ZimaBoard 832 is a computing device that we can define as “SBC” – single board computer (well, in this case – server) and although quite small, it is quite impressive about what it does!
The 832 model is currently the latest, and the most powerful ZimaBoard released to date. It contains most typical components of a regular PC, but can at the same time p[rovide flexibility and expandability most PC computers cannot. You may use it as a home file server, a multimedia station, a software router, a desktop computer and many other implementations – as long as you can think of a reasonable use case.
- Compact and quality design
- has OS preinstalled
- Low power consumption
- Multiple connectivity ports
- Easy and intuitive interface
- Ability to run multiple OSes
- Passive cooling
- Rather expensive
ZimaBoard Single Board Server: https://www.zimaboard.com/
The device arrives in a basic package. It is presented as a “Single Board Server” and all that you get in terms of accessories is the power adapter. The build quality of the unit is impressive, and the whole housing represents a big heatsink – which happens to be the only way to dispose the heat, since it has no active cooling. This represents an elegant design that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The build quality is exceptional and you will immediately notice the available expansion ports.
The hardware pack sounds quite promising:
- Intel N3450, 4 Cores, 1.1GHz base frequency, 2.2GHz Burs, , 2MB L2 cache
- 8GB LPDDR4
- 32GB eMMC 5.1
- TDP 6W
- 2x SATA 6.0 Gb/s Ports
- 2x GbE LAN Ports, Realtek 8111H
- 2x USB 3.0
- 1x PCle 2.0 x4
- 1x Mini-DisplayPort 1.2, 4k@60Hz
- Virtualization: Intel VT-d, VT-x
- Dimensions: 138.7 x 81.4 x 34.9 mm
- Weight: 278g
- OS: CasaOS
Initial setup & Access configuration
Practically – the first time setup of the system is easier even than starting up a PC or Mac: all that you need to do is to connect the power and a LAN cable to the ZimaBoard 832 and continue from a web browser from a device that resides on the very same LAN – you can even to that from your Smartphone. Navigate to http://casaos.local/ and you will go trhough the registration procedures steps.
CasaOS is one of the many operating systems that the board provides. Since it is generic X86 architecture based, there are multiple Linux distributions compatible, as well as Windows.
By its nature, CasaOS is Docker-based Cloud Operating System, very elegant and supporting multiple apps. The styling is close to what Apple’s MacOS brings in terms of feeling. Youl will find ways to configure the appearance – practically most widgets can be rearranged. I really like the System Status area – it has real-time information about the CPU/RAM utilization and the consumed power.
It has an in-built App Store – where some useful apps can be downloaded, such as Plex Server (for multimedia streaming), PhotoPrism – for organizing and backing up photos, HomeAssistant – for controlling Smart home devices, file sync tools, torrent clients… sounds like the variety is huge, but it actually isn’t. However – you can install manually some of the nearly 100 000 Docker compatible apps and link external distros. Since I am mostly a Windows user, I’ve used some of these apps for the first time, and they have been surprisingly capable, user-friendly and reliable. Most of them have a lot of customizations and good cloud-sync integrations.
The In-Built OS
CasaOS is not your only possibility for an operating system, though; You can count on the Multi-OS support, by keeping the stock OS and adding your preferred operating system as an installation on external media. You can attach most types of HDDs and SSDs and boot from, these, so running Windows 10 or 11 is a matter of a few-minute installation and setup. Same applies for most Linux distributions – luckily the hardware used is quite popular, so it is very unlikely to stumble across incompatibilities or driver issues.
Ports & Expandability
If you want to take advantage of the connectivity ports – there are plenty of good opportunities. There’s a mini Display Port, allowing you to directly attach a monitor; Two USB 3.0 ports – about enough for connecting plenty of peripherals. Since the board doesn’t come with Bluetooth in-built, nor a Wi-Fi adapter – this is among your best shots to attach such; While there’s no M.2 controller access, you may connect extra storage using he SATA ports. The LAN port combo is a great deal, especially if you are looking for a lightweight, yet capable software home router and VPN access station; In fact – this might be among its greatest strengths: you can get to choose the settings and OS (yes, OpenWRT is supported) and install Antennas of your choice.
Although ZimaBoard advertise the NAS function, I’d prefer to stay with complete solutions like Synology and Qnap, but the ability to move all the VPN and firewall access services to this small and power-efficient box are very tempting, especially if these would be used 24/7. Combined with the multimedia expandability and the SmartHome devices integration, I find this to be the sweet spot for the ZimaBoard 832.
Sure – you can try to stretch it into a fullty-functional Desktop PC by running your preferred OS, but given the fact it has passive cooling, some intensive apps will quickly cause CPU Throttling, which will of course have an impact on the performance; Same counts for games – so don’t expect it to be a fully capable gaming station.
The more you dig and the more fluent in Linux you are, the greater the outcome and the better the utilization of this SBC is going to be. Note that beyond the initial setup and app installation, you might have to do a lot of reading in order to get some extra services working. But – the journey is quite fun after all!
Having tested a lot of MiniPCs which come with a preinstalled OS, ZimaBaord 832 feels like a very unique computing device and certainly deserves your attention. Easy to use, well-built and very reliable – being extremely quiet (with literally close to 0Db generated noise) and extremely power efficient, it is a perfect fit for running services that you need to rely on 24/7 and prefer to get this being done from a small-sized computer. ZimaBaord already offer the model 832 on their website and you can grab it with a discount following this link.