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Khadas Mind impressions: A powerful, modular computer that offers plenty of versatility

Khadas Mind impressions: A powerful, modular computer that offers plenty of versatility

Note: This feature was first published on 23 November 2023.

Khadas, a company traditionally known for its ARM-based single board computers (SBC), is taking a significant leap in its product line with the introduction of the Khadas Mind. This latest project, which was also successfully funded in Kickstarter, marks a notable shift from ARM to Intel CPUs, a move that could potentially reshape the landscape of SBCs as we know it.

The Khadas Mind, sporting a sleek space gray aluminium casing, is more than just an aesthetically pleasing device to sit on a desk. Underneath its surface lies a choice of either an Intel Core i5 or i7 13th Gen Intel Raptor Lake CPU, paired with options of 16 or 32GB of RAM. It's a hardware combination that positions the Khadas Mind as a serious contender in the SBC market.

Specifications
Processor Standard Intel Core i5-1340P Performance core max: 4.6 GHz Efficient core max: 3.4 GHz Premium Intel Core i7-1360P Performance core max 5 GHz Efficiency core max 3.7 GHz
GPU Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 96 Execution Units, up to 1.5 GHz
RAM Standard16GB LPDDR5 6400 MHzPremium32GB LPDDR5 6400 MHz
Storage 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 2230 SSD 1 x M.2 2230 PCIe 3.0 slot
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6E Bluetooth 5.3 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet via Mind Dock
GPIO N/A
USB 2 x USB 3.2 2 x USB C (PD, DP)
Display 1 x HDMI 2.0
Expansion Slots Mind Link PCIe 5.0 Connector
Co-Processor N/A
Power Type-C Input 20V DC
Dimensions 146 x 105 x 20mm

What sets the Khadas Mind apart, in my opinion, is its role as a hub in a potentially larger ecosystem of devices. The basic unit can be augmented with various accessories: the Mind Dock adds more ports, xPlay brings portability, and Mind Graphics introduces a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 Ti GPU. I will talk a little bit more about these add-ons, but know that despite these extensions, the core remains the unchanging Khadas Mind.

The price point of the Khadas Mind, at US$599 or US$799 depending on the configuration, is a critical consideration, and the company has sent a review unit to us to check it out. Our set features the higher-end 32GB Core-i7-1360P configuration, and comes complemented with the optional Mind Dock, which expands connectivity options significantly. Alas, the Mind Graphics dock was not available at time of writing.

The Khadas Mind's is quite a sight to behold (and to hold!) and its internal architecture is equally impressive. Powered by the aforementioned i7-1360P, the processor boasts 12 cores split between performance and efficiency cores, and 16 threads via the e-cores. Housing this power in a compact aluminum case that measures just 146 x 105 x 20mm and accommodating two M.2 slots for NVMe SSDs, is an engineering feat. The device maintains a minimalistic exterior, with all ports relegated to the back and only ventilation slots on the sides.

Connectivity, a crucial aspect for any SBC or any mini-form factor computers, does not disappoint either. The base unit offers a modest array of ports, but the Mind Dock, through the Mind Link (a PCIe 5.0 connector), extends this significantly, adding Gigabit Ethernet, dual HDMI 2.0, additional USB ports, and even a fingerprint reader for secure login.

The x86 architecture of the Khadas Mind offers users the flexibility to run either Windows or a Linux distribution. My review unit came pre-installed with Windows 11 on a 1TB NVMe SSD. The Mind's compatibility with a range of accessories, such as the Mind Dock and the forthcoming Mind Graphics and Mind xPlay, demonstrates Khadas' vision of a versatile and expandable computing platform.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this ecosystem is the Mind Graphics. More than just an eGPU, it also comes with additional I/O ports including USB4 support. This literally elevates the Mind into a promising gaming and graphics workstation. However, with mass production not scheduled until May 2024, it remains a future promise for now.

The Mind xPlay, another accessory in the pipeline, is a laptop chassis of sort (sans the internals), and designed to integrate with the Khadas Mind. Based on promotional materials, it includes features like a touchscreen and a keyboard, hinting at a hybrid device that blurs the lines between a laptop and an SBC.

An internal battery in the Khadas Mind, while not intended for extended mobile use, provides enough power to keep the system alive during short periods of disconnection from power sources. Sort of like an emergency built-in uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

However, the Khadas Mind is not without its limitations. Wi-Fi connectivity, for instance, proved problematic in my preliminary tests, with significantly reduced speeds, and could be a likely consequence of the aluminum case's interference. While Ethernet connections delivered the expected performance, reliance on additional accessories like the Mind Dock for optimal internet connectivity might be seen as a drawback.

In terms of gaming performance, the Khadas Mind's Intel Iris Xe GPU is capable but not exceptional, which is to be expected, to be honest. I have only tried a couple of non-intensive games on it, such as Disco Elysium and Two Point Campus and while both titles were playable, compromises in settings were necessary for a smoother experience. Older games or less graphically intensive ones fare better, so you can technically play games on it, but probably just the latest and AAA titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

In my opinion, the Khadas Mind represents an ambitious step in the evolution of single board computers and I think it’s a fantastic product and a showcase of future PCs. Its modular design, impressive CPU power, and potential for expansion through accessories make it a versatile and powerful device. That said, its high price point and reliance on additional accessories for optimal performance might limit its appeal to a niche market – for now.

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