Hannspree Micro PC review: a fantastic contraption

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Today we’re taking a look at something rather special – Hannspree’s Micro PC. This tiny HDMI stick packs an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 32GB of flash storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, and even USB and micro SD ports… not bad for a 38 gram dongle. What makes the Micro PC truly crazy though, is its operating system: not Android, not some weird version of Linux, but a full version of Windows 8.1. Let’s see what it’s capable of.

 

Features

  • Quad Core Intel® Processor up to 1.83 GHz
  • Pocketable Micro PC Experience
  • Transform any HDMI Display into a Computer
  • Ultra Mobile PC
  • 2GB Ram & 32GB Storage
  • Super slim design / brushed metal finish casing
  • Specifically designed for your needs
  • Windows 8.1 pre-installed
  • Preloaded languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Italian
 

Specifications

CPU Intel® Atom™ Processor Z3735F (2M Cache, up to 1.83GHz)
CPU Type Quad Core
Memory 2GB DDR3
Storage 32GB eMMC (24.8GB Free Space)
Bios Insyde 8MB UEFI
Operating System Windows 8.1
Display Via HDMI
Wifi; Bluetooth 802.11bgn; 4.0
Button / Indicator Power, OS / Power
Input / Output 1 x Micro USB, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x Micro SD card reader
Dimensions 110.9 * 38 * 9.8 mm
Weight 38 grams
Accessories HDMI cable, QSG, Charger
 

Design

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The Micro PC is sensibly constructed from solid-feeling plastic. With the logo facing you, there’s an HDMI plug on one end and a micro SD card slot facing you.

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On the opposite side, there’s a full-size USB port for peripherals, a micro USB port for power and a small circular power button. There are also a pair of grilles on either side. On the bottom we can read the model number – HSG1306 -and its 2A electrical rating. Finally, on the opposite end to the HDMI plug we have a small status LED.

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Included with the box is a minute product manual, a micro USB cable, a 2A AC adapter and a short HDMI extension lead, to be used if your monitor or television has too little space for the dongle to connect directly.

Now that we’ve covered the design basics, let’s move onto our testing.

 

Testing

In order to give a good account of the Micro PC, we used it for a few days and tried out various workloads – simple web navigation, image editing, media playback and even gaming. After the initial Windows setup (which took about 20 minutes), we were free to play with the ~20GB of available space to our hearts’ content.

Work

So, let’s look at the day-to-day stuff first: web browsing, simple image editing and just getting around in Windows.

Here the Micro PC is surprisingly good; the quad-core Atom processor seems more than capable of handling a few tabs in Chrome and the flash storage ensures that getting around in Windows, downloading files and the like is all fairly speedy. Considering you can run the Micro PC from a monitor’s USB port, this is kind of incredible.

The ports on hand govern how much use you’ll get out of the PC. With only a single USB port, you’ll need a splitter to connect multiple USB peripherals. Bluetooth keyboards and mice are a good alternative (particularly when you’ve got the Micro PC plugged into your HDTV and you’re sitting on the couch).

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The Micro PC is pretty fast to get started too. Booting takes about a minute, and unless you have a lot of startup programs you can get going pretty much immediately afterward. By default, basically nothing is installed, so there’s no crapware to clear out.

The best part of the Micro PC for me was its complete silence. While you’re running it, you can’t hear anything at all; there are no moving parts to whir or click. It was nice to write an article, hearing only the click and clack of my mechanical keyboard instead of a constant background of fan noise.

Media

The Micro PC is very clearly aimed at being a media PC, something you can plug into the back of your HDTV or monitor and play movies from. I tried a number of different video sources and formats, and in general I was moderately impressed.

The Micro PC could handle 1080p and smaller resolution downloaded video, although 4K footage wasn’t playable at full frame rates. Streaming video was unfortunately not as strong; Netflix and Twitch played well at medium quality settings, but source / 1080p streams were very choppy. If you’re looking for a pure media device, then it’d be best to choose an Apple TV, a Chromecast or similar as these are better equipped to handle HD video from a variety of sources.

I’d guess that the poor streaming performance is down to the amount of horsepower available, rather than a poor wireless connection – downloads were fast and the connection seemed quite strong. Given the minimal power needed and good wireless connection, you could make a decent case for the Micro PC as a torrents machine – just connect some external storage via USB or micro SD first as that 20GB of internal space will go fast.

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There’s no speaker or headphone port built in, so you’ll need to use the HDMI port to get your sound out. Televisions will have speakers of course, and most monitors that don’t have speakers will have a headphone passthrough port, so this isn’t a massive deal.

Our final media test was to see if we could stream from the Micro PC to our television. I installed the Serviio media server app on the Micro PC, downloaded some test footage and tried to play it back on the TV’s media player. 720p and 1080p footage played back without any issues whatsoever, with the Micro PC even handling scene-skipping and fast-forwarding with ease.

Overall then – a decent media PC for playing back local content or streaming it to another device; not so good for playing back streams in Chrome.

Gaming

This being XSReviews, I was tempted to see what was actually playable on the Micro PC given its tiny power envelope. Surprisingly, some games are indeed playable – anything 2D seems quite workable, including games like FTL, Super Hexagon and StarCraft.

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Anything in 3D that’s remotely demanding didn’t work for me. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive launched successfully to my surprise, but just playing a demo (in-engine replay) brought the PC to around 10 fps. I also tried Unreal Tournament (released in 1999), and this took a long time to load and absolutely chugged through the basic intro sequence.

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The last thing we tried when it came to gaming was Steam’s built-in streaming service. Could we stream Heroes of the Storm or Counter-Strike to the Micro PC, and still play reasonably well? Surprisingly, it was quite possible. Heroes of the Storm isn’t the most frantic MOBA title, but it still requires reasonably fast reaction times and even over wireless it worked just fine. Counter-Strike was a harder challenge, but despite lag and some visual artifacts, I was able to put up a respectable score in a deathmatch game. If you try something a bit slower paced – such as a strategy game, or better yet anything turn-based – then the Micro PC becomes a viable gaming platform, assuming you’ve got a gaming PC to stream from somewhere else in the house.

 

Benchmarks

Benchmarks are always useful to get a sense of a computer’s power, so we turned to them again here. We successfully performed Geekbench, CrystalDiskMark and Cinebench benchmarks, although we had to use an older version of Cinebench on this 32-bit system.

Cinebench

Cinebench is a nice cross-platform benchmark that stresses the CPU and GPU. As mentioned earlier, we’re using the R11.5 release instead of the usual R15 so that we can run the test in 32 bits. The scores here are pretty poor – just 5.75 fps and 0.86 pts in the CPU test. By comparison, the lowest score we’ve seen previously has been ~50 fps from a Zotac ZBOX without a graphics card.

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GeekBench

GeekBench is a useful benchmark that examines processor and memory performance. We saw a single-core score of 613 and a multi-core score of 1841; as you can see this is one of the worst scores we’ve recorded in a long time but it’s understandable for such a low power PC. It underscores that you can’t expect laptop-level performance, that’s for sure.

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CrystalDiskMark

CDM is my go-to benchmark of choice for evaluating storage speed, thanks to its simple interface, rapid testing and good range of chunk sizes.

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The Micro PC’s eMMC storage can’t stand up to a proper SSD, but the flash storage still provides better performance than the average mechanical hard drive. In comparison with the rest of the PC’s specifications, it’s more than up to par.

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Conclusion

The Hannspree Micro PC is an engineering marvel; I’d never have thought that a dongle of this size could be used to power a full Windows PC and be capable of so much. While its gaming prowess is near non-existent and its price is still high compared to other dongle devices, it can still find a niche as an ultra-portable media PC, downloading and streaming videos, or just as a way to get a web browser and basic apps on your TV. Very cool stuff, and I hope we see more powerful versions of the Micro PC with the next generations of Intel hardware!

Pros

  • Incredibly flexible, suitable for a wide range of uses thanks to a reasonably fast Atom processor and full Windows 8.1
  • Good selection of wired + wireless connectivity options
  • Seems well suited to downloading, playing or streaming video files
  • Pairs well with a (Hannspree) touch-screen monitor

Cons

  • Lacks the graphical grunt to play the vast majority of games
  • Fairly expensive compared to some media players

Score

  • 7 / 10

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

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