Long term readers will know that I occasionally wander off subject (the ESP8266 and related hardware and software) by quite a way, but usually within the bounds of the more general subject of “technology”. One of the consistently popular pages on the site over the past couple of years has been the story of the tiny Z8350 fanless system which I bought a while ago to replace a power-hungry infrastructure server on my home network. Despite a very rocky start, that little machine turned out to be one of my better buys in recent years and has encouraged me to try some of the other, low-cost systems appearing on the market (mostly with a lot less success than the original Z83).
Anyway, in the course of these experiments, I’ve been finding new outlets and even better deals on more of these “mini PCs” (as they have come to be called) and have been updating the original Z83 page with these odd bargains, as I find them. For instance:-
Update May 6th 2019 — !!EUROPE ONLY!! — A very similar box (Z8350 but with 4GB/64GB and VGA/HDMI video connectors) is now selling for €69.99 (~$78) 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).
(The first one has recently dropped to €65.99, or about $74 US).
Update July 13th 2019 — !!EUROPE ONLY!! — …and the cheapest yet, 4GB/64GB with HDMI and VGA for just €47.95 (about $54) from CDiscount. Read the small print carefully!
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).
I’ve become fascinated recently by the emergence of even more capable systems in roughly the same price range, which are more substantially built (usually with aluminium cases with integrated heat sinks) and slightly more powerful processors. They’re still not the sort of machine where you’d run a company database or even use for serious gaming, but they are solid little workhorses which, importantly, just sip power and are eminently suitable for 24/7 operations.
One of the common processors used to power these systems is the Celeron J3160, a stablemate of the Atom Z8350 used in the mini-PC systems referenced above. Both were introduced at the same time and have remarkably similar specs, with the J3160 having very slightly better general performance, better memory bus throughput and an improved on-board GPU. Because these chips are no longer leading-edge, the systems using them are now going for very reasonable, or sometimes even “bargain basement” prices. Here’s the best bargain I’ve come across this week (so far):-
The VENOEN store on AliExpress is currently offering a J3160 based, barebones system with dual (Realtek) GbE ports, dual HDMI ports, a single RS232 COM port, one internal mini PCI-E (mSATA) slot, one internal mini half-height PCI-E, one internal DDR3L SIMM slot, two USB-3.0 ports and four USB-2.0 ports — for $96.11. There’s also a normal SATA connector on the motherboard and (apparently) space in the case for a 2.5″ drive (although in a fanless system, it would make sense to limit that to an SSD).
To select the J3160 model at that price, click on “No RAM, No HD, No WiFi” and “2-LAN, 1-COM, J3160” (careful, there’s an “N3160” button right next to it). Shipping is free (for my geographical region, anyway).
Update June 25th 2019 — !!EUROPE ONLY!! — Another one of those deals for people in central Europe, available from CDiscount.com. This is a bare-bones J3160 system from Hystou which comes (as far as I can tell) in a plastic case, with no external heat sink. It is advertised as fanless and otherwise looks pretty much identical to the system above (although it is rather difficult to confirm, because of the lack of specs on the CDiscount page). It is currently on sale at €69.99 (about $78.50).
† — Disclaimer #1 – I don’t own either of these specific models, but I do have a couple of very similar, fanless J3160 systems (review coming soon).
‡ — Disclaimer #2 – I have never used this specific AliExpress store, or CDiscount, so there is no implied recommendation for either seller.
£ — Disclaimer #3 – This blog is not monetized in any way. I do not receive free products to review nor do I get any recompense for “clicks”. Any products reviewed here are purchased at my own expense and you will find (honest and sometime unflattering) comments on the performance of the suppliers in the reviews.