The antithesis to hulking full-tower computers are mini PCs, like Intel's NUC and Zotac's range of Zbox machines. They're small enough to fit on top of a desk, or in an entertainment center, without sticking out. Then there's the LarkBox, a PC that's so small you could cram it into your pocket or hold it in the palm of your hand, and it's even capable of outputting at 4K.
This is the basis for the claim that it is the "world's smallest 4K mini PC," as Chinese manufacturer Chuwi advertises on the LarkBox's Indiegogo page. It measures around 2.4 x 2.4 x 1.7 inches. It is a different form factor than Intel's Compute Stick, which measures 4.06 x 1.46 x 0.47 inches and can also output at 4K, so I won't nitpick the claim.
The LarkBox is an intriguing system powered by an Intel Celeron J4115 processor, 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage. There's also an M.2 slot underneath the hood to upgrade the storage with a bigger and faster SSD, if desired.
Interestingly, Intel does not list the Celeron J4415 on its website, but it is a quad-core chip with a 1.8GHz base clock and 2.4GHz boost clock, and UHD 600 graphics.
Connectivity is fairly robust—the LarkBox boasts a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card slot. On the wireless side, it also has onboard Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5 connectivity.
Early Pricing on Indiegogo is set at $155, and apparently this will retail for $199 when it releases in August. That puts it well above something like the Raspberry Pi, but is pretty cheap for a x86 PC. At the risk of eliciting groans, at that price, I'd buy this on a lark, if I thought I'd use it.
This raises the question, what exactly could you use it for? It's a niche product for sure, though I could see it being used as a laptop replacement, media server, or lightweight retro gaming emulator. To that latter point, Taki Udon on YouTube posted a 12-minute video showcasing how it handles different emulation tasks, including NES, SNES, N64, PS1, Dreamcast, PSP, and several others. He also managed to get the LarkBox to run DMC: Devil May Cry at low settings, though not at a framerate we'd really want to play it. Check it out:
Our friends at TechRadar took the LarkBox for a spin as well, and came away generally impressed.
"The Chuwi LarkBox would have been a great buy at $300, it is almost a must-have at $199. It is relatively speedy, extremely compact and surprisingly well designed. The only real issue is to find a use for it," TechRadar wrote.
It will be interesting to see if this leads to more options in the diminutive space, particularly when Intel's low-power Lakefield processors arrive.
Either way, the LarkBox is a new addition to Indiegogo. We're always wary of crowdfunding projects, but given that some prototypes have already gone out, we're cautiously optimistic these units will actually ship this summer.