Over the last couple of years, Android has had its dominance in the tablet and TV box market for quite some time now, but with Intel’s ambitious invasion in Shenzhen, and the release of the power-efficient Bay-trail series processors, Windows has been increasing its market share in the tablet category. PIPO is no stranger to this segment. Even though it is not the pioneer in making Windows tablets, some of its products actually did receive fairly positive feedback.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the PIPO’s very first Intel TV box, the PIPO X7. The device is powered by the Intel Atom Bay-trail Z3736F 22nm quad-core processor, which has a base clock of 1.33GHz and a turbo clock of 2.16 GHz for this kit. Being officially called a TV box, the X7, running a licensed Windows 8.1 OS, works more like a desktop system that can replace your PC for lightweight computing tasks.
PIPO sent us the X7 before they finished making up their retail packaging so ours just came in a plain package. Inside was only the unit and a power adapter.
Design and Build
The X7 is a pretty small unit, the exact dimensions are 188.5 x 128.5 x 26mm. It is definitely not the smallest TV box that we have seen, but considering what is inside that is acceptable. The housing for the unit is made of aluminum, which gives it a very cool look and will help out with cooling. On the top of the unit is a large PIPO logo. The unit also has some good weight to it and feels solid. Like most TV boxes and mini PCs, the X7 doesn’t look particularly stylish or refined, but it isn’t particularly bad-looking, either.
Here are some shots of the sides of the X7 as well as all the ports and slots. We were extremely delighted to find that the PIPO X7 has 4 standard USB ports, even more than some of the laptops. Besides the Antenna and a built-in wireless receiver for Wi-Fi reception, the X7 also has a standard Ethernet jack, which helps you establish a more solid connection to the internet. A micro SD card slot is also on board to help expand the very limited 32GB/64GB internal storage. The X7 also houses an HDMI output, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a DC port. The absence of a VGA output and a 4*1 card reader is quite a shame, though.
As the X7 is fanless, PIPO has opened lots of ventilation holes on the sides and the bottom of the X7’s case to help with heat dissipation.
On the bottom of the unit are 4 large feet which will lift the X7 off the ground a bit. They are made from soft plastic that can help keeping the box from sliding around. Unlike some of PIPO’s tablet models, the X7 actually feels quite sturdy and well-built.
Unfortunately, the X7 doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse, or remote, the users have to get those things ready so they can actually use the box. The X7 is covered by a one-year warranty.
Windows 8.1 and software
Getting the system setup is very easy, just plug it in, connect your devices and you are good to go. Remember this system has built-in WiFi so you can put it pretty much anywhere in your house and still have internet connectivity.
The X7’s 32GB eMMc storage comes with no preloaded software, so users can dive right into Windows 8.1 right out of the box rather than having to uninstall bloatware or trialware. The X7 also features Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which provides a basic level of encryption that small- to medium-sized businesses may find useful.
Booting was fairly fast, we found that it took a few seconds to get to the logon screen and it took a total of 13.750 seconds to get up and run on the desktop! We were left with only 20.2GB free internal storage when we first booted into Windows 8.1. After installing the Anti-virus, disk managing software, Office 2013 and some media applications, we were only left with 12.3GB free storage. Luckily a micro SD card slot is on board to expand the storage for applications and software, if you want more storage for media content you’d better plug in a mobile hard drive.
Office 365 is included, but the activation code Microsoft has given to each unit of the X7 box only has 1 year’s effectiveness since the Office suite is fully installed.
The Windows 8.1 on the X7 is pretty fast and responsive as long as you don’t open some heavy desktop application or have lots of software running in the background. For people that are new to this operating system, you could find lots of YouTube videos for guidance, we are not going to talk much about it here again.
The PIPO X7 was evaluated using our standard test suite for low power desktops and Windows tablets.
In the latest build of 3DMark we found scores of 14,232 in Ice Storm, 1,169 in Cloud Gate and 479 in the new Sky Driver test suite. 3DMark First Strike wouldn’t run due to an error due to what looks like the 2GB of memory filling up and the benchmark was unable to run.
Moving along to Cinebench R10 we found the X7 scored 2,196 on multi-core CPU test. In the updated R11.5 version, the X7 snotched a score of 0.79 points, which is in the same class with the entry-level mini PCs and Windows tablets.
In both Sunspider and Peacekeeper tests, the X7 was returned scores which were expected for the Bay-trail quad-core processor, yet still easily trumped the test results of any Android or iOS devices.
In the real world experience, Windows 8.1 apps run without a hitch, but it’s a different story once demanding desktop programs come into the fold.
You won’t run into too much trouble with one or two desktop applications open – you can run several Office apps simultaneously, for example – without experiencing any impact on performance.
If you mainly use the X7 as a TV box in your living room, it will do the job excellently. I almost watched the entire Australian Open tournament, as well as countless episodes of TV shows using the X7. With those desktop applications, It is not so easy to use as those TV sticks which run customized Android OS. But it does offer way more functions of a full-fledged personal computer.
Open four or five desktop apps, however, in addition to a few from the Microsoft Store, and you’ll start to experience frozen windows, lag and, if you’re low on storage space, lengthy lock-ups.
Simply put, the PIPO X7 won’t meet the needs of power users needing to do anything more demanding than casual web browsing, word processing, social media or using Microsoft Store apps. However, as a day-to-day companion device for completing PC tasks on the go, it’s perfectly up to the task.
Connectivity is a strength of the PIPO X7 as you have 4 full USB ports on board and can hook up quite a bunch of things such as input devices, mobile hard drives as well as a gamepads.
Wireless internet reception of the PIPO X7 is simply amazing. Even 8 meters and a wall away from my cheap router, where my Acer ICONIA W700 tablet/laptop started to have problems establishing a solid connection, the X7 was still downloading video files at top speed. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet interface on the back for wired networks, so the device doesn’t have to rely on Wi-Fi.
The Bluetooth connectivity isn’t the best, though, taking three attempts to find my Acer ICONIA Bluetooth keyboard despite it being ready for searching and less than a meter away. But after pairing was complete the two were automatically in sync, so at least it’s only going to be frustrating for one episode.
As is mentioned earlier, the storage of the PIPO X7 is expandable, but only with a Micro SD card up to 64GB. Users can install less important applications in the Micro SD card rather than the precious 32GB internal storage, which is better left for system and office apps.
The PIPO X7 Intel TV box is a first generation product and with all first generation products there are issues that need to be worked out. The X7 isn’t a bad product by any means, but there are several things which can be improved.
Although we somehow know that 2015 could potentially be the year of Windows TV boxes and mini PCs, we are still having a tough time figuring out who this kind of product is targeting. The X7 doesn’t have the power for frequently running CPU intensive applications, it doesn’t have the graphic power to be a gaming system, it lacks the convenience of traditional Android TV boxes, and it also lacks remote functionalities that HTPC users crave for. So, from what we gather the X7 doesn’t really cover any one specific niche, but we do find it being the smallest and possibly the lowest cost Windows 8.1 ready mini PC on the market. The million dollar question is though, are there enough people looking for something like that and are they willing to pay for it to make it successful?
Overall performance of the PIPO X7 was right where we expected it to be and it was similar to many of the Intel Bay-trail powered Windows tablets that we reviewed last year. It is able to do normal web surfing, light gaming and general office productivity tasks and we’d classify it as an everyday system for the average person.
If you are concerned about power consumption and want an energy-efficient system that sips power, the PIPO X7 does just that. At just 3 Watts idle and at most 12 Watts at load we must admit that we love the power characteristics of this system.
The X7 is currently available with 32GB of eMMC storage with silver or black enclosure. PIPO has plans to bring out a 64GB version later. The Pipo X7 32GB model sells for $124.9 from Pipomall, which is pretty nice considering what you get in terms of hardware.
Even with the list of gripes that we have above we have to say that X7 has managed to deliver a product that has a nice price versus performance ratio. For $124.9 we can look over many of the issues that we ran across with it! With a keyboard/mouse and the display, you get an entire PC with full licensed Windows 8.1 OS and 12 months of Office 365. That is a tremendous value and hard to pass up if you are looking for an entry level PC that won’t break the bank. No other PC Kit for Windows can come close to touching this system when it comes to price or performance down at this price point! If the X7 looks like it is enough for what you need it to do, then you should give it a try.
- Small and compact unit
- WiFi and Bluetooth
- Solid performance
- 4 USB ports
- Reasonable price
- Licensed Windows 8.1
- No VGA output
- No 4*1 card reader
The PIPO X7 isn’t a perfectly designed system and certainly isn’t a powerhouse, but is a decent system for users tight on space looking to perform basic computing tasks or who are interested in a system that can also double as a media center. However, other choices in the same price range are worth exploring, most notably the MELE PCG03, which has only two USB ports, but an additional VGA output and AV out, and the 10moons D9i, which has a USB3.0 port but no licensed Windows 8.1 operating system.