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FriendlyARM NanoPi NEO Board Benchmarks

July 22nd, 2016 1 comment

We’ve already seen how to setup NanoPi NEO with Ubuntu Core, and while it’s mostly designed as an IoT node, for example to control relays over Ethernet or the Internet, I’ve still decided to see how it would perform under load by running Phoronix benchmarks, and then network and storage (micro SD card provided by FriendlyARM). It’s a small board, so we should expect it to heat a lot under load, especially it does not come with an heatsink by default. Also bear in mind that performance may dramatically change depending on the software implementation, and for the test, I’m using the company’s Ubuntu Core firmware.

Before start the benchmark, I noticed that QTe-Demo was running in the background, probably because it was used on their other board with video output or LCD. but it’s taking some CPU usage, and is absolutely not needed here.

To disable it, edit /etc/rc.local, and comment out one line as follows:

I also planned to install RPi-Monitor, which is very easy to install in armbian, but I could not find a quick way for the Ubuntu core image, so I skipped it for now, instead manually checking the temperature.

Let’s install Phoronix Test Suite:

and run the benchmark against Orange Pi, Banana Pi, Raspberry Pi, etc… boards results.

Since it will take a while (4 to 5 hours) checking the terminal output while the benchmark is running may be informative:

Phoronix will run the same test several times, and in theory, every iteration of the test should have roughly the same results, but in practice, modern processors do overheat, and either reduce frequency or cut the number of cores to keep the temperature below the (safe) junction temperature. The results here don’t look good, because they become slower overtime. A temperature check with an IR thermometer after one hour or so, shows the CPU is getting really hot.
NanoPi_NEO_CPU_TemperatureWe can also verify this in the command line by reading one of the temperature sensor:

It’s hot, and the temperature tops at 80 C, and sometimes drops down to 76 C, before getting back to 80C, so the system is clearly throlling and the final results made that clear (ARMv7 rev 5 is NanoPi NEO without heatsink). Please also note that all 6 boards included below are using the same governor settings (interactive or ondemand). However, NaniPi NEO’s Ubuntu core Linux kernel is configured to run the RAM at the lower frequency to either decrease power consumption or heat generation.

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John the Ripper is a multi-threaded password cracker, and in theory NaniPi NEO should have about the same performance as Orange Pi One, but there’s clearly a massive drop in performance.

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Same thing for single threaded FLAC audio encoding, where NanoPi NEO is almost 50% slower than Orange Pi One, and about the same as Raspberry Pi 2.

So let’s check what happens is we had an heatsink. I glued the largish heatsink (for that board) by putting thermal paste on Allwinner H3 and the Samsung DDR3 SDRAM chip. It is not centered on the board because the Ethernet jack pins prevent this. You could add some thermal pads to work around this.

NanoPi_NEO_Heatsink_Thermal_Paste

So let’s start again phoronix-test-suite to see if this improves anything:

Terminal output for the first benchmark:

We can see the results are both higher, and more stable, so that’s a good sign.

The heatsink temperature is about 54 C after around one or two hours.

NanoPi_NEO_Heatsink_TemperatureBut the CPU temperature is still high, and topping at 80 C from time to time:

Nevertheless the final results are way better. I repeated the test with heatsink twice to some issue with uploading the results the first time…

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FLAC audio encoding is now just as good as on Orange Pi One.

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John the Ripper is still a bit lower on NanoPi NEO, which could either be because of RAM clock or overheating despite the heatsink. The multi-threaded performance is still better than on Raspberry Pi 2 however.

So if you want to want NanoPi NEO to control some relays, you probably don’t need to care at all about this, but if you plan to use it as part as a cluster or build farm, you’d have to consider using a heatsink and possibly a fan to get optimal performance, as well as make sure the board does not die prematurely…

Let’s switch to Ethernet performance, but running iperf server on the board:

and running iperf client on a computer running Ubuntu 14.04 to test dual duplex performance:

So the download speed is all good at 93.8 Mbps, but the upload speed is not quite up to the task at 25.8 Mbps. Remember that a dual duplex test is a worse case scenario with heavy traffic going in both directions at the same, and it does not mean upload speed is limited to 25 Mbps in more typical scenarios.

NanoPi NEO does not come with any storage, and you can use any micro SD card you want, but FriendlyARM sells and recommend Sandisk Ultra 8GB SD micro card,  so it would interesting to see how the one they’ve sent me performs.

For that purpose I’ve installed iozone to test the micro SD card performance. You’ll need to edit /etc/apt/source.list to add multiverse at the end of the first two lines, and then:

I’ve run iozone3 with armbian community command line options, so that it can be compared to other SD cards:

So it’s not quite the fastest around, especially in terms of random write for some files, and if you want a board that boot very fast (i.e. faster than the 10 seconds boot I got), and your application is I/O depend you may want to get something better like Samsung EVO 32GB.

Getting Started with NanoPi NEO Development Board – Ubuntu Core Firmware

July 20th, 2016 30 comments

NanoPi NEO is an exciting ARM Linux board due to the power it packs into its small size, and its low price starting at $7.99. It’s made by FriendlyARM, and since I’ve read some people had never heard about the company before, I’d like to point out it has been providing development boards well before the Raspberry Pi board was launched, with products such mini2440 based on a Samsung ARM9 processor introduced around year 2010. Anyway, I asked the company if they were willing to send 2 samples for review, as I plan to remove the USB & Ethernet port on one of them. Instead I got a 4 boards and accessories, so I’m going to start reviewing the board by writing a quick start guide, showing how to setup it, and check out the Ubuntu core provided by the company. If you are a fan of armbian made Debian distribution, NanoPi NEO will soon be supported too.

NanoPi NEO Pictures

So company send the parcel by DHL, and for some reasons declared an $11 value for 6 boards in the invoice, despite the board selling for respectively $7.99 and $9.99, and the two PSU-ONECOM debug boards going for $4 each… This resulted in higher custom duties than expected…

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I opened all packages, with the board stored in anti-static bags as they should.

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The complete package content include two NanoPi NEO 512MB RAM, two NanoPi NEO with 256MB RAM, two PSU-ONECOM debug board (which I don’t recommend, more details below), two 5V/2A power adapter and corresponding USB cables, as well as two blank 8GB micro SD cards. Each NEO board package also features a piece of paper with the specifications, and a getting started guide partially written for NanoPi-T3 (no you can’t use HDMI with NanoPi NEO), but still two useful links pointing the NEO Wiki, and Friendlyarm github account.

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The top of the board features Ethernet, USB host, and micro USB (power) ports, as well as the micro SD slot, and I/O headers, while we’ll find the only two main ICs on the back with Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 processor, and a Samsung RAM chip.

In case you wonder how to differentiate between the 512MB and 256MB version in case you buy both model, there’s a 512M RAM sticker on the former, and no sticker on the latter.

NanoPi_NEO_512MB_vs_256MB

If for some reasons, the sticker is detached, or remove, just check the back of the board for the Samsung memory part number: 2G (2 Gbit) = 256 MB, and 4G (4Gbit) = 512MB. Easy enough.

Samsung_Memory_256MB_vs_512MBNanoPi NEO can be considered a competitor of several other small ARM or MIPS Linux boards including Raspberry Pi Zero, Orange Pi One, Next Thing CHIP, and Mediatek LinkIt 7688, so I’ve taken a “family pictures” to show the respective size of the boards, and NanoPi NEO is clearly one of the smallest, and more powerful than most other board save for Orange Pi One.

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However, it’s also much thicker than most because of its RJ45 jack, and vertical USB port.

NanoPi_NEO_Ethernet_USBI had planned to shoot a video showing how to remove the Ethernet and USB port (and possibly serial header), but I’ll probably skip it, because the company has now decided to also sell NanoPi NEO 512MB without Ethernet nor USB for $9.98 + shipping.

Getting Started with Ubuntu Core image for NanoPi NEO

So now, that we’ve checked out the hardware, it’s time to play with the board. Eventually, armbian will release an image, and it may become the preferred option, because of community support, but in the meantime, I’ll use the “Ubuntu Core + Qt Embedded” image released by the company. The instructions below are to be follow in a terminal windows in Debian, Ubuntu, or Mint operating system, but if you use Windows 10 you can flash the image with Win32DiskImager just like with a Raspberry Pi, or install Windows Subsystem for Linux, and follow the exact same procedure as in Linux.

First, you’ll need to download the image (currently nanopi-neo-core-qte-sd4g-20160704.img.zip) through mediafire, and uncompress it:

Now insert a micro SD card into your computer, and check the device name (/dev/sdX, or /dev/mmcblkpX) with lsblk command:

That step is very important. In my case, my 8GB SD card (the 3.7GB image should also work on 4GB micro SD cards) is /dev/sdb, so that’s what I’ll use. If I used /dev/sda instead, the instructions would completely wipe out my hard drive, and I’d lose all my data and OS. Anyway, let’s go ahead, and umount the SD card, and flash the image, checking the progress with pv:

The third step should take a few minutes to complete. Now we can take the micro SD card out, and insert it into the board, connect an Ethernet cable and the power, and after a few seconds (about 5 to 10 seconds). you should be able to ssh to the board with its IP address, which you can get from your router DHCP list.:

All good that was easy, and the board works out of the box. What’s not so nice is that the image is based on Ubuntu 15.10, an unsupported version of Ubuntu at this time.

Another way to connect to the board, especially if you don’t plan to use Ethernet is through the serial console. I’ve first done so using the company’s PSU-ONECOM debug board, plus a NULL modem cable, and an RS232 to USB adapter, since my computer does not have a DB9 connector.

NanoPi_NEO_RS232_Board

That’s fun, and it works, but that’s what I’d consider the old way of doing things simply because most recent computers or laptop don’t have a COM port. So instead, I’d recommend to use a standard USB to TTL, which normally cost $1 shipped, to connect to your computer, as it’s just more convenient to most people.NanoPi_NEO_USB_to_TTL_BoardSimply connect GND, Rx, and Tx to GND, Tx and Rx pins on the serial header of the board as shown below.NanoPi_NEO_Serial_Header

That’s the board output in minicom connected to /dev/ttyUSB0 with 115200 8N1 settings. In Windows, you may want to use Putty.

Let’s type some other command to find out more:

So the image is using a Linux 3.4.39 legacy kernel (mainline support should be a few weeks or months away), the rootfs size is 3.6GB with 3.0GB free (You’ll want to resize it with parted + resize2fs), and the quad core Cortex A7 processor has a maximum frequency of 1.2 GHz, instead of 1.29 GHz for boards with a different voltage regulation, but that’s OK, as the board has been mostly designed for IoT applications, and not necessarily for maximum performance. The GPIO module is compiled, but an error is generated after I load it, and now GPIOs are exported, which differs from my experience with the images I used with Orange Pi Allwinner H3 boards, where GPIOs are listed and ready to use.

Power consumption on this type of board is a topic that will require a separate post, but since I’ve been asked I’ve taken some quick measurements using a “kill-a-watt” power meter, and power consumption at idle is around 2.0 watts. Since the platform should also support standby/sleep mode, I tried it with pm-suspend:

Power consumption only dropped to 1.4 watts, and I was not able to resume by connecting a USB keyboard. So either the method I used is not correct, and suspend is not fully supported in the kernel. I’ll have to study a bit more, but obviously tips or links that could help me are welcome in comments.

Finally, I also checked whether it would be feasible to install an heatsink for people who may want to push the board to its limits.

NanoPi_NEO_HeatsinkThe Ethernet jack pins prevents to simply put some thermal paste on the processor and RAM, so you’d have to add some thermal pads on both ICs before fitting a heatsink, unless you use a smaller heatsink that does not cover the area under the RJ45 connector. There’s also no obvious way to keep the heatsink in place.

If you are interested in the board, it sells for $7.99 with 256MB RAM, and $9.98/$9.99 with 512MB RAM without/with Ethernet and USB host ports, plus shipping which normally amounts to $4 to $5 by airmail.

sModule SBC-x6818 Development Kit based on Samsung S5P6818 Processor Includes a 7″ Touchscreen

July 13th, 2016 4 comments

For some reasons, Samsung S5P4418 and S5P6818 quad and eight Cortex A53 core processors – likely made by Nexell – have been quite popular with embedded systems companies based in China. So after Graperain, Boardcon, and FriendlyARM, there’s at least one another company offering solutions with either processor, as sModule, a subsidiary of CoreWind, has now launched systems-on-module, single board computers, and development kits with the 64-bit ARM SoCs. In this post, I’ll cover one of their development kit including their CORE6818 CPU module, a baseboard, and an optional 7″ capacitive touch display..

Samsung_S5P6818_Board_with_LCD_DIsplaysModule SBC-x6818 development kit specifications:

  • CORE6818 CPU module
    • SoC – Samsung S5P6818 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 to 1.6 GHz with Mali-400MP 3D GPU
    • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 (2GB optional)
    • Storage – 8GB eMMC Flash (4 & 16GB optional)
    • Ethernet – Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet transceiver
    • 180-pin “interface” to baseboard
    • Power Supply – 3.7 to 5.5V DC input; 3.3V / 4.2V DC output; AXP228 PMIC
    • Dimensions – 68 x 48 x 3 mm (8-layer PCB)
    • Temperature range – -10 to 70 deg. C
  • SBC-x6818 Baseboard
    • Storage – 2x micro SD card slots
    • Video Output / Display I/F – 1x HDMI up to 1080p30, LCD, 20-pin LVDS, and 20-pin MIPI DSI interfaces; optional 7″ capacitive touch screen (1024×768 resolution)
    • Audio – HDMI, and 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker header, built-in microphone
    • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
    • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x mini (micro?) USB OTG port
    • Camera – 1x 20-pin camera interface
    •  Expansion
      • “GPIO” header with ADC, UART, SPI, SPDIF, and GPIOs
      • ADC terminal block
      • Serial – 2x DB9 UART interfaces, 2x UART headers
    • Misc – IR receiver; power, menu, volume, and return buttons;  RTC with battery (not populated?); PWM buzzer; boot selector: eMMC, SD card, or USB (with fastboot?)
    • Power
      • 5V/2A DC via power barrel;
      • Power out header with 12V, 3.3V, and GND
      • 2-pin battery header for 4.2V lithium battery
    • Dimensions – 185 x 110 mm

The company provides Android 4.4, Ubuntu 12.04, and Linux 3.5 + qt 5.0 for the board. As with other boards based on Samsung/Nexell S5P processors, don’t expect software updates for the firmware, so if you need security patchsets or the latest kernel features this won’t work for you. You can find a few details about the hardware on the Wiki.

Samsung_S5P6818_SBC

While other companies kept their price secret, sModule published prices for all their modules and boards, and even allow you to purchase them by PayPal or bank transfer. Their CORE4418 module starts at $49, while the development kit above goes for $119 with the touch screen, and $109 without. The more compact iBOX6818 single board computer – they call it card computer – with 2GB RAM goes for $75. More details can be found on sModule products page.

BPI-M64 Development Board is the first 64-bit Banana Pi Board

July 12th, 2016 17 comments

Sinovoip has gone on the Allwinner A64 and 64-bit ARM bandwagon, announcing a Pine A64+ competitor, with Banana Pi BPI-M64 (or just Banana Pi M64) with 2GB RAM, 8GB eMMC flash, Gigabit Ethernet, and more.

Banana_Pi_BPI-M64Banana Pi BPI-M64 board specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A64 quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (16, 32 and 64GB options), micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Video Output / Display interface – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K resolution @ 30 Hz, MIPI DSI interface
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5 mm headphone jack, built-in microphone
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet + 802.11 b/g/n WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – MIPI CSI interface (which I guess you support parallel cameras via some kind of bridge)
  • Security – Hardware security enables ARM TrustZone, Digital Rights Management (DRM), information encryption/decryption, secure boot, secure JTAG and secure efuse
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi 2 somewhat-compatible header
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART header
  • Misc – IR receiver; U-boot, reset and power buttons;
  • Power – 5V via power barrel; 3.7V Lithium battery header; AXP803 PMIC
  • Dimensions – N/A
The board is said to run Android 5.1/6.0, Debian Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Raspbian image (obviously not the Raspberry Pi image), and other operating systems. Usually, when companies provide multiple operating systems like that, none of them work properly, except possibly Android. If you want to use any of the security features listed in the specs, better check with the company, as while the hardware can handle this, the required software is often not available, or requires some licenses.

Banana_Pi_M64There’s some technical information on the Wiki, but currently limited to hardware (PDF schematics are coming soon), and Linux and Android software documentation links only being placeholders. So far, OS images have not been uploaded to the download page either.

BPI-M64 is still work in progress, and I don’t know when it will be availability, but the company told me it would cost around $35.

Thanks to tkaiser for the tip.

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

July 8th, 2016 11 comments

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

Ubuntu_Bay_Trail_mini_PCStar Cloud PCG03U specifications:

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

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

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

Via AndroidPC.es

Smaller & Faster than Raspberry Pi Zero: Meet NanoPi NEO ARM Linux Development Board

July 7th, 2016 71 comments

Raspberry Pi Zero has two noticeable attributes compared to other Raspberry Pi boards: it’s smaller and it’s cheaper. FriendlyARM has now designed another model for their NanoPi family, that about 12% smaller, although not quite as thin at all due to its Ethernet jack and USB connector, and much faster than Raspberry Pi Zero, with NanoPi NEO board powered by Allwinner H3 quad core processor.

Smallest_Allwinner_H3_BoardNanoPi NEO specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU up to 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 256 or 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port, 2x USB via headers
  • Expansion headers
    • 24-pin header with I2C, 2x UART, SPI, PWM, and power signals
    • 12-pin header with 2x USB, IR pin, microphone and Line OUT signals
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power and status LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port or VDD pin on headers.
  • Dimensions – 40 x 40 mm (Raspberry Pi Zero: 65mm × 30mm)

There aren’t any interfaces to connect an external display, so the board can only be used for headless applications. In case you need that board with low profile, you could probably unsolder the Ethernet jack and USB port, or if you buy in quantities, maybe the company could remove those for you.

NanoPi_NEOThe Wiki is still in construction, and for now only in Chinese, but we can find out that FriendlyARM provides Ubuntu-Core with Qt-Embedded for the board relying on Linux 3.4 legacy kernel. However, Allwinner H3 should get full mainline support in Linux 4.7 or 4.8, so I’m fully expecting the board to be supported in mainline kernel in a few months. The schematics (PDF), and header pin assignments are also available in the wiki.

NanoPi NEO is not yet for sale, but considering the larger NanoPi M1 board with the same processor sells for $11 + $5 shipping, I’d expect the new board to go for around $7 + $4 or $5 shipping, about the same price as I paid for Raspberry Pi Zero.

NanoPi NEO sells for $7.99 with 256 RAM, $9.99 with 512 RAM + shipping ($4 to my location).

Partaker B4 Intel Celeron N3150 Barebone mini PC Sells for $131

June 20th, 2016 2 comments

This week-end I received Vorke V1 mini PC powered by Intel Celeron J3160 processor, and with upgradable memory, storage and WiFi as explaining in the first part of the review, and with a $160 price tag after coupon I found it to be pretty good value (Normal price is $200). But still, one person commented that it was too expensive, while another mentioned that some people may prefer to buy extra components such as SO-DIMM RAM, mSATA SSD, and wireless modules locally in order to benefit from a local warranty. So I went on aliexpress to find barebone mini PCs based on Intel Celeron J3160 processor, and I had no luck probably because the processor is relatively recent, so I refocused my search on Intel Celeron N3150 processor which has roughly the same performance, and the one of the cheapest options I could find was Partaker B4 mini PC selling for $131.49 in barebone configure with shipping by DHL.

Partaker_B4Inctel Partaker B4 barebone specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3150 quad core processor @ 1.6/2.08 GHz with Intel HD graphics GPU @ 320/640MHz – 6W TDP
  • System Memory – 1x (or 2x?) SO-DIMM slot for up to 8GB RAM
  • Storage – 1x mSATA 3.0 connector for SSD. 1x SATA 3.0 connector for HDD
  • Video Output – HDMI and VGA
  • Audio Output – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks; ALC662 chip
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (150 Mbps) with two external WiFi antennas.
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 4x USB 3.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button & LED
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A to 6A
  • Dimensions – 16 x 12 x 4 cm
  • Weight – 2.5 kg ???

Partaker_B4_4x_USB_3.0_mini_PCThe system is said to be fanless. Sadly Inctel, the company behind the product, did not feel it necessary to post image of the motherboard in Aliexpress or the product page. I could only find the picture below on a Russian blog for the Core i3 version of Partaker B4.

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You’ll need to add your own storage and memory, as well as install your favorite operating system, to get a working system. The Aliexpress page have memory and storage options too, and if you add 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD, the price becomes $193.64, or quite close to the standard price for Vorke V1, minus an 802.11ac module and a Windows 10 license, but with more USB 3.0 ports. I have tried to find sellers of Partaker B4 mini PC with China post airmail to get a cheaper price, but all seem to be using DHL or Fedex.

Vorke V1 Braswell mini PC Unboxing and Teardown

June 18th, 2016 22 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.