As PC chips have grown more powerful, something even more exciting is taking place: smaller hardware is affordable. The idea of getting a moderately powerful PC that fits in the palm of your hand for a bit over $100 seemed crazy just a few years ago, but now, they’re out there, and they’re solid.
Chuwi is throwing its name into the mini PC space with its HiBox Hero. It’s quite reasonably priced, coming with a $130 price tag from GearBest. For a powerful PC that runs both Android 5.1 and Windows 10, it’s definitely cheaper than you’d expect.
Many of the most popular mini PC models come in the stick form factor. The Intel Compute Stick (our thoughts on it ) is generally regarded as the king of the sticks, and it comes with a $130 price tag. In the larger mini PC space, the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is generally considered the best, and its comparable model comes with a $169 price. It also only has Windows 10, while Chuwi’s offering has both Windows 10 and Android.
Does having both OSes make this a must-buy mini computer, or does it fall short of the performance you’d want for $130? Let’s find out!
Make sure to keep reading through to the end of the review to learn how you can take home a Chuwi HiBox Hero for free, courtesy of GearBest.
Let’s get into the numbers here, as that’s an important factor to consider when you’re looking for a PC.
- Intel Atom X5-Z8350 quad-core processor
- 4GB DDR3 RAM
- Intel HD Graphics
- 64GB built-in eMMC storage (expandable with SDXC card slot up to 128GB more)
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- HDMI version 1.4 (not 4K60 capable)
For a mini PC, it’s more or less on par with the other big players on the market. As you’d expect, it’s not going to rival even a mid-range desktop, but with how small and how cheap it is, it’s specs are solid.
Let’s take a look at the outside of the Chuwi HiBox Hero before we break down the performance. As for the size of the hardware, it’s 4.72 x 4.72 x 0.98 inches. It only weighs .44 pounds, so it’s definitely small.
You’ll find two USB 2.0 ports and an SD card slot on the front of the PC. On the side, there’s a USB 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet, and headphone port. There’s also a DC power adapter.
The actual design of the PC is subdued, and it certainly won’t stand out on your entertainment center. It’s a small black box with white logos, so it’ll match whatever you have.
Another important thing to note is that the mini PC is basically silent. There are no fans inside, so if you plan on using the PC as a media center, you won’t need to worry about loud fans overpowering your media.
Controlling The PC
One thing I really love about this PC is that it comes with a remote control right out of the box. For using Kodi or other basic app operations, it’s really all you need to control the PC. If you’re going to be doing more stuff that requires mouse movement, you’ll want a mouse and keyboard, though.
Speaking of mice, the remote has a mouse pointer button on it, and it actually lets you move the cursor around as you would a WiiMote. In my experience, it was fairly accurate, but I wouldn’t want to use it as my only input method.
Because there are three USB ports, you can hook up any standard third-party device like an Xbox controller. You can also connect devices to the PC via Bluetooth, which gives you more options to control the Chuwi HiBox Hero.
Android and Windows in Harmony
Where the Chuwi HiBox Hero really stands out is in the operating systems. Without any tinkering you’ll get both Android 5.1 and Windows 10. When you turn the PC on, you just click left or right to choose the OS you want, and it’ll load up.
When in Windows, there’s an app installed that will let you switch to Android, but if you’re in Android and you want to go back to Windows, you’ll need to restart the device and choose again. Because the internal memory is flash, it boots up quickly, so switching between the two is painless.
Out of the box, the 64GB drive is partitioned with Windows getting the lion’s share of the space (you end up with about 40GB of usable space on the Windows side). This makes sense, as Windows apps tend to take up far more space than Android ones.
I’ll start off by saying that I found the performance of Android to be vastly superior to that of Windows, which makes sense, as it’s an OS designed to run on tablets and other less powerful systems.
To test performance, we used the standard Antutu 3DBench, and it scored relatively well. It rated the CPU as mid to high-end, which means it can handle multitasking and large apps without issue.
For gaming it recommends running basic games and 3D games at low settings, and in our testing, that’s what we saw. For newer, 3D Android games, framerates were inconsistent, but they remained playable at all times.
Basically, you can play some games on this device well enough, but you shouldn’t expect it to be your primary gaming device. It’s a nice bonus to have, but the primary purpose is running media and basic work apps, and it does that well.
All the traditional Android features you’d expect are there including full access to the Google Play Store for apps, the web browser, and so on. Speaking of the web browser, we found that it performed quite well (especially when compared to the sluggish performance of the PC browser, as we’ll get to) and loaded pages quickly and efficiently.
In terms of real world usage, I found myself gravitating toward running Kodi most of the time, which performed well. It’s easy to install through Google Play. Between 1080p local videos and HD streaming, I never saw any slowdown.
While running some unofficial addons, Kodi did crash. At one point, I ran into a loop where Kodi kept crashing at launch each time until I restarted the HiBox Hero. This only happened once, and in all other cases I was able to use it as my primary media center PC without any problems.
For all the praise I can throw to Android performance, Windows runs less smoothly. You can pretty much forget about running Google Chrome. For low end devices like this, Edge is definitely the browser to use if you want to get on the web in Windows.
However, even in Edge, running 1080p YouTube videos stuttered way too much for my liking. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to watch videos on the device. You can download and install Kodi, just like you would on any other PC, and it runs more or less the same as it does on Android.
For PC gaming, you can run the absolute basics and nothing more. Even less advanced games run at unplayable framerates. However, if you have a gaming PC in another room, you can use Steam In-Home Streaming to play games that way, and other than a bit of control latency that comes with playing games over a network, it works quite well.
For benchmarks on Windows, we used 3DMark and PCMark. The results were about what we’d expect: middling.
Using the PCMARK 8 Home Conventional 3.0 test, it scored a 1036, which is lower than a typical office PC from 2013. It scored decently for basic photo editing and video calling, but for casual gaming, it clocked in at about 6 frames-per-second, which is unplayable. Websites loaded quickly, as expected, and basic word processing was more than usable.
Our benchmark tests matched up with the results we found while just using the PC and putting it through its paces. It works well enough for most basic computing tasks, but it’s definitely slower running Windows 10 than Android.
All in all, this is a solid mini PC for the price, though it’s not perfect. Windows performance isn’t amazing when compared to Android, but when you look at it compared to other mini PCs in this range, it’s right on par.
It works great as a media player and for doing basic every day computer tasks. It won’t replace a high-end desktop by any means, but it’ll handle all of the basics with ease. Buy yours now for $130 from GearBest.com.
Buy it if you’re looking for a solid mini PC that can handle Android and Windows out of the box.