use. The storage memory seems quite powerful if I compare it to the other components of the Larkbox.[b][b]
Cooling[b]A computer needs to be cooled to avoid damage when it is used intensively. Cooling can be done in several ways but the most common way is to use a fan inside the tower that will blow the hot air out. The Larkbox uses a fan that exhausts the heat through two grids (one above and one in front). When you use the Larkbox (even without forcing it) you go quickly between the fan because it is noisy. It obviously doesn't make as much noise as a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer but it does make itself heard.[b][b]I placed a thermometer at the exit of the grills and measured a temperature between 30 and 40°C just outside the box when the machine is running at full speed. That's a lot for a small machine of this type and if the tower is close to your keyboard, you will feel a little warm wind on your hands. There's nothing dramatic about that, you're not going to get burned, it's better to place the tower on the side so you don't feel anything.[b][b][b]
Larkbox test[b]I need now some time to test the Larkbox and see how it behaves, I will update this test progressively. [b][b][b]Office tasks[b][b]I used the Larkbox for common tasks like word processing, surfing the internet with Chrome, watching some videos on YouTube. On the whole the Larkbox works very well, you just have to be aware of the limits because if you open 20 windows with Chrome and start playing several videos, the machine will inevitably slow down but for a normal office/multimedia use, the Larkbox perfectly meets the expectations.[b][b][b]Video[b][b]The Larkbox can play videos in 1080p and some videos in 4k without any problem provided that the file is local and that it is correctly compressed. If you are playing a remote file (e.g. from a NAS) that occupies 50 Gb, you will have some interruptions for caching but for normal use, the Larkbox will work fine.[b][b][b]Sound[b][b]The sound is of good quality, it is not different from what I can get with my normal pc.[b][b][b]Speed[b][b]I was positively amazed by the smoothness of the Larkbox on a daily basis. It is not a competition machine and yet it does not present any problem of slowness for a normal daily use.[b][b][b]Performance wifi[b][b]To test the wifi I simply used the Ookla Speedtest and got the following result:[b][b]I have a 400 Mbps line but with wifi I always have a lower speed and where the Larkbox is, this kind of performance is pretty good. I got 180 Mbps and with this kind of speed you can stream without any problem.[b][b][b]Hard disk speed[b][b]The Larkbox is equipped with an eMMC disk and this type of disk offers superior performance to traditional hard disk drives. I tested the read and write speed of the disk and I got the following result:[b][b]The speed is not extraordinary, I get a much better performance with an external USB3 SSD on my main pc. The result is above a traditional hard disk but still far below a good SSD. It doesn't affect too much the daily use of the computer but the effect will be more visible when you are going to access or transfer large files.[b][b][b]Gaming performance[b][b]I gave the Larkbox to my 7 year old son (in 2020) and I installed him some games from my Steam library. The games requiring a lot of graphic calculation (3D games) will have to be configured with a lower resolution (ex: 720p) because in 1080p, the Larkbox is too slow. For most other games such as platform games for example, the Larkbox offers an acceptable experience.[b][b]The Larkbox is able to run Minecraft (Windows Edition) without too many problems but it is clear that the machine suffers because the ventilation is running at maximum at all times, this ventilation is quite noisy and the pc is very hot. I think I will add an external fan to avoid this overheating problem. So the Larkbox is able to run games but this computer is not designed to play for hours because in case of overheating the machine will shut down. [b][b]
Conclusion/Final review[b]The Larkbox is a mini pc as there are others, it is especially in its compact format that this mini pc distinguishes itself from the others. I insist on the fact that it is a mini pc because it also means that the performances will not be extraordinary, this machine is not conceived to play, it is conceived for a daily use of office/multimedia tasks. If your use of a computer is limited to surfing the web, watching videos, spending time on Facebook or that kind of thing, the Larkbox should suit you. If you have a higher power consumption profile (e.g. 3D games), you will probably be able to use the Larkbox while playing in low resolution, but this will come at the cost of overheating or more fan noise.[b][b]So my conclusion is quite "logical" because this mini pc does what it is designed for and as soon as you get out of this frame, you reach the limits of the machine. Keep in mind that this is a complete system (with Windows!) that costs less than 200€. [b][b][b][b]