Why you can trust Tom's Guide
The Azulle Byte3 Fanless Mini Desktop PC ($239) is a compact mini PC that lets you put a desktop in places you may not have thought a PC would go, like your home theater setup. A Windows PC with a fanless, silent design, it's perfect for streaming video and browsing online with your TV as the monitor.
The Intel Apollo Lake Celeron processor inside offers a decent amount of processing power and the system, while small, offers room to grow with available user upgrades. If you've wanted to get the best mini PC for use as in a media center, the Byte3 is a capable and affordable option.
The Byte3 is a compact desktop in the same vein as the Intel NUC, a desktop PC crammed into a small, square-shaped chassis. The mini PC weighs a scant 14 ounces and measures 5.6 in x 4 in x 1.5 inches, with a small Wi-Fi antenna attached in the back. It's similar, in some respects, to the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny, which uses a compact square-shaped chassis and an external Wi-Fi antenna for better wireless performance. But inside, it's more akin to the Zotac Zbox Pico PI225, with an Intel Celeron processor and a fanless design that uses passive cooling to keep operations quiet.
On the front of the chassis is a power button that glows blue when the unit is turned on, and a glowing blue stripe that adds some stylish flair to an otherwise basic black (or near-black) box. But if you look closely, you'll also see a small IR sensor in the bottom left corner. Azulle includes a remote control for the Byte3 that makes it easy to use the small system as a home-entertainment PC without having to get up off the couch or use a clunky wireless keyboard and mouse.
The bundled remote control looks much like a smart TV remote and offers convenient power and volume controls, with dedicated buttons for accessing and navigating menus. It's not enough for all of your PC interaction, but does give you sufficient inputs to browse Netflix without reaching for a keyboard and mouse.
Unlike most mini PCs we've reviewed, the Byte3 offers some user access to the internals, and even offers room to grow, with one free M.2 slot and one available SATA port, both of which let you add storage after purchase. You'll find the necessary data and power cables included inside, making it easy to connect a SATA-connected 2.5-inch drive, as well as screw holes and a mounting bracket on the removable bottom panel. What you can't change, however, are the processor and RAM, so choose your system carefully.
The tight confines of the chassis and the fanless cooling of the Celeron processor combine to make the system run a bit hot. After running a few benchmark tests, the top panel of the Byte3 averaged more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the hottest spot hitting 107 degrees. The underside of the boxy mini PC was decidedly cooler, at just 92 degrees.
One of the most enticing aspects of the Byte3 is its port selection, which offers ample connectivity for entertainment and business use alike. On the right side is a pair of USB ports – one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 – along with an SD card slot.
On the back of the Byte3 are two USB 3.0 ports and a USB Type-C port, along with a 3.5mm audio jack, an HDMI output for video and audio and a VGA output for connecting older monitors and projectors. An Ethernet port offers wired networking, and an attached Wi-Fi antenna gives you wireless-AC connectivity. A Kensington Lock slot lets you secure the small PC against anyone who might be tempted to snatch it.
The Azulle Byte3 is equipped with a quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 1.5GHz processor, part of Intel's Apollo Lake line of CPUs. Our review unit pairs this with 4GB of RAM, and came pre-installed with the 64-bit version of Windows 10 Pro. Made primarily for streaming video to a TV, Azulle says the Byte3 can stream 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. In my use of the machine, I found it did exactly that, handling 4K streams from Netflix and Google Play Movies without any trouble.
It also did well enough with streaming video and browsing articles online, provided you keep the number of simultaneous tabs to a minimum. I found that video streamed smoothly when running two or three tabs, but once you got up to five or six, video dropped in quality and was more frequently interrupted for buffering.
The hardware selection is closer in many respects to smaller stick PCs, like the Zotac Zbox Pico PI225 (Intel Celeron N3350, 4GB RAM) or the Azulle Access Plus (Intel Atom x5-Z8350, 4GB RAM), with the Apollo Lake Celeron processor falling far short of the Intel Core processors used in more robust mini desktops, like the Apple Mac mini 2018 (Intel Core i3-8100B, 8GB RAM) or the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (Intel Core i5-7500T, 8GB RAM).
The Byte3 is outfitted with a 32GB eMMC drive – essentially an SD card mounted as a system drive – for storage. In our file-transfer speed test, it copied our 4.97GB test folder of mixed media files in 41 seconds, which works out to 122.43 MBps. That's a step up from tinier stick PCs, like the Azulle Access Plus (41.04 MBps) and the Zotac Zbox Pico PI225 (45.04 MBps), and even tops the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (169 MBps). But it's hardly a comparison with a more powerful system, like the Apple Mac mini (2018) (2,544 MBps).
The Byte3 might be designed for use with an entertainment system or as part of electronic signage, but it still packs some processing power for broader use. On Geekbench 4, our processing benchmark, the Byte3 scored 4,011 points, again beating the Azulle Access Plus (2,401) and the Zotac Zbox Pico PI225 (1,475). But the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (8,010) nearly doubles that score, and the Apple Mac mini (2018) (13,666) more than triples it.
The Byte3 tore through newer Excel test finishing in 14 seconds, blazing past the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (1:21).
However, in the older OpenOffice version of this same test, the system matched 20,000 names and addresses in 10 minutes, 1 second. Here, the Byte3 again tops the low-powered Azulle Access Plus (16:47) and Zotac Zbox Pico PI225 (21:55). The Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (3:52), however, was much faster.
MORE: Best Mini PCs 2019
Online performance also lags, with the Byte3 scoring 59.29 in the Jetstream browser benchmark test. This is better than we saw on the pocketable Azulle Access Plus (45.81), but fell behind the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (154.58) and Apple Mac mini (2018) (281.84).
The graphics hardware inside – an Intel HD Graphics 500 integrated graphics solution – isn't particularly impressive. Overall graphics performance will be limited, but with a decent 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited score of 25,138 points, it outpaced the Zotac Zbox Pico PI225 (13,462) and the Azulle Access Plus (18,805). But compared with the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny (69,398), which is equipped for basic office use, it still falls short. Still, it's safe to say that the system will handle video streaming and similar media-focused uses just fine, but gaming isn't really an option.
There are four retail configurations of the Byte3 available, and they vary by the amount of installed RAM and storage space. Our review unit came outfitted with 4GB of memory and 32GB of onboard storage. It sells for $239 alone (as our review unit was), or more when bundled with some accessory options.The base model of the Byte3 ($219) is similar in most respects, but halves the RAM.
The two top-of-the-line models are offered with either more RAM or more storage (but not both). The one with the most RAM sells for $359, and is outfitted with 8GB of memory, but the same 32GB of storage space seen in the other, less expensive models.
The other, which wasn't available at the time of this writing, sticks with the middle-of-the-road 4GB of RAM, but bumps the storage up to 64GB. When in stock, it sells for $289.
The Byte3 can be purchased on its own, without any peripherals, but it's also offered in a handful of bundle packages. Depending upon the package, you can get the Byte3 with a Bluetooth-connected multifunction remote control, a wireless keyboard, a webcam, or various combinations of the three.
The first option is the Lynk multifunctional remote control. The remote packs a lot of functionality into a small handheld device, offering not only a more expansive collection of controls than the included IR remote, also an air mouse (which lets you control your cursor by pointing and moving the remote) and a thumb-friendly backlit QWERTY keyboard on the back. The remote also provides a swivelling scroll wheel and a built-in mic for voice search. It'll even work with other devices, like game consoles and Android set top boxes, making it a nice addition to your home theater setup. The remote costs $29.99 when purchased alone, or $25 when bundled with the Byte3.
Another option includes the Logitech K400 wireless keyboard, which has a built-in trackpad and connects wirelessly via a 2.4GHz USB dongle. The keyboard normally sells for $39.99 on its own, but when you add it to the Byte, the price increases by only $30. For a solid keyboard/mouse combo that's ideal for the couch, it's a pretty good deal.
The other accessory option is a Logitech HD Pro C920 webcam, which has Full-HD capture (1080p at 30 frames per second), a 78-degree field of vision and a pair of built-in microphones for capturing audio. The webcam connects over USB 2.0, and has an articulated mount that lets you attach it to the top of your monitor or TV without having to use fasteners or glue, or balance it precariously in place. The webcam alone sells for $65 or $70 through various retailers, but it adds only $60 to the bundle price for the Byte3.
Software and Warranty
The Byte3 can be purchased as a bare-bones system from Azulle, but most retail options come with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed. Ours was no exception. The installation is bloat-free, with no extra programs or proprietary apps, though you will get the usual Microsoft offerings: Cortana, Skype and a trial version of Microsoft Office.
Azulle covers the Byte3 with a standard one-year warranty, which matches those offered by most competitors.
The Azulle Byte3 takes the mini PC concept – simple PC hardware in a tiny chassis – and puts it in your home theater setup, giving you a capable PC for streaming media. You even get a remote control that lets you stay on the couch. The Byte3 easily outperforms smaller stick PCs that have similar components, and provides a surprising amount of value for an affordable price.
If you want more power in a similar form factor, the Apple Mac mini (2018) should fit the bill, but it'll cost a whole lot more. For an even smaller PC option, a stick PC like the Azulle Access Plus will do the trick, but it offers less power and fewer ports, without saving you a lot of money.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.