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Posts Tagged ‘mini pc’

Review of GOLE1 mini PC with 5″ Display – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

July 21st, 2016 12 comments

GOLE1 is a portable mini PC running Windows 10 and Android 5.1, featuring a 5″ touchsceen display, and powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” processor. The device was launched on Indiegogo, and the project raised close to $300,000. I’ve now received an early sample with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage for review, with – I was told – a 1,800 mAh battery instead of the 2,600 mAh battey backers will receive. I’ll do a 2 or 3 parts review, starting by checking out the hardware, before testing both Windows 10 and Android 5.1 on the platform.

GOLE1 Unboxing

The device is packed into a simple white box with “GOLE1 Designed by GOLE” string.
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The mini PC ships with a 5V/3A power supply which should be powerful enough to connect a USB 3.0 hard drive, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The device looks a little like a mini portable TV because of its shape an antenna. The top features the 5″ touchscreen display, as well as volume, Home/Windows, and power buttons. A micro USB port, USB 2.0 & USB 3.0 ports, and a micro SD slot can be found on one of the sides, while the rear panel includes the WiFi antenna, a 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI 1.4 output, two more USB 2.0 ports, a Fast Ethernet port, and the DC jack.

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I planned to show a quick boot demo with Windows 10 and Android 5.1 in the unboxing video, but the battery was depleted, so the unboxing / hands-on video is little less interesting than expected.

GOLE1 Teardown

GOLE1 metallic enclosure can be opened by taking out of four rubber pad on the bottom, and loosening four screws. The bottom cover does not come off that easily, so I used a sharp tool and inserted into one of the ventilation holes to gently lift it up.

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Cooling is achieved with a large heatsink covering Atom processor, the memory and a Samsung eMMC flash. Finally, I did get a 2,600 mAh battery if the markings are to be believed [Update: the company has now double confirmed I truly got a 1,800 mAh battery, but they applied the mass production sticker on it]. I wanted to completely remove the board from the case, so I removed the battery, and loosened 6 more screws, but I did not come easily, and I did not want to risk damaging the unit at this early stage.

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We can still have a closer look at the board and check out some of the chips. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity is achieved via an Ampak AP6234 module supporting dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and BT 4.0, with an external antenna plugged into a connector (i.e. not soldered). Davicom DM9621ANP USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller is used in conjunction with PHC SMD-16003NL transformer to provide wired network connectivity. Other ICs includes Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub controller, and ATMLH602-46D which should an I2C EEPROM to store data like the MAC address.

If you’ve missed the crowdfunding campaign, you can (pre-) purchase GOLE1 mini PC starting at $99 with 2GB RAM / 32GB flash, and up to $144 with 4GB/64GB on GearBest (GBGF4 coupon may lower the price further). I have not found the device for sale on other websites yet.

Sunty SP-001 Portable Windows 10 mini PC Features a 7″ Touchscreen Display, an HD Projector

July 19th, 2016 5 comments

Sunty SP-001 mini PC looks quite similar to GOLE1, but comes with a large 7″ touchscreen display, and adds a TI 720p DLP projector. You can also carry it around thanks to its 6,500 mAh, and the brain of the device consists of an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor coupled with 2GB RAM and 32GB flash.

Sunty-SP-001Sunty SP-001 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.84 GHz with Intel Gen8 HD graphics (2W SDP)
  • System Memory –  2GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up
  • Display – 7″ capacitive touchscreen display with 1280×800 resolution
  • Video input – HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, speakers, built-in microphone
  • Projector – 0.3” TI DMD, DLPC3438/DLPA3000/DLP3010 DLP, 720p resolution, 200 Lumen brightness, 5000:1 contrast ratio, 20 to 300” screen size, autofocus, and 3000 hours life;
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi (Intel Wireles AC-3165module)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port
  • Misc – Power and volume buttons
  • Battery – 6,500 mAh battery good about about 2 hours of typical use
  • Power Supply – 12V
  • Dimensions & weight – N/A

The miniPC / tablet / pico projector combo runs Windows 10 Home.

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The device is not available yet, but is expected to sell for $400 to $450. NetbookItalia interviewed the company which showcased the device a couple of months ago. The second part of the video also shows another battery-less 5″ modelthat connects to a projector unit and power bank, resulting in a much thicker device, but allowing you to take the mini PC away with you without the projector.

Via miniPC DB and AndroidPC.es

Intel Apollo Lake NUC6CAYS & NUC6CAYH NUC mini PCs Specifications Released

July 15th, 2016 16 comments

Intel Apollo Lake is the next generation of low power processor family that should replace Braswell Celeron processors, and Fanlesstech got hold of the specifications for two upcoming “Arches Canyon” NUC6CAYS and NUC6CAYH NUCs (Next Unit of Computing) mini PCs based on the processors, as well as the 2016-2018 roadmap for the complete (consumer grade) Intel NUC family.

Intel_Apollo_Lake_mini_PCThe only differences between the two models are that NUC6CAYH is a barebone model without memory or storage, nor operating system. So I’ll just list NUC6CAYS specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron Jxxx quad core processor @ x GHz to y GHz (burst) with Intel HD graphics up to z MHz (10W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L-xxxx SO-DIMM (dual channel), upgradeable up to 8GB DDR3L-1866
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash, 2.5″ SATA3 bay for 9.5mm hard drives, SDXC slot with UHS-I support
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60 Hz), VGA
  • Audio – Up to 7.1 channels via HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack, 3.5mm rear speaker/TOSLINK combo jacl
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45), Intel Wireless AC-316x M.2 module for 802.11ac 1×1 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 with internal antennas
  • USB – 2x front USB 3.0 ports at the front (yellow one for charging), 2x rear USB 3.0 ports, 2x internal USB 2.0 ports via header
  • Misc – IR receiver, Kensington lock
  • Power Supply – 12~19V DC input (65W wall-wart power supply included)
  • Dimensions – 115 x 111 x 51 (plastic casing with inner metal structure)

Intel_Apollo_Lake_NUCNUC6AYS will include Windows 10 Home x64 and Intel Remote Keyboard. Other features include multi-color front panel LED light ring, built-in dual array microphones, VESA mounting plate, front-panel and AUX_PWR internal headers. The NUCs will come with a 3 year warranty. Intel does not appear ready to give the complete SKU and operating frequency of the processors, but the good news is that Apollo Lake will be the first low power Intel processors to support HDMI 2.0 allowing for 4K output at 60 Hz.

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The 2016-2018 NUC roadmap above was also “leaked” with more powerful Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 NUCs. The first Apollo Lake NUC will be released in Q4 2016 with Windows 10, and the barebone version in Q1 2017.

Morefine M1+ Review – A Dual Boot Windows and Android TV Stick

July 11th, 2016 11 comments

Karl here and I will be reviewing the Morefine M1+. It is an Intel based stick PC with an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor with 2GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. It dual boots Windows 10 Home 32 bit and Android 5.1. In this review, I won’t be doing many benchmarks because they have been done a lot in the past.

Be careful when researching this product because there are 2 devices with same name with different specs. The other one has an Intel Atom z3735 and only 32GB storage and Android 4.4.

The box came expertly wrapped and I have never seen a package delivered and protected so well.

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In the box was the stick, short HDMI extension, power cable, and instruction manual. No micro USB OTG cable is included. I didn’t find this an issue because I had several already.

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Specs

  • OS Version: OS Windows 10 (Trial Version) and Android 5.1
  • CPU: Intel Quad Core Atom x5-Z8300
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics
  • Processor Speed (turbo): 1.84 GHz, normal 1.44 GHz
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Internal Memory: 64GB
  • External Memory: Support up to 128GB
  • Supported Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4G/5G)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in Intelligent Temperature Control Fan

When power is connected and after pushing the power button I was prompted with android logo and windows logo. I used a Logitech K400 to navigate and left right arrows are used to choose Android or Windows. It remembers what you booted last when you reboot.

Windows

I was most interested in Windows so booted to it first. I have already used a box based on z8300 so I had realistic expectation of performance. UI is acceptable and most tasks can be performed with just a little bit of waiting. I went to update and found that it was already up to date. I was expecting a couple hours of updates. I also found a WiFi access point still saved in wireless settings. I performed an update and only had to update virus definitions. (After factory restoring Windows I believe Chinavision updated the stick before shipping. I did have to do a big update and I received normal Windows first boot screens)

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Then I installed the software below:

  • True Temp
  • Kodi
  • Emby
  • Plex
  • Netflix
  • HDHomerun App
  • VLC
  • Chrome with h.264 YouTube addon
  • Minecraft for Windows 10 beta
  • League of Legends
  • Microsoft Office 2016

It didn’t come with Windows activated and I had a key for Win 7 pro available. I went to the Windows store and searched for Upgrade Windows Pro and I put in this generic key VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T that I found on the Microsoft website. This key installs Pro but does not activate it. I let the system upgrade then I went to activation and put in my key to properly activate it. So there are a couple options to activate Windows.

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Morefine M1+ Partitions – Click to Enlarge

I tried to do a fresh Windows 64 Pro install but the stick wouldn’t recognize my thumb drive. I contacted the manufacturer and asked for 64-bit drivers but they were not able to provide any. I didn’t want to brick the stick so did not experiment any more. I received links to restore img as I was completing this review so I did not have time to test. Here is the link, and instructions are the same as the original M1+. The process seems straightforward. I tried to do a restore and I think there is an issue with the Android restore provided by Morefine. Complains of being 64-bit when only 32-bit capable. I let Morefine know and I will update when I find out what the issue is…Maybe I can’t follow instructions…wouldn’t be the first time.

Thermal Design

The thermal design for the stick is adequate. I kept True Temp running while reviewing and only saw it spike to 80 deg. Celsius once. It was during the installation of Microsoft Office while browsing with Chrome at the same time. Most of the time it ran between 50 and 60. The fan on the stick runs at different speeds depending on the temp and when only running light apps turns off completely. I didn’t find it annoying and barely audible. For a comparison the air coming out my vents for HVAC is substantially louder. I performed a 30 min stress test with prime95 while streaming Netflix and the fan only kicked into its highest speed once. 2 screenshots below show right at the end and the stick cooling off quickly.

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Windows Gaming

I don’t play much games but I did play Minecraft from the Windows store and it ran really well. I did have some hiccups playing network games with Android tablets but it still is in beta and I don’t think it is attributed to the stick. The only other game I play occasionally is League of Legends. It is not a demanding game but I was impressed that it played well. League of Legends is a real time strategy / RPG game that any lag gets you killed and I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage using the stick.

HTPC

I feel like a home theater PC is the best way to utilize this stick. I tested out Kodi, Plex, Emby, and HD Homerun app. All of which played well. I was able to play some 4k content but only up to 8-bit HEVC. I could not get 10 bit to play in any player. All the 1080 content I tested played well.

Wifi

I found WiFi to be only mediocre. Windows was better than Android. It might be the fact that I had it so close to my TV. If I moved it to the right spot, it would copy about 4 MB/s. The access point has 3 walls to penetrate which includes a bathroom with copper pipes. You can see below where moving the stick made speeds fluctuate considerable up and down.

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I tested a rtl8188etv USB adapter but there was some sort of driver conflict with built in WiFi and I had to restore the driver for the built in Wi-Fi from the double driver backup I made. I did use a ASIX USB 3.0 gig adapter and it worked really well. I also tested a ASIX 10/100 adapter and it worked well.

Android

I was a slightly disappointed on the Android side. I really like that it didn’t have any bloat but but this is extreme. No play store was included. I tried for several hours to install Google play store and Google play services kept getting constant app closings so I uninstalled them. Android is not rooted. ADB does not work. I installed aptoide and used it to install all my apps. I don’t like using it but it is better than side loading all the apps from the web. Kodi worked well.

As I was using Android I am really impressed by the UI. This is my first experience with Android on Intel. It is really fluid. I am not sure why Android on Intel didn’t take off. I guess my ignorance kept me from it and I imagine others as well. I had no issues with apps and they all seemed to work well. I was always worried that apps wouldn’t work well on Intel processors.

Misc

There is the issue with time when booting between Android and Windows. Time gets off. A little hack can be applied to Windows so that time doesn’t become off when switching OS’s. What is needed is to set windows to use universal time. Below are some pics of inside the stick and internal storage test.

Morefine_M1_Plus_CrystalDiskMarkWiFi chip is AP6234 and notice that the antenna is not soldered on. It would be easy to mod and install an external antenna. I loath the sticky soldered antenna.

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Bios

There are quite a few BIOS settings but the only one I changed was an option for the stick to turn on when power is applied. I prefer it to come on in case power is lost so it will reboot on its own. Its nice if you use as a micro server.

One final note

In the event you do not wish to use Android you can recover most of the space used by Android. I used the built in disk management under Computer management and deleted all the partitions and tried to extend the main Windows partition but it was greyed out. I then downloaded Minitool Partition Wizard and completed the final extend and this is what I ended up with. You still will get the initial choice of Windows and Android but Android bombs. Reboot and choose Windows….this might be able to be fixed and boot directly into Windows without a choice if a recovery USB is made and have it fix booting.

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Conclusion

Overall, I was really pleased with this stick. The thermal design is well engineered. Easy to use. I have been playing with Android boxes for the home theater for several years now. I have to admit having a product that just works feels pretty good. I can plug in just about anything and Windows will find the drivers and install…or with just minimal searching find a suitable one. I don’t have to beg a dev to compile a kernel with necessary drivers. If you have any questions feel free to ask below in the comments.

I would like to thank Chinavision for sending the Morefine M1+ to review, and you can purchased on their website for $81.69. Alternative shopping options include Tinydeal and Banggood, with most other shops only selling the older Bay Trail version with Android 4.4 and 32GB storage.

Star Cloud PCG03U Bay Trail Ubuntu mini PC with 2GB RAM, 64GB Storage Sells for $90

July 8th, 2016 11 comments

Last year, I reviewed MeLE PCG03 mini PC with Windows 8.1. and later upgraded it to Windows 10, but the company has now started to launch Ubuntu based TV sticks and mini PCs, under their new Star Cloud brand, with for example Star Cloud PCG02U TV stick, and now they’ve just launched Star Cloud PCG03U running Ubuntu 14.04 for $89.59 shipped on Aliexpress.

Ubuntu_Bay_Trail_mini_PCStar Cloud PCG03U specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz / 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports (The specs mention 1x USB 3.0 port, but it should be impossible since Z3735F does not support USB 3.0)
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The mini PC will ship with a 12V power supply and internal plug adapters, as well as a Quick Start Guide. Compared to the windows version (PCG03), the storage has been upgraded to 64GB (was 32 GB), and Bluetooth has been dropped, probably because of drivers issues… The specs on AliexpressThe latter also explains why it’s running Ubuntu 14.04, and not Ubuntu 16.04, which require a more recent Linux kernel, and has not been found to be that stable on Bay Trail and Cherry Trail platforms. If you want a system that works well with the latest Ubuntu 16.04 version, you may need to wait for their Start Cloud PCG61U Braswell mini PC.

Star_Cloud_PCG03UThey appear to have used the same case and cooling solution, which I found to be of excellent, so the $90 price is pretty good for this machine, and they probable sell it with little margins. For comparison, MeLE PCG03 is now sold for $159.99.

Via AndroidPC.es

Have US Customs Declared War on TV Boxes (and mini PCs)?

July 4th, 2016 38 comments

Customs are useful to make sure illegal or dangerous goods don’t reach customers, and they also “protect jobs” or “special interests” by applying tariffs to imports. If you’ve ever purchased goods out of your country or economic zone, the experience can range from flawless (no duties), to annoying (paying some taxes), up to really frustrating and depressing, if customs decide to have a closer look to your imported item. Most the time I don’t have any problems, especially since I try to be careful to stay below the limit (~$30 here) sometimes splitting my orders, a few times I have to pay custom duties and VAT, and once I got a call from UPS telling me my $100 mini PC was kept by customs (not sure why), and that the total cost to it get was unknown, but it will be at least $150 for handling and taxes, and sending it back to China would cost about the same… So finally, my customs office (not in the US) got a free mini PC to play with. I just exchanged a few emails with UPS, and never had to fill any forms during the whole process.
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This happened a while ago, so why am I writing about this now? First, I’ve recently read some articles that UK authorities had raided TV box resellers running modified to stream illegal content, so let’s say it’s fair game. But I also got a comment from a US based reader who ordered 10 Wintel W8 Pro mini PCs:

Just an update on Geek’s Wintel W8 Pro. I ordered 10 more and they were seized by US Customs and Border Patrol. They could not find any illegal aliens so they are now checking all “TV BOXES” as declared on the shipping paperwork from China to US. 6 weeks later I got a 7 page letter from them saying they were seized not detained. The reason given was a trademark violation printed on the bottom of the box that is for Microsoft Windows 10. It is sworn to be an illegal trademark by Microsoft. They give you several options I gave the letter to my attorney. It sounds like I may still be fined some money on this side. The good thing is I paid with PayPal and got my money back. Geek offered to go Dutch on the loss and I said no. They are mad at me and won’t respond to me after I sent them a copy of the letter. The government determined the value to be 83.30 per unit and not a gift as packaged worth $50.00 per case. If you deal with Geek read the fine print, it talks about going Dutch when things go south. Customs said they are checking ALL boxes labeled “TV BOXES” many companies ship them like that. You may want to be more creative if you want them. No more Windows for me. After having trouble with one box with Kaspersky it said there was something bad in the Windows program I called and was told you cant run anti virus with that version of windows. I bought a different one. I believe in anti-virus’s reducing problems. Geek claims if the US sends the boxes back to China I will face shipping fees, importation fees, taxes and duties to the Chinese government. Maybe I can post the 7 page letter or email it to anyone who is thinking of buying these. I don’t know what the posting rules are on this. Delete any part that cant be printed. Just trying to save people time and money and having every package from China now being inspected 100% and taped back up with green US Customs and border patrol tape for routers and keyboards and things like that. This never happened until these 10 were seized. For the record Geek claims this has not happened to anyone else but I know a guy who bought 1 unit from a different reseller and his was also marked “TV BOX” and was seized.

So it took his word and asked for that document. So basically, once US customs decide to seize your goods you have 5 options (CBP = Customs and Border Protection):

  1. I request that CBP consider my petition administratively before forfeiture proceedings are initiated
  2. I request that CBP consider my offer in comprise administratively before forfeiture proceedings are initiated
  3. I abandon the property, and I request that CBP begin administrative proceedings to forfeit the property.
  4. I request that CBP send my case for court action
  5. I request that CBP begin administrative proceedings to forfeit the property

If you’re not a lawyer and have not dealt with customs before, yet clearly understand what the 5 options mean and their implications, I congratulate you. So unless you simply decide to abandon the property, most people might need a lawyer to handle the case.

But let’s clearly see why the mini PCs were seized by checking the appendix.

Microsoft_Logo_Word_CustomsSo the “Wintel Set-Top Boxes” running Microsoft Windows have been seized because Microsoft Windows logo was shown on the package, as well as Microsoft trademark…. Wintel name was OK apparently… That appears to be completely ludicrous, as they have not investigated whether the system had a proper Windows license, so even if you’ve bought a mini PC with a proper Windows license (~$25 on this type of computers), your property may still be seized because the package describes what’s been installed… Maybe it was just a matter of adding a line with “Microsoft is a trademark of Microsoft corporation” on the package or documentation (as they even opened it), but it’s still harsh, and may feel like they just found a pretext to confiscate the devices. So blank packages might not be that bad after all. I guess Android boxes with “Kodi” logo may also be looked suspiciously by customs whether banned add-ons are installed or not.

The person who released the document also share some other tidbits with his experience:

I have spoken to several different  DHL warehouse workers and drivers and they say the Customs people are there everyday. Some they grab off the belt and put right on the trucks and others they open right there, look at them, tape them back up and allow them to continue on.

I spoke to Customs this morning …. I asked if it made a difference if the box was made from Android parts instead of Bill Gates and she said it makes no difference. I did not want to argue with her but she said these boxes are just for stealing cable TV.

Why can I buy a Zidoo X6 Pro on Amazon.com for $109.00 but I can’t buy it on a Chinese website for $70.00?>

So customs agents are apparently posted in couriers’ warehouses, at least some people working at the US Customs and Border Patrol believe that TV boxes (and any small computers) are made to steal content from cable providers, and the same exact product that can be bought on Amazon, can be seized for any reasons by customs if bought from outside the US…. Is that a war on TV boxes or an isolated incident? I don’t know, but that means if you’d like to be safe, you’d have to buy locally (likely at a higher price), and selecting TV boxes or mini PCs without trademarked logos or brands on the package may help going through customs…

Compulab Fitlet-RM is a Rugged Wide Temperature Fanless mini PC based on AMD A10 Micro-6700T Processor

July 4th, 2016 11 comments

Among the many Intel Cherry Trail and Braswell mini PCs, it’s nice to see an alternative with AMD processor, and after their Fitlet-H and Fitlet-iA10 mini PCs powered by AMD A10 Micro-6700T quad core processor, Compulab is back with two rugged models based on the processor, and supporting a wide temperature range, with namely Fitlet-RM-iA10 and Fitlet-RM-XA10 LAN mini PCs.

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Fitlet-RM specifications:

  • SoCAMD A10 Micro-6700T 64 bit quad-core  processor up to 2.2 GHz with AMD Radeon R6 Graphics (4.5 W TDP)
  • System Memory – Up to 8 GB DDR3-1333 (1x SODIMM)
  • Storage – mSATA up to 1 TB (SATA 3.0 6 Gbps); micro SD/SDXC slot up to 25 MB/s
  • Display – 2x HDMI 1.4a ports
  • Audio – S/PDIF 7.1+2 channels in/out + stereo line-out/line-in/mic + HDMI audio
  • Connectivity
    • Fitlet-RM-XA10 LAN – 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Intel I211), 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
    • Fitlet-RM-iA10 – 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi (Dual band Intel 7260HMW module) + Bluetooth 4.0; support for mobile data communication with on-board micro-SIM socket
  • USB 2x USB 3.0 + 3x USB 2.0
  • ExpansionRS232, UART (3.3V), SMBUS, 8x GPIOs, mini PCIe in fitlet-RM-iA10 (used by WLAN card)
  • Power Supply – 12V (10V-15V tolerant)
  • Dimensions 10.8 cm x 8.3 cm x 2.4 cm (metal housing)
  • Temperature Range – -400C to 700C

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    RM-iA10 (left) vs RM-XA10 LAN (right) – Click to Enlarge

Both systems officially support Windows 7/10, and Linux Mint. VESA and DIN-rail mounting, power and USB locking, power button disable and remote power button are also among the options for the computer.

fitlet-RM mini computers also come with a 5 year warranty, and barebone versions of fitlet-RM-iA10 and fitlet-RM-XA10 LAN are available respectively for $311 and $327. More details may be found on Fitlet-RM product page. A review of the non-rugged model released earlier, Fitlet-X10 LAN, can be found on Anandtech.

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Review of Vorke V1 mini PC Powered by Intel Celeron J3160 Processor

July 2nd, 2016 29 comments

After checking out Vorke V1 mini PC hardware in the first part of the review, it’s now time to publish the review starting with system information, benchmarks, and user testing. The device competes with similarly priced devices based on Intel Atom x7 processor such as Voyo V3 and Beelink BT7, so I’ll also include some comparisons to those in the review.

Setup and System Information

I connected USB keyboard and mouse, an Ethernet cable, HDMI and VGA cables to check dual display support, as well as the power supply. I did not connect my USB 3.0 hard drive since, I’ve already fitted the mini PC with an internal 1TB hard drive.

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Pressing on the large power button on the top of the device will boot it, and after a few seconds, you’ll get to go through Windows 10 setup by first accepting the EULA.

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The next steps are Custom or Express settings selection, and user account creation. I have not been asked to select the language, nor configure the network, as with some other Windows 10 mini PCs. That’s something you can do later, and with Ethernet, you should have Internet connectivity without doing anything provided your router is using DHCP.

Apart from that there’s nothing else to configure really. In my case, my hard drive was formatted to EXT-4, so I had to reformat it with NTFS in order to access it in Windows. The C: drive (included FORESEE SSD) had 47.2GB free out of 59.1GB in total, the 1TB hard drive (my own) had 931 GB capacity after I formatted it.

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Then I went to the Control Panel to check the Windows 10 license was indeed activated, and some basic hardware information.

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Vorke V1 comes with an Intel Celeron J3160 quad core processor @ 1.60 GHz, 4GB RAM, and runs a legit Windows 10 Home 64-bit as advertised. The Device Manager list some of the peripherals and chips used by the system.

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HWiNFO64 provides more details about the Intel Celeron J3160 SoC, memory (single channel only), and some information about the motherboard (THD RX2) and UEFI version.

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Celeron J3160 has exactly the same “CPU Features” as Intel Atom x7-Z8700.

One thing I liked about Beelink BT7 is that it shipped with a CD ROM driver, but Vorke V1 does not, and I could not find them online. I’ve asked, and wait for an answer.

Finally, I tried dual display support, and the VGA cable was connected to a Full HD Sharp TV, and I could setup extended display very easily.

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However the maximum resolution I could set was 1680×1050, and the text was rather blurry, even more so than usual on VGA monitors.

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Vorke V1 Benchmarks

The first benchmark I ran was PCMARK 8 Conventional and Accelerated (with OpenCL).

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The scores are only slightly better than the ones I got on Beelink BT7 with 1,545 and 1,315 against 1,509 and 1,211 points on the Cherry Trail mini PC. So I would not expect the end user to notice much difference here.

You can consult the results for Conventional and Accelerated benchmarks for the complete details.

Normally, I’d run 3DMark next, but after downloading and installing it several times, I was never able to run any of the tests, with all ending quickly with zero score and an undefined error. AndroidPC.es did run 3DMark’s Ice Storm and Cloud Gate on their own sample however, and respectively achieved 20,984 and 2,451 points. Again the results are quite close to Beelink BT7 scores: 23,999 and 2,185 points.

Passmark 8 results show around 9% improvement over BT7 with 921 points.

Vorke_V1_Passmark_8

Next up is storage performance, which should not be neglected while buying a mini PC, as everything will feel snappier when storage is fast, and the random write and read performance is especially important for the drive used by the operating systems. As usual, I ran CrystalDiskMark on the C: drive (SSD with Windows 10), as well as on the D: drive with my own 1TB SATA drive connected inside the mini PC.Vorke_V1_CrystalDiskMark_SSDFORESEE is not exactly known for their ultra eMMC or NAND flash, but here the results are not too bad, and even a little better than the M.2 SSD used in Beelink BT7.

Vorke_V1_CrystalDiskMark_HDD

The hard drive performance is more or less as expected for a mechanical drive, with slow random I/Os, and around 110 MB/s for read and write sequential speeds.

At first  I was disappointed with Ethernet, as while Vorke V1 specifications clearly mention a Gigabit Ethernet port, it only connected at Fast Ethernet speeds to my Gigabit switch (FE: Orange LED; GbE: Green LED), but later it began working at Gigabit speeds, and a full duplex transfer test using “iperf.exe -t 60 -c server_ip -d”  showed excellent performance:

WiFi supports 2.4 and 5.0 GHz and I could connect to all my access points, including at 802.11ac speed.

I ran iperf in one direction (download), and the results were rather good @ 55.6 Mbps, much better than on either Voyo V3 or Beelink BT7 which averaged around 30 Mbps.

Finally, I draw a chart between various low power Intel platforms, and that shows the Cherry Trail and Braswell are in the same ball bark, and if you really want a boost in performance you have to go with the much more expensive Core M platforms.

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3DMark Ice Storm results are divided by 20 in order to generate a readable chart. The storage part of chart also shows the FORESEE SSD used in Vorke V1 is not bad at all compared to other competitors, even against the more expensive MINIX NGC-1.

Vorke V1 User Experience

The benchmarks showed the mini PC has decent performance, with the only hiccup being that I was no able to run 3DMark at all, but others did.

I used to select Microsoft Edge during review due to better YouTute performance, but since I’ve now found out that disabling VP9 on Chrome and Firefox fixes video stuttering in YouTube, I decided to replace Edge with Chrome in Vorke V1 video review.

So the tests will be as follows:

  • Multi-tasking – Using Chrome, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Chrome
    • Loading multiple tab with CNX Software
    • Playing a 1080p YouTube Videos
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi 16.1 @ 4K resolution with 4K videos using H.265 or H.264 codecs, and HDMI audio pass-through

The performance and capabilities of Vorke V1 Braswell mini PC in those tests match exactly the ones in Cherry Trail Atom x7 mini PCs with 4GB RAM, with all tasks performing smoothly, and Asphalt 8 game that would benefit from higher frame rates. Kodi 16.1 can handle XVDA2 hardware decoding for 8-bit H.265 and H.264 videos up to 4K @ 30 fps, but 10-bit and VP9 videos fall back to software decoding, and the processor is not quite powerful enough to handle 4K that way. HDMI audio pass-through works for Dolby Digital and DTS,  but 7.1 audio formats such as TrueHD and DTS HD are not supported. You can still get audio using Kodi’s audio transcoding feature, or accepting down-mixing to PCM 2.0 audio.

I usually only check for thermal throttling during benchmarks and the tests done above, but I’ve now decided to push the devices a bit more by running OCCT stress tool, although I may switch to other stress testing tools in the future. The tool runs heavy load on four cores, and I can check CPU temperature and frequency, as well as throttling status using HWiNFO64 utility.

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I ran that test for a little over 3 hours, and Vorke V1 had no problems at all with the maximum temperature reached being 78 C,  well below the 90 C junction temperature. The frequency chart generated by the utility also shows the system was running at the turbo frequency (~2.24 GHz) for the whole time, except for a small dip.

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So you can expect a constant performance over time under any kind of loads.

Conclusion

I’m pleased with my experience with Vorke V1 mini PC, performance is good without throttling at any time, Windows 10 is activated, storage performance is very good, and both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi deliver excellent networking performance.  The only downsides I can think of are that it’s not fanless – the fan is always on but relatively quiet -, and the case design is much larger than the ones of competitors, and IMHO not quite as good looking. Another minor issue is that while 7mm 2.5″ SATA hard drives will fit without issues into the internal SATA, 9.5mm hard drives will slightly bend the bottom cover, and leave a tiny gap as explained in the unboxing and teardown post. But if you don’t care about the fan, and the design, and want something that works, I can highly recommend Vorke V1. I’m not a big fan of installing Ubuntu on devices where you have paid a Windows license, but Ubuntu 16.04 can be installed using the standard ISO, something you cannot do with Cherry Trail mini PCs without losing some features. I told GeekBuying they should provide a model without Windows, but they did not seem interested at all.

Vorke V1 price is also rather attractive, as while the standard price is $199.99 on GeekBuying, you can bring that down to $159.99 with VORKE40OFF coupon.  The only other seller that showed in a Google search was Banggood ($199.00).