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Posts Tagged ‘mini pc’

Azulle Byte3 Mini PC Review – Windows 10, Linux Support, Benchmarks, and Video Playback

The Azulle Byte3 is a fanless Apollo Lake device featuring both M.2 slot and a SATA connector, as well as supporting HDMI and VGA. It includes USB (both 2.0 and 3.0 including a Type-C port) as well as Gigabit Ethernet:

 

It features an Apollo Lake N3450 SoC and comes with 32GB of storage plus an option of either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a further option of either with or without Windows 10 Pro meaning Linux users can save around USD 20.

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Azulle provided me with a device for review and it came in a presentation box complete with a power adapter, and remote control together with a quick guide pamphlet.

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Whilst the power adapter includes an interchangeable plug it only came with one suitable for the US.

Looking at the detail specifications:

 

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it is important to realize that the Type-C USB is USB 3.0 which provides a theoretical transfer speed of up to 5 Gbps, and that this particular device does not support “alternate mode” protocols meaning it cannot be used for HDMI output.

The device under review is the version with 4GB of RAM together with Windows Pro installed which became fully activated after connecting to the Internet:

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The basic hardware matched the specification:

with just under half the storage used after Windows updates:

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Running my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

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The performance is as expected for the N3450 SoC and is comparable with other Apollo Lake devices: ECDREAM A9, BBen MN10, and Beelink AP34 Ultimate.

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Next I installed Ubuntu to the eMMC as dual-boot. Fortunately, the BIOS supports Linux by configuring the setting under Chipset/South Bridge/OS Selection:

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So it was only necessary to change the OS from ‘Windows’ to ‘Intel Linux’ and use a standard Ubuntu ISO. Alternatively you could leave the setting on ‘Windows’ and respin a standard Ubuntu ISO using ‘isorespin.sh’ script with the ‘–apollo’ option.

Performance is again as expected:

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and can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake devices:

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Revisiting the hardware using Linux commands additionally shows the full-sized SD card is running the slower HS200 interface:

and that ‘Headphones’ shows up in the sound settings only when an external speaker is connected through the 3.5mm audio jack:

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Turning to real-world Windows usage cases the first tested was watching a 4K video using Microsoft Edge which worked perfectly.

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The same video when watched using Google Chrome resulted in the very occasional dropped frame:

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with the GPU having to work harder.

Watching the same video and changing the video quality to high definition (1080p resolution) results in zero dropped frames:

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Unfortunately the same video in Google Chrome on Ubuntu at 4K was unwatchable with excessive dropped frames and a stalled network connection after a short while:

 

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At 1080p the video is watchable with only the occasional dropped frame:

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Running Kodi on both Windows and Ubuntu show similar ‘differences’ in the results.

On Windows if the video is encoded using the VP9 codec then decoding is using software resulting in high CPU usage:

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However when the video is encoded with the H.264 codec then Windows uses hardware to decode:

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and similar for videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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with no issues playing the videos.

On Ubuntu hardware is used to decode all three codecs:

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However some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

 

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As previously mentioned the device is passively cooled and does not require an internal fan:

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although the device can get quite warm:

with the highest observed reading being 45°C.

Inside the device it is possible to mount both an SSD and an M.2 SSD:

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To open the case you only have to remove the outer four screws as the inner four are used to secure the SSD. The M.2 slot is for the longer 2280 card and you are meant to attach one of the included thermal strips to the aluminium heat sink for best results. I found that you could use the heat sink to effectively hold down a smaller 2242 M.2 card in place through a combination of force and gravity if you don’t have the correct size. The included instructions do not cover installation in detail however Azulle have uploaded the following useful videos online:

 

Once both SSDs were connected I then installed LibreELEC (or Just enough OS for Kodi) to the M.2 and Linux Mint to the SSD. Interestingly the M.2 showed up as a UEFI device in the boot menu which may mean installing Windows to an M.2 card is relatively simple although licensing should be considered. The SATA connected SSD was accessible through GRUB as the original Ubuntu installation had already created an NVRAM entry for ubuntu:

which when selected provides a GRUB menu updated with entries for Mint after the installation:

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Notice how the GRUB menu also includes an entry to boot Windows from the eMMC which works despite the OS now being set to Linux in the BIOS. There is also a working entry to access the BIOS (System setup).

Finally the BIOS is reasonably open with the key settings being available.

I’ve found this device to be very flexible. Storage is not an issue given the ability to expand through additional SSD or M.2 or even by using an SD card. Although the memory cannot be upgraded you do have the initial choice of either the 4GB or the 8GM device. Also having a BIOS that supports Linux means that you are not restricted in what OS you can install so the device is a viable HTPC especially as there is no residual noise from a spinning cooling fan. The connectivity and ports including their location on the device are also well planned. I’d like to thank Azulle for providing the Byte3 for review. The mini PC is also sold on Amazon US for $199.99 and up.

Sub $20 TV Box, and 14% Discount on TV Boxes and Mini PCs (Promo)

November 27th, 2017 3 comments

Black Friday is over, but companies still offer discounts for Cyber Monday, and GearBest has some specific deals for TV boxes and mini PCs.

If you are after the cheapest TV box model around, Sunvell T95D based on Rockchip RK3229 with 1GB RAM and 8GB RAM is sold for $18.99 with coupon Bfriday303.

Sunvell T95D

But they also have other models sold at a discount:

You can also use GBTBMP coupon on any TV box or (Intel) mini PC to get a 14% discount on any model, but bear in mind this is limited to China warehouse, and if the product is already discounted, the “normal” price will be set before applying the discount. A few other coupon can be found on the aforelinked page. [Update: GB11.11TVBo coupon may lower the price by 15% instead.]

All coupons listed above are valid until November 30.

ECS LIVA Q Could Be The World’s Smallest 4K mini PC

November 20th, 2017 4 comments

Taiwan based ECS announced several Apollo Lake mini PCs in the past such as Liva Z /ZE based on Intel Celeron N3350/N3450 or Pentium N4200 processor.

The company has now launched a new Apollo Lake model. LIVE Q is powered by either Intel Pentium  N4200 quad core processor, or Intel Celeron N3350 dual core processor, fitted with 2 to 4GB RAM, and the company claims it’s the world’s smallest “4K pocket computer”.

ECS LIVA Q specifications:

  • SoC
    • Intel Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 quad core processor @ 1.1 / 2.5 GHz with 18EU Intel HD graphics; 6W TDP
    • Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 dual core processor @ 1.1 / 2.4 GHz with 12EU Intel HD graphics; 6W TDP
  • Memory – 2GB/4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 32 or 64GB eMMC flash, micro SD slot up to 128GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Intel WiFi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 1x USB 3.1 Gen1 port, 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Misc – Kensington lock support
  • Power Supply – Input: AC 100-240V,Output: DC 12V / 2A
  • Dimensions – 70 x 70 x 31.4 mm
  • Weight – 260g

The mini PC supports Windows 10 64-bit, or Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, but the company recommends Windows since they do not provide technical support for other operating systems. The devices will ship with a power adapter, one VESA bracket with 6 screws, and a Quick Guide & Driver DVD. Liva Q is clearly tiny, but is it the smallest 4K mini PC? It depends. If we only count the area (70x70mm), and exclude “Android mini PCs” then maybe, but if instead we consider the volume, then most likely not, as many TV sticks have a smaller volume.

Pricing and availability information is unknown at this point, but eventually we should get more information, and photos on the product page.

Via AndroidTVBox.eu

BBen MN10 TV Stick Review – Windows 10, Ubuntu 17.04, Benchmarks, and Kodi

The BBEN MN10 is the second Apollo Lake device to be released in the stick form-factor and on paper looks to have a lot to offer:

It features an Apollo Lake N3350 SoC, an unusual 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and is cooled by a ‘mute’ fan. The devices comes in a plain box with a power adapter, and a leaflet style manual.

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It also included a three-pin UK power adapter, as this was advertised as the ‘BBen MN10 Mini PC  –  UK PLUG  BLACK’.

Looking at the detail specifications:

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We can immediately see discrepancies as the device does not have a ‘RJ45 Port Speed: 1000M LAN’ port, and was not supplied with ‘1 x HDMI Cable’ nor ‘1 x Remote Control’.

Powering on the device and the ‘mute’ fan is also a miss-representation as it starts immediately and is noticeably noisy. It also runs at full speed regardless of workload so the noise is a constant reminder that the device is switched-on:

Starting Windows and the disappointment continues with a message informing that ‘We can’t activate Windows on this device because you don’t have a valid digital license or product key’:

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also ‘Intel Remote Keyboard Host App’ is pre-installed (see icon top left) and the computer name is already been set as ‘BBEN’.

As a result I tried installing Microsoft’s Windows 10 Home ISO but because of the confirmed lack of license, I then installed Microsoft’s Windows 10 Enterprise product evaluation ISO in order to review the device.

The basic hardware matched the specification:

with plenty of free-space available post installation:

I then ran some standard benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows. These are a new set of benchmarks as I’ve updated the tools and releases specifically for devices running Windows version 1709 and later:

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As can be seen the performance is as expected for the N3350 SoC and is comparable with other devices such as ECDREAM A9 or Beelink AP34 Ultimate:

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Next I installed Ubuntu as dual-boot using my ‘isorespin.sh’ script, which includes installing the rEFInd bootloader to enable booting on Apollo Lake devices when the BIOS doesn’t support Linux:

Performance is again as expected:

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And can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake and earlier Intel Atom devices:

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Revisiting the hardware using Linux commands additionally shows the micro SD card is running the slower HS200 interface:

and rather interestingly a S/PDIF audio interface shows up in the sound settings. However given there is only a 3.5mm audio jack and when an external speaker is connected through it, sound works when selecting the S/PDIF interface. This again is somewhat misleading.

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Looking at real-work Windows usage cases the first being watching a 4K video using Microsoft Edge which works flawlessly:

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The same video when watched using Google Chrome results in occasional dropped frames:

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but notice how much harder the CPU and GPU are working.

Watching the same video and changing the video quality to high definition (1080p resolution) results in a better experience.

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Unfortunately this can’t be said for watching the same video in Google Chrome on Ubuntu. At 4K the video is unwatchable with excessive dropped frames and a stalled network connection after a short while:

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Even at 1080p the video still stutters:

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Running Kodi on both Windows and Ubuntu show similar ‘differences’ in the results.

On Windows if the video is encoded using the VP9 codec then decoding is using software resulting in high CPU usage and high internal temperatures:

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However when the video is encoded with the H.264 codec then Windows uses hardware to decode:

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and similar for videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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with no issues playing the videos.

On Ubuntu hardware is used to decode all three codecs:

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however some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

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As previously mentioned the internal fan is screaming away merrily although it’s effectiveness with internal cooling is somewhat questionable:

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It does assist in keeping the device at a safe external temperature:

with the highest observed reading being 41°C.

So looking at the physical characteristics of the device its size is only slightly larger than the second generation Intel Compute Stick:

Initially I used the device upside down as it seemed sensible to have the case vents exposed:

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However cracking open the case reveals the fan actually uses the side vent between the two USB ports:

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with the bottom vents for cooling the memory and storage chips:

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Remarkably the WiFi chip appeared to have been exposed to excessive heat at some stage:

yet had still passed inspection as evidenced by the green ‘Pass’ sticker.

The only identifiable marking on the board were on the bottom under the sticky black coverings:

The BIOS is minimalistic:

which is an issue when booting with a connected USB to Ethernet adapter, as it defaults to PXE booting which needs to timeout before booting occurs from internal storage. A workaround is to boot Windows from the boot menu after pressing F7:

Notice also that the BIOS is unbranded and simply displays the Intel logo.

Finally after using Windows then Ubuntu and returning to Windows I encountered that audio over HDMI had disappeared:

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and reinstalling the Intel HD Graphics driver didn’t fix it.

So to sum up this is a device with specific limitations which the buyer should be aware of prior to purchase. I’d like to thank Gearbest for providing the BBEN MN10 for review. They sell it for $197.42 shipped. You’ll also find it on Aliexpress from various sellers with not-activated or activated Windows 10 Home / Pro.

Ugoos UM4 TV Box/Dongle Runs Android 7.1.2 with Some Uncommon Features

November 10th, 2017 4 comments

Ugoos UM3 was launched in 2014 with Android 4.4 on Rockchip RK3288 processor, and could be described a a tiny TV box, or large TV stick. That form factor must have had some success, and they later launched AM2 model powered by Amlogic S905 plus Android 6.0.

The company has now just launched Ugoos UM4 with the same form factor but with Rockchip RK3328 processor running Android 7.1.2. Ugoos likes to add some software features often not found on other devices, and that would normally require hacking the firmware, or purchasing apps.

Ugoos UM4 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4 memory
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash (8GB optional) + micro SD card slot up to 32 GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a female port up to 4k @ 60 fps with CEC and HDR support, 3.5mm AV output with composite and stereo audio
  • Connectivity – Dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 OTG port (USB type A receptacle)
  • Misc – 2.5mm IR jack
  • Power Supply – 5V/2.5A via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 109 x 60 x 20 mm
  • Weight – 80 grams

The device ships with a user manual, a power adapter, a  short HDMI cable, an IR remote controller, and a extension cable with IR receiver. I’ve not found the latter in that many TV stick, and it allows you to use an IR remote control with the stick even if it is connected behind your TV. But what could be the most interesting with this device are the extra Ugoos settings in the firmware.

You’ll get a choice of 7 submenus with some options that are not commonly found in other TV boxes:

  • Root – Enable/disable root access which can be useful as some apps require a system without root, while others won’t work with root
  • File server/client – NFS and SAMBA client, and SAMBA server. I understand the clients make your SAMBA/NFS server accessible from any apps.
  • Hardware Monitor – Shows network usage, CPU info, RAM info in notification bar
  • (Fireeasy) Wireless Assistant – Remote control app for Android / iOS (download)
  • Gamepad settings – Gamepad buttons mapping app. Profiles are shareable among users
  • Debug settings – WiFi/USB Adb access, log files management, etc…
  • User scripts – Create init.d directory is enabled, and allows advanced user to run scripts at boot time without rooting the device.

The device also supports automatic frame rate switching (AFRS) with 3 modes: system resolution, video resolution priority, and frequency resolution priority. This does not affect AFRS function in Kodi, which handle this on its own. Finally, digital signage users will be happy to find an option to switch between landscape and portrait mode.

The firmware might be at the beta stage right now, as reviewers and customers are only starting to get samples right now. If you’d like to give it a try yourself, Ugoos UM4 can be purchased on Aliexpress for $89.99 shipped.

$100 CA98 TV Stick is Powered by Intel Celeron N3350 Processor

November 7th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve already seen Apollo Lake TV sticks such as MeegoPad T11, ECDREAM A9, or BBen MN10. Linuxium reviewed ECDREAM A9 model on this blog, and found out that Windows 10 (pre-installed), and Ubuntu 17.04 operating systems ran reasonably well with two main downsides: the relatively slow eMMC flash, and the noisy fan.

Another issue is the size, as with 58mm width, it looks more an hybrid between a mini PC and a TV stick, than an actual TV stick. Another Apollo Lake TV/PC stick is now available with CA98 (aka CSA98) found on Aliexpress for $100, as well as on Shenzhen Indo Technology’s Alibaba page.

CA98 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3350 dual core processor @ 1.1 GHz / 2.4 GHz, 12 EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 200 MHz / 650 MHz; 6W TDP
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash (optional 16, 64 or 128GB) + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio – HDMI + 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.2 (Intel 3165 AC module) with external antenna
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button
  • Power Supply – 12V/1.5A via power barrel
  • Dimensions – 11 cm x 4.7 cm x 1.73 cm
  • Weight – 400 grams (must be package weight?)

The stick is said to run Windows 10 Home & Linux, but based on the description Windows 10 Home is pre-installed, and if you want Linux, you’d have to install it yourself.

The ports arrangement is the same as BBen MN10, so I’d not be surprised if it was based on the same PCB. The dimensions – provided by a customer representative on Alibaba – are not exactly the same, but close enough. The main differences compared to MN10 are the lower memory & storage (2GB/32GB vs 3G/64GB), and different case with an external WiFi antenna.

Via AndroidPC.es

Compulab Fitlet2 Fanless Apollo Lake Mini PC is Designed for Industrial IoT Gateways

November 6th, 2017 4 comments

Compulab Fitlet mini PCs were introduced in January 2015 with AMD Mullins processors, namely AMD A4 Micro-6400T or E1 Micro-6200T both of which including Radeon graphics, and supporting up to 8GB RAM, mSATA, up to two HDMI port, up to four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The company has now launched Fitlet2 mini PCs, replacing AMD processors by Intel Apollo Lake SoCs, supporting up to 16 GB RAM, and designed for “demanding IoT applications” with support for wide temperature range, and long term support and warranty.

Fitlet2 specifications:

  • SoC (from a choice among three)
    • Intel Atom x7-E3950 quad core processor @ 1.6 / 2.0 GHz with 18 EU HD graphics; 12W TDP
    • Intel Atom x5-E3930 dual core processor @ 1.3 / 1.8 GHz with 12 EU HD graphics; 6.5W TDP
    • Intel Celeron J3455 quad core processor @ 1.5 / 2.2 GHz with 12 EU HD graphics; 10W TDP
  • System Memory – 1x SO-DIMM 204-pin DDR3L Non-ECC DDR3L-1866 (1.35V) up to 16GB
  • Storage – M.2 M-key 2260 | 2242 (SATA 3 6 Gbps) or  eMMC (on a module) or 2.5” HDD | SSD; micro SD slot
  • Display – mini DP 1.2 up to 4K @ 60 Hz; HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30 Hz
  • Audio – Stereo line-out | Stereo line-in / mic | 7.1 S/PDIF out | HDMI & DP audio
  • Network Connectivity
    • Up to 4x Gbit Ethernet (Intel I211) – two on-board and additional two through FACET card
    • Optional wireless LAN 802.11ac dual antenna + BT 4.2
    • Optional 4G cellular modem
  • USB – Up to 8x ports: 2x USB 3.0 and up to 6x USB 2.0 – 4 USB ports through FACET card
  • Serial – RS232 port (via micro USB port)
  • Extensions –  Function and Connectivity Extension T-Card (FACET Card) or M.2 E-key
  • Power Supply – DC 9V – 36V input; 5W to 15W consumption
  • Dimensions for 3 different all metal housings
    • Low power housing – 112 mm x 84 mm x 25 mm
    • Performance housing – 112 mm x 84 mm x 34 mm
    • Industrial housing – 112 mm x 112 mm x 25 mm
  • Weight – 350 grams
  • Temperature Range – Up to -40°C to 85°C
  • Relative humidity – 5% – 95% non-condensing
  • Shock, vibration, and dust resistance

The mini PC supports Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSB and Linux Mint, and is compatible with other operating systems. Mounting options include and VESA and DIN rail mounts. The BIOS supports automatic boot on power resume, and settings can be saved to flash memory, so Fitlet2 mini PCs can work without RTC. It’s also possible to disable the power button, a remote power-button connector is present, and an optional TPM module can be added for hardware security.

Beside the switch from AMD to Intel, a new feature of Fitlet2 is support for what Compulab calls FACET cards (Function And Connectivity Extension T-Card), basically mPCIe expansion modules, 4 of which are currently available:

  • FC-LAN with two additional Gigabit Ethernet cards (for a total of four).
  • FC-PCIe and FC-CEM with support for both 4G cellular modem and WiFi
  • FC-USB adds 4 USB ports for a total of 8.

FC-LAN FACET card (Left) connected to Fitlet2 (Right)

Other FACET cards are being working on for PoE, 2.5″ HDD/SSD, and optical LAN. Specifications and design guides for FACET cards for be found in the Wiki, so you could potentially design your own.

The company has also run GeekBench 3 on Fitlet2 computers, and compared to the previous generation Fitlet PCs, they offer both cheaper price, and better (CPU) performance.

Fitlet2 mini PC will be available from Compulab with 5 year warranty and 15 years availability. Pricing starts at $153, but there’s no buy link on their product page, and Fitlet2 is not listed on their Amazon Store yet.

Rikomagic RKM V3 Rockchip RK3328 TV Stick Launched for $63

November 2nd, 2017 4 comments

We’ll know find plenty of devices powered by Rockchip RK3328 from TV boxes to development boards, but if you are interested in getting an Android TV stick based on the processor, I’m only aware of Rikomagic RKM V3 which the company unveiled in September.

However, at the time the TV dongle was not for sale yet, and the company has just launched it for $62.90 including shipping on Aliexpress.

RKM V3 specifications have not changed since the announcement, except we can have info about size and weight:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card up to 32 GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264. 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions – 110 x 48 x 22 mm
  • Weight – 325 grams (for package?)

The stick runs Android 7.1, and ships with a power supply (EU, US, UK, or AU plug), and a short female to male HDMI cable.

RKM V3 is about the same price as Zidoo X7 TV box, and cheaper than their RKM V5 TV stick ($83.90) powered by Rockchip RK3328, but you do pay a premium compared to some RK3328 TV boxes with the same 2GB/8GB configuration such as T98 4K going for under $50.