UNBOXED: Reviewing the Azulle Inspire Mini PC Barebone System
One of the coolest parts about being in the tech review game is that it opens up doors to testing out gizmos and gadgets that I’d otherwise never lay my hands on. That’s not necessarily for a lack of interest in those products—I wouldn’t still be here covering consumer tech if that was the case. Rather, there are things like the Azulle Inspire that simply intimidate me as an average consumer.
It’s not easy, as someone who covers consumer tech, to admit that a product like the Inspire intimidate or confuse me, but that’s the case. I understand computers, generally speaking. But my understanding—or desire to understand them, really—has typically been limited to the things you see on the outside: keyboards, monitors, mice, etc. When it comes to the guts of a computer, I understand that higher numbers mean better performance, and I get that more powerful systems are needed to run more demanding programs.
And forget about asking if I’ve ever ventured to open up a fully loaded PC in an attempt to self-upgrade.
All of that truth is what makes the Azulle Inspire such an awesome product. It can take someone who doesn’t have their PhD in technology and turn them into your everyday computer surgeon. The full name of the product gives all the explanation you’d need: It’s a mini, barebones system, meaning Azulle gives the user the opportunity to install and upgrade various components to make the PC work best for whatever it is they intend to use it for—down to the operating system they want to use.
Starting on the outside, the Inspire is a blocky, compact system that follows the aesthetic of other Azulle-made product we’ve been able to review. There are plenty of ports to keep the user happy, including three USB 3.0 ports, a data-only USB-C port, a microSD slot, an audio jack, an HDMI connection, a DisplayPort slot, and a legacy serial port. Despite all of that, the box measures barely five inches on its longer edges and stands just two inches tall. It has two antennas that help boost its WiFi range.
Azulle offers the Inspire in one of four variants from an Intel processor perspective: the Quad-Core Intel Apollo Lake, or the Dual Core i3, i5, or i7. The processor choice is what will impact the starting price point for the user’s Inspire system, which can range from $170 up to $450. The system itself is a fanless one, though those who opt for the i7 processor will receive an external cooling fan for their system (since it will run hotter than the other options).
Then comes the fun part of opening this thing up. It’s as simple as unscrewing four tiny bolt on the bottom of the device and pulling the plate off. After that, the two main things that need to be figured out before this becomes a truly-functioning machine are the memory and hard drive. For the former, Azulle offers two memory slots that support up to a combined 32GB of memory. For the storage, the user can go with an external hard drive and plug it into any of the USB slots, or there’s the option of installing it internally as well. Azulle said its system is capable of supporting newer style PCIe M.2 drives, which offer “better performance.”
The trickiest part of the whole setup, really, is determining which operating system to use and then actually installing it, which has to be done via USB.
Once you’re all set up, though, you feel a sense of accomplishment—at least I did—and you’ve got a pretty powerful PC sitting in front of you ready to be put to the test. And in our testing, I found that the system was truly capable of impressive performance. Graphics run incredibly smooth during gaming experiences, and video streaming supported true 4K quality with absolutely no lag. And it was near impossible to get the Inspire to run hot to the point where it was worrisome (we were testing the i5 model).
Some knocks against the Azulle Inspire actually relate to the barebones-ness of the system. Having to install those internal components seemed fairly easy to me, but that’s as someone who does have a basic understanding of technology and a willingness to learn. That may not be the case for all consumers, or it could create a more narrow niche for the Inspire than Azulle intended. Additionally, the barebones system hides the true cost of the PC. The user likely has their own keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but having to add the memory and the hard drive can easily double the cost of the system itself. You’re likely to spend less than a full-blown, end-to-end computing solution, but the expensive add ons could be enough to scare away some potential customers.
Despite those drawbacks, setting up the Inspire was a fun exercise and proved the system’s worth. Azulle has another home run on its hands, and they did a nice job making this novice PC builder feel like a pro.