on February 13, 2012
I'm using the NTA-3500 (I'm referring to Foxconn's model number) as a MythTV primary back- and front-end. (I can't get MythTV and my TV tuner working together, but that's a separate issue.)
So far I'm very pleased with the NTA-3500. I'm happy to avoid paying the "Windows tax" because Ubuntu Linux offers everything I need for personal use or work.
I would rate NTA-3500 five stars, but it gets at least one star off (maybe should be two) for: 1) poor documentation, 2) lack of support for flashing the BIOS (not entirely Foxconn's fault, but they could do more to help their customers) and 3) shipping units with outdated BIOS containing some serious limitations. Google around, you will see many people struggling to bring up an OS on this thing. Most of the problems are for non-Windows scenarios. Configuring a bare bones PC and installing an OS is not for the faint of heart, and does require some technical knowledge.
Reviewers here and on newegg have pointed out that a BIOS update is pretty much mandatory, and that it's not easy to do. With my new 4gb RAM the PC wouldn't boot; fortunately, I had a compatible 2gb card from a MacBook Pro.
This should have been my first clue: pay more attention to advice from strangers with experience.
I tried to install Ubuntu Linux without doing the BIOS update, and that was a huge waste of time, as I couldn't consistently reboot from my various devices: USB thumb drive, USB CD, internal SATA HD. After the BIOS update I was able to boot readily from any device. Be aware, USB thumb drives (mine were Sandisk) may appear in the BIOS boot screen as both USB and UEFI devices. I only managed to boot consistently after flashing the BIOS and setting the boot order to: USB flash, UEFI USB, CD, then SATA HD.
As for flashing the BIOS? Next time I'd install Windows or FreeDOS first. With FreeDOS on USB or CD you can run fdisk (partition and format) and flash the BIOS. I installed FreeDOS to the HD on another PC, thinking it may be useful for doing repairs later.
Getting back to the limited support from Foxconn: The user manual is useless and riddled with quaint / awkward translations. Their Web site is hard to navigate, and it was down quite often over the weekend.
On a related note, I agree with people who complained about the difficulty of removing the lid, and lack of instructions. (The user guide actually asserts that disassembling the product "may result in malfunction, and void warranty". Here's the trick: use a very thin wedge to "break the seal" (that's what it feels like) and pop up one corner, starting just off the corner on any edge. While keeping an edge propped open, pop the seal and prop open corner, then slide the wedge along the edge, levering the bottom surface up off its attachments. Goal is to pop all the little plastic tabs out of their sockets. You can (must) use a little more force than you might think is safe - but not too much!
Next time I do this I'll know better. Which leads me to the happy ending: I would buy another one. It's a great value for a compact energy-saving PC with HDMI, wifi and Ethernet, USB and SD. This is my first PC I could imagine keeping on a small table or bookshelf, maybe even a kitchen counter. I think it's capable of doing anything a comparably equipped desktop could do. The only serious limitation are a) CPU (there are faster small PCs) and RAM - 4g max, 1066 seems to be the best it can do. Which IMO makes Linux a more suitable OS than Windows - just my $.02
on September 16, 2011
Just finished loading Windows 7 on it. I was a little frustrated at first because of the lack of documentation on how to install the hard drive and memory (drive and memory ordered separately). There are four screws you need to remove using a narrow screwdriver and then you have to pry off the top, gently working your screw driver under the edge of the lid.
Since I didn't have an external CD-Rom drive to perform the installation, I used two USB flash drives, one with Windows 7 on it, and the other with the drivers from the CD. I made the mistake of initially attempting the installation using the two 3.0 USB ports on the front of the computer. If you do that, it will prompt you for drivers during the install and you will get stuck. Instead, use the 2.0 USB ports on the back of the computer and the installation will complete fine. At the end of the Windows 7 installation, you will need to install the drivers. Be sure to refer to the booklet provide which instructs you to install one particular driver first, followed by the others.
I don't yet have enough experience with it to comment on its performance, other than to say my initial impressions are positive. You might want to check out Newegg.com which has more feedback. People over there say the unit tends to run hot if subjected to heavy processing.
I have been using it now as my primary desktop at home for a few weeks and have been pretty happy with it. It is not really a great multi-tasking machine, but for single purpose tasks it is fine. I do streaming video to my Android tablet, and that works well, although transcoding at the desktop results in a heavy load on the processors.
One thing I have noticed is the Wireless Network adapter doesn't support "Wake on Lan" --meaning I can't can't send a magic packet to the IP address assigned to this adapter from my Android tablet in order to wake it up. To resolve this I ran an ethernet cable from the Foxconn PC to my router and enabled the Wake on Lan properties for this adapter. So, I now send the magic packet to the IP address assigned to the ethernet adapter and it wakes fine.
on January 30, 2012
In general, the nettop is a fairly ingenious piece of equipment. Very compact and includes a lot of good features.
The first problem I had with this is the terrible documentation. There is no explanation how to remove the cover. While the 4 screws are obvious, I was very concerned I would break the plastic cover taking it off. Once the screws are removed the back is still firmly attached to the unit and must be pried off with a screw driver all the time thinking I was going to break it. Instructions might have helped. There are also no instructions on installing the hard drive or memory, but that was very easy to figure out once the box was open.
I loaded a new copy of Windows 7 Home Premium on a 60 GB SSD with 4GB RAM. I then loaded the drivers from the maunfacturer and all the Microsoft and AMD patches. However, the nettop blue screens after a few minutes when playing back video. I have never experienced blue screen core dumps on Windows 7 before and thought they were a thing of the past.
Going to the Foxconn website is sheer agony. It is so SLOW. I struggled for hours to download their most recent drivers with limited success. It is difficult to determine which patch is which based on the horrible website. The worst part is the bios update. The website version is 6 versions newer than what was shipped, however I cannot figure out how to install it. It does not come with an install tool and does not run in Windows.
Foxconn reminds me of where the rest of the PC/motherboard industry was 10 years ago. Pretty pathetic considering the actual device seems like it might be a success if you could get the bios and drivers right.
Pretty much wasted an entire afternoon trying to make this work reliably. Failed.
Still blue screening. I will attempt to email Foxconn to find a solution before I return it.
UPDATE - Foxconn actually responds to email after about two days. Don't expect an answer longer than one sentence or for them to actually answer your question on the first try. They point you to some websites that give instructions on how to do generic bios updates, but they don't provide any direct help. It is up to you. I ended up getting an external bootable floppy to do the bios update (thanks to my junk drawer). This worked. Otherwise you need to create a bootable CD or USB drive that gets you to a DOS command line, which is not that easy for everyone. I mean, how hard would it have been for them to provide a CD ISO so you would only have to burn a the CD and then boot to it? Seriously.
After a bunch of Windows incrememntal updates and the bios upate the nettop seems to be running well and I am happy with the performance, with the exception of the wireless, which is a lot slower than it should be. It's just a shame it took so much work to get this machine stabilized. I do not recommend for anyone not advanced in building computers.
on January 13, 2012
I bought this looking for a low-power HTPC to connect to my TV in the living room and stream Amazon Prime, Zune, and other videos to the TV.
I had a 2.5" hdd mechanical HD sitting around, and a 4GB stick of ddr3 from Amazon. I also bought a GMYLE USB Keyboard/Touchpad (looks like a large Blackberry) to go along with this. I have this plugged into my 42" Hitachi 1080i Plasma Television (I know I need to get a new one.)
Installing the HD and RAM was a breeze. Unscrewed a few phillips head screws, ran a flat head around the edge of the case to disconnect the plastic tabs, and the case opened right up. Once that was done I popped in the hard drive and memory. Make sure you test your system to make sure that it posts before you screw the enclosure back together. This didn't happen to me, but sometimes the RAM doesn't seat correctly and your system and you need to take it out and push it back in.
Installed windows 7 no problem using a bootable USB drive. Once Windows installed, I installed the drivers from the included DVD, and the driver for my USB touchpad remote.
This thing handles all of the streaming media that I've thrown at it. Still want to get an external Blu Ray player to try that out. My current Blu Ray is a normal stand alone player and it takes so long to boot up/turn on that I really want to replace it. Will get a Blu Ray USB player soon and will update the review then. I also use it to play Zune/YouTube/Spotify music when friends come over. Since it's hooked up to my main TV I just pass the touch pad around and let people queue up whatever songs they want to hear.
The only draw back is that the Audio adapter can send out digital surround sound via the infared connector. The only issue is that this connector can not be used in conjunection with HDMI. Your only options when using HDMI are 2.0 channel stereo over the HDMI cable. If you want to take advantage of the surround sound option then you'll need to use the DVI/VGA connector for video and then a 1/4 infared cable with a 1/4 mini-plug adapter.
For the total price of about $320 you can't get a better/smaller PC. This thing is silent (I don't hear the WD Blue HD at all from the couch) and performs perfectly as a media device. Windows Experience Index is 3.8 with CPU being the limitting factor.
Just installed Microsoft Flight on this thing to see if it could play the game at low settings. Had the resolution turned down to 720p, and settings on Low. Plays fine w/o any lag. All videos render smoothly (there was slight stuttering on 1080p but that could be due to the slow Hard Drive that I have in this thing.) Overall it can play flight simulator just fine. If you know anything about gaming flight simulators require alot of graphics power and this machine handles it just fine. The minimum requirements for MIcrosoft Flight are as follows:
CPU: Dual Core 2.0 GHz
GPU: 256 MB card capable of shader 3.0 (DX 9.0c compliant)
HD: 10 GB hard drive space
OS : WinXP SP3 or newer
on August 12, 2012
I purchased this for the purpose of building a settop XBMC machine. I added in 4GB of ram and a 60GB SSD (probably the ones listed below as 'most often purchased together).
Installation was pretty easy. I followed the instructions to unscrew the 4 corners, slipped a knife/thin object in between the case and the body, and tentatively pulled apart. The last bit was a little scary, as I'm not a fan of using any modicum of force when assembling/disassembling computer parts. Ram chip went in easily, SSD went in easily, and the rest of the parts were already installed (even though the instructions talked about putting in the Wifi module -- it was already in there).
Reassembled, screwed back in screws, then took it over to my TV to plug in via HDMI.
Started up, Bios showed up, then asked for a boot device. Awesome. I plugged in my USB drive that had an ISO of Windows 7. Restarted. Then it booted up to a blank black screen and blinking cursor. I tried fiddling with the bios/boot order, nothing worked. I went back to my main computer and formatted the drive, then used Microsoft's official USB boot drive maker to burn the ISO on to the drive. Plugged it back in, and it worked.
Setup started, then it stopped and asked me to install CD/DVD drivers. What? There is no CD/DVD drive! The PC came with a CD of drivers (a CD... with a barebones that doesn't have a CD drive...). I looked online for drivers before stumbling upon other people with the same problem. Turns out I was using the front (USB 3.0) sockets when I should use the back (2.0) ones. I swapped the drive to the back and it worked!
Installing... installing... *startup music* SUCCESS!
Resolution is awful, but that's because the display drivers aren't installed. Connect to the inter-oh wait, my wifi drivers aren't installed either. No worries, it's got ethernet. I rummaged around and found one of my powerline adapters to get a wired connection. Plugged it in and... no dice. Need drivers for ethernet too. Managed to find them on Foxconn's site:
I downloaded them, put them on a USB drive, installed them, and ethernet worked. Then Windows Update downloaded the rest. Restarted and it got to it's nicer native resolution. Installed XBMC and it runs flawlessly.
All in all, good product. I deducted a star for the fact that it comes with a CD of all the drivers for a PC without a CD drive and for having tiny, recessed screws that needs a specialty screwdriver.
on January 28, 2012
Foxconn Nettop NT-3500
So this little HTPC is fantastic but, I wouldn't recommend it as the only HTPC in the house. At the very least you should have a desktop on the network to save content to.
CPU: Dual core 1.6GHz
Memory: 1 DDR3 SO-DIMM up to 1066
GFX:Radeon HD 6310
HDD: 2.5in SATA2 or (Linux) SD Slot of Flash drive
Front: 1x SD/SFHC/MS/MS Pro, 2x USB3, 1x mic, 1x Headphones
Back: Gigabit nic, 4x USB2, 1x Lineout supports SPDIF, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x DVI,
Dimensions: 7.48(W) x 5.31(D) x .98(h)in / 190(W) x 135(D) x 25(H)mm
Lets first talk about Linux.
Ubuntu 11.10 runs GREAT on the nettop. Its fast, you don't need a HDD because with linux you can boot from SD card. I also think the Wifi driver for linux is better then the windows one, at least dealing with n. XBMC runs fantastic my HD rips run fine but I took a uncompressed bluray rip today and it did stutter a little bit I would say about 90%.
Flash is pretty much out of the questions:mad:. I don't think the flash plugin or the AMD linux driver are up to the task. Even normal SD flash skips a bit.
1080p HD can sometimes stutter.
Now onto Windows.
The OS is fluid, just as fluid as my i7. Flash works damn near perfect. You can watch 1080p or any other resolution you want. drivers and a cinch to find. Windows update pretty much takes care of everything. XBMC is screaming fast and drivers are updated constantly.
Windows cost money:mad:
No SD Card install.
video review. To large for amazon
on December 18, 2012
I purchased this one, and the NT-A3700. The difference with the NT-A3500 here, is a slower CPU and cheaper Wi-Fi.
Primarily, the NT-A3500 uses the AMD E-350 CPU whereas the NT-A3700 uses the AMD E-450 CPU.
The main advantage with the E-450 is ~10% faster processing power, and 15-25% faster graphics processing. The more powerful graphics will really come in handy while watching streaming television or playing some basic games in front of your television.
Can the E-350 do the job? Yes, but be prepared for frustration and lag at times.
on March 11, 2013
I was expecting a lot of issues with getting the I/O devices (keyboard, monitor, mouse) to work, but it worked "out of the box":
1) Installed the RAM
2) Created a USB Ubuntu 12.04 instance (not installed, just in the 'try it' mode) from my other PC
3) Plugged in:
- USB drive
- Kinesis ergonomic keyboard
- Logitech trackpad
- HDMI cable from my Samsung HDTV
4) Voila! I saw Ubuntu 12.04's desktop on my TV and my mouse and keyboard worked :)
It is more complicated to get Ubuntu to do exactly what you want (an SSHFS file server in my case), but that's down to Ubuntu, not the device.
If you want to save some money, there's no need for a SATA SSD: just buy a Sandisk Cruzer 32GB. Once your fears have been calmed that the device works, and you've figured out exactly how you want to use it, you can buy whatever peripherals you please.
on October 22, 2013
I was using this as my desktop computer for simple web surfing, document editing and watching movies. i loaded windows 7 and it works fine. It can also handle different video formats quite well. It's quiet. I've used up all the USB ports on the back for my webcam, SD readers, etc. The SD reader that came with it was the first to fail. Not sure if this is due to software misconfiguration. One day, when i hooked up 2 usb 3.0 drives on the front 3.0 USB ports, I copied 1.5TB worth of files in between the 2 drives. After sometime i got a blue screen of death. Thinking that it's just a typical windows crash, i promptly powered off the computer and powered it back on. I no longer hear the fan spinning after powering it back on. The power on light would turn on briefly, then it turns off. No monitor signals, no keyboard signal. Just plain dead. I have been running it 24 hours for the past 10-12 months. Maybe it fails in longevity. Nevertheless, it was fun while it lasted. Thanks God for backups.
on December 1, 2013
This computer is fine if you are only searching the web with it, however once you try to place videos or do anything resource intensive, this unit immediately slows to a crawl. I purchased this with the thought in mind of having it attached to my TV as a media center, however this is simply way too underpowered for this use. It is still good if you want to give it to a kid to use, but for any real use you'll need to get something more powerful.