Minix Neo G4 Dual Core Android Mini PC Review
Introducing the new Minix Neo G4 Android Mini PC
The Minix Neo G4 Dual Core Android Mini PC is one of the latest Android on a stick device to join the Android mini computer arena that is getting more and more crowded.
In fact, new models are being introduced at a rate of at least 2 to 3 per month. Some of them are just merely re-branded OEM models but I am happy to report that the Minix Neo G4 is not one of them.
The first time I found out about the Minix Neo G4 Androd mini computer was through a YouTube video of the 2012 IFA Consumer Electronics show held in early September 2012 in Berlin. The Minix Neo G4 was one of the many devices shown off at the Minix booth and it was very impressive. Of course, this was before all the other dual core Android Mini PCs like the MK808 and UG802 were released.
The Minix Neo G4 is a little late out of the gates and it now has a lot of competition. How does the Minix Neo G4 dual core Android Mini PC compare with the other dual core Android mini computers out there? Is it just another dual core RK3066 based clone or can it distinguish itself from the rest of the competition? Find out by reading the rest of this review.
Disclaimer: The review unit used for this review is supplied and sponsored by Minix Tech. This review was written with the understanding that the review will be impartial and Minix Tech has no influence over the content of this review except to make any clarifications on questions raised during the writing of the review itself. Minix Tech only got to see this review after it has been published.
All images in this article courtesy of Roy Yap and Minix Tech
Review unit courtesy of
Minix is a member of J&W Group established in 1994. It is the fastest growing computer motherboard manufacturer in China and supplies to the global market.
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Unboxing the Minix Neo G4 Android Mini PC
The Minix Neo G4 comes in a simple box. While not as nice as the minimalist box that the Uhost used, the Minix Neo G4 box has the unit's specifications and contents listed on the box. Removing the cover reveals the Neo G4 Mini PC itself and the IR remote control beside it.
Personally I prefer the rubbery matte material used on the Uhost and MK808 but since the device will be hidden behind the TV most of the time, it doesn't really matter.
All the ports are clearly marked. There is a full sized female HDMI port on one end of the unit while the other end is a standard USB 2.0 port. On the side is a OTG micro USB port that is used for power and a Micro SD (TF) slot. On the other side is the recover button and the IR receiver. The recover button is used for connecting the Neo G4 to a computer for service or upgrade purpose. Ventilation holes can be found on both sides of the Neo G4 device.
The included IR remote controllerMoving on to the remote, it is IR based and it is a very simple remote with 21 buttons. The buttons allow the user to wake up or put the Minix Neo G4 into sleep mode, control the volume, provide shortcuts to home, menu, back, zoom, search and mute. It also has directional buttons, an OK button for selection plus 6 media control buttons. There are more than enough buttons to navigate and access the most important functions on the Android computer. Last but not least, it is powered by a single button battery which is included in the remote.
Removing the plastic tray holding that holds the Neo G4 and the IR remote reveals the rest of the accessories. There is a 5V power adapter, a micro USB cable to be used with the power adapter, a HDMI male-to-male mini adapter and also a simple user manual. The manual is actually quite well written and not the usual grammar error-ridden poor excuse for a manual normally included with China products.
The full sized female HDMI port and the inclusion of the male-to-male HDMI adapter is actually a brilliant idea. The full sized female HDMI port means that you can use any normal HDMI cable but should you decide to plug the Neo G4 directly to your TV's HDMI port, you can use the HDMI adapter. The problem with all the other Android Mini PCs that comes with a built-in male HDMI port is that the body of the device is too big and blocks the neighboring HDMI ports on the TV. By using the included male-to-male adapter, this is no longer a problem. An elegantly simple solution.
Minix Neo G4 specifications
The Minix Neo G4 Android Mini PC is built around the dual core Rockchip RK3066 chipset. This means that it shares the same Dual Core Cortex A9 CPU with Quad Core Mali 400 GPU as the MK808 and UG802.
However the OS is Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) but Minix has promised that an upgrade to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) will be made available soon. I for one would rather have a stable Android 4.0 than a rushed and buggy Android 4.1.
The Minix Neo G4 Android Mini PC comes with 8GB of storage which is double the storage of most other Android mini computer devices. You can expand the storage memory further by inserting a Micro-SD card into the Micro-SD card slot. The Minix Neo G4 supports SD cards up to 32GB in size.
For network connection, the Minix Neo G4 supports wireless 802.11 a, b, g or n for a maximum speed of 150 Mbps. It also has support for UPnP and DLNA. This means that the Minix Neo G4 can connect to and stream from other UPnP and DLNA supported devices like your smartphone or PC via WiFi.
On the box, it also mentions that it has support for USB 3G dongle but there is no mention if all types of 3G dongles are supported or which dongles are supported.
MINIX NEO G4 DUAL CORE ANDROID MINI PC TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
> OS - Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Upgradeable to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
> Chipset - Rockchip RK 3066, Dual core Cortex A9 processor CPU; Quad core Mali 400, GPU clocked at 250 MHz
> Memory - 1GB DDR3
> Built-in Storage- 8GB NAND Flash
> Network - WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n
> Additional Storage - MicroSD 2-32GB
> Video Formats - AVI/ RM/ EMVB/ MKV/ WMV/ MOV/ MP4/ WEBM/ DAT/ VOB/ MPEG/ MPG/ FLV/ ASF/ TS/ TP/ 3GP/ etc
> Audio Formats - WMA/ WMV/ APE/ OGG/ FLAC/ AAC/ etc
> Photo Formats - JPG, TIF, PNG, BMP
> Video/Audio Output - Full sized female HDMI
> USB Ports - 1 standard USB 2.0, 1 micro USB OTG for Power
> Size - 38mm x 94mm x 14mm
Setting up the Minix Neo G4
Setting up the Minix Neo G4 is a simple task. To connect the Neo G4 to the HDMI port on the TV, you can either use a HDMI cable (not included) or the included male-to-male HDMI adapter.
The problem with using the adapter is that the Neo G4 will be hidden behind the TV and you won't be able to use the IR remote control as that would require a direct line of sight to work. If you plan to use the remote, you will most likely have to use a HDMI cable. If Minix had included an external IR receiver and allowed that to be plugged into the Neo G4, that would have been perfect.
For power, you can either connect the micro USB port using the included micro USB cable to a free USB port on the TV or preferably directly to the included 5V power adapter. Some USB ports do not supply enough power and this causes all sorts of stability problems on the Androin mini computer devices.
Last but not least, turn on your TV and select the correct HDMI input that is connected to the Minix Neo G4.
Best deals on USB wireless keyboard combos that work with the Minix Neo G4
The wireless keyboard is an ideal accessory to add to an Android Mini PC. It allows you to control the Minix Neo G4 from a distance.
Check out my guide to the best mini wireless keyboards that work great with the Android TV dongle devices.
The K400 is easily the most popular choice for a full sized wireless keyboard with track pad.
The Logitech Revue is designed for the Google TV but works great with the Android Mini PCs.
This is currently the most popular wireless keyboard for the Android Mini PCs. The RC13 features a built in microphone and speakers.
Another great air mouse option is the Mele Fly Sky air mouse. This one has a remote control like button on one side and a full QWERTY keyboard on the other side. Recommended.
Minix Neo G4 real world performance
If you have read my previous reviews on other Android mini computer devices you will know that I base my reviews on real world performance rather than relying on benchmarks. I run the reviewed device through a number of common tasks that the Android Mini PC is commonly used for such as smart TV functions like web browsing, social networking, chatting and video communication via Skype and last but not least, gaming.
Boot up and initial impressions
Minix Neo G4's customized GridLauncher
Boot up is very fast at under 30 secs. Once the Neo G4 has booted up, there is a choice of either the GridShow launcher or the default launcher. The GridShow launcher is the customized launcher for the Neo G4 that features 8 large icons - Video, Music, Setting, Browser, Gallery, Apps, Play Store and Explorer.
This launcher is customized mainly for the included IR remote. However, the IR remote is only an adequate controller if you plan to mainly use the Neo G4 as a media box. Entering text is possible using the IR remote but without a proper QWERTY keyboard, it is much more tedious compared to using a mouse. The best way to make use of the IR remote is to use it when you don't really need to enter text but keep a wireless keyboard handy when you need to.
If you have no love for the IR remote that is included, you can always use your own learning remote instead and this is one of the major advantage of the Minix Neo G4. It should be a very easy process to replace the IR remote with your own remote.
Another thing to note is that the power button on the IR remote only puts the Neo G4 into some kind of sleep mode (the power light is still on but display is off) but it cannot turn the Neo G4 back on again. The only way to power it back on is to turn off the power and turning it back on again. There is also no soft power off button on the launcher.
It is unfortunate that we have yet to come across an Android Mini PC device that can turn the device on and off using a remote. This is a pretty huge minus point when compared to media boxes.
Minix Neo G4's customized app browser with large icons
The launcher goes beyond just the home page with the 8 large icons. Except for the Browser and Play Store links, all the other links lead to apps that are customized for the IR remote as they all feature large icons for easy navigation. The amount of customization that went into this is a welcome surprise as it makes the Neo G4 quite user friendly for those who are not familiar with the Android OS. For those who are comfortable with Android OS, you can always revert to the default Android launcher.
Minix Neo G4's default Android OS launcher
Minix Neo G4's Video playerThe simplified interface makes the Minix Neo G4 IPTV device ideal as a media player. It comes with two video players. The first is the generic sounding "Video" player. I tried it out with various video codecs including MPEG4, DVIX, MOV and H264. It played all files with no problems and at full screen except for an MP43 codec encoded file.
The second video player that is included is MX Player. It could play all the files that I tried including the MP43 encoded one but the MX Player does not play in full screen. The bottom toolbar is visible and there are an additional 2 black vertical bars on either side of the video. This problem plagues some of the other Android mini computer devices as well and a fix is available but I have not tried if the fix works on the Neo G4 as well or not.
I have installed the fix to remove the bottom bar. It requires the installation of the HideBar apk from either the Google Play Store or Pieter GitHub (free demo).
The good news is that it works but the bad news is that I could not restore the bottom bar. The app is supposed to be able to restore the menu bar by tapping at the bottom of the screen but it did not work for me. The only way for me to restore it is to reboot the Neo G4. The other alternative is to install the Button Savior App from Google Play Store which basically adds an additional menu bar on the right side of the screen which can be hidden. Both HideBar and Button Savior apps requires root.
The other advantage of installing Button Savior is that it has a soft Sleep button. You can now put the Neo G4 to sleep without unplugging the power cord.
The new Neo G4 Android 4.1.1 firmware from Minix resolves the menubar problem by adding an auto hide bar feature that works really well. More information about the new firmware and discussion on the Neo G4 can be found on the MinixTech Facebook page and the Minix Forums page.
Minix has also just announced the availability of a beta version of the Android XBMC player that has support for hardware decoding of local media. This XBMC beta should also work on other Rockchip RM3066 based devices as well. Download links are available on then MinixTech Facebook page.
MX Player also suffers from the bottom menu bar problem
YouTube runs smoothly on the Minix Neo G4
However the menu bar at the bottom of the screen prevents YouTube videos from playing full screenFor video streaming I have tried out YouTube and Netflix. The included YouTube app is a bit outdated and does not have the video wall feature. I used the latest version of the YouTube app downloaded from the Play store for this review. The video wall interface is smooth and scrolls without any stutters. Playback is smooth even for HD content. However, the bottom menu bar prevents the videos from playing full screen.
As for Netflix, I used ver 1.8.1 which has been proven to work with the Android Mini PC devices. Again, video playback is smooth but the bottom menu bar rears its ugly head again.
The black bars appear during Netflix video playback as well
Web browsingThere are 2 browsers installed by default on the Neo G4. The first is the default Android web browser while the second is the Chrome web browser. The customized launcher's web browser link is linked to the default Android browser instead of the better Chrome browser. I was not able to change the launcher to link to Chrome instead.
Performance on both browsers is good but I prefer using Chrome as that is what i am using on my phone as well. There is no noticeable slow down even with multiple browser windows opened. The experience of web browsing on the Neo G4 especially when using a mouse and a full size keyboard is not that much different from using a browser on a laptop or a desktop computer.
The density is a bit lower which causes the elements on the webpage to be a bit larger than normal but it is just the right size if you are using a TV as a display and you are sitting further back than you normally would with a monitor.
GamingThe above average performance of the Rockchip RK3066 processor makes the Neo G4 quite an ideal gaming platform. It can play most of the Android games on the Google Play Store but games that require the use of the accelerator or multi touch are not playable.
I had a lot of success with using the MK808 that has a similar RK3066 chipset for running console and arcade emulators and I had the same success with the Neo G4. Paired with a USB SNES game controller, the Neo G4 makes a wonderful classic gaming machine.
Linux and bittorrentSince the Neo G4 shares the same chipset as the MK808 and the UG802, it also shares the same lack of support for Linux. Rockchip, the makers of the RK3066 chipset has decided not to release the source code publicly and as a result, the chances of running Linux on all RK3066 based Android Mini PCs are quite slim.
There are attempts by the community to get Rockchip to release the source code but so far Rockchip has not made any commitment although they did announce that they will consider it. So if you plan to run Linux, the Neo G4 is not the right Android Mini PC for you.
A copy of the kernel source for the RK3066 has been leaked out. With the availability of the source code, it is now highly possible to have Linux running on the Minix Neo G4 and other RK3066 based Android mini computers.
Rockchip RK3066 Dual Core Android Mini PC Firmware and Linux Update Guide
Check out available firmware updates and custom ROMs that are available for the Minix Neo G4. Links to ROM files and required tools plus detailed instructions are available.
Bittorrent runs well on the Minix Neo G4. Just connect an external storage drive to the Neo G4 and install a bittorrent client from the Google Play Store and you are good to go. The Neo G4 does not run hot at all even after running overnight.
Other observationsThe Minix Neo G4 does not come rooted by default. According to Minix, Rockchip does not allow root for their stock ROM. Fortunately, instructions on how to root are easily available on the internet. It took me less than 20 minutes to download the required files, install the required programs on my PC and complete the rooting process.
Minix has reported that an updated firmware with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) will be made available in Nov but at the time of publication of this review, the update has not been made available yet although Minix has posted information and screenshots of the update on their Facebook page.
Minix has released the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) firmware update for the Neo G4. The update files are available for download from various mirrors on the Minix Forums website.
The Neo G4 has very low power consumption. It is the only Android Mini PC device that I have managed to run without any issues while powered off the USB port on my TV. I even managed to connect a non-powered USB hub and plugged in a wired mouse, keyboard and a USB thumb drive with all devices working fine.
The Neo G4 comes with the full Google Android Play Store instead of the restricted store that some other IPTV devices come with.
The Neo G4 comes with full access to the Google Play Store
Using Skype on the Minix Neo G4
Since the use of Skype on the Android Mini PC devices is a popular topic, I have devoted a whole section to the discussion on the use of Skype. This is the only section that is based on the feedback that I have gathered or received from other users instead of my own personal experience. This is mainly because it is not possible for me to test all the available webcams to check which webcams work and which don't.
For a comprehensive compilation of compatible webcams and firmware versions for the Neo G4 and other dual core Android Mini PCs, check out my guide, Skype on MK808, UG802, MX1, Neo G4 and MK802 III.
If you have your own experience to share please add it to the comments section below. Please also share which firmware you are using. Thank you.
The LifeCam VX-800 has been verified by Minix themselves as working with the Neo G4. However Minix does not really recommend the VX-800 as it heavily loads the system.
The Logitech C110 has been verified by Rockchip to be working with the Neo G4. It also does not tax the system like the Microsoft LifeCam VX-800.
The GoodAmong all the RK3066 based IPTV devices that I have reviewed, the Neo G4 has the most stable stock ROM. I did not encounter any glitches such as WiFi reception or screen display problems. If you looking for an IPTV device that just works out of the box without the need for a firmware update or further tinkering, the Minix Neo G4 is the device for you.The faster dual core processor on the Neo G4 gives very good performance over all especially for web surfing and game console emulator appsNo WiFi connectivity issues. The Minix Neo G4 has full support for 802.11n at 150 Mbps.The only Android Mini PC to come with a remote control as a standard accessory. If you have a learning IR remote, you can use that instead of the included IR remote.The customized GridShow launcher is one of the better customized launchers that I have come across and it works really well with the included IR remote.The Minix Neo G4 does not run hot at all even after many hours of operation.The stock firmware has full access to the Google Play Store.
The BadThe Neo G4 does not come rooted out of the box. To be fair to Minix, it is not exactly their fault because Rockchip does not allow root in their stock ROM.Using the IR remote requires line of sight which means that you will need to supply your own HDMI cable so that the Neo G4 can be placed in a position where the IR receiver is not blocked.Like all other RK3066 based Android mini computers, there is hardly any support for running Linux.YouTube and Netflix video playback do not run in full screen due to the presence of the bottom menu bar and the vertical black bars on either side of the video.Power button on IR remote can only be used to put the Neo G4 to sleep and it cannot turn it back on again.
The UglyThe glossy surface on the plastic casing is a huge fingerprint magnet. If I had my say, I would ban the use of glossy plastic surfaces from all electronics.
How to choose the right Android Mini PC
Check out my comprehensive guide that highlights all the important features and differences between all the different Android mini computers.
MINIX NEO G4 Android 4.0 Dual Core RK3066 DDR3 1GB RAM / 8GB ROM Google TV Box Mini PC Dongle Wi-Fi / IR Remote
Arguably the most stable and the best of the dual core RK3066 based Android Mini PC devices. Comes with IR remote.