Pen­guin Wee 4th Gen

This com­pact PC is highly con­fig­urable and comes with your choice of dis­tri­bu­tions pre-in­stalled. Matthew Han­son tries it out.

Linux Format - - Contents -

A small, yet pow­er­ful, desk­top PC that runs your choice of Linux straight out of the box.

There’s a dis­tinct lack of com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ers mak­ing ma­chines with Linux pre-in­stalled in mind, so it’s a real plea­sure to get a tai­lor-made ma­chine – filled with some of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy – and Ubuntu 13.10 al­ready in­stalled and ready to work straight out of the box. Of course we’re com­pelled to say – in a BBC-es­que way – that other Linux dis­tros are avail­able. The Pen­guin Wee 4th Gen GNU/Linux Desk­top is fully con­fig­urable be­fore you pur­chase, mean­ing you can tai­lor your Pen­guin Wee to per­fectly suit your needs, as well as your budget.

The de­fault pre-in­stalled dis­tro is Ubuntu 13.10, but there’s a long list of sup­ported dis­tros on the web­site, along with a note that even if your dis­tro of choice is not listed, as long as it is rel­a­tively mod­ern there shouldn’t be a prob­lem run­ning it on the Pen­guin Wee.

Con­fig­ur­ing the rest of the sys­tem is just as easy – each con­fig­urable com­po­nent has a drop-down list box stat­ing the var­i­ous op­tions, along with any additional costs that op­tion will add to the over­all price.

In terms of stan­dard com­po­nents, the hard drive starts at 80GB. You can choose larger ca­pac­i­ties up to 1TB (for an ex­tra $144), and choose a HDD/SSD hy­brid or straight up SSD (solid state drive) in­stead. These op­tions are a lot more ex­pen­sive – a 500GB SSD will add $485 to your bill – but the per­for­mance boost that comes with a drive that doesn’t rely on me­chan­i­cal parts and spin­ning disks is def­i­nitely worth con­sid­er­a­tion if you can af­ford it.

Pick­ing parts

You can also se­lect from 2GB, 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of DDR3 RAM, so if you want a truly cut­ting edge PC that’s both pow­er­ful and fu­ture proof, then you’re able to do cre­ate one. You can choose whether or not to have a built-in wire­less adap­tor and op­ti­cal DVD drive, and you can save money by choos­ing whether or not to have a mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse in­cluded if you need them.

While there are plenty of com­po­nents to con­fig­ure, some spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the Pen­guin Wee 4 are set in stone – or rather set in white plas­tic. There’s no choice of pro­ces­sor, and while the web­site states that it is an In­tel Core i3-4130T pro­ces­sor, the Pen­guin Wee 4 we re­ceived came with an In­tel Core i5-4430 pro­ces­sor, clocked at 3.00GHz. We con­tacted Think Pen­guin about the dis­crep­ancy, and were told that since our sys­tem was sent out, it’s switched to the In­tel Core i3-4130T be­cause, as with other fourth gen­er­a­tion pro­ces­sors with the suf­fix ‘T’, they’re bet­ter suited for small en­clo­sures, due to the lower power con­sump­tion, and re­duced heat pro­duced when on. This does, how­ever, re­sult in a chip that has slightly lower per­for­mance than the one we re­ceived.

In­tel also has a Core i5 pro­ces­sor, the i5-4570T, which is also bet­ter suited for small en­clo­sures. Think Pen­guin has cho­sen not to use this pro­ces­sor though as it in­cludes In­tel’s Trusted Ex­e­cu­tion Tech­nol­ogy and vPro tech­nol­ogy, be­cause of com­pat­i­bil­ity con­cerns with Linux dis­tros, as well as po­ten­tial se­cu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties with vPro’s re­mote ac­cess fea­tures.

If you’re af­ter more power, Think Pen­guin also has a new model with pro­ces­sor con­fig­u­ra­tions up to the top of the range i7-4770K. The In­tel Core i5-4430 – the i3-4130T and the i7-4770K – are fourth gen­er­a­tion (hence the ‘4’ in the Pen­guin Wee’s name) In­tel Core pro­ces­sors, com­monly known by their Haswell co­de­name. This lat­est re­lease brought a

lot of new in­no­va­tions and im­prove­ments over the third gen­er­a­tion Ivy Bridge pro­ces­sors, in­clud­ing bet­ter power ef­fi­ciency. Mo­bile de­vices will ben­e­fit the most from this im­proved power ef­fi­ciency, as the lower power draw will re­sult in in­creased bat­tery life, and – as al­ready we men­tioned – they will also pro­duce less heat, mak­ing them more re­li­able in small cases.

This is just as well, as the Pen­guin Wee 4th Gen comes in an im­pres­sively com­pact case, the di­men­sions of which are just 8 x 8 x 2.5 inches. It’s easy to carry around, and can be placed un­ob­tru­sively al­most any­where. The white case brings to mind some of Ap­ple’s min­i­mal de­sign ethos, with just a sin­gle power but­ton on the front, along with the Think Pen­guin logo. On the back of the box is an im­pres­sive ar­ray of ports, in­clud­ing Gigabit Eth­er­net, two USB 2.0, three USB 3.0, an eSATA port and op­ti­cal and other au­dio ports. You can con­nect the Pen­guin Wee up to a mon­i­tor or TV via D-Sub, DVI or HDMI.

The out of the box ex­pe­ri­ence of the Pen­guin Wee is su­perb: We un­packed it, plugged a key­board and mouse in,

“The out of the box ex­pe­ri­ence of the Pen­guin Wee is su­perb.”

hooked up a mon­i­tor, and turned it on. No fur­ther set up or in­stal­la­tion was re­quired. Ubuntu 13.10 is en­tirely pre­con­fig­ured with a de­fault user­name and pass­word (which is printed on an in­cluded sheet of paper). As we’d ex­pect with a com­puter with such pow­er­ful com­po­nents, Ubuntu felt fast, smooth and re­spon­sive.

Our bench­mark tests re­flected the power of the Pen­guin Wee, ( seethe­full

bench­mark-re­sults,p16). For com­par­i­son we’ve in­cluded the re­sults of the Mirabox, a small ARM-based Linux box (re­viewed LXF174, p20). While it wouldn’t be fair to di­rectly com­pare the ma­chines (the Mirabox is a lot cheaper, and de­signed for light pro­gram­ming, af­ter all), we thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to see just how the Pen­guin Wee’s pow­er­ful com­po­nents af­fect it’s over­all per­for­mance. The fourth gen­er­a­tion of In­tel’s Core pro­ces­sors, has new and beefier in­te­grated graph­ics (which on the In­tel Core i5-4430 is the In­tel HD Graph­ics 4600). This means that you don’t need a sep­a­rate graph­ics card to han­dle video edit­ing, high def­i­ni­tion me­dia play­back and even some games, which as well as re­duc­ing the size of the Pen­guin Wee’s case, it shrinks the over­all price as well.

We tested a full 1080p high def­i­ni­tion MKV file and it played per­fectly, and looked fan­tas­tic. We also tried out Left4Dead2, the zom­bie sur­vival game, which isn’t the most graph­i­cally de­mand­ing ti­tle, but when there are crowd of zom­bies chas­ing af­ter you lesser ma­chines will be­gin to strug­gle. At 1080p res­o­lu­tion with the game run­ning medium graph­ics, the Pen­guin Wee kept a high and con­sis­tent frame rate.

The im­pres­sive graph­ics per­for­mance means that the Pen­guin Wee could act as an ex­cel­lent me­dia cen­tre, with its small size mak­ing it an ex­cel­lent can­di­date for hook­ing up to your liv­ing room TV. Its small form fac­tor does come at a price, how­ever, as with all the com­po­nents that are packed into the diminu­tive body, keep­ing ev­ery­thing cool is a pri­or­ity. This means that the Pen­guin Wee, and the fans built into the body to keep things cool are quite noisy – some­thing that might be­come an­noy­ing if you’re try­ing to watch a film. Still, we’d rather have a noisy lit­tle box that per­formed solidly than a whis­per quiet one that kept crash­ing.

Over­all, we were ex­tremely im­pressed with the Pen­guin Wee, though we do wish it had a dif­fer­ent name. Hav­ing dis­cussed its mer­its in the of­fice we’ve now got some­thing of a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing in­ter­ested in the uri­nary habits of flight­less birds… Be­ing able to con­fig­ure most as­pects of the ma­chine be­fore you buy is great, and the ease of get­ting it up and run­ning is an­other plus. We also found the de­sign and per­for­mance of the ma­chine to be very im­pres­sive. If you’re look­ing for a small and com­pact desk­top PC to work on, watch videos and even oc­ca­sion­ally play games, then the Pen­guin Wee 4th Gen GNU/Linux Desk­top is def­i­nitely worth con­sid­er­ing.

Don’t be fooled by its size; the Pen­guin Wee is a pow­er­ful ma­chine.

Brings to mind the prod­uct de­signs of a cer­tain ‘fruity’ Californian com­pany.

Mul­ti­task­ing isn’t a prob­lem thanks to the multi-core pro­ces­sor and gen­er­ous amount of RAM.

There are plenty of ports for con­nect­ing pe­riph­er­als, in­clud­ing fast USB 3.0 and eSATA ports. The Think Pen­guin Wee also has au­dio con­nec­tors for sur­round sound.

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