Higole F7G Plus Review – An affordable rugged tablet tested with Ubuntu 20.04 & Windows 11

Higole F7G Plus rugged tablet review

Ruggedized industrial-use PCs are typically expensive so it is refreshing to see Higole F7G Plus, an Intel Gemini Lake Refresh tablet, being offered at an affordable price. Higole kindly sent one for review and I’ve looked at functionality and performance running on Ubuntu and also its Windows performance.

Hardware Overview

The Higole F7G Plus is a 10.1 inch IPS touch screen rugged industrial fanless tablet that uses Intel’s 14 nm Gemini Lake Refresh N4120 processor which is a quad-core 4-thread 1.10 GHz Celeron processor boosting to 2.60 GHz with Intel’s UHD Graphics.

Designwise, meeting the MIL-STD-810G standard which is the de facto ‘ruggedized’ standard for consumer products and covers whether the device can work in a broad range of environmental conditions including surviving dropping, is evidenced by the thick protective shell around the tablet.

To ensure its IP67 Certification for waterproofing each of the ports are covered by detachable rubber grommets:

These grommets need to be carefully pushed into their recesses to ensure a fully watertight seal and they are arranged as four-panel covers around the table. Looking first at the top left, removing the grommet reveals a headphone jack, sim card slot, micro SD card slot, and a Type-C USB 3.0 port. Below in the bottom left panel are a USB 3.0 port, a micro HDMI port, and a power jack. Along the top are rubber-covered push buttons for ‘F1’, power on/off, and volume up/down. On the right, the top panel contains a single COM port and the bottom right panel houses a full-sized Gigabit Ethernet port and a further USB 3.0 port. The bottom of the tablet includes a small waterproof pogo pin panel as the tablet can be connected to a dock station.

Two docks are available. The first is a desk docking station that also includes a power jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a Fast Ethernet port, a COM port, and a Kensington lock slot.

There is also a vehicle docking station that includes similar ports and comes with a variety of accessories:

Internally to the tablet is soldered-on 8GB LPDDR4 2133MHz memory operating in dual-channel and a soldered-on Intel Wireless-AC 3165 chip together with soldered-on 128GB eMMC storage (the review model included Windows 11 Pro installed).

The tablet is also available with optional industrial/commercial-use configurations and the review tablet included a fingerprint reader, a QR scanner, an NFC reader, and support for 4G LTE.

Finally, the tablet includes a carrying handle and hand strap holder like the earlier Gole F7 (Apollo Lake), also reviewed on CNX Software.

The full specifications state:

 

Review Methodology

The specifications include Windows as a supported operating system however for Ubuntu it intriguingly states ‘Test by end user’. So for this review, I will specifically test Ubuntu and whether the ‘industrial/commercial’ configuration inclusions mentioned above will work properly. However, for comparison, I’ll also include looking at performance under Windows as well and compare the performance against some of the more recently released mini PCs.

I will use Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS and Windows 11 version 21H2 and test with my usual selection of Linux and Windows benchmarks which includes Thomas Kaiser’s ‘sbc-bench’ which is a small set of different CPU performance tests focusing on server performance when run on Ubuntu. I will also use ‘Phoronix Test Suite’ and benchmark with the same set of tests on both Ubuntu and Windows for comparison purposes. On Ubuntu, I will also compile the v5.4 Linux kernel using the default config as a test of performance using a real-world scenario.

Prior to benchmarking, I perform all necessary installations and updates to run the latest versions of both OSes. I also capture some basic details of the device for each OS.

Higole F7G Plus Ubuntu Testing

Initially, the F7G Plus came installed with a licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro so after shrinking the Windows partition by 50 GB I created a new partition into which I successfully installed Ubuntu 20.04.4 as dual boot:

The display’s touch screen worked and appeared immediately in landscape mode. It also supports fractional scaling which is useful when using the touch screen interface which is otherwise too small to use without a (not included) stylus:

Whilst Ubuntu provides a limited screen-based keyboard when using the touch interface I found that the ‘onboard’ application was required for full functionality, for example when requiring the control key.

After installation and updates, a brief check showed working Wi-Fi and Bluetooth however audio didn’t work:

So I first tested the headphone jack but nothing was detected and again audio was not working:

I then tried booting the latest Ubuntu 22.04 (Jammy Jellyfish) development ISO from a ‘LiveUSB’ however audio still wasn’t detected.

Next, I checked the 4G LTE which was detected and working:

as was the micro SD card:

The final port in the top left panel is the Type-C USB port. Testing revealed that this is data only and video output is not possible. Using a Samsung 980 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD housed in a ‘USB to M.2 NVMe adapter’ (ORICO M2PAC3-G20 M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure) also confirmed that it was only a USB 3.0 port (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 i.e. 5 Gbit/s):

Next testing the USB port of the bottom panel confirmed it was also USB 3.0:

as was the USB port in the opposite bottom right panel.

The other port in the bottom left panel is the micro HDMI port. I had a few problems getting this to work properly but I suspect this is because my HDMI adapter is worn and about to fail completely which is an unfortunate issue common to these small HDMI ports and why video from the Type-C port would have been so welcome. However once connected HDMI audio was also not recognized:

However, this could be successfully fixed by adding ‘snd_intel_dspcfg.dsp_driver=1’ as a GRUB2 kernel boot parameter:

The bottom right panel includes an Ethernet port that is capable of one gigabit per second speeds:

Whilst connected to the desk dock I also tested its two USB ports which were confirmed to be High-Speed USB 2.0:

and the dock’s Ethernet port was a Fast Ethernet port:

Both cameras worked with the rear 5 Megapixel camera as expected capable of a larger range of resolutions…

…than the front camera:

Looking at the remaining ‘industrial/commercial’ functionality, firstly the fingerprint reader:

is not supported by ‘libfprint’ on Linux.

However, both the QR scanner and NFC reader worked without issue. Simply pressing the ‘F1’ button and placing a barcode into the red light emitting from the scanner resulted in it being recognized and captured into an application, in this instance, notepad:

Likewise, after placing an NFC card (I used an Opal card which is a contactless transport smartcard ticket issued for public transport in NSW, Australia) over the NFC reader on the back of the device it was recognized and the tablet beeped with the card number again being captured into the notepad application.

Finally, the key hardware information under Ubuntu 20.04.4 when connected to the dock is as follows:


I then set the CPU Scaling Governor to ‘performance’ and ran my Linux benchmarks for which the majority of the results are text-based but the graphical ones included:

the latter can be directly compared to the result from running ‘Heaven’ on Windows:

I also ran PassMark PerformanceTest Linux:

which similarly can be directly compared to the results from when it was run on Windows:

Running my ‘Phoronix Test Suite’ benchmarks encountered two issues. There was an error when running the ‘Furmark’ test in Windows so the test had to be run using a resolution setting of 1024 x 768. Also the ‘Selenium’ test failed as usual when running with ‘Chrome’ due to the benchmark driver used by the test not being supported by the current Chrome release so the Octane tests were run manually and edited into the final results. The full set of results was:

All these results can then be compared with other recent mini PCs:

showing this is a low-powered CPU and iGPU combination and the results highlight the impact on performance caused by the slow eMMC storage.

Windows 11 Testing

The HiGole F7G Plus came installed with a licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro version 21H1 which after applying updates was build 22000.556. A quick look at the hardware information showed it is aligned to the specification:

The memory showed limited details in HWiNFO and GPU-Z:

A brief check showed that everything was working including the audio and fingerprint reader.

Similar to Ubuntu setting the scale to 150% was useful when using the touch screen interface;

I then set the power mode to ‘High performance’ and ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

As mentioned above the ‘Furmark’ test from Phoronix Test Suite refused to run in the default full screen mode:

so a resolution of 1024 x 768 was used and the full set of results was:

The complete results together with a comparison against other recent mini PCs are:

 

Video Playback in Browsers (YouTube) & Kodi

For real-world testing, I played some videos in Edge, Chrome, and Kodi on Windows and in Firefox, Chrome, and Kodi on Ubuntu. Windows performed best with browsers playing 4K @ 30 FPS flawlessly whereas on Ubuntu 1080p @ 30 FPS was required for the same quality of playback. 4K videos didn’t fare so well and neither did H.265 encoded videos. The following tables summarise all the tests and results for each:

 

HiGole F7G Plus thermals

The F7G Plus uses passive cooling and running a stress test on Ubuntu saw the CPU temperature rise to a peak of 81°C which triggered thermal throttling to then average the temperature down to around 77°C for the final part of the test:

During the stress test at an ambient room temperature of 22.6°C, only the back of the device warmed up significantly but it was not too hot to touch and measured at around 40°C.

If the CPU frequency is monitored during the stress test it can be seen that during the first part of the test whilst the temperature was climbing it averaged 2.2 GHz which then dropped to an average of 2.0 GHz for the remaining duration of the test as a result of the throttling:

Networking

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’ with the tablet undocked:

The 2.4 GHz performance was particularly poor compared to other devices using the same WiFi chip.

HiGole F7G Glus battery testing

The tablet uses an 8,000 mAh battery with the specifications claiming around 8 hours of usage for FHD local video playback. To test, I looped a 1080p @ 30 FPS video playing in Edge. After about five hours of continuous playing the charge level dipped below 50% which aligns with the expected capacity:

The device was then placed in the desk docking station and allowed to recharge which took around eight hours:

 

Final Observations

Whilst this is a low-powered tablet using an older CPU and iGPU with only 12 execution units, it is also relatively inexpensive for a ruggedized device. Equipped with a high-quality IPS touch screen, the optional port functionality meets the typical needs for industrial or commercial usage. The fact that almost everything works under Ubuntu with the exception of audio and the fingerprint reader still makes this a viable device for those whose needs also include running specific Linux applications.

HighlightsLimitations
Rugged and waterproofNo Type-C USB video out
Industrial / commercial port functionality
Slow eMMC storage
Relative low costAudio and fingerprint not working in Ubuntu

I’d like to thank Higole for providing the F7G Plus for review. Further details can be found on Higole’s product page, or if ordering directly, indicative pricing can be found on the online store.

 

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10 Replies to “Higole F7G Plus Review – An affordable rugged tablet tested with Ubuntu 20.04 & Windows 11”

    1. The battery is usually a weak spot in budget electronics.

      Of course, the user doesn’t discover this until later. The only safe approach is just assume you’ll need to replace it in 6 months and then decide if the purchase still makes sense.

    1. I’ve noticed rugged devices often come with older processors, possibly because the certifications take time to be approved.

  1. I had to look in your spec png to find the weight of this tablet, 1.15kg, not as heavy as I expected. It’s a 16:10 display which is at least slightly civilized. It seems to cost around $420? Or is your configuration more upscale. Anyway this is kind of interesting. Any idea if it supports a drawing pen?

    1. I weighed the test unit which at the time had the carrying handle and hand strap holder attached as per the picture above and it was 1.285 kg. The unit listed for $419.99 only has a 800×1280 resolution screen and lists the NFC, QR code scanner and 4G LTE modules as optional whereas these were included on the test unit which also included a 1200×1920 resolution screen so it likely retails for slightly more. I’d recommend asking Higole directly about ‘pen’ compatibility as they may have tested various models and could make recommendations.

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