The Minix Neo X5 Mini is the little brother and cheaper version of the Minix Neo X5. Both the Minix Neo X5 Mini and the Minix Neo X5 are Android set-top boxes or mini Android computers.
Except for the obvious difference in size, both devices do share many similar features. Both devices are powered by a dual-core Rockchip RK3066 ARM Cortex-A9 CPU with a quad-core Mali400 GPU.
If you have been keeping up with the technology progress on the Android mini PC devices, you will no doubt know that the latest devices are mostly powered by quad-core SoC like the Rockchip RK3188.
The Minix Neo X5 Mini is obviously not targeted at those looking for the leading-edge devices but rather at those who want a cheaper and more portable version of the popular original Neo X5.
Besides the RK3066 SoC, other similarities between the Minix Neo X5 Mini and its older and bigger sibling include 1GB DDR3 RAM, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, an Ethernet port, an optical S/PDIF or TOSLINK port, an SD card expansion slot and an IR remote control. To bring down the cost of the original Neo X5, a few features were dropped from the Mini including 8GB NAND Flash for storage instead of 16 GB and 2 USB host ports instead of 3. The Minix Neo X5 Mini also lacks a 3.5mm audio and microphone jacks plus Bluetooth is also dropped.
What the Minix Neo X5 Mini loses in features, it gains by being more portable and its dimensions are just 3.75 x 3.75 x 0.75 inches. The Minix Neo X5 Mini is about the same size as the Apple TV.
Minix Neo X5 Mini Unboxing and First Impressions
Inside the Minix Neo X5 Mini box is the device itself, an IR remote (requires 2 AAA batteries – not included), a dual voltage (100/240V) 5V/2A power adapter, a USB cable, a HDMI cable and a multi-language setup guide. The Minix Neo X5 Mini is made from black matte plastic material that looks and feels good. Minix has gained a reputation for good design and they did not disappoint with the Mini although all they have basically done is to use the same design as the Neo X5.
The only strange part I found about the design is that at the bottom of the unit is a hexagon-shaped bump. There are also 4 rubber feet at the bottom of the unit but because of the bump, these rubber feet are not in contact with the surface that the Mini rests on and serve no purpose. It is as if the bump was not supposed to be part of the original design.
The IR remote is a very simple remote that comes with Android specific buttons such as home, back and menu. It also has 4 directional buttons and a power button.
Setting up the Minix Neo X5 Mini is a simple task. Just attach the unit to the power adapter, hook up to the TV using the HDMI cable and you are good to go. If you have an AV receiver, you can also connect the S/PDIF audio port to it for 5.1 digital audio. The Mini does not come with an optical cable however. If you do not want to use the included IR remote, you can also plug in a USB mouse and keyboard. The Minix Neo X5 Mini supports a wide range of USB input devices including wireless mini keyboards that provide much more functionality than the included remote.
Upon boot up, you are presented with 2 launcher choices, the grid launcher and the default Android OS launcher. The grid launcher is a simple launcher with huge buttons and is ideal when used with the IR remote. If you are using a wireless keyboard, the default launcher is probably a better option. However, being an Android device means that you can easily replace the launcher with one of the many alternative launchers available on the Google Play Store. There are even TV launchers that are designed specifically for TV boxes.
The Minix Neo X5 Mini comes with a quite a spartan number of apps. It is also worth noting that it comes with a few apps that are not of much use on a set-top box like Google Maps and camera app. However, the beauty of an Android set-top box is that it is actually a fairly powerful Android computer squeezed into a small form factor. The Minix Neo X5 Mini has full access to the Google Play Store and most apps can be installed. The device already comes pre-installed with a number of apps like a couple of web browsers (Android browser and Chrome), a video and music player, a photo viewer and a file explorer. On my unit, it also comes with a couple of Chinese apps. One of them is a video streaming app that has mostly Chinese movies and TV shows but it also has a few Western movies as well.
The video and music players are the default ones that come with all Rockchip based devices and are quite basic in terms of features. The video player does play most if not all video formats with no problems. I did not notice any audio synchronization problems, a problem that plagues many Android mini PC devices. You can of course download any of the alternative video players from the Google Play Store like MPlayer that are full featured.
I also installed the latest YouTube and Netflix apps on the Minix Neo X5 Mini. These apps are fairly popular with users of such devices. Both apps work well with no problems and can be played in full screen mode. Minix has added a hide function to the menu toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Does not seem like much but this is a much needed function to get videos to play in full screen mode and I am glad that this feature is already built-in.
The Minix Neo X5 Mini is a great Android set-top box and with the right apps and setup, there is a lot that it can do. However, like all such devices, there is a fair bit of customization and setting up required to make full use of it. If you are looking for something that generally works out of the box with minimal fuss and tinkering, this is probably not the device for you. It is unfortunate that there isn’t more development work on the software side of things to make these devices more user friendly and appeal to the mass market.
As far as hardware goes, the Mini is quite full featured. It loses a few non-critical hardware features compared to its older sibling but these are features I think I can live without. Not only does the Mini look way cooler in its diminutive form but you save a few bucks as well along the way.