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GizmoSphere vs Minnowboard – AMD and Intel x86 Embedded Boards Comparison

The Gizmo Explorer Kit is an embedded kit based on a development board powered by AMD G-Series G-T40E dual core APU that’s available since the beginning of the year. The Minnowboard is another new x86 embedded board, but this time based on Intel Atom E640 processor. Both cost $199, so a side-by-side comparison might be useful,and GizmoSphere team released a comparison table for both board, and is offering free shipping for the week with “Sharkweek2013″. Let’s have a look.

GizmoSphere_vs_Minnowboard

The company only provided the table in image format, so I’ll reproduce it “as is” below, and see if there may be some correction or addition afterwards, the table has been designed by one of the competitors. The parts in yellow are supposed to highlight advantages of the GizmoShpere against the Minnowboard, but they conveniently “forgot” to highlight advantages of the Minnowboard. [Update 13/08/2013 - Gizmo guys have updated their table (shown below) based on feedback, and added green highlights when Minnowboard has better features. You can still download the original comparison table that generated a lot of comments].

GizmoSphere_vs_MinnowBoard_Comparison_Table_Update_12_August_2013

Overall the comparison seems fair, with both boards having some advantages, and overall I still find the GizmoSphere kit may have better hardware in terms of performance and I/O ports, although as usual for embedded boards, it really depends what you want to do with the board.

However, the table may still need some corrections including:

  • Minnowboard does support JTAG according to the block diagram [Update 13/08: True and fixed in updated table)
  • I'm not sure the Minnowboard can't run Windows, but to be honest, I could not find reference to Windows running on the board
  • It's true expansion boards for the Minnowboard (called Lures) are not yet available, but many are currently under development including support for LVDS, mSATA, mPCIe, automotive (CAN Bus), and more.

One advantage of the Minnowboard over the GizmoSphere is that it's fully open source hardware (They've uploaded the schematics, BoM, layout and gerber files yesterday), whereas you'll "only" find the schematics (PDF) available for the GizmoSphere board. They've however promised to "roll out additional assets in the future as they become available, including the Gerber format files and Bill of Materials (BOM) for the Gizmo board." Open source hardware is mainly an advantage if you plan to design your own custom board based on the original design. [Update 13/08: Gizmosphere has followed suit, and has now released hardware design files for the Gizmo board including the Bill of materials (BoM), the Gerber files, and latest schematics (PDF and DSN)]

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  1. August 8th, 2013 at 14:36 | #1

    just FYI, i have already pointed out that the table that the gizmoboard folks provided is full of inaccurate data…

    1) the Minnow has a second display via LVDS on the expansion header (“no second video” listing)
    2) the Gizmo has 2 usb host connectors on board, but if you want to add the two additional ports you have to purchase an adapter to plug into the header. (not 4 as is listed)
    3) the Gizmo ships with JTAG support, BUT only with a 30 day license (check the Gizmo FAQ page)
    4) Minnow does have a JTAG header which can be ordered preinstalled but as a separate part number
    5) Minnow does have a +5V header to power an external SATA interface
    6) Minnow has PCIe 2×1 on the expansion header (not 3×1)
    7) as noted on item 1, LVDS is present on the expansion header which is not noted in the expansion section
    8) Minnow can have up to 12 GPIOS configured (not 8 as listed)

    and while the Gizmo might ship with their “explorer” board, minnowboard has an Eagle library with Lure formats so you can make your own accessory boards. as noted there are wide range of Lures coming down the pipe.

    http://www.elinux.org/Minnowboard:Expansion_Interfaces

  2. FransM
    August 8th, 2013 at 17:06 | #2

    Seems to me not to be an unbiased comparison.

    E.g why is the 10/100/1000 Ethernet on ginger better than the 10/100/1000 Ethernet of minnow.
    And why are the advantages of minnow not highlighted (e.g. the presence of HDMI).

    What really made me chuckle though was that not having a microSD slot is considered to be a benefit for ginger.

    BTW I have no opinion on which of the boards is better, probably it depends on what you need and want to do with it, but I would have expected cnx to be a little bit more critical.

  3. August 8th, 2013 at 17:16 | #3

    @FransM
    Sorry, I got a little lazy here. If the table had been in text format it would have been a little easier to correct mistakes.

  4. August 9th, 2013 at 00:52 | #4

    Mr. Anders, don’t you have anything better to do than slam anyone one who comes out in favor of Gizmo. How about a little full disclosure that you work for Circuitco the manufacturer of Minnowboard, you are not exactly unbiased. Neither am I, for my own disclosure, I work for SemiconductorStore.com, the distributor of the Gizmo Explorer kit and Gizmo board. We put together the compare chart based on the information provided on the minnow.org page. We are by no means experts on the Minnow product and are reviewing the chart to include some features that the Minnow gurus have pointed out that we missed. We will put out an updated chart and be happy to show where Minnow wins over Gizmo. Mr. Anders wants to only discuss where Minnow wins, and that’s fair, but there are some major areas where Gizmo wins. Mr. Anders also has stated an inaccuracy on Gizmo, you can buy the Gizmo explorer kit, or just the gizmo board,http://www.semiconductorstore.com/cart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=48635, the board alone costs $189, and many developers have already integrated into end products as well as using it as a development platform. There are also inaccuracies about the JTAG support that I will explain in detail here. Just as we are not experts in Minnow, Mr. Anders is no expert about the Gizmo product.

    Gizmo represents many of the core values that embedded developers need for today and for the future. Clearly some of the key touch points needed are price, performance, power, and access to development tools and software. Gizmo can cover this.

    For performance, one of the goals of GizmoSphere for Gizmo was to leverage a processor that could meet the needs for today but build a base foundation for the future. Gizmo is based on the AMD G-Series which brings the power of 64-bit computing and multiple cores along with access to a powerful GPU on one chip that combines the abilities for heterogenous computing. While processor performance isn’t the only thing that matters when selecting a processor for embedded applications, it is important enough. GizmoSphere wanted to provide Gizmo users with the ability to leverage a processor that encourages heterogeneous computing to leverage key software development areas such as OpenCL. The processor alone provides a modern and forward looking approach to issues being addressed today in all markets which is the use of heterogenous computing.

    Beyond the processor performance, Gizmo was well designed to bring out as much I/O as possible for end user needs – thus the reason for the low and high speed expansion connectors. GizmoSphere went further by providing a nice example for Gizmo users with the Explorer low speed expansion board and it is in the box!

    For tools, it was very important to provide the user with something readily accessible out of the box and ready to go in the box. Additionally, Gizmo users can access a wealth of GPU based tools to explore more on the heterogenous computing front by just accessing AMD’s site – developer.amd.com. A simple click away!

    Sage Electronic Engineering has donated development tools that designers can try out with their Gizmo and Explorer boards. The Sage SmartProbe® JTAG Development Tool is an automated, configurable plugin development tool for embedded designs that enables full development and debug capabilities including access to all registers and memory, USB and Ethernet support, remote access, virtual port, reset vector control, field updatable firmware, and more. The Sage EDK is an intuitive graphical interface that streamlines development and debug. With the Sage EDK integrated development environment (IDE), developers can efficiently build, inspect and debug the software under development. Features include smart editor, cross-compile toolchain integration, automated image transfer, symbolic software debug, processor debug support, and more. It’s important to note that developers are free to use development tools of their choice, including no tools at all. The Gizmo board will keep on working just fine beyond the Sage tools’ time-limited use period. If a developer likes the Sage tools and wants to continue using them, a noncommercial one-year license is available through GizmoSphere.org at a super deep discount from what commercial entities are paying. Several developers have already taken advantage of this incredible deal.

    Finally, the overall price/value of Gizmo brings many of the key aspects for together in one box for embedded developers and innovators. For $199, Gizmo-Explorer and $189 for Gizmo board is a very solid price and brings a good deal of present and forward looking value that often gets lost.

    In my humble opinion, the Minnowboard really brings no forward looking approach – 32-bit sequential computing, depending on what you want to do, there’s enough data out there on these communities to help you make your best choice for you.

    Apparently our sharkweek freight promotion has touched a nerve with some, many happy developers have purchased the Gizmo Explorer kit and the Gizmo board this week and enjoyed the freight savings. If the Minnow board suits your needs, please buy it, I’m sure the Minnowboard distributors and Minnowboard.org will give you the same great service and tech support that you will receive at SemiconductorStore.com and GizmoSphere.org. Buy the board that best suits your needs, and support the innovation that open source communities like these provide.

    Finally, instead of having the great debate on the web and social media, why don’t you produce your own compare chart Mr. Anders, it’s quite the easy way out to pick at other peoples work. Our updated chart will be published and I’m sure you’ll have more to say, it’s ok, it’s a free world, we trust the developer community to do their own research and we are confident in our products. I personally will not respond to anymore of your debates, instead this member of the gizmosphere camp is going to focus her time on developing great products and helping our customers.

  5. Binster
    August 9th, 2013 at 01:41 | #5

    @David Anders
    I think cnxsoft have done a pretty fair comparison here given the limitations of data availability. Given the status of the products as they ship from the supplier.

    Yes – you can buy add-on boards, and adapters, but you can do the same with Gizmo – including stuff like that makes it difficult to draw the line anywhere. You can buy an HDMI monitor for Gizmo for example, but I don’t think it should be shown in this comparison :-)

    In my opinion the important factors to take into consideration are (1) CPU processing power, (2) graphics processing power and (3) I/O peripheral capability. Gizmo clearly wins (1) and (2) and I would say (3) is probably a tie.

  6. Violet
    August 9th, 2013 at 12:35 | #6

    This definitely seems like a Gizmosphere advertisement and not a true comparison. You have only highlighted items on the Gizmo side and misstated the characteristics of the MinnowBoard, and you have highlighted things on the Gizmo side that are equal to items on the Minnowboard side. This advertisement BIASED.

  7. August 9th, 2013 at 23:52 | #7

    Patty – if you click on my name as part of the post it takes you right to circuitco website. i have never denied or stated otherwise. my point is that cnx-software.com simply took the chart from SemiconductorStore.com without contacting circuitco or minnowboard.org to verify the validity of the information: good reporting requires good vetting of facts….

    The FULL release of the MinnowBoard design files under creative commons license seems to have hit a nerve for SemiconductorStore.com as well since they have been forced to release all of their design files six months after the gizmo was released. of course the gizmoboard design files do not have a license listed as of yet…

    “Mr. Anders, don’t you have anything better to do than slam anyone one who comes out in favor of Gizmo.” , i have no problems with being in favor of Gizmo, i just want all the facts in the open….

    @Patty Steiman

  8. John
    August 10th, 2013 at 06:21 | #8

    As a simple desktop computer user (well with 3 PCs not that simple anyway) who has NO experience with embedded systems I would say that Gizmo looks better as a hardware. Reading the article I was thinking that, in the end, the author was trying to close the gap between Gizmo and Minnowboard. Now I am reading he was trying to favor Gizmo.
    But I never noticed the highlighting, that yellow color, really. Who cares about colors when he can read the specs? Looking for example at I/O and reading “1 microSD” for Minnowboard and nothing for Gizmo, who really notices the yellow color? If a simple computer user like me ignores the colors and just compares the specs, how can someone who works with hardware like that make his/her final choice based on which list is more colorful?

    I think you are over reacting because you are involved with these boards? Me as a simple computer user who has nothing to gain from any of these boards, I don’t see anything wrong in the article. Any mistakes in the specs can be easily fixed. Just send the fixed specs as a text to the author so that he can update the article.

  9. August 13th, 2013 at 15:10 | #9

    Updated comparison table, and added mention saying Gizmo board hardware design files are now available.

  1. July 26th, 2014 at 19:56 | #1