We will the first hardware platforms shipping with a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor later this month and in March, with Firefly-RK3399 development board, and various TV boxes / mini PCs such as Vorke Z3,Yundoo Y8, and Remix IO+. Another option is “R-TV BOX K99” with 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.1ac WiFi… that’s currently up for pre-order on GeekBuying for $139.99, and scheduled to ship in 3 days.
R-TV BOX K99 specifications:
SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa core processor with 2x ARM Cortex A72 cores @ up to 2.0 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex A53 cores, Mali-T860MP4 GPU @ 800 MHz with support for OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL, DX11, AFBC (frame buffer compression)
Video Codecs – 4K 10-bit H.265, H.264 & VP9 decoding up to 60 fps
Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi (867 Mbps) + Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB type C port with OTG mode, and DisplayPort 1.2 video/audio support
Misc – Power button, recovery port
Power Supply – 5V/2.5A
Dimensions & Weight – N/A
K99 runs Android 6.0 operating system, and ship with a power adapter, an IR remote control, a HDMI cable, and a user’s manual.
Please note that Rockchip RK3399 is not a TV box SoC, and lacks the latests features like HDR, and HD audio (TrueHD / DTS HD) pass-through is not guaranteed to work. However, you’ll still be able to watch most videos, and performance will be much better than previous generations leading to smoother games, and faster web browsing and general user experience. From that point of view, Rockchip RK3388 boxes might be seen as Android mini PCs, rather than TV boxes focusing on the best AV experience. We’ll have to see what the first reviews reveal to find out.
The first Apollo Lake mini PC available from China was Voyo V1 VMac Mini with a Celeron N3450 or Pentium N4200 processor, but there’s now a new model with Bben MN17A with Celeron N3450, 4GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC flash, and the ability to add your own storage via an SSD bay.
Bben MN17A mini PC specifications:
SoC – Intel Celeron N3450 quad core processor @ 1.1 GHz / 2.2 GHz and 12 EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 200 MHz / 700 MHz; 6W TDP
System Memory – 4GB DDR3L (up to 8GB)
Storage – 32GB eMMC flash (Options for 16, 64 or 128 GB) + mSATA SSD bay + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
Video Output – HDMI 1.4b port up to 4K @ 30 Hz
Audio – HDMI + 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity – Fast Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.2 (Intel 3165 wireless card)
USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) type C port, 2x USB 2.0 ports
Misc – Reset and power buttons, power LED
Power Supply – 12V/1.5A via power barrel or USB type C port
Dimensions – 145 x 70 x 17.35 cm
The device comes with a fan, so we’ve yet to get an fanless Apollo Lake mini PC coming out of China. The specifications are fairly similar to the ones of Voyo VMac Mini, except for the slower Fast Ethernet port, a full HDMI port replacing a mini HDMI port, and better wireless connectivity with 802.11 ac and BLE 4.2. The SATA bay is a small advantage over Voyo VMac Mini which can also be upgraded but needs a teardown. The product page does not mention whether it’s an mSATA or M.2 interface, but after a chat with Bben, they confirmed it was a mSATA interface.
You can get the computer with 4GB RAM and 32GB for as low as $175 shipped, as long as you select an unlicensed version of Windows 10. If you want an activated version of Windows 10, it will cost you $14.50 extra. You may also consider purchasing from BBen official Aliexpress store instead with pricing starting at $167.50 + shipping. For reference, Voyo V1 Vmac Mini mini PC with Celeron N3450, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC flash, and Windows 10 Home activated sells for $159 including shipping.
We see more and more industrial devices making use of Raspberry Pi boards, after Kunbus RevolutionPi RevPi Core industrial computer based on Raspberry Pi Computer Module, and RailPi 2.0 embedded computer equipped with a Raspberry Pi 3 (or ODROID-C2) board, Janz Tec is now offering another option with emPC-A/RPI3 industrial embedded controller featuring Raspberry Pi 3 board, and supporting variable DC power input, 24V digital inputs and outputs, and interfaces such as CAN, RS485…
Janztec emPC-A/RPI3 specifications:
SoC – Broadcom BCM2837 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz (but limited to 4x 600 MHz on purpose to avoid overheating) and VideoCore IV GPU
System Memory – 1GB DDR2 RAM
Storage – externally accessible micro SD slot
Video Output – HDMI 1.4 port
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth LE (BCM43143)
USB – 4x USB 2.0 ports
Debugging – 1x 9-pin D-SUB connector for serial debug console (RS232 only with RxD and TxD)
I/O connector with:
1x CAN (ISO/DIS 11989-2, opto-isolated, term. settings via jumper, SocketCAN supported)
1x RS232 (Rx, Tx, RTS, CTS) or switchable to RS485 (half duplex; term. settings via jumper)
4x digital inputs (24V DC)
4x digital outputs (24V DC)
Misc – Real-time clock, battery buffered
Power Supply – 9 … 32 V DC
Dimensions – 99.8 x 96.7 x 30.0 mm
Temperature Range – Operating: 0 °C … 35/40°C; storage: -20 °C … 75 °C
Humidity – 5 % ~ 95 %, non-condensing
The enclosure supports desktop, wall or DIN rail mounting. While customers can boot the operating system of their choice from micro SD card, the company offers support for Raspbian JESSIE Lite operating system, and can also provide – at extra cost – CODESYS V3 runtime environment, Oracle Java Embedded, and CANopen protocol stack and tools.
As with all other industrial solutions, the added features come at a costs, as Janz Tec emPC-A/RPI3 pricing starts at 250 Euros without micro SD card, power supply, nor any optional software options. The embedded computer can be purchased on Saelig website, and you may want to visit the product page for more information.
Intel introduced new processors every year, but in most cases the performance improvement from new processor with a similar power profile is only incrementally better, as we’ve seen in our Atom X7-Z8700 vs Pentium N4200 benchmarks comparison, which means it’s not really worthwhile to upgrade performance-wise, unless you really a specific feature or interface found in the new processor. But what if we compare to processor from 2 to 3 years ago? Intel Atom Z3735F was a popular choice two years ago, and if you’re looking for a cheap Intel mini PC or TV box, that’s still the cheapest option with prices under $80. So I’ve decided to compare Intel Atom Z3735F (Bay Trail) processor with 2W TDP to the latest Pentium Celeron N4200 (Apollo Lake) with 6W TDP.
To do so, I gathered benchmarks results from MeLE PCG03 mini PC (PCMark 8) and PCG01 TV stick (Passmark + 3Dmark) for the Atom processor, as well as Voyo VMac Mini for the Apollo Lake processor. Please note that I only have PCMark 8 Home Baseline for PCG03, and not the Accelerated benchmark with OpenCL, but based on my results with K3 Wintel Keyboard PC, and reviews from Anandtech and IXBT, there’s no difference between PCMark Home Baseline and Accelerated for Atom Z3735F processor as it seems OpenCL is not supported in Atom Z3735F SoC (at least by PCMark), so I used PCMark 8 Home Baseline results for MeLE PCG03, and PCMark8 Home Accelerated for Voyo Vmac Mini. Unsurprisingly, the Pentium processors is faster in all tasks, and I highlighted the tests where it is at least twice as fast in green.
The main surprise here is how little difference there is for PCMark 8 web browsing benchmarks. Video chat is the same because the video was already rendered at 30 fps previously, and Photo editing is much faster, simply because of OpenCL support, and not because the processor is about 6 times faster. Passmark 8 and 3DMark benchmark show a clear boost of 2 to 3 times between an Atom Z3735F mini PC/Stick and a Pentium N4200 processor for the overall system and 3D gaming. If you own an Atom Z3735F mini PC, you’ll clearly feel a performance difference if you upgrade to an Apollo Lake processor. Beside the system performance, you’ll also benefit from faster interfaces like USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and potentially SATA, as well as better multimedia capabilities with for example H.265 video decoding. You’ll have to pay 2 or 3 times more for an Apollo Lake mini PC, but contrary to most Bay trail mini PCs, it will be usable as an entry-level computer.
MeegoPad T8 was a Windows 10 mini projector in 2015, but time has passed, and the company has now decided to use the same name for a Windows 10 HDMI TV stick supporting two displays thanks to the usual HDMI 1.4 male port, as well as a USB -C port with DisplayPort capability.
MeegoPad T08 TV stick specifications:
SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8350 “Cherry Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.92 GHz with Intel Gen8 HD graphics (2W SDP)
System Memory – 4GB DDR3L-1600
Storage – 32 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
Video Output – HDMI 1.4 male connector + USB type C port
Audio I/O – HDMI, USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB 3.1 type C port for power, data, and video output, 1x micro USB port, 1x micro USB port for power only
Misc – Power button & LED, fan
Power Supply – 5V/3A connected to micro USB port
Dimensions – 14.20 x 4.20 x 0.99 cm
Weight – 200 grams
The device runs Windows 10 Home 32-bit. If you want to use the extra display, you’ll need a USB-C to HDMI adapter.
GIGABYTE will soon introduce their EL-30 “Intel Apollo Lake IoT Gateway Solution” powered by a quad core Intel Pentium N4200 with 32GB storage, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, dual HDMI ports, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a mini PCIe slot for 3G module or mSATA storage, and an optional Zigbee module.
GIGABYTE EL-30 specifications:
SoC – Intel Pentium processor N4200 with 4 cores, 4 threads @ 1.10 – 2.50 GHz with 2MB L2 cache, 18EU Intel HD Graphics 505 (6W TDP)
System Memory – 2x SO-DIMM slots for DDR3L 1600/1866MHz memory up to 8GB
I’ve just posted Voyo V1 VMac Mini review with Windows 10 this morning, and at the end I mentioned I quickly tried to run Ubuntu 16.04 without success. Reader Piotr who also happens to be a LibreELEC together with about 65 other team members, noticed it, provided me a link to a development version of LibreELEC 8.0 (mirror link) working with Apollo Lake processors, and explained Ubuntu was not working because Linux needs updated Mesa and Intel drivers. The image is based on Linux 4.10-rc5 with the necessary drivers and Kodi 17. The changes were mostly made by FernetMenta (Rainer Hochecker), and will be merged in Linux 4.10 and Mesa 17.0. He also implemented 10-bit HEVC support that will officially be available in Kodi 18 only and found in daily builds.
So let’s try this out. After downloading LibreELEC-Intel.x86_64-8.0-devel-20170130110609-r25167-gd210441.img.gz, I tried to flash it (N.B.: no need to extract it) from my Ubuntu 16.04 PC with LibreELEC USB-SD Creator, but for whatever reasons neither the 32-bit nor the 64-bit versions of the tool would work, so I did this in a Windows laptop instead. After that I inserted the flash drive into Voyo VMac Mini, and pressed F7 to bring up the boot device selection menu to select the USB flash drive, and within a few seconds I got LibreELEC installation prompt, so this looks good. Please ignore the vertical lines in the photos below as it’s just an issue with my TV.
I selected 1. Install LibreELEC and OK to go to the next screen where I could select the installation device.
This is where VMac Mini having two storage devices becomes convenient, as Windows 10 is installed in /dev/sda (128GB SSD), but the 32GB eMMC flash in /dev/mmcblk0 is no used at all, so I selected the latter in order to have a dual boot Windows 10 / LibreELEC installation.
The installation script will then ask you twice to confirm your want to install LibreELEC and completely wipe out the target disk, and once you’ve confirmed the installation will take a few seconds, and you’ll be asked to reboot. As the system reboots, press F7 until you enter the boot device selection menu.
Windows Boot Manager should still be here (as default option), and there should also be a new “UEFI OS” option for LibreELEC. So I have tried and within a few seconds, I got to LibreELEC / Kodi 17 user interface. Success!
I went trough the setup wizard, and then configured the system to access videos on a SAMBA share. I could play 4K videos with H.264, VP9 and 10-bit H.265, although with some artifacts at the beginning of the H.264 video, but I had no audio… I went to the settings, and changes the Audio device from “HDA Intel PCH ALC296VC Analog” that probably outputs audio via the 3.5mm audio jack to “HDA Intel PCH ONK TX-NR636 on HDMI #1”, and audio worked through my TV’s speakers.
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A Rec.2020 video did not play properly (horizontal bands shown), so there are still a few issues with video playback, but it’s a development version, and I’m expecting it to improve overtime. But let’s see it HDMI audio pass-through is also working, and there are options for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD, all good!
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Oh oh! Not quite, I had no audio at all. So I checked the passthrough output device in the audio, and changed it to use TX-NR636 receiver on HDMI #1.
But did it work? The photos below may give a clue…
All popular audio formats supported by my AV receiver worked fine: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital+ 7.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1/7.1, DTS HD Master and DTS HD High Resolution. So LibreELEC is quite better than Windows in that respect. Note that Apollo Lake motherboards or mini PCs with HDMI 2.0 may not support HD audio pass-through right now, but the good news is that it could be a driver issue and Intel developers are involved in solving it.
If you are not that interested in LibreELEC, and would like to run Ubuntu 16.04 or another distribution instead this should also be possible, but you’ll have to do some work by modifying Ubuntu 16.04 ISO with a recent Linux 4.10 kernel, and possibly Mesa development branch if you’re not going to run a server image.
Voyo VMac Mini, also sometimes referred to just Voyo V1, is an actively cooled mini PC powered by Intel Celeron N3450 or Pentium N4200 Apollo Lake processor. I’ve received samples for both, and already taken pictures of the device and motherboard. So in the second part I’ll review the mini PC checking out system info, running some benchmarks on both, and see how it performs as an entry-level desktop PC.
Voyo VMac Mini Setup and System Information
Setup is pretty straightforward, as you just need to connect mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, the mini HDMI to HDMI cable, optionally the included USB WiFi dongle, the power supply, and finally press the power button to get to Windows 10 desktop logged in as “admin” user in about 30 seconds.
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Some Apollo Lake mini PCs support HDMI 2.0 video output, but this requires a DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 bridge chip, which not included in Voyo VMac Mini’s board, so the system supports 1080p resolution up to 60Hz, and 3840×2160 up to 30Hz.
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4K video output will work, but by default the system will be set to 1080p60. Window will show a “non-optimal resolution” notification on the bottom right whenever you change resolution to 4K.
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The System Info window will show the device is running an activated version of Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and comes with 4.00GB (3.84GB usable) RAM and Intel Pentium CPU N4200 @ 1.10 GHz (or Celeron CPU N3450). However, Voyo may not be 100% in compliance with the hardware requirements for a discounted Microsoft license, as while it comes with 4GB RAM, and a 32GB eMMC flash, Windows is installed on the 128GB SSD instead.
I’ve also included a “Device Manager” screenshot for a bit more info about the peripherals and features.
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One of the first thing you may want to do is to remove some Chinese programs which are running in the background.
The two processes are called ldslite.exe and computerZservice.exe, and many websites report about those two from the ones saying they are safe, to the ones claiming they are adware, to the ones claiming both are very dangerous viruses, and you need to download their free software to remove them. I have not seen any ads, but I could remove both easily simply going to “Add or remove programs”, and removed the only program with a Chinese name which removed both processes.
The C: drive is the 128GB FORESEE SSD drive where Windows is installed, and both sequential and random performance is pretty good, and ever faster than the already pretty fast SSD found on Voyo V3 mini PC.The 32GB eMMC flash (D: drive) is not quite as good, and from a technical point of view, it was the right thing to do to install Windows on the SSD.
Voyo VMac Mini does not include a wireless adapter internally, but a 802.11n WiFi dongle is included. Since you may want to use your own instead, I have not tested WiFi, but only Gigabit Ethernet using iperf 2 for a 60 seconds full duplex transfer.
The results show download speed is OK, but if you need a device that handles heavy traffic in both directions simultaneously this will not work so well:
Voyo VMac Mini User Experience and Usability Testing
The mini PC has done good so far, I did not experience many problems (I had USB problem at the beginning with some flash drives not recognized, but they seem to have gone). But the most important is to see how it would perform during use as a desktop PC and/or HTPC, so I’ve performed the following tasks:
Multi-tasking – Launching and using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
Web Browsing with Firefox & Microsoft Edge
Loading multiple tab in Firefox with CNX Software blog
Playing a flash game (Candy Crush Saga) in Firefox
Playing a 4K (VP9) YouTube Videos in Microsoft Edge
Gaming with Asphalt 8
Kodi 17.0 RC3 @ 4K videos using H.265 or H.264 codecs, 10-bit H.264 @ 1080p, and audio pass-through
The good news is that such machine can now perfectly be used a an entry level computer for multi-tasking such as reading email, browsing the web, and editing documents. Beside the incrementally faster processor over Braswell and Cherry Trail systems, the fast SSD and 4GB of RAM clearly help here. You’ll still see differences with faster machine while scrolling long web pages, and playing games. 4K YouTube videos are playing well in Microsoft Edge, and not too bad in Firefox with only a few frames dropped here and there. Asphalt 8 frame rate does really feel similar to what I experience in Atom x7-Z8700 or Celeron N3150 based mini PCs such as Beelink BT7 and MINIX NGC1. Kodi 17 is almost out, so I used Kodi 17 RC3 during testing, with automatic frame rate switching working well, for example a 4K @ 30 fps video will make the resolution switch from 1080p60 to 4K30 automatically, and H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos are playing fairly well. VP9 videos however are extremely choppy and unwatchable in Kodi 17. If you have a lot of animes using 10-bit H.264 (Hi10p), th goods news is that the processor is fast enough to play such videos using software decoding. HDMI audio pass-through works for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but not for TrueHD instead playing PCM 2.0 or transcoding to Dolby Digital, and DTS HD with the platform only passing DTS 5.1.
Stress Test, Fan Noise and Power Consumption
Some mini PCs do no handle heavy loads very well, with CPU throttling occurring after a few minutes, even for devices with a fan. So I ran AIDA64 Extreme Stability Test to find out, as well as HWiNFO64 in sensor-only mode for a little over 2 hours to find out.
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The results are very good with no CPU throttling, the maximum temperature achieved was 89 °C, 16° C from the maximum Junction temperature (105 °C), and the Pentium N4200 processor was clocked at 1.6 GHz most of the time right between the 1.1 GHz “baseline” frequency and 2.5 GHz maximum burst frequency.
The system is not fanless, but the fan does not allow turn, as it depends on actual temperature, and the higher the temperature the faster the fan spins. GM1352 sound level meter placed at about 2 cm from the top of the case reported 50 dbA under light load, and either 52.5 dBA during AIDA64 stress test, with burst up to 57.5 dBA during the same test, that would only last maybe 10 seconds. Fan noise is not too bad while browsing the web, although audible, but for any demanding tasks you’ll clearly hear it on the temperature rise enough.
Power consumption was 10.3 Watts without USB hard drive during the stress test, but there’s a design flaw in power off mode as USB ports still draw current, so with a USB 3.0 hard drive connected, power consumption is 2.0 Watts when the device is turned off, and around 1.0 Watts when I only leave the USB keyboard and mouse. Idle power consumption is 6.4 to 7 watts with USB HDD connected.
Voyo VMac Mini works as advertised, and performance is quite good with the Apollo Lake processor processor, fast SSD storage and 4GB RAM. I could perfectly see people using it as an entry level computer to browse the web, work with documents and spreadsheets and so on. People who want to run high load on the device should not worry about CPU throttling as the fan and heatsink take care of cooling the device even under stress. It’s obviously still limited when it comes to games, and it might not be the best price/performance for HTPC use, as while 4K H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos can play, 4K output is limited to 30 Hz (HDMI 1.4), 4K VP9 is not working well in Kodi, and HDMI audio pass through is limited to Dolby abd DTS 5.1, and does not support Dolby TrueHD not DTS HD formats.
At the beginning I also had some issues with some USB flash drives (NTFS) recognized by the system, but not mounted (no file system detected), but the problem went away, maybe after a Windows 10 update, and I could not reproduce the issue anymore at the end of the review with any of the 3 drives I tested. Please note the mini PC does not include WiFi, nor Bluetooth, but a WiFi dongle is included in the package instead. There was also some crapware installed in Windows 10, but as indicated in the review it’s very easy to remove. I plan to test Linux with Ubuntu 16.04, but so far my attempts have not been successful. The BIOS find the bootable drive with Ubuntu, but when I select it, all I get is a black screen.
I’d like to thank GearBest & GeekBuying for providing the samples for review, with the former providing the Pentium N4200 version which they sell for $234.93 and the latter the Celeron N3450 version selling for $199.99. Both models can also be found on other online shops such as Amazon US and Aliexpress. Note that the version on Aliexpress is significantly cheaper because it only comes with a 64GB SSD. The custom SATA cable to add your own 2.5″ hard drive is only $2 extra if you select a bundle on the Aliexpress link.