I love the Linux Mint desktop distribution. Lots of people love Mint. Mint's my current favorite Linux desktop distribution. But, like most distributions, to run it, I had to install it myself. Now, Mint, in conjunction with CompuLab, is selling its first Mint-branded PCs.
True, you could buy a PC or laptop from ZaReason and a handful of other Linux PC vendors with Mint Linux, but the two mini-PCs that Mint and CompuLab are offering are the first to have Mint's official blessing.
Setting up Mint 13: 2012's Best Linux desktop
These PCs, the fit-PC3 basic and pro models are now available with Linux Mint branding under the name "mintBox." According to Clement "Clem" Lefebvre, Mint's founder, "The mintBox is amongst the toughest computers on the market. It features a die-cast solid-metal case which acts as a giant passive heatsink. Although the metal makes the mintBox heavier than other devices its size, it makes it feel really unique, robust and well engineered. More importantly, it cools down its components without needing any fans. Other than the noise coming from its internal 250GB hard-drive, the mintBox is completely silent."
The mintBox comes with four USB ports: Two in the front, and two in the back. Two of these support USB 3.0. It also has a pair of external serial AT Attachment (eSATA) ports; two mini-Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) sockets, plus a mSATA port, and a good old RS-232 port. This tiny computer, smaller than a Mac Mini, also comes with Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Gigabit Ethernet. Both models also come with an HDMI port and a DVI adapter.
As you might guess from that construction and all those ports, the mintBox started life as an industrial computer. And, indeed, CompuLab is an embedded and industrial computer specialist.
The mintBox Basic, which list for $476 plus shipping, duty, and value added tax (VAT) comes with a 250GB hard drive. For a processor, it uses an AMD APU G-T40N. This is a 1GHz dual core, which includes an integrated ATI Radeon HD 6290 for graphics. This is an Intel-compatible embedded system unit. This system comes with 4GBs of RAM.
The higher end mintBox Pro retails for $549 plus shipping, duty, and VAT. It is identical to the Basic except it uses the higher-speed AMD APU G-T56N. This is a 1.65GHz dual core CPU and comes with an ATI Radeon HD 6320 for graphics. It also comes with 8GBs RAM and a ribbed metal case for better heat dissipation.
Lefebvre also claims that one of the highlights of both models are how "easy it is to open it. Both the RAM and the HDD are accessible from underneath the box. Use a standard screwdriver to open the bay and you can upgrade your RAM or switch the HDD for a SSD drive without any hassle." This makes both ideal for people who like to upgrade their systems.
The mintBox, according to Lefebvre, with its Kensington lock and 4 small dents underneath it for the mintBox to be mounted on a VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) mount bracket and their low-power consumption "(respectively idle and full load: 8-17W for the basic model, 9-24W for the pro model) make the mintBox an attractive device for companies, hotels and cybercafés where it can be placed or mounted on walls securely and significantly reduce noise levels and electricity bills." In other words, the mintBox is meant both for serious computer hobbyists and for serious business use.
The system has been tested with both Linux Mint 12 and the latest Linux Mint 13. According to a note by Lefebvre, it appears that the mintBox will be shipping with "Mint 13 OEM 64-bit, the big question is whether it's Cinnamon [Mint's own GNOME 2.x style desktop based on GNOME 3.x) or MATE [A Gnome 2.x fork] by default and with or without ATI drivers. Both editions work out of the box on the hardware without drivers, except the sound output via HDMI."
Audio via HDMI requires an AMD/ATI driver, fglrx. If not supplied in the system this can be installed via Mint's Software Manager. I imagine this driver will be pre-installed as CompuLab and Mint ramp up production.
Both mintBox versions are available for purchase today. US and Canadian orders are shipped from CompuLab's US office in Florida. Expected delivery time from "in-stock" is two weeks. In the rest of the world, the units are shipped from CompuLab's Israeli offices. 10% of each sale goes towards Linux Mint.
2012's Best Linux desktop: Linux Mint 13
Fedora 17 & GNOME 3.4: Return to a useful Linux desktop (Review)
Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison
Mint's Cinnamon: The Future of the Linux Desktop? (Review)