Vorke V1 Plus Celeron J3455 Mini PC Review with Windows and Ubuntu

Most Intel based mini PCs use processors classified as ‘Mobile’ as these have lower thermal design power (TDP) ratings which is the maximum amount of heat generated by the processor:

However, the new Vorke V1 Plus has incorporated a ‘Desktop’ processor namely the Intel Celeron J3455. On paper this processor looks like it should perform similar to the Intel Pentium N4200 processor but with a tradeoff between being a cheaper processor to purchase but more expensive to run due to the increased power requirements.

Geekbuying provided a Vorke V1 Plus for review so let’s start by taking a look at the physical characteristics.

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The device comes in a plain box and was supplied with the ‘right AC Adapter’ for my country.

The first observation is that it is quite a large device. At just over 6” square (153mm) and nearly 1.5” tall (38mm) it is the biggest mini PC I’ve seen with an Apollo Lake processor.

It has a large (white) power button on top which is very ‘soft touch’ making it easy to accidentally switch off the device simply by a glancing contact for example when picking up or moving the device.

There are four USB ports with the front ones being 2.0 and back ones 3.0. Design-wise mixing these to include one of each front and back might have been better as connecting a wired keyboard either means using a ‘valuable’ rear 3.0 port or having untidy cabling from the front 2.0 port.

The front also has an IR receiver and the IR Remote Control is an optional extra.

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Otherwise the specification is interesting for not having an eMMC card but a replaceable mSATA SSD of 64 GB together with the ability to add a full sized 2.5” SSD as well. The HDMI is 2.0a and so it supports [email protected]

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Booting the device and Windows asks the familiar basic set-up questions before displaying the desktop. A quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification.

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Unfortunately the installed version of Windows is old (version 1703) and is missing the ‘Fall Creators Update’.

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Whilst it is ‘activated’ it also includes some setting changes (e.g. the computer name) and additional icons are present on the desktop.

There is also a device without a driver showing up in the ‘Device Manager’. As a result I decided to install the latest Windows ISO (version 1709) from Microsoft making sure it was fully updated with the latest patches:

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And whilst the resultant Windows was still correctly activated:

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several devices were missing drivers. Fortunately, a full set of drivers is available from the Vorke support page, and it is simply a case of downloading and unzipping the file and updating each of those devices:

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which results in one device still missing a driver similar to how to mini PC first came:

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Interestingly the missing drivers relate to the ‘Intel Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework’ including the ‘Fan Participant’ driver and this may explain an issue with Ubuntu covered later below.

Once everything was updated a healthy amount of disk space remains available:

As usual I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

which confirms the performance to be similar or better than the N4200 SoC although this in part may be attributable to the improved disk performance because of using an mSATA SSD:

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Next I shrunk the Windows partition and created new a 10 GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu. I used a standard Ubuntu desktop ISO however I needed to change the OS ‘selection’ in the BIOS:

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I first ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:


which shows the memory as dual-channel.

Running my usual suite of Phoronix tests generated mixed performance results compared with N4200 devices again likely being affected by the faster mSATA disk:

Ubuntu’s Octane result was slightly better than in Windows:

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Looking at the device’s performance against other Intel Apollo Lake devices:

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shows that overall the device performs well.

Playing videos under Windows using a browser (either Edge or Chrome) worked without issue:

 

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I also tried playing a [email protected] video which played fine in Edge:

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but resulted in dropped frames in Chrome:

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although the number of dropped frames was lower than when the same video was played on the N4200 Intel Compute Card which has HDMI 1.4b:

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Under Ubuntu the previously seen issue of playing 4K videos in Chrome was again encountered and playing the video at 1080p resolved stuttering and frame loss:

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And it was a similar situation with [email protected] videos in Chrome although playing at 1080p now results in dropped frames:

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Running Kodi on Windows with a VP9 codec encoded video uses software for decoding resulting in high CPU usage and a slightly jerky playback:

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compared with a H.264 codec encoded video which uses hardware to decode and plays smoothly:

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as do videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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Kodi on Ubuntu uses hardware to decode all three codecs:

 

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with no issues with the playback of the videos. However some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

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The ‘elephant in the room’ with this device is the noise from the internal fan. Maybe as a result of running a desktop processor rather than a mobile one means a larger more powerful fan is required or maybe it is just the type of fan used. However it can be loud. Under Windows the fan’s running speed (and therefore loudness) is dependent on internal temperatures i.e. workload. Under Ubuntu the fan runs continuously. The fact that Windows required specific drivers for the ‘Intel ® Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework’ including a ‘Fan Participant’ driver might indicate a fan driver issue with Ubuntu. Even trying the latest Ubuntu by running the daily ‘Bionic Beaver’ ISO updated with the latest v4.15.1 kernel did not fix this issue.

I’ve tried to make a video to demonstrate the fan’s noise by including a battery-powered clock next to the device to act as a reference in comparing how audible the fan actually is. In the video initially the device is in the BIOS boot menu and the fan is running at low speed and is just audible. As the device boots into Ubuntu initially the fan stops and then after loading the kernel the fan comes back on at high speed and is noticeably audible in a normal operating environment:

Albeit noisy the fan was able to prevent any thermal throttling:

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and kept the external temperature below 30°C.

which is not surprising given the fan is quite a large component in the device:

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Another two typical ‘pain’ points with Ubuntu on mini PCs are the micro SD card reader and headphone audio. However with this device, both worked without issue:


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Just for reference the headphones work under Windows:

Network connectivity throughput was measured using ‘iperf’:

with the wifi performance being similar to comparable mini PC devices.

Power consumption was measured as:

  • Powered off – 0.4 Watts
  • Standby* – 0.9 Watts
  • Boot menu – 5.7 Watts (no fan running) 6.4 Watts (fan running quietly)
  • Idle – 4.7 Watts (Windows) and 4.9 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed** – 14.3 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback*** – 8.1 Watts (4K in Windows) and 9.2 Watts (HD in Ubuntu)

* Standby is after Windows has been halted.
** Initially there is a high power demand before reducing to a constant rate.
*** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

The results show a slightly higher power consumption than comparable mini PC devices which is in line with expectations from using a ‘Desktop’ processor.

The BIOS seems to be unrestricted:

Finally I installed an SSD using the supplied mounting kit:

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The SSD SATA port is accessed by removing the single screw on the base plate underneath the device and after fixing the bracket to the SSD it is then secured in place with a screw at the top of the SSD as the base plate will also secure the SSD by using the hole on the right:

I then successfully installed and booted Intel’s Clear Linux OS by selecting the SSD from the ‘F7’ boot menu:

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Overall the device performs well with the exception of the noisy fan and for some including Ubuntu users this may not be acceptable. It is a rather large mini PC and this needs to be considered before purchasing. Performance is comparable with an Intel Pentium N4200 mini PC although it will cost more to run due to increased power consumption. If you’re interested in Vorke V1 Plus , you can purchase it on GeekBuying for $159.99 including shipping [Update: using GKBPC1 coupon should bring the price down to $149.99].

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Ian Charles
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Ian Charles

h264ify will fix the Chrome/Chromium issues with Youtube.

PhilS
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PhilS

Had one of these but sent it back because the fan was just too loud.

Shame that they can’t come up with a silent one because the rest of the specs would otherwise make it a worthwhile proposition.

Drone
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Drone

@PhilS
“Had one of these but sent it back because the fan was just too loud. Shame that they can’t come up with a silent one because the rest of the specs would otherwise make it a worthwhile proposition.”

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https://www.amazon.com/ASRock-Motherboard-Combo-Motherboards-J3455B-ITX/dp/B01M7OUO62

Mark
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Mark

I have one of these n followed a forumer’s advice to replace the thermal pad for the CPU with thermal paste and slightly sand down the 4 heatsink stands using a small file.This greatly improve the thermal performance n the fan hardly kick in at all.