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Posts Tagged ‘ssd’

Intel to Launch Optane Memory M.2 Cards for Desktop PCs Next Month for $44 and Up

March 28th, 2017 18 comments

Intel launched their first Optane SSD based on 3D Xpoint technology for the enterprise/datacenter market last week, and now the company has announced 16GB and 32GB consumer grade Optane memory will start selling in April starting at $44.

The cards will follow M.2 card (80mm) form factor, use a dual PCIe NVMe 3.0 interface, and currently only works with Optane compatible motherboards with 7th generation Intel Core processors. Intel promises boot times that are twice as fast, 28% better overall performance, and 65% faster game level loads thanks to vastly improved random I/O performance.

We can see some of the specs for both cards on Intel website. I reproduced some of the performance reliability data in the table below.

32GB Optane Memory 16GB Optane Memory
Sequential Read (up to)
Up to 1350 MB/s Up to 900 MB/s
Sequential Write (up to)
Up to 290 MB/s Up to 145 MB/s
Random Read (8GB & 100% span)
Up to 240000 IOPS Up to 190000 IOPS
Random Write (8GB & 100% span)
Up to 65000 IOPS Up to 35000 IOPS
Latency – Read
9 µs 7 µs
Latency – Write
30 µs 18 µs
Power – Active
3.5 Watts
Power – Idle
1 Watt
Endurance Rating (Lifetime Writes) 182.5 TB
Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) 1.6
Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER) < 1 sector per 10^15 bits read

The read sequential performance looks good, but the write performance is lower than one some of cheap mini PCs I’ve reviewed in the last year. For example the 128GB FORESEE SSD inside Voyo V3 mini PC gets respectively 400 MB/s and 200 MB/s sequential read and write speed in actual benchmarks. What make Optane memories stands out are random read and write performance, as well as ultra-low latency, which explains why Intel promotes system boot time and app loading times. For example, Microsoft Outlook will launch up to nearly 6x faster, and the Chrome browser up to 5x faster.

I’m not too familiar with endurance data, and it’s really odd MTBF is expressed without unit, but if we look at an Intel 30GB consumer mSATA SSD for comparison, MTBF is expressed in hours (1.2 millions), so I guess that means the Optane memory MTBF is 1.6 millions hours, and the UBER number is less than 1 sector per 10^16 bits read, so endurance numbers are mixed, and there does not seem to be any clear advantage for the Optane memory in that respect. Power consumption of Optane memory is also much higher than the mSATA SSD I linked to (Idle: 250 mW; active: 300mW).

Intel Optane memory will start selling on April 24th for $44 for the 16GB version, and $77 for the 32GB version. You’ll be able to install the memory in one of the 130+  Intel Optane memory ready motherboards from manufacturers such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, ASRock and others, and in Q2 2017, several PC manufacturers will start selling computers equipped with the new 3D Xpoint memory cards. More details may be found on Optane memory product page.

Categories: Hardware, Intel Core Tags: 3d xpoint, intel, ssd

Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X is the First SSD based on 3D Xpoint Technology

March 20th, 2017 1 comment

3D Xpoint – pronounced “3D cross point” – was introduced in 2015 with the promise of delivering a 1000 times boost in performance and durability compared to NAND flash, and a density that 10 times better than DRAM. The next year, expectations were lowered quite a bit, when Intel presented a comparison between a high performance “NAND” SSD and a 3X point SSD prototype showing 7.23 times higher IOPS performance. The company has now launched its first 3D Xpoint product with Optane SSD DC P4800X with 375GB capacity.

Optane SSD DC P4800X specifications:

  • Capacity – 375GB
  • Interface – PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe
  • Form Factor – Add-in-Card (AIC); Half-height, Half-length, Low-profile
  • Latency (typical) R/W – <10μs
  • Quality of Service (QoS)  99.999%
    • 4kB 5 Random Queue Depth 1, R/W: <60/100 μs
    • 4kB Random Queue Depth 16, R/W: <150/200 μs
  • Throughput
    • IOPS Random 4kB R/W – Up to 550/500k
    • IOPS Random 4kB 70/30 Mixed R/W – Up to 500k
  • Endurance
    • 30 Drive Writes per day (JESD219 workload)
    • 12.3 Petabytes Written (PBW)

Intel did not mention sequential throughput, that’s because Optane SSD are designed for specific datacenter applications where the important performance metrics are random I/Os, latency, QoS, and endurance.  It’s also possible to get the SSD with “Intel Memory Drive Technology” that integrates the drive into the memory subsystem and presents the SSD as DRAM to the operating system and applications.

Intel did not mention the price in the press release, but Anandtech reports the 375 GB model is selling for $1,520, which goes up to $1951 with Memory Drive support, and 750GB and 1.5 GB models are coming in respectively Q2 & H2 2017. All models with come with a 5-year warranty. More information should be available on Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X Series product page.

Categories: Hardware Tags: 3d xpoint, benchmark, intel, ssd

Voyo (V1) VMac Mini Apollo Lake Mini PC Review – Part 2: Windows 10

January 30th, 2017 2 comments

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.

Voyo VMac Mini Benchmarks

If you are interested in typical system benchmarks I’ve already reported about PCMark 8 , Passmark 8 & 9, and 3DMark results in the posts entitled “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC (Intel Pentium N4200) Benchmarks” and “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC Benchmarks with Intel Celeron N3450 Apollo Lake Processor“, so I’ll just add storage and networking benchmarks in this section.

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:

I repeated the test in one direction only:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Fasetto LINK 256GB to 2TB SSD Portable WiFi NAS is Powered by Samsung Exynos 7420 Processor

January 5th, 2017 5 comments

Fasetto LINK is a wireless portable storage for your smartphone, camera, or other device, includes 256GB, 512GB, or 2TB SSD storage, and – for some reasons – is based on a rather powerful Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core processor coupled with 4GB RAM. The device can also take expansion blocks to add extra battery or/and LTE connectivity via pogo pins.

fasetto-linkLINK specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 7420 octa core big.LITTLE processor with 4x Cortex A57 core @ 2.1GHz + 4x Cortex A53 cores @ 1.5Ghz, and Mali-T760 MP8 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 256GB, 512GB, or 2TB Samsung NVMe SSD
  • Connectivity – 802.11ac WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0, optical LTE via expansion block
  • Expansion – 17-pin ball connector
  • USB – USB type C port
  • Battery – 1,300 mAh battery (2 weeks standby; 5 hours streaming); optional 1120mAh expansion block (total: 4 weeks standby; 8 hours streaming)
  • Dimensions – 5.08 x 5.08 x 2.54 cm
  • Weight – 85 grams and up
  • Ingress Protection Rating – IP68
  • Anti-shock – Military standard 810g

samsung-ssd-portable-storageThe specs seems a bit over the top just to securely (2048-bit encryption) store files, but at least the SSD makes the box pretty light, and easy to carry around. I could not find info about the mobile app to access and control the mini NAS. We do know that the box runs Linux based LinkOS, and the company can provides an LDK (LINK SDK) to developers to extend its functionality.

The LINK unit shops with a removable base, a coin plug, and one meter long USB-C cable.

link-lte-expansion

Fasetto LINK will sell this spring for $349.99 with a 256GB SSD, and up to $1,149 with a 2TB SSD, while the battery expansion costs $29.99, and LTE expansion $149.99. You can pre-order LINK, and find further details on Fasetto LINK website.

Via TechNutty

Vorke V1 Braswell mini PC Unboxing and Teardown

June 18th, 2016 24 comments

Vorke V1 is a Braswell mini PC pre-loaded with Windows 10, powered by an Intel Celeron J3160 quad core with 4GB RAM, 64 GB internal storage, and two important features if you want to use it as a desktop PC: support for internal 2.5″ hard drive, and dual display support via HDMI and VGA ports. GeekBuying sent me a sample for review, and I’ll do a two part review, starting with pictures of the device, and its internal, before publishing the second part testing the performance, stability and features of the mini PC.

Vorke V1 Unboxing

There’s not much to say about the package, as it’s just a bland carton box with a sticker with Vorke V1 name, processor and memory info.

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The mini PC ships with a 19V/2.1A power supply and a power cord, as well as a mounting bracket and 5 screws for 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD.

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The top cover is quite glossy and features a large power button.

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The front panel exposes two USB 2.0 ports, a micro SD slot, and a small window for an infrared receiver, not commonly found on Intel mini PCs. The two side has large ventilation holes, and the rear panel features the power jack, HDMI and VGA output, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone / Line out jack.

Vorke_V1_Beelink_BT7_Raspberry_Pi_2I found Vorke V1 to be larger than most devices I’ve received, so I took a picture with Beelink BT7 and a Raspberry Pi 2 board for comparison.

Normally I’d go to the teardown part now, but with Vorke V1 I have one more step to do, as I can install a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD.

Vorke_V1_Bottom_CoverTo do so, I had to loosen one screw on the bottom of the case, and turn the lid anti-clockwise to open it.

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We can see the bottom of the board with a black protection sheet where you are supposed to install the drive. While I’m here, components of interest include CO-TOP C2417NS (probably Gigabit Ethernet magnetics), ITE IT6513FN DisplayPort to VGA controller, and ENE KB9029Q C embedded / keyboard controller with 8051 MCU, 128KB flash.

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I used a thin 128GB SSD drive first, and the first step is to install the drive inside the mounting bracket with the four screws, before inserting the drive into the SATA interface, and tightening the remaining black screw in the location close to the CO-TOP IC. You can then put back the lid, making sure the two arrows are aligned as shown in the picture of the bottom of the case, before turning it clockwise, and tightening it the screw.

But for the next part of the review, I decided to scavenge a 1TB hard drive from another device, namely a Toshiba MQ01BD100.

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The drive is 9.5mm thick, while the SSD was 7 mm thick, and while I could still close the lid, there was a small gap as shown below. So it might be better to use 7mm drives with Vorke V1.
Vorke_V1_HDD_Case_GapThat’s just a minor issue, and it should not affect the performance.

Vorke V1 Teardown

In order to access the top of the main board, you’ll first need to remove the bottom cover, loosen three screws, before popping up the top cover with a sharp plastic tool, and working your way around.
Vorke_V1_TeardownThe first thing that came to mind is that this mini PC is modular with removable memory, storage and Wireless module. Let’s check the board in more details.

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The mainboard takes ADATA ADDS1600W4G11-8 SO-DIMM module with 4GB DDR3L RAM, Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 module with 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth, and FORESEE FSSSDBABAC-064G mSATA SSD (See pic below). We can also find an RTC battery, Realtek RTL8111GN PCIe Gigabit transceiver, ALC265 audio codec, RT5067A (not sure what it is), and Realtek RTS5159 USB card reader.

Foresee_SSDSo overall, the system has similar features to an Intel NUC, but a lower price point. The Braswell processor is cooling with a thick metal plate and a fan controller via 3 pins.

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There are also a few unused headers that would allow for some hardware hacking with UART, USB, LPC, and microphone headers.

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I found the hardware quite interesting to study, and it’s the most module low cost low power mini PC I’ve reviewed so far, with no soldered memory, storage or wireless module. We’ll have to see how well it performs under load, as apart from the fan and “heatsink” on the processor, not much else has been done for cooling. GeekBuying claims Windows 10 Home is activated in the device, and they also quickly and successfully tested Ubuntu 16.04, so I asked them whether they planned to sell a cheaper version without Windows 10 license, but there only answer was people could install the OS they wanted…

I’d like to thank GeekBuying for provide the device, and they sell it for $199.99 including shipping, but you can get that down $159.99 to with coupon VORKEV1. The  only other seller I could find is Banggood where it goes for for $199.

ARM Cortex-R8 Real-Time Processor targets SSDs, LTE Advanced and 5G Modems, and Other Embedded Applications

February 18th, 2016 No comments

ARM Cortex-A processor may get all the media buzz as they are found in popular consumer devices such as smartphones, but ARM also provides Cortex-R processors with real-time capabilities that are found in cars, hard drives, and other embedded systems requiring high reliability, fault tolerance, and deterministic real-time responses. The company has just announced Cortex-R8 real-time core that should double the performance of Cortex-R7 core, and targeting mainly storage devices such as SSDs and HDDs, as well as next generation LTE and 5G modems.

ARM_Cortex-R8Cortex-R8 key features:

  • Microarchitecture – 11-stage pipeline with instruction pre-fetch, branch prediction, superscalar and out of order execution, register renaming, parallel execution paths for load-store, MAC, shift-ALU, divide and floating-point. Also features a hardware divider and is software compatible with the ARM9, ARM11, Cortex-R4, Cortex-R5 and Cortex-R7 embedded processors.
  • Instruction Set – ARMv7-R architecture with Thumb-2 and Thumb. Support for DSP extensions, as well as an optional floating point unit, with either single or single/double precision.
  • Cache controllers – Harvard memory architecture with optional integrated Instruction and Data cache controllers. Cache sizes configurable from 4 to 64KB. Cache lines are write-back.
  • Tightly-Coupled Memories – Optional Tightly-Coupled Memory interfaces are for highly deterministic or low-latency applications that may not respond well to caching (e.g. instruction code for interrupt service routines and data that requires intense processing). Instruction and/or data TCMs. TCM size can be up to 1MB.
  • Interrupt interface – Standard interrupt, IRQ, non-maskable fast interrupt, FIQ, inputs are provided together with a fully integrated Generic Interrupt Controller (GIC) supporting complex priority-based interrupt handling.
  • Memory Protection Unit (MPU) – Optional MPU configures attributes for 12, 16, 20 or 24 regions, each with resolution down to 32 Bytes.
  • Floating-Point Unit (FPU) – Optional FPU implements the ARM Vector Floating Point architecture VFPv3 with 16 double-precision registers, compliant with IEEE754. There is support for two FPU options.
  • ECC – Optional single-bit error correction and two-bit error detection for cache and/or TCM memories and all interfaces with ECC bits.
  • Master AMBA AXI bus – 64-bit AMBA AXI bus master for Level-2 memory access.
  • Low latency memory port – A 64-bit AMBA AXI master port designed specifically to connect to local memory. This local memory provides many of the benefits of TCM and in addition can be slower and lower power and also easily shared between coherent peripherals and the Cortex-R8 processor cores.
  • Low Latency Peripheral Port (LLPP) – A shared dedicated 32-bit AMBA AXI port to integrate latency-sensitive peripherals more tightly with the processor.
  • Fast Path Port (FPP) – An optional per core dedicated 32-bit AMBA AXI port to integrate latency-sensitive peripherals more tightly with the processor.
  • Accelerator Coherency Port (ACP) – A 64-bit AMBA AXI slave port to enable coherency between the processor(s) and external intelligent peripherals such as DMA controllers, Ethernet or Flexray interfaces.
  • Slave AXI bus – Optional 64-bit AMBA AXI bus slave port allows DMA masters to access the TCMs for high speed streaming of data in and out of the processor.
  • Debug – Debug Access Port is provided. Its functionality can be extended using CoreSight SoC-400.
  • Trace – An interface suitable for connection to CoreSight Embedded Trace Module is present.
  • Multi-core – Single, dual, triple or quad processor configurations  for flexible performance in either Asymetric Multiprocessing Mode (AMP) or in Symetric Multiprocessing Mode (SMP). In addition it can be configured with a redundant Cortex-R8 CPU in lock-step for fault tolerant/fault detecting dependable systems.
  • Performance
    • 1.5GHz+ frequencies supported
    • 2.50 DMIPS/MHz with Dhrystone “ground rules”, 2.90 / 3.77 DMIPS/MHz with optimizations
    • 4.35 CoreMark/MHz
  • Efficiency – As low as 46 DMIPS/mW
5G Modem Roadmap

5G Modem Roadmap

Several companies have already started working on SoC featuring Cortex-R8 processors, with mass storage devices based on the new solutions likely to become available later this year. Cortex-R8 based modem will be launched as LTE Advanced Pro and 5G standards roll-out starting respectively in 2017/2018 and 2019/2020. More details can be found in ARM Cortex-R8 product page, and ARM blog.

Categories: Hardware, Processors Tags: 5g, arm, cortex-r8, lte, mwc2016, ssd

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

February 17th, 2016 116 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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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)

]

WeTek Play+ Amlogic S905 Android Set-Top Box Features a Tuner with a SmartCard Reader and an mSATA SSD Bay

January 9th, 2016 33 comments

When WeTek announced the WeTek Core, some people were disappointed that they did not include a tuner like in the original WeTek Play, but the company has been working on a successor called Wetek Play+ that is based on Amlogic S905-H quad core processor and supports DVB-S/S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners with a smartcard reader, as well as an extra store with an half-size SSD slot.

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-H (Revision C) quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC 5.0 flash + micro SD card slot + mSATA SSD socket (implemented via USB to SATA)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 support, and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV (stereo), optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – Support for DVB-S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports (external), 2x internal USB 2.0 ports
  • DRM / CAS – Playready and Widewine included, Smartcard reader for tuner
  • Misc – 3.5mm jack RS-232 port (TBC)
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V
  • Dimensions – N/A
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The TV box will run Android 5.1, but while I don’t have much more details about the software, I’m pretty sure it will run a recent version of Kodi, WeTek Theater for live video via the tuner, and WeCloud Antenna for IPTV channels, just like on WeTek Play.

Amlogic S905-H means the box with have the DTS and Dolby license to downmix audio on any apps, and not only Kodi, and Revision C is a new revision of the chip that apparently fixes bugs with 4K 10-bit HEVC DVB-S2 streams. I did notice the video freezing for a few seconds before resuming with some 4K DVB-S2 samples on two Amlogic S905 boxes, respectively K1 Plus and MINI MX, but I could not reproduce the issue with MINIX NEO U1 and XBMC for MINIX. I’m sure the MINIX box did not have the revision C of the processor since it’s very new, but it’s quite possible there are several bugs, and there must be a reason for Amlogic to create a new revision, so it will be something to check in the future if you want to make you sure you don’t have this bug, and want to buy a device with the latest revision.

The smartcard reader shown on the left of the first picture will be useful for people needed to have premium channels via the tuner. I’ve not been told which standard it supports yet. Since USB to SATA implementations are not exactly equal, with some Genesys Logic chips providing really poor performance, I’ve been informed that the performance was good enough to record 4K DVB streams, but I don’t have raw numbers.

I often see HDCP 2.2 and DRM mentioned in product specs, even for cheap Amlogic S905 devices, but usually they don’t have the right keys and firmware for this, and again WeTek Play+ will definitely support both.

I don’t have pricing nor availability information, but WeTek Play+ looks like a pretty good device on paper.