The brand new ACEPC AK1 is a Windows Mini PC we have been waiting for. The main reason has to do with the new Apollo Lake Intel CPU series that brings new features and performance upgrades compared to previous generations.
Nothing special here. The ACEPC arrived in a medium sized (for a Mini PC) cardboard box and inside one can find the mini PC itself, the wall type power adaptor, an HDMI cable, basic documentation and a VESA bracket (not shown in the photos).
No Keyboard/mouse combo is included so you will have to buy one yourself.
For our tests we used the all-time classics, Logitech K-400 and Tronsmart TSM-01.
Build quality – Specifications
ACEPC AK1 is black and plastic. No need to worry though since the overall build quality is very good and during our (stress) tests, heat dissipation was handled succesfully.
Device’s looks, is something we should point out. It seems that the company tried to make a design very similar to HP’s Elite Slice series. They did succeed and the overall aesthetics are very high due to the (fake) copper grille/opening in the middle and the, non-distractive, light blue LED light when in operation. It is by far the best looking mini PC we have seen so far.
The ACEPC AK1 actually consists from a main unit plus the HDD caddy at the bottom. In case you will not use an external drive, you can as well omit the lower part and have a much slimmer device on your office/living room.
Specifications are boosted compared to previous (Atom Z8350) Intel CPU series. The J3455 is part of Intel’s latest Apollo Lake desktop lineup.
Celeron J3455 is a quad core, 14nm, 10Watt TDP, 1.5-2.3GHz Gen9 SoC that includes HD500 iGPU now supporting DirectX 12 and HEVC/H265/10bit hardware acceleration. Very good news for the new, 4K UHD era. HD Audio pass-through is also available (up to DTS in previous generations), so now users can have a more than good, mini-HTPC permormance in their living room.
The non-upgraded, pre-installed 4GB of DDR3 RAM will ensure lag free operation for all major applications and enhance multi-tasking.
Internal ROM is a 32GB eMMC flash module that we wish it could be at least bigger in size, if not of different type. I/Os are rich with 2x USB2.0, 2x USB3.0, 1x SD, 1x Type C, 1x HDMI(1.4) and 1x Headphone ports.
You can add an HDD drive up to 2TB in the external caddy, but do mind that it is actually a USB connection so don’t expect SATA type performance. Unofficially, you can add an M-Sata drive if you open the main unit (you will void warranty by doing so).
ACEPC AK1 is not a fan-less solution. The internal fan will often kick in but with no annoying high pitch noise. It also does a great job keeping the device relatively cool all the time. We did not experience very high temperatures even when we performed our stress tests.
Networking is solid with Dual band Wi-Fi, Gigabit LAN and Bluetooth4.0
The device has pre-installed licensed Windows Home 10 as the main operating system.
So far, it appears to be the best equipped mini PC box we have seen in the below 250$ segment.
Tests –Performance (Windows)
Intel Celeron J3455, although similarly clocked with previous gen’s Z8350, showed drastically improved computing performance (up to 50%) in all of our benchmarks.
That was also reflected in real life performance by providing a very pleasant user experience while performing all basic tasks.
Audio and video playback was now better than ever, with HD Audio pass-through (including ATMOS, DTS X) and 4K HEVC video acceleration. We tested many such video clips that showed flawless playback. For better results don’t forget to switch the screen’s refresh rate to 23Hz for movies and adjust it accordingly based on your material. HDR should be converted to SDR (we don’t have an HDR capable display to cross-check) due to HDMI1.4 port, so this should be the only (easy?) HTPC compromise you will have to make.
4K out is limited to 30Hz so consider that if you have a native 4K monitor.
PC Mark benchmark showed good results for the category (~400 points higher than Z8350) and the 3D Mark score was as good as was expected for a low end GPU. Basic 2D games should run fine though. Avoid modern titles with heavy 3D textures like Call of Duty and Doom at all costs.
Internal flash ROM showed very high read speeds (>250Mb/Sec) but average write ones (averaging 45Mb/Sec). We would prefer a more balanced performance but at least you will get a very fast application start-up this way.
Network performance was up to par with a maxed out Gigabit LAN and great wireless performance that allowed streaming of FullHD material. Just make sure your access point can provide Dual Band protocol and a good signal to ACEPC’s position.
After the first boot, you will find almost 19GB of free space. The first batch of Windows updates quickly reduced the amount of available space to 16GB. Still plenty to install all major applications.
ACEPC AK1 is THE mini PC to get if you prefer Windows OS and have big expectations for decent application performance and almost complete HTPC functionality for an extremely low cost.
The new Apollo Lake lineup works wonders and offers up to 50% better performance than last year’s mini PCs of the below 250$ segment. The 4GB of fast DDR3 RAM also leads to improved multi-tasking performance and the internal ROM provides SSD-like read speeds. At the end we could only wish for an option to install an internal 2.5” drive that could be used as primary. But again, you can’t have everything with less than 155$/132€, can you? You are actually getting way more than what you paid for considering last year’s similarly priced alternatives.
The boosted HTPC experience was a nice bonus with the addition of 4K HEVC decoding and HD Audio pass-through. A capable software (Power DVD / Media Player Classic Home Cinema ?) is all you need to enter the new 4K UHD era and to get the maximum out of the Full HD one.
ACEPC is also combing all of the above with very good looks and a stable operation, both of which should not be taken for granted to other mini PC implementations.
At his price point, there is nowhere else to look. ACEPC AK1 is a complete product that totally deserves your attention.
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