GMKtec NucBox G3 Review

 GMKtec NucBox G3 Review

I caught a great deal on Amazon for the Intel N100 based GMKtec NucBox G3.  The barebones kit is probably the best way to go at $119.  Guys like me always have sticks of RAM laying around and even NVME SSD’s.

GMKtec NucBox G3 Intel N100

GMKtec NucBox G3 Intel N100

The Intel N100 is a 4 core processor with a Turbo Boost up to 3.40 GHz.  This little box rocks.

The Intel N100 is a low wattage draw  (6 watts) chipset that tops most Celeron and Atom chips at a modest cost.  It is roughly comparable to an Intel N95 chipset.

With the NucBox G3 there are a ton of connectivity options as well.  Best of all is a 2.5 GHz Ethernet Connector.  Toss in some USB connectors and a couple of 4K, 60 Hz HDMI connectors and a 3.5mm microphone / speaker jack and you have a winner.

This is a perfect desktop machine for the kids or for the guest room.  It would be right at home in the camper as well.   It also is an economical platform for supporting that one piece of hardware that is far away from the wired network such as a CNC machine.

I slapped mine in the guest room and am in the process of bookmarking streaming services such as Sling, Netflix, Hulu, and my Plex Media Server.  That essentially is the extent of how we use a Firestick or Roku.  I can’t count the number of times that the Sling app has been non-responsive on Roku, FireTV, and LGTV.  Web steaming always seems to work.  This may be the answer.

GMKtec NucBox G3 Internals

Accessing the internals is easy.  Simply snap the top cover off.  Inside you have perfect access to the SSD and the RAM.  I added a 1TB NVME SSD and a 32GB stick of DDR4 3200 RAM.

GMKtec NucBox G3 Intel N100

Access to RAM and NVME SSD

Since I started with a clean slate I opted to install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS.  After burning the iso over to a USB thumb drive I simply placed it in an empty USB slot and booted.  The BIOS was set to boot from USB and Ubuntu installed easily and quickly.  All my hardware worked and I needed one little hardware/software hack to get everything going my way.  I even installed Cinnamon Desktop Environment.  Not a fan of the Ubuntu Gnome Desktop Environment.

NOTE: There is no internal speaker in the NucBox G3.  You either have to add a Bluetooth speaker or plug a speaker into the 3.5 mm audio jack on the GMKtec NucBox G3. 

HDMI audio works, of course, but the default sound device seems to be that 3.5mm audio jack.  Since I hooked mine to a Television in my guest room I need HDMI to be the default audio device.  Run this command:

pactl list short sinks

You’ll see this response:

john@gmktec:~$ pactl list short sinks
1	alsa_output.usb-CSCTEK_USB_Audio_and_HID_A34004801402-00.analog-stereo	module-alsa-card.c	s16le 2ch 48000Hz	SUSPENDED
4	alsa_output.pci-0000_00_1f.3.hdmi-stereo	module-alsa-card.c	s16le 2ch 44100Hz	SUSPENDED

The HDMI one is obvious.  Now go to Startup Applications and add an entry with this in the command area:

 pactl set-default-sink alsa_output.pci-0000_00_1f.3.hdmi-stereo

Looks like this:

Set Default Sound Device

Now when you start your computer your HDMI device is the default audio device.  Remember that if you don’t want sound from HDMI…….YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THIS!

Keyboard And Mouse

I bought a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard and trackpad.  And while it works just fine one of the first gotchas I noticed about it is that there isn’t a “Print Screen” key on it.  I had to install a screenshot program (Shutter) on Ubuntu so I could make the image above.

This keyboard uses a USB dongle to talk to the GMKtec NucBox G3 so it will take up a USB slot if you go this route.  I probably should have gotten a bluetooth keyboard / trackpad with all the keys.  Live and learn.

OS Selection

I have yet to run Windows on this box and it probably won’t happen at all.  I have installed and played around with a few Linux distros.

  • MXLinux – Basically Debian but doesn’t use systemd.  All hardware functional.
  • LinuxMint – Only ran the Live Distro.  Sound and WiFi not working organically.  Probably easy to fix.  But I moved on from Mint because of that.
  • Ubuntu MATE – I love MATE but in order to give the computer a more Windows like feel for guests, and my wife, I settled on:
  • Ubuntu with Cinnamon Desktop.  Not Ubuntu Cinnamon.  That is a different distro.

I’m of the belief that most Linux distributions will work but I recommend trying something with a Live ISO so you can check and see if all the hardware is recognized before you install.

If you drop in a new NVME SSD and use Windows I am pretty sure you need to download the OS as opposed to just cloning the drive.   GMKtec offers Windows 10 images, and Windows 11 images.  Additionally, there are device drivers and BIOS updates.  All that can be found here.

Because you can download an entire OS image that makes it much more easy to play around with different OS’s without buying an extra SSD.  I’m the kind of guy who keeps the original hard drive for a year until the device falls out of warranty.  In this case I installed an NVME SSD with better specs and a larger storage capacity.  I still have the original SSD.

And one more OS point I’d like to make.  I have some hardware that works on Windows 10 and not Windows 11.  I have an old Canon A640 which can be tethered to a computer for taking photos.  This is an awesome feature for taking photos for blogs or for selling stuff online.  Instant feedback.  This would be another great use for this computer.  Setting it up for studio photography, that is.

Specs And Tests

Just kidding I don’t do that here.  I’ll leave it to others to do bench marks.  I can say that HD playback on YouTube runs fine.  I don’t play games so I can’t speak to gaming frame rates.

Video Playback

I do have an HDHomeRun network tuner for over the air local television.  I can view it via a Plex server and streaming HD channels works just fine.  That is probably one of the best tests you can throw at a box like this.  If it will stream live HD TV from another server, I’d say it packs a punch.

Plex Live TV

I will say this about running Plex like this.  When I select a Live TV channel under Plex it opens, plays about 1 second of stream then buffers for maybe 10 seconds.  Playback is then AWESOME, even with HD channels.   I just mentioned that in case watching TV in absolutely REAL TIME matters to you.  It does not matter to me.

Audio

There are two audio devices discovered under alsamixer:

  1. HDA Intel PCH
  2. USB Audio and HDI

Running aplay -l returns:

john@gmktec:~$ aplay -l
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 3: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 7: HDMI 1 [HDMI 1]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 8: HDMI 2 [HDMI 2]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 9: HDMI 3 [HDMI 3]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: HID [USB Audio and HID], device 0: USB Audio [USB Audio]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

Basically says the same thing.  I have yet to hook up a USB DAC but my GMKtec NucBox G3 sits right next to an old Pioneer SX-950, 1970’s era stereo receiver. I’m currently running a Raspberry Pi with LogitechMediaServer into the Aux input to stream music.  If I hook up a USB sound card I’ll be able to reclaim the Pi and use it for something else.

Pushing The Limits

If you were to add an RTL-SDR device and a modest indoor antenna you would have a respectable AM and FM radio.   A good outdoor antenna makes it a whole lot more capable.   Linux has a program called OP25 which decodes P25 Phase 1 and 2 digital radio.  Translation:  It is a very capable police scanner.

For $30 or you can track your local Emergency Services.  Have you priced a proper digital police scanner these days?  $500 minimum usually.   I have done a few blogs on installing OP25.

Is the GMKtec NucBox G3 Intel N100 Worth It?

A resounding yes!  There is a fair bit of discussion on the internet on whether it is better to buy an N100 based computer or to just use a Raspberry Pi 5.   Ultimately, they both cost about the same, once you buy all the accessories you need.  The real difference with the NucBox G3 is all the connectivity options and having an upgrade path with RAM.   And it comes in an attractive and unobtrusive looking case.

Nucbox G3

Fits Under A TV

You can barely see mine beneath the guest room TV in the lower left corner.  All in all if you can catch these at the right price, I’d say go for it.  I’m tickled to death with mine.  I’ve been looking for something like this at the right price point for ages.

 

3 thoughts on “GMKtec NucBox G3 Review

  1. Mr_McBride

    Thanks for posting your experience. This is very helpful.

    I have multiple use-cases for the G3. One, a desktop PC (Arch linux) for my Wife, two, as a server hosting NextCloud (debian). Your post was very thorough and much appreciated.

    Reply

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