See Feb 2021 update at the end of this article.
This is one of those devices you just have to SEE – I’ll do my best. The Chuwi Larkbox Mini PC comes with Windows or Linux and has an Intel Celeron J4115 running at 2.5Ghz (according to the box – read on). Mone came with Windows 10 Home and I almost immediately upgraded that to Windows 10 Pro.
Here are more photos – it came in a small box which included a base plate, power supply and instructions, the Chuwi itself is, as you can see, TINY but comes with USB-C-type power (12v @ 2A) and a pair of USB 3 connectors as well as audio (3.5mm), HDMI (full size) and a MicroSD connector. Other than that, there’s a power button and that’s IT.
I REALLY hope this device pans out after such a good start. It looks quality made – I just love holding it. The very large foldout instructions actually come down to 2 short sides in English – we’ll soon see how useful they are.
AND NOW – Windows: I plugged a screen, keyboard and mouse into the new Chuwi – and turned the device on. Everything started up as expected. It asked for my language (English – Britain) but it only gave me the option of English -United States at first. Then it asked about the keyboard, that sorted out Britain. Next thing I realised was that the unit has no RJ45 connector so I told it to pick one of my WiFis – it did that.
The time was out by several hours so I went looking to force (actually Spanish) time – confused? I’m British and use a UK layout but I’m located in Spain – 1 hour time difference. I’m guessing it hung onto USA time until the last minute – 9am when it is 18.00 (17:00 in the UK).
At this point I connected to 5Gbps Wifi and that sorted the time.
Next: I went looking in SETTINGS – SYSTEM…
Interesting information in no particular order: Windows 10 Home (which I upgraded), 6GB RAM installed. Disk capacity 115GB (used 30GB) – generic UY7CS0. Despite what I saw on the box, the SYSTEM info says this is an Intel Celeron J4115 running at 1.8Ghz, 4 cores.
That’s a good start – but those two USB C connectors are used up with the mouse and keyboard, I see a need for a HUB as I really do like the option to have another 256GB disk and an external SD is a tad (lot) slow. Thank heavens the Larkbox is USB3, not USB2.
I quickly twigged that I could simply use Bluetooth earbuds, mouse and keyboard.
Importantly when comparing with other miniature PCs, the Intel-powered Chuwi Larkbox is a tiny 60mm * 60mm * 40mm. Stunning.
YouTube and other streaming and local videos – smooth – ie very usable – on my 1920*1080 monitor (I’ll soon try the Larkbox on my 4K monitor). Comparing this to any desktop experience on my otherwise favourite small machine – the Raspberry Pi 4, this is GREAT.
Now, though it would be missing the point of such a small unit, one COULD gripe about the Larkbox not having twin HDMI outputs – but of course, USB3 to HDMI adaptors are available. Right now I’m about to add a third monitor to my PC with one of these after years of using a slow USB2 equivalent for the third monitor.
Let me put it this way, for some years I’ve had a spare Dell (now Windows 10) laptop sitting on my bench as a general backup/testing machine. I’m looking at the little Chuwi and thinking “and I’m keeping that old Dell monster for WHAT reason?). Well, right now, lack of auto power up or “wake-on-Lan” is one reason.
Windows updates took the usual unreasonable amount of time during which I left the Larkbox to get on with it. Once downloaded, I realised that although I had the latest security updates, I did not have the new 20H2 upgrade so went off to get the upgrade tool to force the issue.
The 20H2 upgrade worked perfectly – my new Chuwi Larkbox (despite an early morning power cut – thanks, “Endesa” electric company) is now fully up to date and working a treat. Just used “Windows Cleanup” to get rid of the install files off that 115GB internal solid state drive.
Does the Larkbox get hot when playing video? While streaming an HD movie from the UK to Spain on the Larkbox, the hottest point I could find with my handy infra-red thermometer was 45c max, more typically around the box the temperature would be no more than 38c – most if not all of you will know you can readily bathe in water at that temperature. The Larkbox uses a Celeron processor but a good one.
So, not at all shabby. I would have preferred Windows Pro to Home, as Remote Desktop Connection doesn’t come on Windows Home but thanks to this link and Mr Shark, I installed RDC (Remote Desktop Connection – as administrator) and can run the Larkbox now without keyboard, mouse or screen.
I’ll grant you there are two issues here – wake up on LAN assumes a LAN, not WiFi so I ordered a USB3-LAN adaptor and that is now in use – but I still cannot get wake-on-LAN to work. The unit power is always OFF after power cycling – I can find no way to have it default to power ON in that situation. If anyone knows better, do let me know. I’m used to my PC automatically powering up after a mains failure. I just asked Chuwi how to resolve the wake-on-LAN and default power-off issues and got the kind of response you might expect from AliExpress “can you send a video of the problem?” – how dumb is THAT?
I replied with my serial number and an exact explanation of the issues – all I got back in email from “Jim” at Chuwi tech support who said “Sorry, this machine doesn’t have the function you need”.
Here’s an extract from the Chuwi forums including my own contributions… on November 9, 2020 – “Internet200” asked “Is there a way of setting the LarkBox to immediately boot once it receives power? So it automatically reboots in case the power goes out. I need that functionality for an electronic signage application?”. I responded…”So do I and no matter where I check in the BIOS I can’t find it – can someone from Chuwi please respond? I live in one of MANY areas around the world where short power failures are not uncommon – my PC defaults to power on but the Chuwi seems to default to power off. Can we change this?”.
“Sebastibe” responded “Same issue here and it is quite an important requirement to us as well.”. “Ivan.m” responded “Waiting for Chuwi team response, this issue is very important for me as well. Autoboot on power is required to use LarkBox as home automation core or small home server.” – as yet no response in the forum from Chuwi.
When I say “issues” anyone planning to use the Larkbox only locally would not think of the above as issues.
And here is a photo of the Larkbox on the right above, complete with only it’s USB-C power and my Blitzwolf 256GB USB3 external storage for videos to supplement the internal 128GB eMMC.
I’ve recently grabbed a USB C (female) to USB C (male) adaptor – someone has already written in to ask about running a second monitor. Alternatively The Larkbox can handle an extra internal M.2 2242 SSD as against it’s default internal 128GB eMMC – unfortunately only up to 128GB (I just discovered that) and not the kind of SSD I just received – be VERY careful to check you get the right type of SSD if you have a Larkbox and want to expand it. My NETAC 512GB Flash Drive was going to expand the Larkbox – but it can’t.
Update February 10, 2021
I should say firstly that I am very disappointed in the Chuwi Larkbox for MY needs, despite working perfectly to play videos and run programs, neither power-on-lan nor automatic wake after power cycle will work. The worst part about it is ZERO tech support from Chuwi on the subject – they simply were not interested and it is now approaching 3 months since I did the original review (Nov 22, 2020) – such a shame for such an otherwise promising – and visually NEAT machine. Of course if all you want to do is play videos then the above won’t matter. I had the Chuwi pegged as a powerful, reliable home control hub – but with no way to ensure it stays ON, that idea quickly went out of the window.