EC Dream A9 PC stick Review (EN)

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Shenzhen EC Technology Co. Ltd also known as: EC Dream, is established in 2011. EC Dream produces different products like mini computers with Linux, Android TV boxes, Wireless display adapters/dongles and computer sticks like the A9 in this review.
 
In August I’ve received the EC Dream A9 computer stick to put it to the test. A computer like this can be used in many ways. You can make your TV smart(er), you can use it as a emulator to run older games, use it as a controller for home automation (just like a Raspberry Pi) and many other features.I have used the stick as a HTPC (Home Theater PC). I have streamed some Full-HD movies directly from my NAS (Synology DS215J) and installed Netflix to test online streams and offline videos. The last weeks I have used a emulator to play SNES, Sega and old-school computer games.
 
These features were the base of this review.I would like to thank Geekbuying for the delivery of this PC stick.

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I have used thumbnails to minimize the download size of this review. You can maximize most of the pictures with a simple click.

Price at publication: +/- €100,-

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The standard box is made from recycled paper and has a plastic window at the front. There aren’t any features written on the box, but there is a label on the side of the box, which tells you what kind of product there is inside. Behind the window you will see the computer stick with the logo of EC Dream.

The first thing you will see when you open the box, is the EC Dream A9 computer stick in a special made compartment of foam. Underneath the foam you’ll find a cardboard which makes sure that the manual and accessories will remain in place.

Here you will find the unboxing pictures of this PC stick:

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Contents of the box:
• 1 x EC Dream A9 computer stick
• 1 x HDMI extension cable
• 1 x USB power supply
• 2 x documentation

Here is a demonstration from the manufacturer:

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When you compare the EC Dream A9 with other PC sticks, you will notice that it is much bigger than most of them. The reason for the difference in size might be caused by the processor. The CPU needs to stay cool and therefore it needs a big fan to keep the temperature and housing at a comfortable level. Here is a list of original Intel PC / Compute sticks.

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The computer is made out of black plastic. There is a clear blue LED on the front of the housing. On top of the device you will find a HDMI port, behind a plastic cover. On the the left is a USB 3.0 port and a Micro SD card slot. On the right side of the stick there is another USB 3.0 port, the Micro USB Power connector and power button. When you zoom in on the right side, you might notice a reset button. So far I haven’t used the button. I expect that holding the power button for several seconds, would also reboot the device when the system is non-responsive.

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OS: 64x Windows 10 Home
Highest resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Processor name: Intel Celeron N3350
CPU: 64 bits dual-core 2*1,1 – 2,4GHz 14nm
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 500
SD card: Micro SD card
Storage: EMCC 32GB
Memory (RAM): 2GB DDR3
3,5 mm headphone jack: No
Speaker: No
WLAN: Intel Stonepeak AC3165 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2,4GHz + 5GHz, 1×1 Streams, Wireless Display
Bluetooth: v4.0
USB: 1x Micro USB for the power supply, 2x USB 3.0
HDMI: HDMI 1.4
Power: 100~240V, 50/60Hz,5V/3A
Fan: Yes
Size: 128 x 58 x 16 mm
Weight: 230g

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Many laptop manufacturers deliver their systems with a lot of bloatware (unneeded/sponsored software from third parties) and sometimes even worse: spyware. Down here are the first screenshots I’ve made after unboxing the PC stick. There aren’t special applications or strange settings found on the device. I’m very pleased of this fact, because the device is very clean. All the drivers are installed and the only thing you have to do is: Answering Microsoft’s questions and disallow the many rights Microsoft wants to have for their own purposes.

The disk has a size of 32GB and you can use about 17GB for your own data. The amount of space isn’t very much for a Windows 10 installation. It would be much better if they installed an 64GB disk for storage. But I can imagine that out would be hard in this price range. If you need more space than you can extend the computer with a SD card. This fast enough for most purposes.

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During this review, I have re-installed Windows by going back to the Factory Settings. You can re-install Windows via the Settings and System Recovery.

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You can place the stick directly in your monitor or TV but most of the time, you will need to use the extension cable. This cable isn’t very long and in my case the stick just hang out of the TV. If the cable is longer (for instance 30-40cm), I would be able to place the stick on a good spot behind the TV. I might be able to place the stick in the TV cabin for a low-noise experience.

Testing Video

I have used the stick as a Multimedia system by installing Netflix from the Windows Store. With Netflix you are able to download movies directly on your hdd/ssd. This can be interesting when you want to watch some movies when you are on holiday or when you go to friends. You might want to know that offline movies and series are only available for a curtain amount of time (it isn’t shown after the download). When you start the content, you will need to watch is within 48 hours. Just connecting to the internet isn’t enough to extend the time for watching the content.
I have tested a few movies and it worked as it supposed to be. There were no lags with online or offline content. You can fast-forward content without any problems.
The huge downside of this stick, is the loud noise the fan produces. You can hear the fan from 4-6 meters away. If you want to watch a serie or movie, make sure that your surround system can be loud enough.

When I am at home and want to watch a movie, I usually connect directly to my Synology DS215J NAS. This is a budget NAS which uses the DLNA protocol for music and video. I have tested some movies and the EC Dream A9 played them without any problems.

Testing Games

Before I was able to test games on the computer stick, I needed to download a few packages and a few games. I have also used an emulator to support my downloaded games. I want you to know, that it is illegal to download roms which are created for a SNES, NES, Sega Dreamcast, PS1, etcetera. This is the reason why I don’t explain how to install the emulator on your computer.
The program supports many controllers like the PS4 and USB SNES. Most games work good, but you need to make sure that you have a good emulator.

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The computer is build around an Intel Celeron N3350 with an 14nm 64bit duo-core processor and two threads. The base frequency is 1,1Ghz and a maximum of 2,4Ghz. The processor supports LPDDR4 memory with a maximum speed of 2400MHz. The graphics are presented through a Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU with a maximum speed of 650Mhz.
Instead of using the full potential of the memory, is the PC stick equipped with LPDDR3 memory. The changes are, that you won’t notice the difference between DDR3 and DDR4 in real-life with these kind of stick.

Here are some screenshots of the benchmarks I’ve run. This is the first Intel stick I have reviewed and therefore I don’t have any comparison data.

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The American Megatrends BIOS is massive! You can change a lot of settings. There are probably too many options to choose from, this makes it hard to pick the right settings. Here are some pictures of the Bios. It is probably 10% of all settings you can choose from.

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Links
• The PC stick is received from Geekbuying, here is the direct link to the EC Dream A9.
Official EC Dream A9 webpage
• PDF Datasheet of the CPU can be found here

Review from website: • CNX-software

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The EC Dream is a universal pc, which can be used for different purposes. You can use it as a game machine, for streaming media, as a mini computer behind your TV and many other purposes. The price for this stick is very good and is approximately €100,- at the launch of this review.

The biggest disadvantage is the loud fan in the computer. You can even hear it spinning when the pc is idle. This might be the reason why the pc stick is very cool after you played a full movie. For a device of this size, you would expect more USB ports. The HDMI cable that is added to the package is actually too small if you want to place the stick somewhere in a cabin.

Due to the loud fan, the score drops with one full point. I will give the EC Dream A9 a score of 3,5 stars.

Score

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https://i0.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/minus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 The fan is very load and kicks in at idle mode
https://i0.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/minus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 The device is much bigger than most of the other Intel PC sticks
https://i0.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/minus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 There should be more USB ports on the device
https://i0.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/minus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 The ~15cm HDMI extension cable is actually too short for convenient use
https://i0.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/minus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 32GB storage too small for a full Windows 10 installation. After a clean install you can only use approximately 17GB

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https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 Full Windows 10 Home edition
https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 It’s a good device that can be used as mediaplayer and/or Games Emulator
https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 Great price
https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 Storage can be extended with a SD card
https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 Support for USB hubs, this makes it easy to connect more devices like a mouse, game controller or keyboard
https://i1.wp.com/www.kiswum.com/wp-content/uploads/plus-mini.png?w=734&ssl=1 Good to know: There is no spyware or bloatware found on this device

Do you have a question, found some spelling mistakes or do you have any other comments? Please send me a private message or leave a comment down below.

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