Azulle Access Plus PC Stick Review

by Reads (1,697)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Features
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 4
      • Durability
      • 7
      • Utility
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 6.40
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Good selection of ports/connectivity features
    • Compact form factor
    • Mostly simple set up
  • Cons

    • Some display setup issues
    • Occasionally laggy performance
    • Ethernet port is nice, but adds unnecessary cost

PC sticks are far from the most popular devices in the tech market, but there’s certainly an argument to be made for the convenience they offer and their utility in certain scenarios. It would appear that Azulle is banking on that appeal by offering not one, but three different models, which includes the Azulle Access Plus Fanless Mini PC Stick.

Azulle Access Plus

The Access Plus is the second generation model of Azulle’s original Access LAN stick, and comes in two varieties: a 2 GB RAM model and a 4 GB RAM model. Its real claim to fame, though, is that it purports to be the world’s only PC stick with an Ethernet port – with the exception of its predecessor, of course.

At a starting price of $139.99 for the 2 GB model, the Access Plus is close to impulse buy territory if, say, you wanted a device for media streaming that has slightly more functionality than other set top boxes. More likely, however, all but the most dedicated road warriors will see this as a niche product that they could do without. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a closer look to see what exactly you’re getting for your money.

Azulle Access Plus Build & Design

For those who may not be intimately familiar with PC sticks, the term “stick” is generally a bit of a misnomer, and that’s certainly the case with the Access Plus. Measuring in at 5.5 x 2.36 x 0.76”, it would be more appropriate to call it a PC bar if anything, but it’s still compact enough to fit into a large jacket or pants pocket. At a mere 0.32 pounds, it’s also exceptionally lightweight for a computer that you can hold in your hand.

The Access Plus has an understated appearance, with a textured surface patterned circles and an all-black coat of paint. Though it’s mostly flat and unremarkable in its build, it has a small indicator light on the top side (which glows red when the unit’s off and blue when it’s on) and flares out slightly on one end to make room for the highly-touted Ethernet port.

In fact, for something so small, the Access Plus actually supports a wide range of ports and connectivity; in addition to wired internet access, there is also a rotating, fold-away antenna on one side of the unit to provide users with Wi-Fi connectivity. Behind the antenna is a microSD card slot for expandable memory, while the Ethernet port on the end of the device is flanked by a lock socket and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The latter could come in especially handy if you’re plugging this thing into a monitor that doesn’t happen to have built-in speakers.

Around on the other edge of the device, you’ll find two USB ports (one 3.0 and one 2.0), a micro USB port for the power source, and the power button. There is nothing on the other short end of the device, save for the male HDMI port that is used to connect the entire unit into a display.

Azulle Access Plus Performance

The hardware of the Access Plus is obviously quite modest, but it does run a full-fledged, 64-bit version of Windows 10. Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel Cherry Trail T3 (now known as the Intel Atom x5 series) Z8300 quad-core processor, which has a CPU frequency of 1.44 GHz – 1.84 GHz, and uses on-board Intel HD Graphics as its GPU. As mentioned, the Access Plus comes in 2GB and 4GB DDR3L RAM varieties, with both models coming equipped with only 32 GB of storage (hey, that’s what the microSD card slot is for). As for the connectivity options, both Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band (2.4G/5G) Wi-Fi connectivity are included, as well as the Ethernet port. The latter is nice to have, but it’s unfortunate that Azulle is using it as a selling point since it’s far from necessary, what with how easy it is to find Wi-Fi these days.

The performance of the Access Plus was precisely what I predicted it would be, which is to say that it was on the low end of the spectrum. This is not a device that should be expected to do any sort of heavy lifting; it’s very much a bare-bones computer that allows you to do basic work tasks (word processing, web browsing) and low-intensity entertainment (video streaming) on the go, and that’s about it. As shown below, the unit’s benchmark results were not particularly impressive, with the Access Plus’s wPrime time clocking in around 30 seconds slower than that of a legitimate notebook.

What this means in practical terms is that sooner or later, you’re likely to encounter some hitches in the smoothness of the Access Plus’s performance, even if you’re not doing anything that’s particularly demanding on the processor. I even experienced lag when the unit just was loading up the graphics manager from the system tray, which, by the way, is not a particularly intense application. There were delays in my typing (I could punch in multiple words before the first letter even showed up) and creating new tabs in the web browser – not loading the content, but just waiting for the new frame to show up on the screen – took multiple seconds.

It may not always be a smooth ride when you’re actually using it, but the setup of the Access Plus could not be any simpler. It’s truly the definition of plug and play, with the only steps being plugging the unit into the HDMI port of a display and holding down the power button for a couple of seconds to start up the machine. The boot time is average, taking roughly 30-35 seconds from when you press the power button to arriving at the Windows login screen.

Upon booting it up for the first time, users will go through the usual Windows setup process, but there’s nothing additional or particular to the Access Plus that users need to endure to get started. The only thing users need to get started are input tools, but the stick’s USB ports make it easy to plug in a mouse and keyboard (if you want to get creative and preserve ports, you can even plug a USB hub into one port and use that to attach your peripherals).

Audio setup for the Access Plus – since it obviously doesn’t have speakers – was also a piece of cake, which is to say that I didn’t have to do anything at all to get it working. Upon plugging the stick into my TV, it automatically detected its speakers and began using them for audio output.

Getting started wasn’t all peaches and cream, however. Unfortunately, getting the display/resolution set up was a bit of a hassle and I ultimately couldn’t find a graceful solution for it. The issue was that when set to the proper resolution for the display (which, to the Access Plus’s credit, it properly detected as 1920 x 1080 for my hardware), it pushed the screen out a little too far on the edges, leaving portions of it cut off. This was more of an inconvenience than you might think; for instance, I couldn’t see the scroll bar when a window was maximized, nor could I see the date in the system tray. To provide a more specific idea of how much was being cut off at the edges of the screen, I could lose the entire cursor in the cut off space and the “Recycle Bin” became the “ycle Bin.”

Now, a few notes about this. First of all, it’s possible that this was just a matter of the display being cut off by the bezel of my television (which isn’t even all that thick, but still). That said, that’s still a bit of a flaw to not account for that, given that all but the fanciest of TVs/displays are going to have a bezel thickness of some kind. It’s also worth mentioning that there is an included Intel HD Graphics Control Panel that is ready and waiting in the system tray, which ostensibly makes it easy to adjust any sort of display issues. There are number of options to accommodate different displays and resolutions, and there are even options to create custom resolutions, but in the end it still wasn’t possible to get the screen to fit quite right on my display. Custom resolutions get rounded off to dimensions that still don’t fit properly and lower resolutions end up leaving large amounts of unused space around the edges (though they do at least let me see all of the screen), so the display setup ultimately left me frustrated and unsatisfied.

The device’s Bluetooth setup and connectivity, on the other hand, worked flawlessly. This is good news, of course, given that the Access Plus has no built-in input devices, meaning that users will very likely want to connect Bluetooth mice and/or keyboards (though wired options are certainly feasible as well). All I had to do was turn on my Bluetooth keyboard, click the shortcut in the system tray, and click “Connect” on my device once it showed up in the list of available Bluetooth devices. From there, the keyboard worked perfectly without the connection ever dropping out. I even checked to make sure that the PC stick would remember the device and automatically connect to it even after the PC had been turned off and turned back on again, which it did.

Thankfully, Azulle opted not to load up the Access Plus with a bunch of third-party software…or any, for that matter. The only software that comes preloaded on the machine is the usual suite of Windows programs. It’s obviously for the best since something as basic and bare-bones as a PC stick can’t afford to be bogged down by or have space taken up by bloatware, but it was still a relief to see nothing in the out of the ordinary in the Start menu and a mere four icons (Intel Graphics, Bluetooth, PC status, and OneDrive) in the system tray.

wPrime 32M processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):

Azulle Access Plus Final Thoughts

In the grand scheme of PC sticks, Azulle’s Access Plus Fanless Mini PC Stick holds its own. It’s a good, albeit flawed, piece of hardware that offers basic PC functionality in an exceedingly compact form factor. But while I can appreciate Azulle’s attempt to distinguish this model from the competition (and its other offerings) given the inherently niche nature of the product, the presence of an Ethernet port just isn’t all that life-changing. Given the ubiquitous nature of Wi-Fi, the scenarios in which users would find themselves wanting to take advantage of it are few and far between, even if they’re on the road.

The shrug that the Ethernet port elicits certainly isn’t a detractor, though. Looking past the occasionally faltering performance – which is easy to do, since no one should be expecting the Access Plus to be a world-beater – this is still a convenient product that allows consumers to put a fully-functioning PC in their pockets for under $150, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Pros:

  • Good selection of ports/connectivity features
  • Compact form factor
  • Mostly simple set up

Cons:

  • Some display setup issues
  • Occasionally laggy performance
  • Ethernet port is nice, but adds unnecessary cost



LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.