The Pipo X7
In december 2014 stories appeared on a competent mini Windows PC, the Pipo X7. Low price, nice looking, well equiped and worth a look.
I got myself a white (alu) Pipo X7 to use as a lightweight PC and media center. Here is what I found out and why I like it.
The Pipo X7 is a Windows 8.1 based PC with a very low price. I paid $97 in the presales at geekbuying.com, it is now $119. That price includes shipping, but you run the risk of customs and tax. Luckily that did not happen with my package, it took 3 weeks to arrive. And I seems to be lucky wit that timing, it is in heavy demand.
What you get is a real and capable Windows PC. The CPU is an Intel quad core Z3736F, it has 2 GB RAM, a 32GB SSD/eMMC diskdrive, HDMI, 4x USB12 , MicroSD, ethernet 100 MB (over USB), Wifi, bluetooth, Intel HD Graphics and a 12V 2 A external power adapter (with EU plug in my box!).
Windows 8.1 with Bing activated and genuine. And a one year Office 365 license as bonus
The Pipo X7 unpacked
Nicely packaged, in a box without much text.
After switching on, connected to my small HDMI LED TV, ethernet and a mouse and keyboard the system appears alive. I used my new Logitech K410 and a noname small keyboard/mouse, wireless without problems.
Booting is a matter of seconds thanks to the SSD type of disk. Next letting it update Windows automatically, it was ready to run without any trouble. The picture is sharp and the PC responds quite adequate.
Next I installed the latest version of Kodi (the new name for XBMC) and I could listen and watch any music or video file on my network. The ethernet connection is a bit slow (100 Mb over USB) but adequate for any video file I threw at it. Kodi is very good as media centre and it runs smooth on the Pipo X7.
Just to see how it functions with high demanding video I connected my small external LaCie bluray drive. This is a powerhungry device and, as you can see in the photo both USB cables needed to be inserted. With the freeware bluray video player Leawo I enjoyed bluray video!
Typical usage, conclusion
The Pipo is an allround PC with the latest version of Windows. Booting is fast thanks to the Samsung eMMC drive. Windows is mature, and the Pipo CPU and memory are enough but do not expect to do video editing or very large computational tasks. But for general light PC usage it is just fine, just do not open dozens of applications.
The network facilities are generous but not superfast. ethernet is a bit slow with the 10/100 via USB interface. Wifi is 150N. USB is 2.0.
It is a modern Windows PC, so it has no shortage of applications and is very userfriendly. Windows 8.1 is mature and with Classic Shell even the missing Start button is available.
As a media centre it is perfect.
Competition to Raspberry Pi 2 as media centre?
I do prefer the Pipo X7 over the Raspberry Pi for most purposes. Kodi runs on both, but the Pipo X7 has much better performance, since it has a real eMMC SSD diskdrive instead of a SD card, all networking is included, the case is of professional quality compared to most hobby RPi cases, it has no power problems that plaque many RPi users.
The Pipo X7 runs a mature operating system compared to the Raspbian OS which is still in flux and quite unfriendly Linux. For Windows getting support is easy, for Raspberry Pi it means digging to many sites with outdated, incomplete and plain wrong information and support fora filled with pedant rude Linux self appointed gurus and zealots. If the hardware you want to add to a Pi works you are either having luck or in for a long and tough job searching for drivers and up to date information, on Windows everything just runs.
The Raspberry has GPIOs, so you can control things. For a Pipo X7 I would advise to hang a Arduino Pro Micro for a couple of dollars to an USB port and you have also all I/O you can imagine (including A/D!).
It looks like the Raspberry Pi is cheap, but to the base cost add a case, a power supply, Wifi, bluetooth, a 32 GB SD card and that adds up to something close to $100 … and you have a messy looking collection of wires requiring Linux configuration instead of a professional looking system like the Pipo X7 that just works out of the box.