Z83-II Mini-PC (Quad core 8350)

Another departure from the ESP8266, but for something that ESP8266-hackers might find interesting.

Update Mar 12th 2020  —  The most recent deals that I’ve found on Intel-based mini-pc boxes are here.

Update Aug 23rd 2019 —  Tanix (the TV-box maker) has just started selling its own version of the 4GB/64GB Z8350, designating it the “TX85”.  With both HDMI and VGA connectors and what seems to be an improved ventilation system, it has started showing up on most of the common techie retail sites.  I just bought two from the Shenzhen BoxKing Technology Company for $87 each, plus shipping.  The seller took a few days to mark them as shipped, but they arrived just four days after that.

Update Aug 6th 2019 —  As Z8350 afficionados will know, the “Z85” version of this popular little box is generally regarded as the “big brother” of the version described in the body of this article, as it comes with an added VGA port and (usually) 4GB of RAM and a 64GB eMMC.  Well you can currently get the Z85 from this seller on Aliexpress in the 2GB/32GB configuration (definitely –not– recommended for Windows 10) for just $78.16 including free shipping (or $86.19 for the 4GB/64GB version).

Update June 22nd 2019 —  !!EUROPE ONLY!! —  A very similar box (Z8350 but with 4GB/64GB and VGA/HDMI video connectors) is now selling for €65.99 (~$74) at Cdiscount (France).   If you’re not in Europe and don’t have a plug-adapter to hand, you can still get an updated 64GB eMMC version with dual video outputs (one VGA, one HDMI) for $99.99 (plus shipping). 

Update #2 June 22nd 2019  —  If you’re interested, a Celeron J3160 system (that’s the Z8350’s big brother) is currently on sale, too.

Update May 22nd 2019  —  !!EUROPE ONLY!!  —  …and if you’re interested in a laptop (admittedly, not a very good one) based on this same quad-core chip, CDiscount currently have another one of their insanely cheap offers on the “Yepo” version of the T-Bao R8 (which I played with a while back:-  I-Initial_Impressions  II-Installing_Linux).  Again, available only to residents of the countries listed above, but for a mere €67.80 (about $76).

P.S. – Change your GearBest password now!.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been ditching most of the big, ugly, power-hungry desk-top and server machines which used to run my mighty empire (aka “the house”) and replacing them with machines that are a lot smaller and a great deal less power-hungry.  I’ve got a few SBCs of various sorts; all ARM based, mostly multi-core and almost all still shamefully naked and gathering dust, even though they’re alive and kicking and running various essential services on our home network.  In addition to the lack of a case, almost all of them have other drawbacks of some sort (not well supported by the operating systems which I prefer to run, missing critical hardware, etc), so I keep looking for the perfect mini system.

I thought I’d found it a while back when I splashed out on a SolidRun CuBox-i4.  It’s small (very small, in fact), has a quad-core processor, 2GB of memory, GbE, USB ports, HDMI and (a major plus) comes in a diddy little black-plastic case.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a major pain in the proverbial trying to install and run a reasonable operating system and lots of hoops needed to be jumped through (in the correct order) to even start the OS installation.  It has been running FreeBSD for quite some time now, but it suffers greatly from the lack of a real-time-clock (and unlike a Raspberry-Pi, for instance, it’s not easy to add one), has limited USB functionality and tends to fall over in a messy heap at reboots if the moon happens to be full or the wind is coming from the east.

So the quest goes on for a truly great (cheap) mini system and, right in the middle of the purple Thursday (or was it cerise Saturday?) sales, I found a new system on GearBest that seemed too good to miss.  Because it was on sale, it was a few dollars more expensive than normal (???) , but it was still a pretty good price, given the specs.

ZX83-II Z8350-based mini-pc

It’s an Intel quad-core Atom X5-Z8350 based system, with 2GB of main memory and 32GB of eMMC.  It has GbE, two USB-2.0 ports and one USB-3.0 port.  There’s also an SD-card slot and an HDMI video connector.  For those who care (and I don’t), it also comes pre-loaded with Windows-10 (don’t ask me for more details on what specific version, because I don’t know).  It’s a 64-bit system (but read on for the limitation on that) and it also comes with built in Bluetooth and a/b/g/n/ac WiFi (neither of which I’ve used).  More importantly for me, it’s also a fanless system.  It is advertised as coming with an “English User Manual”, but you can save yourself a few seconds of “I don’t believe this crap!” frustration by throwing said “manual” straight into the bin; there is nothing in it which is even remotely useful.  It does come with a fairly substantial looking mounting bracket (to attach it to a monitor, or wall) and two HDMI cables — one short and one long(er).  A power adapter is also included (but you need to make sure that you order the correct version for your particular country).  The shipping box is also very sturdy and should hold up well if a passing elephant accidentally treads on it.

I would have been quite happy to boot into some sensible operating system and immediately wipe Windows from the disk (eMMC), but it was not to be.  The one, big gotcha with this system is the BIOS.  At first glance, the BIOS menus are very sparse indeed and you’re not going to get very far at all with this system unless you know the magic incantations (it may also help to have a spare chicken to sacrifice …I haven’t actually tried this yet, though).  I did get through quite a few blank CDs and DVDs while trying to get various distributions to boot from a USB-connected DVD.  No matter what I did though, the dang machine just kept on booting into Windows (which was quite disconcerting at first, as I couldn’t see how to shut it down).  Some ‘net searches turned up suggestions for adding BIOS passwords (there are two in the version of BIOS which my machine has) to trigger extra BIOS menu items — Nope, doesn’t work.  You can forget that.  There was also one quite long diversion where some folks (seemingly correctly) noted that some functions which affect BIOS start-up are only available from within Windows, despite how stupidly chicken-and-egg-ish this seems to be (for those who want to try it, you need to select the shutdown function from the start menu and then hold down the shift key while selecting “shutdown”.  This will bring up a whole scad of extra menus which will change the UEFI boot settings …and then it will just merrily boot straight back up into Windows again).

It turns out that the UEFI boot  (which stands for “Unified ‘Effing Firmware Interface”, by the way) is the key to all of this.  It’s a versatile system which is replacing the outmoded BIOS of years gone by with an updated and secure method of booting you into Windows …and booting you into Windows …and booting you into Windows (you get the picture), no matter what you actually want to do.   On some systems (and yes, the Z83-II is one of them) it has the added twist of limiting a 64-bit system to booting from 32-bit code (you’d better go back and read that sentence again …I wrote it and I still can’t quite grok  it!).  For some reason (lost in the mists of Redmont),  Windows was/is limited to booting from 32-bit bootloaders, so because everyone-and-his-dog only ever runs Windows, some machines (like the 64-bit, Z83-II) have a UEFI which will –only– handle 32-bit bootloaders.  Now before you start jumping up and down with your hand in  the air shouting “Teacher!  Teacher! I know!  Just  run a 32-bit OS!” you should also note that, because UEFI is new-ish and 32-bit systems are just so last decade, very, very few 32-bit distributions of any sort actually have any UEFI boot capability bundled into them at all.

I know the mantra is “never give up!”, but by this stage my fingers were twitching and the old grey-matter was sending signals to my hand to grab hold of that handy, 3kg lump-hammer and send the Z83-II and its UEFI back to meet its maker in very, very small pieces.  It was only the nagging annoyance of those extra couple of dollars for the maroon Monday “sale” price that held my arm in check.

By this point I’d read so many posts and articles on the UEFI and booting systems that I’d actually stumbled across one piece of related (and essential) information which actually worked with the Z83-II.  I’d discovered already that hitting ESC during initial, power-on boot would bring up the BIOS menu, but in a couple of posts related to other mini-pc systems people mentioned that F7 would bring up the boot-device selection menu.  It worked, too.  Not only did I get a device menu (what the system had detected at boot up, rather than the BIOS preferred-device list), but it also gave a tiny bit of extra information about what the system thought it had detected on each particular device.  For the most part, to begin with anyway, that information was limited to “Windows boot manager” on the eMMC device.  This turned out to useful, though.  It quickly became apparent that having a DVD in the drive with something that the BIOS (and, presumably the UEFI) could read would result in that entry in the menu changing to give the maker’s name and model, instead of just a vanilla “USB CD/DVD” entry.  Unfortunately, very few of those DVDs would boot successfully, but at least it meant I didn’t have to go through the tedious process of having the system boot into Windows, yet again,  if there was obviously no readable disk in the drive.

I’d read in a couple of places that the latest Debian versions (greater than 8.0) had solved this 32/64-bit problem, so I burned a couple more DVDs and tried them.  I could get the extra info in the menu, but they wouldn’t boot.  A couple of other mainstream Linux distributions were also flagged (in Distrowatch) as being fixed, but none of the ones I tried actually booted.  Then I came  across a reference to Ian Morrison’s Linuxium site.  Ian obviously spends a lot of time mucking about with set-top boxes, mini-PCs and PC-sticks and has done a ton of work to get Linux booting on those devices.  He has also modded some mainstream distributions to boot on these infamous 32-cum-64 bit devices.  Ian’s modified Ubuntu 16.10 was the first thing that successfully booted on the Z83-II and proved that it could successfully boot and run something other than the dreaded “W” (thanks Ian!).  If you’re looking for a stable Linux distribution you could do a lot worse than to mosey on over to Ian’s page and check out his offerings.

Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel.  The Windows reboot cycle was broken.  I went off to see what I had to do to get OpenBSD or FreeBSD onto the system.  I didn’t have to look very far.  In another one of those “Duh!” moments, it turned out that OpenBSD had also introduced the 32/64 UEFI fix and the latest snapshot (booted from a USB thumb drive this time) not only installed, but also automatically created a dedicated UEFI “i” partition and populated it with the required boot files.  Not only that, but the BIOS now “knew” about the new, bootable drive and I could easily make it the default power-on boot device.  Yay!

So, in summary …at power on, use ESC to get into the BIOS and F7 to get into the boot device selection menu and use Ian Morrison’s modified versions of Linux, or OpenBSD 6.0 or greater, to prove that you can boot and install something other than “W” on the Z83-II.

…and don’t buy anything during a turquoise Tuesday sale.

For anyone who’s interested, the output from “dmesg” (OpenBSD 6.0) for this system is available here.

FreeBSD Hint  —  If you’re trying to boot FreeBSD on one of these boxes and experience a hang at (or very shortly after) the point where the kernel discovers the keyboard (atkbd0),do a reset and then select option #3 (“Escape to loader prompt”) from the FreeBSD boot menu and type in these lines:-

set hint.uart.0.disabled=1
set hint.uart.1.disabled=1

Once the system boots up, add the same fix into /boot/device.hints (without the “set”) to make it permanent:-


Update –  I wrote this original article just a few days before Christmas in 2016.  It’s now mid April 2017 and this little system has been running flawlessly for four months.  I have to say that I really like it.  It chugs along running as primary for all of the main services on our home network (DNS, DHCP, NTP, BOOT, Mosquitto, syslog, etc) and also works as the back-up hub for all of our other machines.  The smaller, single-core machines on the network send their uncompressed dump files over the network and this machine pipes the data through the “xz” compressor (running on two of the four cores) before storing it to disk (the multi-core systems compress their data before sending it).  The dump disks are on the USB3 bus and the throughput with the GbE network is a big improvement over USB2 and 10/100.  The killer months are yet to come, though.  This is a fanless system and, over the last four winter months it has been just mildly warm.  It remains to be seen how it will  deal with a hot, humid Japanese summer.  I’ll be sure to let you know, either way.

Update – Sept 2017 –   Well, we’re “over the hump” of the blazingly hot and steamily humid summer weather and this little system has just chugged along, right through the worst of it.  I also threw some fairly heavy-duty, very large (hundreds of gigs) compression jobs at it during the height of August and monitored the CPU temperatures fairly closely (this wasn’t any sort of benchmark; it was work that needed to be done and I was quite worried that this fanless system might shut itself down half-way through, so I was keeping a close eye on it).  With an ambient temperature hovering around 40C, the CPU reading never got above 82C, with the “xz” compression tasks limited to two cores (“xz  -T2”).  That’s hot, but not hot enough to melt anything.

You might also want to check out this later article on the Beelink AP35, which is a Celeron J3355 4GB/64GB system with four USB-3.0 ports and a mounting in the base of the case for a 2.5″ drive.


23 thoughts on “Z83-II Mini-PC (Quad core 8350)

  1. I am in the same boat as you as far as the quest for low power consuming always on server is concerned. I have quad core i5 3750 server (former desktop) gathering dust since it consumes 70w at idle. I had been running odroid c1 for some time for my home assistant and mail server (file server got axed) and I found it very acceptable for those uses but I really missed my file server. I used to run smart OS on beefy hardware with 4x2TB drives and all the zfs goodness. Recently I ran into ASRock j3710 mini itx board and coupled with Pico PSU it idles at 9w with one SSD. It can take 16 gigs of RAM and 4 SATA drives. I’ve been moving my setup to Ubuntu lxc containers + zfs little by little and I’m very happy with it.


    • Looks like an interesting board, Susheel. It has an impressive number of USB-3.0 ports to complement the SATA connectors, too (just in case you run out of disk space, or want to add an external disk for back-ups). I’d be interested to know how warm that heat-sink gets. Heat dissipation is one of my concerns with the Z83-II.



    • b,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, the box I’m using is “low spec”, but that’s all I need for this use case (I’m not building out a data centre). I’m also cash-strapped and the box you point to is actually three times the price …a very important consideration. 🙂



  2. Hello,

    Thx for your review.
    Is the wlan functional out of the box ?
    I want to replace my raspberry pi by this Z83 but i need a wifi connexion.


    • Jérôme,

      I believe it will if you use one of Ian Morrison’s re-spun images. He answered positively to someone else’s request for the same thing back in May (search for “AP6234” on this page:- http://linuxiumcomau.blogspot.com/2017/05/first-look-at-ubuntu-1710-or-artful.html).

      I’m running OpenBSD and never intended to use the WiFi on this machine, so I wasn’t unduly troubled when the AP6234 wasn’t recognized by the OpenBSD kernel.

      The other machine I got more recently (based on the same, Atom X5-Z8350 architecture, the T-bao R8 15.6″ laptop) actually has a Realtek chip, so although that is running Linux it’s still no help to you.

      Bottom line…. I can’t tell you 100%, but I’m confident that one of Ian’s recent images will work for you.



      • Jérôme,

        My understanding is that the WiFi on this device will only work with Win10 (mine shipped with Win10 Home Edition). I was unhappy with Windows performance, and installed Ubuntu 16.04, but I need the device to have working WiFi. I was able to do a clean installs of Win 10 and Linux using the knowledge I acquired here regarding the BIOS/UEFI.

        Good luck to you!


  3. Hey, thanks a lot for your review!

    I’ve got a question though. Can this device boot over the network with PXE? Do you see such option on the BIOS?


    • Hi Alberto,

      I just bought one (rebranded) from Amazon, My intention is also have these booting from LTSP/PXE as thin clients… I do not have the PXE server setup yet, but inspecting the BIOS options, It appears something like “Disabled: Network Realtek Boot” as a booting option, but please note the discouraging “disabled”. Can anyone throw some light on this?….
      Anyway I will test when I have some more time.



  4. Google brought me here when searching if possible to replace the internal emmc in case of failure (or an upgrade).
    I read your review and it’s actually well structured.
    I have this same box for more than 6 months and I’m using it as a server. I have ditched W10 and installed Ubuntu server 16.04 LTS (64bit) from the day one without any issues. I’ve used a USB stick.
    I don’t know how you’ve come to the conclusion that the Box doesn’t support 64-bit OSes or that Linux distributions cannot be installed in this Box because of some UEFI limitations, but that’s not accurate.


    • Nick,

      I’m glad to hear that you had no problem installing 16.04 from scratch. With the version of the BIOS which I have it’s not quite so straightforward.

      Unfortunately, as Ian Murdoch (Linuxium.au) pointed out a while back, one of the drawbacks of the lower prices which we enjoy with the current tech boom in China is that manufacturers feel free to change components and complete board revisions (let alone the BIOS) on products without any revision or packaging changes to the device itself. In other words, although we both bought the same device, the insides could be completely different.

      The good news is that (in this case, anyway) things appear to be improving, so thanks for letting us know about your experience.


      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have the predecessor, the z8300 based Beelink z83. They provide 64 bit BIOS files that you can flash to make any modern Linux distro work out of the box. I’m surprised you dind’t find references to that on their forums. I guess the z83-II might have been too new for there to be posts about it when you purchased it.

    Recent Ubuntu 16.04 HWE kernels also seem to have enabled support for the Wifi chip finally, although I’m having issues finding the correct firmware file needed. I run it as a headless server connected via ethernet though and for that it’s been running flawlessly since I bought it.


    • Björn,

      Many thanks for that info; hopefully it will help out some of our readers. I did make several forays into the Beelink pages (even though my Z83-II isn’t Beelink branded, the similarities were obvious) and got a lot of useful pointers there, but don’t recall seeing any links to a BIOS update back then, unfortunately.

      The WiFi support will be good news for a lot of people. Like you, my use case was for an ethernet connected server, so I wasn’t unduly bothered whether the WiFi was functional or not, but it seems to be a fairly common question from visitors to this page, so thanks again for that.



  6. Hello,

    I installed Ubuntu-Mate 16.04 on this machine. (Z8350-II)

    The GBEthernet and the USB3.0 port are slow. Maximum ist 30 GB/sec.

    On other PCs I get a rate of 90 MB/sec with the same USB-HDD.

    So it is to slow for me.

    MFG JH


  7. Thank you so much for writing this! I ordered one of these from Amazon and the numpties didn’t give the OEM password. Absolutely anything that was useful such as running the initial setup facility that was meant to boot out OEM and create a user account, sudo, everything required the oem password!

    I spent hours trying to find the KODLIX password, their forums were useless, google brought up nothing, I couldn’t find how to crack this problem. Essentially the box was a brick. Booted ubuntu beautifully but was locked into oem mode permanently.

    I also couldn’t find how to get into the BIOS because all the google help out there said F10 or F7.

    Finally, I found your post here and suddenly bingo! I was in the BIOS in seconds and Kubuntu is presently hoofing out the Ubuntu that they installed and screwed up.

    Happy days.

    Really, a big shout out to you.


    • Bradley,

      Many thanks for posting. It’s great to hear that the article helped.

      I didn’t know that anyone was shipping these pre-installed with Linux, so that’s another bit of good news (or it would be, if it was accessible). Do you have a link you could share for that version? I couldn’t find it on a quick check of amazon.com this morning.

      My original unit is still chugging away faultlessly, by the way. It was definitely a worthwhile purchase.

      Best wishes,



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