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Posts Tagged ‘uefi’

LibreELEC 8 for Intel Atom Bay Trail and Cherry Trail Devices with 32-bit UEFI Binary

September 19th, 2016 56 comments

LibreELEC, a fork of OpenELEC, was announced several months ago, and images for various hardware platform were released in that time period. However, support for Intel Bay Trail and Cherry Trail platforms using a 32-it UEFI binary might not have always work, or was more difficult to install. piotrasd has now created a LibreELEC 8 + Kodi 17 beta 3 build especially for this type of devices, and tested it on Tronsmart Ara IZ37 Bay Trail mini PC.

libreelec-8-intel-atom-z3735fHowever, it should work on other Intel Atom Z3735F or Intel Atom x5/z7 mini PC or sticks with a 32-bit UEFI bootloader. If you have such device, you can try it the following instructions using a USB flash drive:

  1. Download and install Rufus or LibreELEC SD USB creator
  2. Download and unpack LibreELEC 8 32-bit UEFI image file
  3. Launch your USB creator program, select the firmware file, and make a bootable USB flash drive
  4. Connect the USB flash drive to your mini PC
  5. Power it on, and press the ESC key on your keyboard to enter the boot menu
  6. Select your USB drive, and follow the Installer procedure on the TV
  7. Installation is complete

I understand that the procedure will wipe out your current operating system since it will install on the internal storage. Make sure that the bootable USB drive is the only USB device connected to the mini PC or TV stick during installation. If the display is too bright, you can go to System settings->Display, and disable “Use Limited colour range (16-235)” option.

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

September 8th, 2016 5 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.

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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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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]

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Fanless mini PC Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

September 2nd, 2016 17 comments

MINIX has just launched a new Windows 10 mini PC with MINIX NEO Z83-4 powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 quad core processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi, etc.. The company sent me an early review sample, and today I’ll go through the specs, take pictures of the device and accessories, and tear it down to check out the PCBA, and the thermal design.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Specifications

MINIX latest mini PC has slightly higher-0end specifications that most X5-Z8300 computers or sticks:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.84 GHz (Turbo) with Intel Gen8 HD graphics (2W SDP)
  • System Memory –  4GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC 5.0 flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 and mini DP up to 4K @ 30 Hz
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port supporting phone charging while the PC is turned off
  • Misc – Power button and LED, RTC battery, Kensington lock ready
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – 12.8 x 12.8 x 2.75 cm
  • Weight – 350 grams

The mini PC runs Windows 10 Home with a proper license from Microsoft. The BIOS / UEFI also supports Wake on LAN, auto power recovery after power loss, and scheduled power on. Support for Apple/Nokia/Samsung standard headphones for audio input and output can also be enabled or disabled in the BIOS.

The hardware specifications are somewhat similar to Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus, except NEO Z83-4 has more memory (4GB vs 2GB), a mini DisplayPort output, one more USB 2.0 port, support for Gigabit Ethernet, and a more powerful power supply.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Unboxing

The retail looks basically the same as I got with MINIX NGC-1.
NEO-Z83-4-Package
The bottom of the package lists the specifications, and provides links to MINIX Facebook page, and MINIX forums.

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The computer ships with a 12V/3A power supply made by Delta Electronics and corresponding power cord, a WiFi antenna, and HDMI cable, a user’s manual in English and Chinese, and MINIX products brochure.

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The device looks basically the same as all other MINIX Android TV boxes and mini PCs. One side comes with the power button, the micro SD slot, three USB 2.0 ports, and one USB 3.0 port with the latter also working in power off mode if you want to charge your phone or tablet. The side features the WiFi antenna connector and a Kensington lock opening.

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Media and networking ports can be found in the rear panels with a 3.5mm audio jack (microphone + headphone), a mini DisplayPort connector, HDMI 1.4 output, a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port, and the power jack.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Teardown

In order to open the case, I had to remove four sticky pads on the pad, and loosen four screws.
MINIX-NEO-Z83-4_BottomThe bottom cover will then come off relatively easily with some gentle taps on the top.

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MINIX has got serious with cooling, as they’ve selected a massive heatsink that also in contact with the large thermal pad on the top of the aluminum case. The company also showed me the system running OCCT for four hours last month, so the performance should be very stable, and CPU throttling not an issue. That’s something I’ll have to test in the second part of the review anyway.

I’ve removed the heatsink, which was firmly hold in place with four screws and springs. There’s also a thermal pad with some thermal paste under the heatsink to cover the processor.

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A 32GB Samsung KLMBG4GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash with 250 MB/s read speed, 100 MB/s write speed, and 6000/12000 R/W IOPS is used together with four SKhynix H5TC8G63CMR-PBA DDR3L @ 1600 MHz SDRAM (4GB in total) for storage and memory.  Ampak AP6255 module delivers WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.2? LE wireless connectivity, while a Realtek RTL8711GS PCIe to GbE transceiver allows for Gigabit Ethernet, with the transformer likely inside the Ethernet RJ45 connector. Other ICs includes AXP288C PMIC, and two smaller chip marked “MINI5BZDE 539GB 2532B076 ZZ ARM” and “B203 A3 UBCUC D8P8J 1522”, but I could not figured out what they could be used for. One of them is likely the MCU taking care of the power circuitry. You’ll also notice the RTC battery, and two headers marked ICE1 and JDEBUG1 which could be useful in the unlikely case the mini PC is bricked.

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The bottom of the board features Realtek ALC5645 audio codec, and Winbond 25Q64FWSIG 64Mbit SPI flash.

This looks all good, but what about price? The previous model, MINIX NGC-1, did not become that popular despite a very good implementation due to its high price, partially because of the $85 Windows 10. MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC is priced rather competitively, as it will sell for $169.90 US, 169.90 Euros, or  144.90 GBP depending on the country starting on September 16th.

[Update: MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC Review Part 2 is up].

U-Boot Now Supports UEFI on 32-bit and 64-bit ARM Platforms

August 11th, 2016 17 comments

Intel/AMD x86 based computers now boot via a standard UEFI binary, which can load grub2, allows you to update the command line as needed, or select different version of the Linux kernel. On ARM everything is a little more complicated and messy, as bootloaders such as U-boot need to support different configurations formats.

Raspberry_Pi_UEFI_GRUB2_U-BootAlexander Graf has been working on implementing UEFI support in U-boot, and it’s now supported by U-boot mainline and enabled by default for 32-bit and 64-bit ARM platforms, but not x86-64 (yet). That means you should now be able to boot any ARM boards supported by mainline U-boot through UEFI. Alexander gave a presentation about his work at an openSUSE event in June, and demonstrated u-boot with UEFI, and GRUB2 support with an openSUSE image running on a Raspberry Pi board.

Thanks to David for the tip.

Linux 4.7 Release – Main Changes, ARM and MIPS Architectures

July 25th, 2016 7 comments

Linux 4.7 is out:

So, after a slight delay due to my travels, I’m back, and 4.7 is out.

Despite it being two weeks since rc7, the final patch wasn’t all that big, and much of it is trivial one- and few-liners. There’s a couple of network drivers that got a bit more loving. Appended is the shortlog since rc7 for people who care: it’s fairly spread out, with networking and some intel Kabylake GPU fixes being the most noticeable ones. But there’s random small noise spread all over.

And obviously, this means that the merge window for 4.8 is open.Judging by the linux-next contents, that’s going to be a bigger release than the current one (4.7 really was fairly calm, I blame at least partly summer in the northern hemisphere).

Linus

Linux 4.6 brought USB 3.1 superspeed, OrangeFS distributed file system, 802.1AE MAC-level encryption (MACsec), and BATMAN V protocol support, improved the reliability of OOM task killer, and more.

Linux_4.7_Changelog

Linux 4.7 most noticeable changes include:

  • Support for Radeon RX480 GPUs
  • Parallel directory lookups –  The directory cache caches information about path names to make them quickly available for pathname lookup. This cache uses a mutex to serialize lookup of names in the same directory.  The serializing mutex has been switched to a read-write semaphore in Linux 4.7, allowing for parallel pathname lookups in the same directory. Most filesystems have been converted to allow this feature.
  • New “schedutil” frequency governor –  There are two main differences between it and the existing governors. First, it uses information provided by the scheduler directly for making its decisions. Second, it can invoke cpufreq drivers and change the frequency to adjust CPU performance right away, without having to spawn work items to be executed in process context or similar, leading to lower latency to make frequency changes.
  • Histograms of events in ftrace –  . This release adds the “hist” command, which provides the ability to build “histograms” of events by aggregating event hits. As an example, let’s say a user needs to get a list of bytes read from files from each process. You can get this information using hist triggers, with the following command command:

    other data can also be retrieve by using fields found in /sys/kernel/debug/tracing/events/syscalls/sys_enter_read/format. The output will look like:

    More more details check ftrace documentation and related LWN article.
  • EFI ‘Capsule’ firmware updates –  The EFI Capsule mechanism allows to pass data blobs to the EFI firmware. The firmware then parses them and makes some decision based upon their contents. The most common use case is to bundle a flashable firmware image into a capsule that the firmware can use to upgrade in the next boot the existing version in the flash. Users can upload capsule by writing the firmware to the /dev/efi_capsule_loader device
  • Support for creating virtual USB Device Controllers in USB/IP – USB/IP allows to share real USB devices over the network. Linux 4.7 brings the ability to create virtual USB Device Controllers without needing any physical USB device, using the USB gadget subsystem. For what purpose? For example, for improving phone emulation in development environments, for testing USB and for educational purposes.

Some of ARM specific improvements and new features include:

  • Allwinner:
    • Allwinner A13/R8 – Display Engine support
    • Allwinner A10/A20 – S/PDIF Support
    • Allwinner A31/A23/H3 – DMAengine improvements for H3 audio support
    • Allwinner H3 – USB support (multi-reset line support delayed til 4.8)
    • New hardware supported
      • Tablets – Dserve DSRV9703C, Polaroid MID2809PXE4, Colorfly e708 q1, Difrence DIT4350
      • Boards – Olimex A20 OLinuXino LIME2, Xunlong Orange Pi 2, Orange Pi One, and Orange Pi PC
  • Rockchip:
    • Thermal management – Rockchip driver support for RK3399, RK3366
    • Added Rockchip RK3399 clock and reset controller
    • Pinctrl – Support the .get_direction() callback in the GPIO portions
    • New RK3399 device tree support
    • Added Rockchip DisplayPort PHY support
    • Added Geekbuying GeekBox, RK3399 Evaluation Board, mqmaker MiQi SBC
  • Amlogic
    • Added Meson GXBB (S905) pinctrl support
    • Fixed memory nodes on Vega S95 DTS
    • Added Hardkernel ODROID-C2, Amlogic Meson GXBB P200 and P201 development systems
  • Samsung
    • Added Samsung ARTIK5 evaluation board
    • Added generic exynos bus frequency driver
    • Added pinctrl driver for Samsung EXYNOS5440 SoC
    • DTS updates & fixes:
      • Fix s5p-mfc driver probe on Exynos542x Peach boards (need to provide MFC memory banks). On these boards this was broken for long time but apparently no one enabled this driver till now.
      • Fix creation of debugfs entries for one regulator on Exynos4210 Trats board.
      • Fix probing of max8997 MFD driver (and its children) because of missing interrupt. Actually the current version of the driver probes (just without interrupts) but after switching to regmap and regmap-irq, the interrupt will be mandatory.
      • Cleanup regulator bindings on Exynos5420 boards.
      • Support MIC bypass in display path for Exynos5420.
      • Enable PRNG and SSS for all Exynos4 devices.
      • Add PL330 DMA controller and Thermal Management Unit to Exynos 7
      • Enable accelerated AES (Security SubSystem) on Exynos4412-based boards
      • Enable HDMI CEC on Exynos4412-based Odroid.
      • Add regulator supplies for eMMC/SD on Odroid XU3/XU4.
      • Fix DTC unit name warnings.
  • Qualcomm
    • Qualcomm IPQ4019 support in pinctrl
    • Change SMD callback parameters
    • 96Boards HiKey based on the Hisilicon Hi6220 (Kirin 620) gets an overhaul with a lot of devices enabled in the DT.
    • Added Qualcomm IPQ4019 “Internet processor”,  Arrow DragonBoard 600c (96boards) with APQ8064 Snapdragon 600
    • Device tree changes:
      • Add additional nodes for APQ8064
      • Fix APQ8064 pinctrls for i2c/spi
      • Add MSM8974 nodes for smp2p and smd
      • Modify MSM8974 memory reserve for rfsa and rmtfs
      • Add support for BQ27541 on Nexus7
  • Mediatek
    • Added  CPU power cooling model to Mediatek thermal driver
    • Added Mediatek MT8173 display driver, DRM driver, and thermal controller
    • Added MIPI DSI sub driver
    • 4GB mode support for Mediatek IOMMU driver
    • DTS updates:
      • add pinctrl node for mt2701
      • add mt2701 pmic wrapper binding
      • add auxadc binding document
  • Other new ARM hardware or SoCs – LG1312 TV SoC, Hisilicon Hip06/D03, Google Pixel C, NXP Layerscape 1043A QDS development board, Aspeed AST2400/AST2500, Oxnas 810SE (WD My Book World Edition), ARM MPS2 (AN385 Cortex-M3 & AN399 Cortex-M7), Ka-Ro electronics industrial SoM modules, Embest MarS Board, Boundary Devices i.MX6 Quad Plus Nitrogen6_MAX and SoloX Nitrogen6sx embedded boards, Technexion Pico i.MX6UL compute module, ZII VF610 Development Board, Linksys Viper (E4200v2 / EA4500) WiFi router, Buffalo Kurobox Pro NAS, samtec VIN|ING 1000 vehicle communication interface, Amazon Kindle Fire first generation tablet and ebook reader,  OnRISC Baltos iR 2110 and 3220 embedded industrial PCs, TI AM5728 IDK, TI AM3359 ICE-V2, and TI DRA722 Rev C EVM development systems.

MIPS architecture changelog:

  • Add support for relocatable kernel so it can be loaded someplace besides the default 1MB.
  • Add KASLR support using relocatable support
  • Add perf counter feature
  • Add support for extending builtin cmdline
  • seccomp: Support compat with both O32 and N32
  • ath79: Add support for DTB passed using the UHI boot protocol, remove the builtin DTB support, add zboot debug serial support, add initial support for DPT-Module, Dragino MS14 (Dragino 2), and Onion Omega
  • BMIPS: Add BCM6358 support, add Whirlwind (BMIPS5200) initialization code, add support for BCM63268
  • Lantiq: Add support for device tree file from boot loader
  • Add basic Loongson 3A support
  • Add support for CN73xx, CN75xx and CN78xx
  • Octeon: Add DTS for D-Link DSR-1000N
  • Detect DSP v3 support
  • Detect MIPSr6 Virtual Processor support
  • Enable ptrace hw watchpoints on MIPS R6
  • Probe the M6250 CPUand the P6600 core
  • Support sending SIG_SYS to 32bit userspace from 64bit kernel
  • qca: introduce AR9331 devicetree
  • ralink: add MT7628 EPHY LEDs pinmux support
  • smp-cps: Add nothreads kernel parameter
  • smp-cps: Support MIPSr6 Virtual Processors
  • MIPS64: Support a maximum at least 48 bits of application virtual

For even much more details, you can check out Linux 4.7 changelog with comments only generated using git log v4.6..v4.7 --stat. Alternatively, and much easier to read, you can head to kernelnewbies.org to learn more about Linux 4.7 changes.

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

July 11th, 2016 11 comments

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

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

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

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

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Specs

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

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

Windows

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

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Then I installed the software below:

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

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

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Morefine M1+ Partitions – Click to Enlarge

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

Thermal Design

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

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Windows Gaming

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

HTPC

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

Wifi

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

Morefine_M1+_WiFi_Performance

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

Android

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

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

Misc

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

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

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Bios

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

One final note

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

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Conclusion

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

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

ARMADA 8040 Networking Community Board with a Quad Core ARM Cortex A72 SoC Coming Soon for $300 and Up

June 29th, 2016 21 comments

Developers interested in ARMv8 server or networking boards are starting to have more and more affordable choices. After AMD Opteron A1100 series based LeMaker Cello board, and Softiron Overdrive 1000 server, SolidRun is now working on ARMADA 8040 networking community board powered by Marvell ARMA8040 quad core Cortex A72 network processor.

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ARMADA 8040 networking board (mrvl8040) preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – ARMADA 8040 (88F8040) quad core Cortex A72 processor @ up to 2.0 GHz with MoChi architecture
  • System Memory – 4GB DDR4 DIMM by default
  • Storage – 4x SATA 3.0 port + micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit RJ45 port, 1x SFP SGMII @ 2.5Gbps, dual 10Gbps copper with auto switchover to dual SFP+
  • Expansion – 1x PCIe-x4 3.0 slot, Linaro 96Boards expansion slot exposing GPIO, UART, I2C and SPI, Marvell TDM module header
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x micro USB ports
  • Debugging – Console port (UART) over microUSB connector; 20-pin Connector for CPU JTAG debugger; OpenOCD debugger support over FTDI device
  • Power Supply – 12V DC via power jack or ATX power supply
  • Dimensions – Mini-ITX form factor (170 mm x 170 mm)

The complete hardware specifications have not been released yet, so many of the features above are derived from the 3D renders of the board. The board targets OpenDataPlane (ODP), OpenFastPath (OFP) and ARM network functions virtualization (NFV) ecosystem communities. The software will include a fully open source ODP implementation with  U-Boot 2015.x, mainline U-Boot, UEFI EDK2, Linux LTS kernel 4.4.x, mainline Linux, Yocto 2.1 and netmap.

Marvell_ARMADA_8040_Block_Diagram

Marvell ARMADA 8040 Block Diagram

ARMADA 8040 community networking board is scheduled to ship early September (early access) or mid October, but SolidRun is already taking pre-orders with a $50 discount bringing the price down to $299 with 4GB RAM, but you may want to add the power supply for $10 more. Marvell also plans to launch 8-,16- and 32-core versions of ARMADA 8040 SoC in in Q1 2017, but it’s unknown whether they’ll make it in to community boards.

Via ElectronicsWeekly

$599 Softiron Overdrive 1000 Server is Powered by AMD Opteron A1100 64-bit ARM Processor

June 26th, 2016 15 comments

ARMv8 servers have been around for a year or so, but normally only available to companies, mostly due to their very high price. LeMaker Cello board based on AMD Opteron A1120 quad core SoC have changed that since it’s priced at $299, but I’m not sure it’s shipping right now, and it’s not a complete solution fitted with memory and storage, and lacks an enclosure. The good news is that Softiron has just launched Overdrive 1000 server powered by AMD Opteron A1100 series processor, with 8GB DDR4 RAM, a 1TB drive, and a case.

Softiron_Overdrive_1000Softiron Overdrive 1000 server specifications:

  • SoC – AMD Opteron A1100 series quad core ARM Cortex A57 processor
  • System Memory – 2x RDIMM slots fitted with 8GB DDR4 DRAM and expandable to 64GB
  • Storage – 2x SATA 3.0 connector with one fitted with  a 1TB HDD
  • Connectivity – 1x GBase-T Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Power Supply – ATX power supply; 100~240V @ 50-60Hz
  • Dimensions – 315 x 222 x 76 mm or 463 x 385 x 145 mm (Product page vs product brief info)
  • Weight – 3.65 kg or 5.2 kg

A standard UEFI boot environment is used, and while you could install your distribution of choice, the server is pre-loaded with openSUSE Leap including a standard Linux GNU tool chain, platform device drivers, the Apache web server, MySQL, PHP, Xen, KVM Hypervisor, Docker, and OpenJDK 64-bit ARM.

I could not find much in the way of demo, but you can listen to ARM and Softiron representatives explaining why it’s a good choice…

If you’d like to go ahead, and get one, you can purchase Softiron Overdrive 1000 directly on the company’s website for $599 + shipping. In my case (Asia based), it would cost $87.06 via UPS, which looks not too bad considering the weight…

Via Andrew Wafaa