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Posts Tagged ‘pcmark’

First Intel Apollo Lake J3455/J4205 Processor Benchmarks & Video Tests

December 6th, 2016 23 comments

Many products powered by Intel Apollo Lake processors have already been announced, but few are actually shipping, and I have yet to get one here. However, AndroidPC.es got hold of ASRock J4205-ITX and J3455-ITX motherboards powered by respectively a Pentium J4205 quad core processor and a Celeron J3455 quad core processor, run a few benchmarks, and tested videos in Windows 10 on the motherboards with Kodi 17 and MPC-HC.

 

ASRock J4205-ITX Motherboard

ASRock J4205-ITX Motherboard

Let’s have a look at some of the benchmarks to better understand of what we can expect from Apollo Lake desktop processors.

pcmark-apollo-lake-processorFirst there’s not that much of a difference between Celeron J3455 (1,771 points) and Pentium 4205 (1,830 points) in PCMark Home Convetional benchmark, however you should clearly feel a boost in performance compared to systems with Intel Cherry Trail x5-Z8300 processor (1,141), and the score is getting fairly close to a mini PC with an Intel Core i3-5005U dual core / four thread processor (15 Watt TDP).

apollo-lake-benchmark-3dmark

If we look at 3D graphics performance, there are even more contrasts between various machines / processors. There’s a really big leap between MINIX NEO Z83-4 with x5-Z8300 processor and both Apollo Lake motherboards (150 to 165% better 3D performance), but on the other hand there’s a noticeable gap (almost 50%) between Intel HD 5500 graphics found in Core-i3 processors and Intel HD 500/505 graphics used in J3455 and J4205 processors.

AndroidPC guys also ran other benchmarks such as Cinebench, games fps, and so on, and I invite you to read their review (in Spanish) if you want to find out more. However, since there was some confusion about 10-bit HEVC and VP9 support, it’s interesting to also check out the video test results.

1080p “standard”
MPC-HC KODI 17
MPEG2 / MP2 2.0 – 6.6Mbps OK OK
MPEG4 / MP3 2.0 – 7.6Mbps OK OK
H264 / AAC 2.0 – 7.2Mbps OK OK
VC1 / WMA3 2.0 – 8.6Mbps OK OK
VP8 / VORBIS 2.0 – 7.8Mbs OK OK
1080p  – Higher bitrate 
Birds – H264 / No audio – 40Mbps OK OK
Samsung Oceanic Life – H264 – AC3 2.0 – 40Mbps OK OK
4K Videos
Skyfall – H264 / AAC 2.0 – 10Mbps OK OK
Timelapse – H264 / AAC 2.0 – 43Mbps OK OK
H.265/VP9 Videos
Tears of steel – HEVC 8bit / AAC 2.0 – [email protected] – 17Mbps OK OK
Beauty – H265 – HEVC 8bit / No audio – [email protected] (recorded @ 120 fps) – 12Mbps Skipped frames OK
Samsung UHD Dubai – HEVC 10bit / AAC 2.0 – [email protected] – 51Mbps Skipped frames OK
Google test – VP9 Youtube OK OK

So all videos can play in Kodi 17 even 4K 10-bit H.265 videos and VP9 videos, however MPC-HC appears to have issues with some H.265 videos. Both ASRock motherboards support HDMI 2.0 with up to 4K @ 60 fps, but none of the 4K H.265 videos had a framerate over 30 fps, so this would have to be tested. HDMI audio pass-through was not so great, as it only worked for Dolby Digital 5.1, not but TrueHD or DTS HD, possibly because the boards are equipped with a DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 converter which could introduce issues.

There are some Linux benchmarks (Phoronix) for ASRock J4205-ITX board, but currently limited to C-Ray.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC Review – Part 2: Windows 10 and Benchmarks

September 8th, 2016 22 comments

I’ve listed specifications and posted photos of MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC in the first part of review, and while NEO Z83-4 is yet another Intel Atom x5-Z8300 device, it’s clear the company has made specific efforts for the thermal design with a large heatsink and aluminum bottom cover, and provided a solid 12V/3A power supply. So in the second part of the review, I’ll check how Windows 10 performs in the device, and run some benchmarks to compare it to other low power Intel mini PCs.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Setup & System Information

If you’ve connected USB mouse and keyboard, HDMI and Ethernet, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and the power cord. Pressing the power button on the right side will boot the device.

minix-neo-z83-4_connected

A typical boot will take around 30 seconds to the desktop. My system was already configured with Z83-4 user, possibly because MINIX tested the device before sending it to me, but for the first boot, users should normally go through Windows 10 setup to select the language, configure networking and so on.

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Click for Original Size

System and Security->System in the control panel shows Z84-3 runs Windows 10 Home 64-bit (activated), and features an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor @ 1.44 GHz with 4GB RAM.minix-neo-z83-4-storageIf we check My Computer we can see the C: drive (eMMC flash partition) has a total capacity of 28.6GB with about 13.1 GB free, and the system also detected partition on my USB hard drive formatted with exFAT and NTFS file systems.

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I’ve take the Device Manager screenshot for people wanting more details about the drivers, and runs HWiNFO64 to show a system summary.

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There’s no surprise here, and the info is basically the same as other x5-Z8300 mini PCs such as Tronsmart Ara X5.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Benchmarks

I’ve only run PCMARK 8 HOME 3.0 Accelerated benchmark, and skipped the “baseline” benchmark, as systems based on Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor have been benchmarked so many times.

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The results (1,543 points) confirms the system runs well, and NEO Z83-4 even slightly beats the more expensive MINIX NGC-1 Braswell mini PC, which achieved 1,492 points in the same test. It’s also better than Voyo V3 Intel Atom x7-Z8700 mini PC, which in theory should have a better score.

3DMarks results are also as expected, and a bit lower than NGC-1 since Intel Celeron N3150 has a faster GPU.

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You can find MINIX NEO Z83-4 detailed results for Sky Driver 1.0, Ice Storm Extreme 1.2, and Fire Strike 1.1. I also ran Ice Storm 1.2 since that one of the tests I use for comparison with other platforms, and for some reasons, it’s significantly lower than Ara X5 (16,000 vs 19,000).

The device got 656.3 points in PassMark 8 benchmark, a result quite lower than other faster mini PC with Atom x7 or Braswell processors, but the benchmark is quite shorter in duration, so CPU throttling is not a factor in most cases.

minix-neo-z83-4_passmark-8

The eMMC flash performance is average however, since 32GB storage device are often a bit slower than their larger counterparts (64 / 128 GB), but still acceptable.

neo-z83-4-crystaldiskmark-emmc-flashI also tested USB 3.0 throughput, and close to 100 MB/s is about where it should be.
neo-z83-4-crystaldiskmark-usb-3-0-ntfs
MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC has good networking options as it supports both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi, and I had no issue connecting to my TP Link AC router the first time.

minix-neo-z83-4_wifi-ac

However, subsequent attempts all failed, with the Device Manager reporting an error with Broadcom 802.11ac WDI SDIO Adapter.

minix-neo-z83-4-broadcom_802-11ac_problemI’m unable to connect to any wireless networks when that happens. But I can either restart the PC, or faster, disable and re-enable the adapter, and I can connect to my two 2.4 GHz networks including one of the same TPLink AC router, but connecting to the 5 GHz access point will always cause the driver to fail…

[Update: I’ve re-tried this morning, and could connect to 5 GHz WiFi… iperf results with full duplex test:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

WiFI AC performance is quite good in this test. I also performed the test in one direction only (iperf.exe -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104):

That’s Fast Ethernet type of performance, and with my setup it’s an excellent result.

end of update]

So I reverted to Gigabit Ethernet to test the performance with iperf 2 using iperf.exe -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d command line:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Performance is OK without being outstanding.

The table below compares the results to some competitors including Tronsmart Ara X5, Kangaroo Mobile Desktop, MINIX NGC-1, Intel NUC5CPYB, Voyo V3, Beelink BT7, and Vorke V1. Results for Ice Storm 1.2 are divided by 20 to make the graphics more readable.

minix-neo-z83-4_vs_ngc-1_vs_tronsmart_ara_x5_vs_voyo-v3_vorke-v1_beelink_bt7One oddity is that NEO Z83-4 has the weakest GPU score, even slightly lower than Tronsmart Ara X5, and storage and passmark results are about equivalent. PCMark 8 is the only benchmark that seems to show the strength of the platforms.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Usability and Stress Testing

I’ve run most of the same test as on other mini PCs with 4GB RAM to see how well they can be used as desktop PC replacement, or at least as an Entry level computer, by running multiple programs, playing games, etc… I replaced my Kodi test, with always the same decent results in those Atom mini PCs, by checking out MINIX options in the BIOS.

  • Multi-tasking – Using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing
    • Loading multiple tab with CNX Software blog in Firefox
    • Playing 1080p YouTube Videos in Firefox 48
    • Playing a flash game (Candy Crush Saga) in Firefox
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • MINIX UEFI Settings

MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC did well for all of those tests considering it’s a long end PC, and the performance is solid and constant. Adobe flash CPU usage was quite high in Firefox, and may perform better in Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

I also ran OCCT 4.4.2 system stress tool for three hours, and the computer stayed cool all the time only reaching 63 C max, with an average CPU frequency of 1.6 GHz between the base frequency (1.44 GHz), and the maximum burst frequency (1.84 GHz).

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MINIX Feature Configuration in BIOS / UEFI

MINIX has also fone some work in the BIOS. So I’ve check their options in Aptio Setup Utility. Press Esc to enter the BIOS when the system boots.

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Then go to Advanced->MINIX Feature Configuration.

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You’ll find option to select between Apple or Nokia/Samsung earphone types for the 3.5mm audio jack, AC Power On if you want the computer to automatically start (without pressing the button) when power is applied, Wake-on-LAN, or RTC wake-up to set a specific date, or specific hour of the day to automatically turn on the computer.

Conclusion

I’ve quite pleased with MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC as the performance is stable, and for desktop tasks just as good, if not better, as some other mini PCs based on more powerful Intel Atom x7-Z8700 and Celeron Braswell processors. I also like the extra options in the BIOS, which are not always found in cheaper models, and the only major downside I found is some issue with Broadcom WiFi driver which reports an issue after attempting to connect to my 5.0 GHz / 802.11ac access point, despite initially working [Update: I tried again the day after, and I had no problem connecting to 802.11ac WiFi with very good performance]. 3D Graphics performance appears to be a little lower than expected too, and storage performance is average, if not below average.

Price is also higher than somewhat similar models, but considering the extra features (802.11ac, 4GB, GbE, UEFI options…), it may still be worth paying a little extra. MINIX NEO Z83-4 is much more aggressively priced compared to MINIX NGC-1, as it will sell for $169.90, 169.90 Euros, or 144.90 GBP once it launches on September 16.

[Update: MINIX NEO Z83-4 can be bought on Geekbuying for $169.99 shipped]

GOLE1 mini PC Tablet Review – Part 2: Android 5.1 and Windows 10

August 14th, 2016 7 comments

GOLE1, also called GOLE1 F1, is an interesting device because it’s quite difficult, it’s like the offspring of a mini PC and a tablet with a smallish  phone-like 5″ capacitive touch screen. It also dual boot Windows 10 and Android 5.1. I’ve already discussed about the hardware, and taken picture of the device, accessories, and motherboard, in the first part of the review, so today I’ll report my experiences with Windows 10 and Android 5.1, as well as the potential use cases. Since I’ve already reviewed Intel Atom x5-Z8300 mini PCs, as well as a dual boot Windows and Android Intel mini PC, I’ll focus on what makes GOLE1 different in this review.

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GOLE1 Dual Boot and Use Cases

I normally check my emails on my smartphone while having breakfast in the morning, but one day the charging micro USB cable was not connected properly to my phone, so I decided to try using GOLE1 has a portable device, as I had connected it a few days on my desk without actually booting it.

After pressing the power button a few couple, the device will boot and show GOLE logo with a Setup icon to access Aptio Setup Utility (UEFI / BIOS), and a couple of second later, you’ll be presented with a choice of using Android or Window, which default to the previously selected opertating system if you don’t press any keys after a 10 seconds timeout.

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You’ll notice my pictures are in portrait mode, simply because if GOLE is placed on its back on a flat surface it will boot in portrait mode by default. If you decided to enter Aptio Setup Utility, there’s no way to rotate the display here, and there’s no HDMI output either. If you want to use the more convenient landscape mode, you’d have to boot the device by holding it in the right position….

The very first I played with it, Windows was selected by default, so I decided to go ahead to use it to check my email, however I first found the display hard to read (I have breakfast outdoors), so I had to set brightness to 100%, and it was a little better, but not quite perfect, so I’d say the screen is poor for outdoor use due to the reflections.

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The second and even more frustrating issue that’s using Windows 10 on 5″ display amounts to torture as everything is so small, at least with the default DPI settings, as text is very hard to read, and everything is so small it’s difficult to tap with any accuracy… So after playing with it for 5 minutes, I decided to reboot, and switch to Android 5.1 instead.

GOLE1_Android_Tablet_Mode

That was much more usable. The display has a 1280×720 resolution so don’t expect an amazing experience, and viewing is rather poor even at maximum brightness, but at least I could use it to check my emails with gmail, and read some news. I used it for about 30 minutes, and I have to say it’s a little heavy, so it might not be ideal over longer period of time. If I had my phone sufficiently charged with me, I would never consider using GOLE1 as a portable device.

But maybe it’s better as a mini PC with dual displays support thanks to its extra HDMI port. So I connect a whole bunch of USB devices including two RF dongles for air mouse and gamepad, a USB 3.0 harddrive to the USB 3.0 port, and a USB hub for USB keyboard and mouse, plus the usual cable for TV (HDMI), display, and power. I first placed the mini PC flat on the table, and it will show in portrait mode in both the 5″ display and TV (Please ignore the vertical lines on the television, as it is the TV’s problem).

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That’s just a small issue, as you can move the device around to switch to landscape mode.

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The next problem is that it will automatically enter sleep mode after a few seconds of inactivity. That’s annoying, but there a simple fix, as you can disable sleep mode in the display menu. You can also change video output up to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz or 4096×2160 @ 24 Hz if your TV supports it.

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This won’t change the user interface / frame buffer resolution however, which is set to 1280×720, and with the DPI settings used (fixed in firmware), text looks quite big on the TV. There’s also no option to force landscape mode, so you’d probably have to install Set Orientation app using Googke Play to make sure the screen is in landscape mode. The unusual position of the status bar on the right while in landscape mode, and the fact that both the 5″ display and TV display would be turned on during might be an annoyance while playing videos for example. So GOLE1 can be used as an Android TV box, but I don’t find it to be doing a good job at it. Extended display, i.e. different content on either screen, is not possible in Android.

So let’s boot Windows 10 instead in the same configuration, and by default the system is using mirroring mode.

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Windows 10 works fine, but by default the resolution set to 1280×720 on the TV too in that mode, so it’s not ideal. You can change it to whatever output you want however, and I did manage to change it to 1920×1080 @ 60 Hz. The text becomes completely unreadable on the small display, but it’s pretty good on the large disaply. You may want to force the orientation to landscape in Windows options so the 5″ screen don’t rotate to portrait mode.

I also tested Extended Desktop in Windows with the TV screen used as the primary display, and set to the resolution I want, e.g. 1920×1080 @ 60 Hz (up to 4K @ 30 Hz), while the 5″ display remains at 1280×720 resolution.

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This works, but just like in portable mode, the text on the 5″ display is hardly readable, and when you launch an app from the TV screen, it may launch in the small display, so you may have to drag it to the big screen to use it. I think this setup is most useful in very specific applications, where the 5″ display would be used with a remote app, and the big display showing whatever the user want, something like a digital signage system with the user being able to select options from the built-in touchscreen, and info shown on the large monitor. For most people, the best option might be to select Single Display mode to turn off the 5″ display completely.

I have not tried Ubuntu, but Brad Linder of Liliputing did, and actually successfully loaded both Ubuntu 16.04 and Remix OS operating systems from a USB stick. Built-in WiFi and Audio did not work, as expected since you need to work a little harder to enable Audio and Wifi, so he used a USB audio card and an external USB Wifi dongle… Mirroring did not work, but Extended Desktop was usable.

GOLE1 Android 5.1 Info and Benchmarks

Now that we’ve gone through the different configurations / use cases made possible with GOLE1, I’ll report some more information about the operating systems themselves, starting with Android. Note that while I’m mostly used the device in landscape mode, I took the screenshots in portrait mode, because it is more convenient for the review, as text would often be split over multiple screens in landscape mode.

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The device runs Android 5.1 on top of Linux 3.14.37. I had no trouble using Google Play, and browsing, but as mentioned previously the screen resolution and density use makes it really big on the large screen. Using it as an Android tablet was better, although the screen is small, and device heavy. I have not evaluate the battery life, because I got an early sample with a smaller battery.

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CPU-Z shows an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 quad core CPU up to 1.84 GHz with Intel HD graphics is used by the device called “AOSP on Intel Platform (cht_cr_mrd_w)”. Screen resolution is 720×1280 with 294 dpi, with 3847MB total RAM, and 4.82 GB internal storage.

GOLE1 got a decent 49,457 points in Antutu 6.0 (in landscape mode), but remember that the 1280×720 resolution will have posively affected the 3D graphics results compared to platforms running at a more common 1920×1080 resolution.

GOLE1_Antutu_6.0

The 64GB flash was expected to be faster than most 8/16GB flash used in TV boxes, and the results obtained with A1SD bench are indeed pretty good with 58.82 MB/s sequential read speed, and 46.03 MB/s write speed.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Normally, I’d also measure USB hard drive performance here, but none of my USB HDD partitions would show in Android.

I could use the Fast Ethernet connection without issues in Android, but WiFi performance varies much more between device, so that’s what I measured it connected to my 2.4GHz router. The device could also find my 5 GHz access point (802.11n only, no 802.11ac). WiFi throughput is tested by transferring a 278MB file over SAMBA back and forth using ES File Explorer. Download speed was acceptable at around 2.2 MB/s, but I got some stalling issue during one upload, and generally was slower, around 1.5 MB/s when no connection loss. The average was still a rather weak 1.8 MB/s.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

GOLE1 Windows Info and Benchmarks

Windows 10 desktop in GOLE1 is completely standard, apart that the resolution is 1280×720 on your monitor or TV by default.

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Click for Original Size

One of the reason of adding an often useless 5″ display to a mini PC is to get it into the “tablet with small screen” category with Microsoft, so that you can install Windows 10 with a free license… So that’s no surprise Windows 10 Home 64-bit is activated in the device, although I though it was not valid for 4GB. If Microsoft was not such an obscure company people could check themselves whether the license is right, but AFAIK the license conditions are not published publicly.

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The system info windows also shows the model is GOLE1 (F1) powered by Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor @ 1.44 GHz with 4GB RAM.

My USB hard drive connected to the USB 3.0 is still not detected in Windows 10, and I can only see the 49.6 GB partition. There’s 33.8 GB free, but I took the screenshot at the end of the review.
GOLE1_C_DriveWhile storage performance was very good for an Android TV box, Windows based mini PCs often achieve well over 100MB/s (up to 400 MB/s) sequential read and write speeds, and relatively fast random I/Os, which is not really the case here.

GOLE1_CrystalDiskMarkHWiNFO64 reported information is pretty standard.

GOLE1-HWiNFO64At first, I decided to skip Windows 10 benchmarks, because Intel Atom x5 processors performance is well known, so I only ran AIDA64 Extreme System Stability Test for 10 minutes, while monitoring thermal throttling stage, CPU cores frequency and temperature with HWiNFO64.

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The CPU temperature was rather high for all 4 cores at over 80 C, but HWiNFO did not report any throttling. However, when checking the maximum CPU frequencies, it’s obvious something is very wrong, because it never went over 1,200 MHz, while Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor base frequency is 1.44 GHz, and turbo frequency is 1.84 GHz.

So I changed my mind about benchmark, and after letting the system cool down for a while, I installed and ran PCMark 8 HOME ACCELERATED 3.0 benchmark.

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GOLE1 got 1,254 points, which compares to 1,354 points on Atom x5-Z8300 based Tronsmart Ara X5, so about 7% slower which could be caused by the slower eMMC flash or some throttling, although the processor did not overheat, and frequency got up to 1.84 GHz during the benchmark.

I left GOLE1 connected to the mains all day during Windows 10 testing, and strangely, I could see the system reporting the battery was “Not Charging”.

GOLE1_Charging_IssueHowever, I also checked later, and the battery level went up to 40% still not charging, and latter down to 33%. So it looks like the system will not always charge to battery while Windows 10 is running, and you have to turn the mini PC off to charge it.

Conclusion

In theory, GOLE1 is an awesome little device which can be your Windows or Android tablet, Android TV box, or Windows 10 mini PC, as you see fit. But in practice, Windows 10 is really hard to use on a 5″ screen, Android works better, but the screen is high reflective making it poorly suited to outdoor use,  when you connect the device to your TV with Android, the resolution is limited to 720p, and you have to hack your way out to make it usable. In Windows 10, it’s a little better when using a TV in either Single Display, Mirroring, or Extended Display mode. The 5″ screen is still unreadable in most modes, so Single Display might be the best option. GOLE1 can do many things, but none of them very well. It might be useful in some specific applications, where you may want a touch screen display with a control app, to let the user access info or play videos on the large screen, or simply use it as a control panel for some machines without external display.

PROS

  • Innovative design combining tablet and mini PC
  • Dual boot of Windows 10 Home (activated) and Android 5.1
  • Affordable price

CONS

  • Windows 10 is close to unusable on a 5″ screen with the default resolution 1280×720 and DPI settings.
  • 5″ screen has poor visibility outdoors even with maximum brightness
  • GOLE1 is a rather heavy as a portable device
  • Poor WiFi performance, and unreliable at times
  • My USB 3.0 hard drive was no recognized in either Android or Windows (power supply issue?)
  • The system appears to default to Portrait mode when placed on a flat surface
  • Battery does not appear to be charging continuously in Windows 10
  • Minor – Android set to sleep very fast (a few seconds) by default, which is a real annoyance when connected to TV (Settings changes fix this)
  • GOLE1 is throttling under heavy load after a couple of minutes.

“Jack of all trades, master of none” is probably appropriate for GOLE1 F1. I’d still like to thank GOLE for giving me the opportunity to review GOLE1. You can purchase the device for $99 with 2GB RAM/32GB flash, and $154.99 with 4GB/64GB (as reviewed here) on GearBest (GBGF4 or TENOFF coupons may lower the price further). You’ll also find both models sold as “GOLE F1” on Banggood.

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

July 2nd, 2016 37 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).

Intel Atom x7-Z8700 (Cherry Trail) vs Intel Celeron N3150 (Braswell) Benchmarks Comparison

June 6th, 2016 7 comments

Intel tend to release lots of processors, and it’s not also clear how they perform against each others, but generally the rank from slowest to highest goes something like Atom < Celeron < Pentium < Core M < Core i3 < Core i5 < Core i7. Recently, I’ve seen and reviewed a few low power Intel Atom x7-Z8700 “Cherry Trail” and Intel Celeron N3150 “Braswell” mini PCs, both quad core processors @ 1.6 GHz (base), and I could not find much differences between the two during use.

Atom_x7-z8700_vs_Celeron_N3150

So to have a clear and objective view of the relative performance of the two processors, I’ve compared the results I got with Intel Atom x7-Z8700 based Beelink BT7 mini PC to the ones I got with MINIX NGC-1 mini PC powered by Celeron N3150 processor in the table below. Both machines have been designed quite well (good heat dissipation) and with storage devices having similar performance. A ratio greater than one (green) means the Celeron processor is faster, and if it is lower than one (red) the Atom processor prevails.

Benchmark Beelink BT7
Intel Atom x7-Z8700 @ 1.6 GHz / 2.48 Ghz (Turbo)
MINIX NGC-1
Intel Celeron N3150 @ 1.6 GHz / 2.08 GHz (Turbo)
Ratio
PCMark 8 Accelerated
Overall Score 1,509 1,492 0.99
Web Browsing – JunglePin 0.59309s 0.63426s 0.94
Web Browsing – Amazonia 0.19451s 0.2141s 0.91
Writing 8.53975s 9.3966s 0.91
Casual Gaming 7.96 fps 9.7 fps 1.22
Video Chat playback 29.99 fps 30.01 fps 1.00
Video Chat encoding 301 ms 193.333 ms 1.56
Photo Editing 0.65544s 0.81038s 0.81
Passmark 8
Passmark Rating 846 781.9 0.92
3DMark
Ice Storm 1.2 23,999 23,032 0.96
Cloud Gate 1.1 2,185 1,961 0.90
Sky Diver 1.0 1,131 1,108 0.98
Fire Strike 276 258 0.93

So in the end, both processors have a very close performance, except for video chat encoding where the Atom processor is about 56% slower than the Celeron processor. The Atom’s 16 EU GPU @ 200/600 MHz is faster than the Celeron’s 12 EU GPU @ 300/640 MHz in most case, but only marginally. Both SoCs are capable of decoding 4K videos with H.264 and H.265 video codecs. Systems based on the Intel Axom x7-Z8700 processor could consume less electricity as Atom x7 has a 2W SDP, while Celeron N3150 a 4W SDP, but the  power consumption of a complete mini PC also depends on its overall design.

So there seems to be very little to gain by purchasing a system with Celeron N3150 “Braswell” processor  over one with a Atom x7 “Cherry Trail processor, if a mini PC matches your requirements. One noticeable advantage of Braswell processors should be Linux support with the default/standard ISO images, while Atom x7 systems currently require community hacked ISO images for support of features such as HDMI audio, WiFi and Bluetooth. You can also find a side-by-side comparison of the features of the two processor on Intel website.

Beelink BT7 Review – Windows 10 mini PC Based on Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Processor

June 5th, 2016 35 comments

Beelink BT7 mini PC powered by Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor offers an interesting alternative to the fanless Voyo V3 mini PC, as it is actively cooled by a small fan, supports (Gigabit) Ethernet, and comes with three full USB 3.0 ports. There are three versions with either 64, 128 (64+64) or 320 (64+256) GB stortage, and I got Beelink BT7 128GB to play with. Since I’ve already checkout the hardware, I’ll focus on the performance and stability of the device on Windows 10 in the second part of the review.

Setup and System Information

I placed the mini PC on my desk, made use of the three USB 3.0 ports with a USB keyboard, a USB mouse, and a Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive, and connected Ethernet, HDMI and the power cable.
Beelink_BT7_desktop_mode

However, if you happen to own a TV or monitor that supports VESA mounts, you can use the include VESA bracket and screws, as well as the short HDMI cable to hook Beelink BT7 right behind the display.

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This is definitely a plus if you are short on space, or just want a cleaner desk. Press the red button on the side to start the computer. The boot will typically take 20 seconds, but the very first time you’ll go through Windows 10 setup starting by language selection between German, English, Spanish, Russian, and simplified Chinese. I assume other languages might also be available, but I’m unclear if it can be selected here.

Beelink_BT7_Windows_10_SetupThe rest of the usual Windows setup includes EULA agreement, Custom or Express settings selection (I went with Express), and account creation. Contrary to the pre-installed version of Windows 10 on Voyo V3 which lacks account support, Windows 10 on Beelink BT7 appears to be “clean”.

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As indicated in my unboxing and teardown post, I was confused at first because while I had been sent a 128GB version, all I got was a 64GB SSD in the device. But as you can see from the screenshot above, leaving apart the NTFS and exFAT partition from my USB hard drive, there are two storage devices with the C: “Windows” drive (eMMC flash) with 58.9 GB in total, and E: “New Volume” drive (SSD) with 57.5 GB.

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We can check some of the info in Control Panel->System and Security->System to find out an activated version (i.e. properly licensed) of 64-bit Windows 10 Home is installed, and the processor is indeed an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 CPU coupled with 4GB RAM.

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The Device Manager confirms the two hardware storage devices with “PowerSSD” and “Toshiba 064G70”, Bleutooth and WiFI connectivity, Gigabit Ethernet, etc…

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HWiNFO64 information is mostly the same as for Voyo V3 for CPU, GPU, and Operating System, but the reported memory is a little higher (4010MB vs 3882 MB), and the BIOS and storage info are obviously different.

Since many people did not trust the Windows 10 version installed on Voyo V3, they reinstalled Windows 10 themselves, but met a roadblock while finding the drivers. The company did release the complete firmware image (5GB+), so people extracted the drivers and provided a much smaller download link. Even though the issue was resolved after a while, many users went through the unnecessary steps of finding the drivers. With Beelink BT7, fewer people are likely to re-install Windows 10 since the security features are still enabled, and if you still do, the company provide  CD in the package with all Windows 10 drivers for Beelink BT7.

CD Content

CD Content

List of drivers available in the CD.

Vendor Driver or Utility name Driver Version Released date WHQL’d
Intel Intel(R) HD Graphics 20.19.15.4308 04/11/15 Y
Intel I2C Controller 604.10146.2654.7394 04/11/15 Y
Intel GPIO Controller 604.10146.2652.3930 04/11/15 Y
Realtek Realtek I2S Audio Codec 6.4.10147.4327 04/11/15 Y
Intel Intel SST Audio Device 604.10135.2664.5232 04/11/15 Y
Microsoft HID-compliant System control 10.0.10586.0 04/11/15 Y
Realtek Realtek PCle GBE Family Controller 9.1.402.2015 04/11/15 Y
Broadcom Broadcom 802.11abgn Wireless SDIO Adapter 5.93.102.19 04/11/15 Y
Microsoft Intel SD Host Controller 10.0.10586.0 04/11/15 Y

So when it comes to Windows 10 integration, and driver availability, Beelink BT7 clearly comes ahead of Voyo V3.

Beelink BT7 Benchmarks

Let’s run first run PCMARK 8 HOME accelerated and conventional benchmarks.

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Both scores are slightly higher than on Voyo V3. The PCMARK 8 Home Accelerated score is 1,509 points (vs 1,428), and PCMARK 8 Home Conventional is 1,211 points (vs. 1,066). Please note that the graphics driver on Voyo V3 would often crash, so I had to repeat the test a few times. Beelink BT7 had no such issues.

Something changed in 3DMark benchmark, and you now need to run each tests individually. I could run Sky Diver 1.0, Ice Storm 1.2 and Cloud Gate 1.1 successfully, while in Voyo V3 Skydiver would not run at all.

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However the two benchmark that went through on both mini PCs have vastly different scores in favor of Voyo V3. Cloud Gate 1.1: 1,664 vs 2,065 points; Ice Storm 1.2: 9,599 vs 20,853 points. A side by side comparison of the two Ice Storm 1.2 scores only show a different UI version, and strangely the width and height for Voyo V3 is not reported. The maximum CPU frequency was also only 1,760 MHz on BT7 against 2,319 MHz on Voyo V3, so maybe some throttling was happening.

So I ran the Ice Storm 1.2 and Cloud Gate 1.1 benchmarks again another day, and the results became much better with respectively 23,999 and 2,185 points.

Beelink_BT7_3DMark

Passmark 8 benchmark results ended being nearly the score as Voyo V3 with 845.9 points (vs 839.9 pts).

Beelink_BT7_Passmark-8CrystalDiskMark was used to test performance of the internal flash (C:), the SSD (E:), and the NTFS partition on my USB drive (D:).

Beelink_BT7_CrystalDiskMark_eMMC_FlashSequential read is excellent, sequential write not that much, with random write and read speeds roughly equivalent to the storage devices in Voyo V3 and MINIX NGC-1. Random I/Os are quite important when you’re going to run the operating systems, and there are many small read and write operation.

Beelink_BT7_CrystalDiskMark_SSDThe SSD does not perform quite as well, but should still be OK for data and programs. I’d still recommend installing programs on, and set the caches’ paths to, the eMMC flash (C:) for better performance.
Beelink_BT7_CrystalDiskMark_USB-3.0_NTFSUSS 3.0 performance was basically the same as on Voyo V3. The first run however had a very low 20 MB/s sequential write speed, which improved to 80MB/s+ in my second attempt. The random I/Os (4K Q32T1 and 4K) are quite slow, but it’s normal for a mechanical drive.

Finally, I installed iperf-2.x to test Gigabit Ethernet and WiFi performance.

Gigabit Ethernet dual duplex transfer with “iperf.exe -t 60 -c -d“:

That’s actually the best device I’ve tested when it comes to Ethernet performance.

iperf Full duplex Transfer over Ethernet (Mbps)

iperf Full duplex Transfer over Ethernet (Mbps)

The Wireless module is supposed to support 2.4 and 5.0 GHz WiFi, but only 2.4 GHz access points were detected in Windows. I repeated the same test with WiFi @ 802.11n:

Results were a bit disappointing but similar to the WiFi performance I got with Voyo V3. Since WiFi is not really designed for full duplex, I repeat the test in one direction only.

Again the results is about the same as I had with Voyo V3’s WiFi.

I’ve created a comparison chart between Beelink BT7 against Voyo V3, MINIX NGC-1, Tronsmart Ara X5, Intel NUC, Intel Core-M compute stick, abd Kangaroo mobile desktop in order to have a better feel of the relative performance of those systems. 3DMark Ice Storm results are divided by 20 to get a more readable chart.

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While the more expensive Core m3 stick is clearly ahead, Beelink BT7 is pretty good, and overall slightly better than Voyo V3 expect for sequential write speed.

Beelink BT7 User Experience and Usability Testing

Beelink BT7 passed the benchmark test almost flawlessly, with the main worry being the low 3D graphics performance during my first run of 3Dmark possibly due to some throttling, but the most important of course is how the system perform in real-life tasks. I perform the following using 1080p59 resolution, except for Kodi were I set the resolution to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz:

  • Multi-tasking – Using Microsoft Edge, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Microsoft Edge
    • 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

Note that I’m using Microsoft Edge browser, instead of Chrome or Firefox, because the last two simply do not work very well in YouTube. It could be because Edge uses MP4, and the other two VP9, and Cherry Trail processors are not quite powerful enough to handle this without dropped frames.

Overall, Beelink BT7 did very well in all those tasks, although I would have wished higher frame rates in Asphalt 8, but the GPU is just not powerful enough to achieve optimal performance. Kodi could play 4K video using XVDA2 hardware decoding for H.265 and H.264 videos, but 4K 10-bit H.264 and H.265 videos could not be played smoothly, as Kodi fell back to software decoding. HDMI audio pass-through works but is limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and TrueHD and DTS HD is not supported (Kodi can transcode TrueHD to DD 5.1).

I also ran HWiNFO64 in the background during my tests, including benchmark to check whether the system would throttle.
Beelink_BT7_HWINFO64_Sensors
One core did throttle on average, but nothing too bad, and Voyo V3 had two cores throttling on average for the same set of tests.

However, I normally also test playing a 1080p YouTube video for over one hour in Microsoft Edge in full screen mode, and when I came back to check out the status,  the video was buffering, which could happen due to poor connectivity to the YouTube servers unrelated to the device itself, but I soon found out that something else was wrong.

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The CPU was shown to be stuck at 0.13 to 0.26 GHz (in Task Manager) and 480 MHz (6x) in HWiNFO64, without any of the core overheating at the time, and the frequency would not go up whatever I did with the computer. It’s very similar to what happened with my first MINIX NGC-1, except the temperature was perfectly under control. So I turned the mini PC off, waited a few minutes, before starting it again, and playing the video for one more hour.

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The video only had 5 dropped frames out of over 100,000, which happened when I switched between full screen and windowed mode. So no problem at all here, and I have not explanation for what happened, unless there some bug with Windows 10, UEFI, or the drivers.

If you think that I should have used Chrome browser instead, I have a screenshot for you 🙂

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Power consumption in idle mode is normally around 5 to 7 watts, playing a 4K is around 10 to 12 watts, and in power off mode my meter reported 0.0 watt. The power consumption in sleep mode is a little odd, as after one minute the consumption varied between 5 and 10 watts, and after 30 minutes it was still 7 to 7.4 watts, ore greater than in idle mode. The fan turns all the time, but it’s really not that noisy. I can’t hear it when my main PC (which I reckon is quite noisy) or aircon is running. In a quiet room (PC and aircon off), I’m able to hear the fan at around 2 meters away, but the noise is very low.

Conclusion

Beelink BT7 is a good mini PC. The hardware build is of good quality, Windows 10 is activated and without some strange hacks like in Voyo V3, but if you want to reinstall Windows 10 anyway, the drivers are provided. Performance is very slightly better than Voyo V3, except for networking thanks to the Gigabit Ethernet interface. I still found some downsides, such as 5 GHZ WiFi access points are not detected, and in some rare & random cases the performance did suffer a lot (3Dmark benchmark and  one hour 1080p YouTube video). I have not good explanation for the latter issue, as the CPU did not overheat when it happened, and a reboot would apparently fix the issues. I have not tried Linux on the platform, yet but thanks to recent work, you should be able to run a fully working Ubuntu firmware (HDMI audio, and maybe WiFi and Bluetooth) using Ubuntu 16.04 ISO by linuxium.

Price is also an important factor in a purchase decision, and considering both Voyo V3 and Beelink BT7 (128GB) are about the same price (when using coupons), it’s likely a no-brainer to go with Beelink BT7, unless you don’t want a fan at all. The cheapest way to current buy Beelink BT7 is via GearBest for respectively $168.99 (64 GB – coupon: GBBT76), $195.99 (128 GB – coupon: GBBT72), and $249.99 (320 GB – coupon: GBBT73), but it can also be found on Banggood, Amazon UK, and Beelink themselves sell it directly on Amazon US.

K3 Wintel Windows 10 Keyboard PC Review

March 14th, 2016 16 comments

GeekBuying sent me K3 Wintel keyboard computer since I was interesting in testing a device in this form factor, and at the time I listed the specifications, and took a few pictures of the device and its internals. I’ve now completed the review, and found it to perform very well for a Bay Trail computer.

K3 Wintel Key Computer Setup & System Info

But the initial part of the review did not start so well, as I was asked for a license key for the device as went through the initial setup right after selecting my languages and regional settings.

K3_Keyboard_PC_InstallationGeekBuying clearly states the mini computer comes with a “Licensed Windows 10”, and I could not find any on the device or the user’s guide, which appears to be a near-exact copy of a Windows 10 Lenovo tablet PC user’s guide… So I contacted GeekBuying, and after a few days, they replied, not with a product key, but by asking me to click on the Accessibility icon on the bottom left corner to setup the network…

I did that, but obviously there was no network options, only options for magnifier, on-screen keyboard, high contrast, etc…  But then I discovered a “Do it later” text appears on top of the accessibility icon, so I clicked that, went through the remaining of setup options, and I could finally use Windows 10.

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The only odd thing was that the desktop background was not the default one, but instead a sports car…  However, the “System” window in the control panels confirms Windows 10 is activated. Other parameters are fine with Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 1.33 GHz with 2.0 GB RAM running the 32-bit version of Windows 10 Home

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The whole setup  process was a little unusual, so I’m not 100% sure if the copy of Windows 10 is legit.

Windows 10 resolution was set to 1080p50, and the keyboard PC boots very fast, as I can get to the login screen in less than 15 seconds. One annoyance was that the system would go to sleep mode automatically after a host while, even as I was downloading files in Firefox, or extracting files from a zip file. So I went to Power Options and found out the default Plan was to sleep after 10 minutes of “inactivity”.

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I changed that to “Never” and it fixed the issue.

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The Device Manager shows Bluetooth is supported, WiFi is done Realtek RTL8723BS module, and Ethernet via a Davicom DM9621A USB to Ethernet adapter.

K3_Wintel_HWiNFO32

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HWiNFO32 shows basically the same information as other Intel Bay Trail Z3735F mini PC, except  the BIOS/UEFI binary is specific to the hardware with version k702_windows.

K3 Wintel Keyboard PC Benchmarks

As with other Windows based device, I’ve run PCMark 8 benchmark starting with the conventional / baseline version, and K3 Wintel got 1,021 points compared to 1,052 points for MeLE PCG03 (Windows 10) and 1,116 points with MeLE PCG01 (Windows 8.1)

K3_Wintel_PCMark8_Home_ConventionalYou can read the detailed results on 3DMark website.

I’ve also run the Accelerated version of PCMark 8.0 benchmark, and the device achieved only 1,017 points, while in theory it should have been faster. I did not run the benchmark on other Z3735F devices, so it could be that OpenCL is not supported by Bay Trail GPU (TBC). Other low power devices with more recent processors achieved slightly better results, including 1,492 points in MINI NGC-1 powered by Intel Celeron N3150 (Braswell), and 1,428 points in Voyo V3 based on Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (Cherry Trail).

K3_Wintel_PCMark8_Home_AcceleratedYou can get the PCMark8 Accelerated results for K3 Wintel here.

The last benchmark was 3DMark, and Fire Strike 1.1 crashed the Windows drivers like on some other Bay Trail devices, but the other three benchmarks went through.

K3_Wintel_3DMarkSo K3 keyboard computer achieved respectively 410, 1,164, and 13,711 points in Sky Diver 1.0, Cloud gate 1.1, and Ice Storm 1.2, while MeLE PCG01 stick based on the same hardware achieved 439, 1,156 and 14,069 points, so basically the same results.

The 32GB internal eMMC flash is quite fast for a low cost device, and even faster than the results I got with MeLE PCG03, especially with regards to write speed (130.2 MB/s vs 75 MB/s).

K3_Wintel_Keyboard_Computer_CrystalDiskMark_eMMC_flashK3 Wintel Usability Testing

Benchmarks were rather satisfying with results as expected, and in the case of internal storage even exceeding my expectations. I’ve also run a few typical tasks with the keyboard:

  • Web Browsing in Edge
    • Loading multiple tabs with CNX Software blog
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
    • Playing 1080p Video in Full Screen mode for several hours
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi with 1080p and 4K videos

The performance is basically the same as experience on MeLE PCG03 thanks to proper cooling. Browsing was including YouTube video playback, and after 3 hours the device could still play videos very smoothly.Candy Crush was also playable, but it took me a little while to find out how to use the touchpad to move the candies around: double tap + move.

Actually at first during my testing, I connected a USB keyboard to my Keyboard PC, and I agree that seems stupid but I only did that because I not find the Print Screen button on the 76-key keyboard on the device. Finally, I discovered that Alt+Gr+F2 would do the trick. I’m not been able to do drag and drop or moving windows, so I decided to connected an external USB mouse, but in my case this had the side effect of completely losing keyboard and mouse control, so I have to disconnect the mouse and power cycle the device.

Asphalt 8 played fine with decent frame rate, but for people who prefer to use arrow keys they are quite narrowly positioned, and you’d have a better experience with ASDW keys instead.

Kodi 16 was able to play 1080p video, and 4K (H.264) videos at 24/30 fps with working automatic frame rate switching, and handled DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 pass-through perfectly, just like in my previous experience with Kodi on Atom Z3735F mini PCs. 4K H.265 decoding, and pass-through for DTS-HD and TrueHD are not supported.

The system also never throttled during my testing despite a room temperature of about 30 C, so the keyboard form factor allowing for larger cooling plates does help in this regards.

K3_Wintel_Temperature_HWINFO32I’ve done most of the tests using WiFi, and I only tested Ethernet, limited to 10/100M, at the end of the review.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very satisfied by K3 keyboard computer as it performs consistently and as fast as many other Intel Bay Trail or Cherry Trail computers I’ve tested, if not faster. However, the Windows 10 setup procedure was a little confusing, some default settings made the device go to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity, and in my case at least, connecting USB mouse caused the system’s keyboard and mouse pointer to stopped working properly.

You also have to wonder whether you really need a keyboard computer. It may bring back some fond memories of the Commodore 64, and it may be fun to show your cool and different gadget to your friend , but I found it awkward to use mostly because of the touchpad, and so far I have not found a way to drag and drop or move the current window, but the 76-key keyboard was also confusing at time. It’s also not really portable since you’ve got the power and HDMI cables attached, and considering you have mini PCs and TV sticks nowadays, such system are likely more user-friendly with a proper wired or wireless keyboard.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying for sending a review sample, and you could consider purchasing the device for $114.99 on their website ($99.99 with FLVMNIMQ coupon). The product is only listed on few other sites such as Banggood, but K3 Wintel looks exactly the same hardware as T20 / K702 Keyboard PC that runs both Windows 10 and Android 4.4, and sold for $118.90 on Focalprice.

Voyo V3 Intel Atom x7-Z8700 mini PC Review with Windows 10

February 17th, 2016 115 comments

Voyo V3 is one of the first Cherry Trail mini PCs based on Intel Atom x7-Z8700 quad processor that promises both higher CPU and GPU performance, and more I/O connectivity compared to Intel Atom x5 platforms.  I’ve already posted pictures of the device and its guts in the first part of the review,  so today in part 2 of the review, I’ll focus on testing how the device perform with its pre-installed operating system: Windows 10 Home.

Setup and System Information

There’s no much to say about setup for this device, since all you have to do is to connect the cable, and press the button to access Windows 10 desktop.

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There are however two interesting aspect of the boot process:

  1. As you connect the power supply, you’ll see the power button blue LED lit, but it does not mean it has started. I could see the power consumption was 3.4 watts, and as I waited a few seconds, nothing happened, so I pressed the power button again for one or two seconds, power consumption jumped to 8, and then up 15 watts as the system booted. However, when you power off from WIndows, the power LED is turn off, and power consumption will then be around 1 watt.
  2. You won’t go through Windows 10 setup during the first boot, and instead Voyo user will automatically be logged in with direct access to the desktop. I’ve also noticed Windows would never pop-up a window asking me if I wanted to run an application, it would just run it, so there may be some security concerns with the way Windows 10 has been setup.

If you look closely as the picture the glass cover which lifted yesterday, is even lifting even more with the heat. Super glue will soon come to the rescue, hopefully it won’t get too hot.

The system supports 1080p resolution up to 60Hz, and 3840×2160 up to 30Hz. Some people believed HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60Hz) due to some incorrect specs, or some would call it deceptive advertisement on some e-retailer websites, but that’s definitely not supported, and video output is limited to HDMI 1.4. As a side note, it’s possible to have HDMI 2.0 with Intel Atom x7 processors, but the hardware would require an extra DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 bridge.

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Windows 10 Home 64-bit appears to be legit as Control Panel->System reveals Windows is activated, and indeed runs on an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor @ 1.6 GHz with 4GB RAM.

Voyo_V3_StorageThe system has 118 GB storage which makes it more much usable as a desktop platform than most mini PCs with 32GB storage. Please note that I took the screenshot after downloading and installing benchmarks and other programs, so the initial free storage should be closer to 100 GB. Windows 10 also mounted both NTFS and exFAT partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive connected to one of the USB 3.0 ports.

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I’ve also included some information from the Device Manger for details, and HWiNFO64 system summary.

Voyo_V3_HWiNFO64

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Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor supports the same features as Atom x5-Z8x00 and Intel Celeron N3150 processors which I tested with respectively Tronsmart Ara X5 and MINIX NGC-1 mini PCs. One advantage of Voyo V3 however is that it’s using dual channel memory, whereas they other two products are sold in single-channel configuration.

Voyo V3 Benchmarks

I’ve started by running PCMARK 8 HOME accelerated and conventional benchmarks.

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There’s been one issue occurring while run the Conventional benchmark, the graphics driver would crash randomly. Out of my three tries, two completely failed to get a score, and the other failed after one or two passes, which explains why I got 1,066 points, but it might not be relevant.

Voyo_V3_Graphics_Driver_Crash

This crash happened a dozen times during the review.

So it’s better to only focus on the Accelerated score. 1,428 points compares favorably to the 1,492 points achieved with the more expensive MINIX NGC-1, but is very close to Tronsmart Ara X5 (1,354) and Kangaroo Mobile Desktop (1,597) scores.

If you want to dig into the details, here are the full results for PCMARK 8 Conventional (after crash), and PCMARK 8 Accelerated for Voyo V3.

Next up is 3DMark, and as you can see from Skydiver score (0), the Intel HD graphics driver also crashed, but not after successfully completing Ice Storm 1.2 (20.853 points), and Cloud Gate 1.1 (2,065 points). Check out this link for details about the score.

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PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0 was the latest system benchmark I ran. Click on Voyo V3 Passmark 8 results for details.

Voyo_V3_passmark8
When some companies decided to include an SSD into low cost computer, you never know what kind of interface they’ll use, and often they have no other choice but to use a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge seriously limiting the performance to around 30 MB/s. Voyo has made things right with V3 mini PC as the FORESEE 128 SSD manages 400MB/s sequential read speed, and over 200MB/s sequential write speed reported by CrystalDiskMark 5.1.2, and even outperforming the Toshiba SSD found in MINIX NGC-1 for most results, both in sequential and random tests.Voyo_V3_CrystalDiskMark_SSD

I ran the benchmark on the NTFS partition of my drive as well, and results are satisfactory, although for some reasons, write sequential and random write speeds are slower by around 20MB/s compared to the results I got on NGC-1 with the same same drive.
Voyo_V3_CrystalDiskMark_USB_NTFS
One of the weakness of Voyo V3 is however networking. They did not include an Ethernet port to keep the device extra thin, and the price low, and WiFi is limited to 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, no 802.11ac, and no dual band support. But at least the connection was stable enough to be usable.

The first test runs a full duplex transfer for 60 seconds.

I repeated the test a few times, and it was always in the same ball park: ~20 Mbps and 10 Mbps in either direction.

Voyo_V3_WiFi_Performance

Throughput in Mbps

If I can compare the results with some  other Intel Windows 10 and ARM Android platforms, the results are not very flattering.

I’ve re-run iperf by this time only downloading data in one direction, and throughput went up to 36.7 Mbps.

If you are not satisfied with the network performance, you may have to purchase a USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet or 802.11ac WiFi dongle which should respectively add around $10 and $20 to the cost of the device, beside making it a little less portable.

To have a better overview of the performance, I’ll updated the benchmark chart comparing MINIX NGC-1 (Intel Celeron N3150), an Intel NUC based on Intel Celeron N3050 dual core processor, Kangaroo Mobile Desktop (Atom x5-Z8500), and Tronsmart Ara X5 (Atom x5-Z8300) to Voyo V3. Ice Storm 1.2 results are divided by 10 for better readability.

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The results are all fairly close, except for storage, so you’d have to wonder why Intel makes so many version of their processors with only minor differences in performance…  To be fair, Intel Celeron N3x50 and Atom x7 processor do have more ports and features than their Atom x5 counterparts.

The data comes from this review, MINIX NGC-1 review, and for the other three platforms from a table released by Linuxium.

Voyo V3 User Experience and Usability Testing

Benchmark results so far are very satisfactory, with the exception of networking, but there are workaround, and stability concerns with regards to graphics driver which tend to crash from time to time. But let’s see how well the device responds to my usual set of user’s tests all done using 1080p60 resolution except Kodi.

  • Multi-tasking – Using Microsoft Edge, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Microsoft Edge
    • Loading multiple tab with CNX Software
    • Playing 1080p YouTube Videos
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi 16.0 RC3 @ 4K resolution with 1080p & 4K videos using H.265 or H.264 codecs.

So overall I’m pretty happy with Voyo V3, as thanks to its 4GB RAM and fast SSD, it’s perfectly usable as a desktop computer, and multi-tasking is working well most of the time. It’s even better than Intel Celeron N3150 platform such as MINIX NGC-1 since Kodi 16-RC3 seems to properly support H.265 video at 1080p and 4K resolutions with hardware decoding (XVDA2), while I only had a green screen on the Celeron mini PC. There are some limitations however as both 10-bit H.265 and H.264 are only handled in software and the processor is not fast enough for 4K decoding.

Not everything is perfect though due to the graphics driver crashing, and some occasional slowdowns leading to Windows not responding likely due to overheating as shown in HWiNFO64 Sensor Status window.

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I took the screenshot above after downloading, and installing the programs required for the review, and running PCMark 8 Accelerated benchmark. We can see that the processor does get hot at times with in that use case at least two cores throttling on average. Most of the time that’s barely noticeable, but you may have to let things cool down sometimes. I did test 1080p YouTube videos in Microsoft Edge (MP4 codec) for several hours, and there was no noticeable slowdown. However, switching to Chrome (VP9 codec) quickly raised the CPU cores temperatures, throttling kicked in, and after a few minutes video started to not be quite as smooth with more frames dropped and potentially some short audio cuts, just like what happened in Tronsmart Ara X5 review. That means that if you don’t push the computer too hard it will do its job,which should be the case for most people, but expect CPU throttling if you run demanding tasks over a long period of time, and it’s most probably not a good idea to use Voyo V3 as a 4K desktop computer. That’s one other point where Voyo V3 is clearly inferior to better designed devices like MINIX NGC-1.

Finally, if you’ve watched the video review, you must have see the system hung once in Kodi, and the reboot after changing resolution from 1920×1080 @ 60Hz to 3840×2160 @ 30Hz, lasted 30 minutes because Windows 10 decided it was a good time for an update… But I think the latter happened on all Windows mini PC I tested so far, so it’s not specific to Voyo V3.

Conclusion

I’m pretty satisfied with Voyo V3, after being positively surprised by a proper connection of the SSD yielding 400MB/s read speeds, and decent multi-tasking performance. Kodi 16 (RC3) even worked better than in MINIX NGC-1 since H.265 actually worked fine. However building quality could be a little better (top glass cover lifting up, power button on even in off state..), graphics driver may be unstable, networking is limited to 802.11n @ 2.4GHz (single bad), and thermal design is not quite perfect so performance will suffer for demanding tasks. However considering the price, it’s probably not that bad a device. If I have not tried Ubuntu on the device, but unless some work has been done to fix HDMI audio, and other drivers, I’d expect similar results as Ubuntu on Tronsmart Ara X5.

I’d like to thank GearBest again for providing the sample for review, and if you are interested you could purchase Voyo V3 from their website for $209.99 including shipping with coupon GBV3. You could also purchase the mini PC on GeekBuying ($214.99), DealsMachine ($205.99 + shipping), Amazon US or Banggood, but currently the price on the last two shops is much higher.

[Update with useful links:

  1. Complete Windows 10 firmware on Yunpan or Mega (5.5 GB)
  2. Voyo V3 Windows 10 drivers only on Mega (104 MB)

]