Posts Tagged ‘windows 10’

T-bao Tbook X8S Pro Apollo Lake Laptop is Equipped with an NVIDIA Geforce GPU

February 8th, 2018 15 comments

Most products based on Intel Apollo Lake processor do so to leverage the low cost and low power of the chip that also embeds Intel HD graphics removing the need for an external graphics card. But T-bao Tbook X8S Pro laptop powered by Intel Celeron J3455 Apollo Lake “Desktop” processor also comes with an NVIDIA GeForce 920M GPU which should boost graphics performance.

Tbook X8S Pro specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron J3455 quad core Apollo Lake processor @ 1.50 / 2.30 GHz with (unused) 12EU Intel HD Graphics 500; 10W TDP
  • GPU – NVIDIA GeForce 920M @ 954 MHz with 2GB RAM
  • System Memory – 6GB DDR3
  • Storage – 128GB eMMC flash or M.2 SSD (unclear), micro SD card slot up to 128 GB
  • Display – 15.6″ IPS screen with 1920×1080 resolution
  • Video Output – HDMI output
  • Audio – Built-in microphone, and stereo speakers; 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB type C port
  • Camera – 2.0MP front camera
  • Battery – 7.4V/9000mAH Li-ion polymer battery
  • Power Supply – 12V/4A
  • Dimensions – 360 x 235 x 18 mm
  • Weight – 1.7 kg

The laptop comes pre-loaded with Windows 10, and ships with a power supply, and user manual.

I could not find a direct comparison between GeForce 920M and Intel HD Graphics 500, but there’s one against the slightly faster Intel HD Graphics 505 found in other Apollo Lake processor, and the NVIDIA card is roughly two to three times faster in 3DMark benchmarks.

T-bao Tbook X8S Pro can be found for $299 and up on sites like GeekBuying and GearBest.


Kodi 18 Features and Improvements (FOSDEM 2018 Video)

February 8th, 2018 6 comments

Most Kodi users are now running Kodi 17.x Krypton that was initially released in February 2017, with the latest point version being Kodi 17.6. At the time of Krypton release, the developers had also started working on Kodi 18 “Leia” which should now be in “alpha”, and the stable release may only be a few months away although Kodi developers do not provide an ETA.

What they did provide however – via Martijn Kaijser at FOSDEM 2018 – is a progress report for Kodi 18 “Leia”, as well as some insights into Kodi 19 whose development has just started.

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Kodi 18 has gone through a lot of cleanup with the code upgraded to C++11 standard, duplicate code and obsolete libraries removed, dropped unmaintained feature, and so on. They also moved non-core features such as audio encoders and decoders, PVR, picture decoding, etc…  to external plugins. This work resulted into 299,476 deleted lines of codes, and 387,205 added lines of codes in Kodi v18 alpha.

Some of the key developments and new features you can expect in Kodi 18 include:

  • XBOX One support with Microsoft’s help
  • Improvements to the core VideoPlayer with easier to maintain, more portable and efficient code, support for DRM protected streams (e.g. Widevine), and potentially future support for PiP, headless mode, and transcoder mode.
  • RetroPlayer retro-gaming emulator is now part of Kodi
  • Rework of input handling using controller add-ons
  • Android now only uses standard Android API functions
  • Windows 64-bit release
  • Better Blu-ray support
  • DASH support
  • Other under the hood changes: Wayland support, Direct Rendering Manager, CMake build system, PVR improvements

As mentioned in the introduction, work on Kodi 19 “Mxxxxx” has also started, and one of the changes is the drop of support for Python 2 add-ons so every add-on will have to move to Python 3. Watch the video for the full picture.

You may also be interested in the presentation slides.

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].

Intel Compute Cards Review – Windows 10 and Ubuntu 17.04 on CD1C64GK, CD1P64GK and CD1M3128MK

The Intel Compute Stick revolutionized the mini PC market through the introduction of x86 based processors making Windows available as an OS option. However, for Intel the biggest target market turned out to be business rather than consumer with digital signage being a key user. As a result Intel have responded with the introduction of the Intel Compute Card. So far they have released four versions of card:

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and they they differ from compute sticks by no longer being standalone mini PCs but dependent on a dock or host device.

The card itself is relatively small with a footprint slightly larger than a standard credit card:

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and is distinguished by the back being printed with details about the card including the model:

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The lack of emphasis on the consumer market is also evident in the rather unobtrusive plain packaging:

On the end that inserts into the dock or host device is a connector which is separated into two sections: a Type C-compliant portion and an extended portion. The Type C portion supports Type C-compliant connections including video with audio and USB. The extended portion supports video with audio, USB, and PCIe. Power is supplied to the card from the device the Compute Card is plugged into using the Type C portion of the connector.

The card uses bidirectional authentication to authenticate a compatible device and card. The authentication uses digital keys which are provisioned by default during manufacturing ensuring only correctly provisioned card and devices work together.

As the card can get hot during heavy workloads it totally relies on the dock or host device for cooling. It is designed so that direct conductive contact with the card surfaces provide heat dissipation. This means the card is capable of operating within all critical component temperature specifications and will produce surface skin temperatures that may violate typical safety guidelines or requirements. To stop the user being burnt when handling the card immediately after use requires the dock or host device to delay the card being ejected if additional cooling is needed to reduce the skin temperature to below 55 °C.

Although the cards now targets OEMs, manufacturers, distributors and channel partners Intel have also released an Intel Compute Card Dock allowing consumers to use a card as a mini PC.

The key specifications of the dock include:

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and it comes with a small power brick with international plug adapters together with a two meter/six foot long power cable and the dock can be used with any of the cards.

Intel kindly provided a dock and three cards (CD1C64GK, CD1P64GK and CD1M3128MK) for review.

After connecting the power cable, a monitor using the HDMI port, a wireless keyboard and mouse that connects through a USB dongle and an ethernet cable, the basic operation requires sliding the card into the dock followed by firmly pushing it in to ensure connectivity.  The card can be removed by pressing the eject button which only works while power is connected. Then depending on the BIOS setting the card will either boot immediately or after the power button is pressed.

As the cards do not come with an OS I first installed Microsoft’s Windows 10 Enterprise product evaluation ISO in order to run my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

  • CD1C64GK Compute Card
  • CD1P64GK Compute Card
  • CD1M3128MK Compute Card

The results show the improvement the newer SoCs have given the cards over the sticks:

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and shows comparable performance with devices using similar SoCs:

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The results for the Core m3 card are significantly better due to the internal storage being an NVME device rather than eMMC however the fan was noticeably audible when running some benchmarks. Interestingly the eMMC performance of the Celeron card was better than the Pentium card and this is attributed to a tolerance in manufacturing of the eMMC rather than a device characteristic and this difference is reflected in some of the benchmark scores.

Next for each device 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 whilst the installation completed successfully the Ubuntu NVRAM entry failed to be created correctly on the Core m3 card and needed to be fixed by manually using the ‘efibootmgr’ command.

For each card I ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:

  • CD1C64GK compute card

  • CD1P64GK compute card

  • CD1M3128MK compute card

Running my usual suite of Phoronix tests shows a similar performance improvement of the cards over the sticks in Ubuntu:

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with Ubuntu’s Octane result being slightly better than in Windows.

Looking at the individual performance of the Intel Apollo Lake cards against similar devices:

shows the cards performed the best:

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

  • CD1C64GK Compute Card
  • CD1P64GK Compute Card
  • CD1M3128MK Compute Card

Under Ubuntu the previously seen issue of playing 4K videos in Chrome was encountered even on the Core m3 card and playing the videos at 1080p resolved stuttering and frame loss:

    • CD1C64GK Compute Card
    • CD1P64GK Compute Card
  • CD1M3128MK Compute Card

And again some HECV videos played properly under Ubuntu while some videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio. I also noticed for the first time that one of the working HECV video was actually very slightly jerky in parts on the Apollo Lake cards but played perfectly on the Core m3 card. The drawback however was that the fan is also noticeably audible when playing the video on the Core m3 card.

The internal temperature when playing videos using KODI on the Apollo Lake cards is very similar whereas it is much higher on the Core m3 card although the dock’s fan was able to prevent any thermal throttling:

and the external temperature did not exceed 33/35°C.

Interestingly the ‘temperature cost’ of KODI is very significant on the Core m3 and was obvious after exiting the application:

Network connectivity throughput measured using ‘iperf’ was similar across the cards:

with the wifi performance measuring much better than comparable mini PC devices.

Power consumption for the dock (DK132EPJ) alone was measured as:

  • Powered off – 0.3 Watts

Power consumption for the Celeron card (CD1C64GK) in the dock was measured as:

  • Powered off – 0.8 Watts
  • *Standby – 1.0 Watts
  • BIOS menu – 5.4 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.8 Watts
  • Idle – 3.9 Watts (Ubuntu) and 5.2 Watts (Windows)
  • **CPU stressed – 8.3 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • ***Video – 7.4 Watts (HD in Ubuntu) and 7.7 Watts (4K in Windows)

Power consumption for the Pentium card (CD1P64GK) in the dock was measured as:

  • Powered off – 0.8 Watts
  • *Standby – 1.0 Watts
  • BIOS menu – 5.1 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.5 Watts
  • Idle – 3.8 Watts (Ubuntu) and 5.0 Watts (Windows)
  • **CPU stressed – 8.2 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • ***Video – 7.8 Watts (HD in Ubuntu) and 7.5 Watts (4K in Windows)

Power consumption for the Core m3 card (CD1M128MK) in the dock was measured as:

  • Powered off – 0.8 Watts
  • *Standby – 1.0 Watts
  • BIOS menu – 9.7 Watts
  • Boot menu – 7.8 Watts
  • Idle – 4.8 Watts (Ubuntu) and 5.0 Watts (Windows)
  • **CPU stressed – 13.0 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • ***Video – 7.7 Watts (HD in Ubuntu) and 7.9 Watts (4K in Windows)

*Standby is after the OS has been halted and card is available for removal.

**The dock’s fan initially creates a high power demand and before reducing to a constant rate.

***The dock’s fan speed changes due to the temperature and consequently the power figures fluctuate. The value is the average of the average high and low power readings.

Finally the BIOS for each card only has a few key settings available:

One issue I encountered when removing a Sandisk Ultra Fit USB from the front port on the dock is that it is very easy to accidentally press ‘eject’ or catch the ‘power’ button resulting in the card shutting down.

The lack of a USB Type-C port on the dock is also a noticeable omission given a DisplayPort is provided. Neither is there an SD or micro SD card slot.

Overall the card and dock combination works well and the performance is as good or better than equivalent mini PCs. The design is well executed and an the card is a great innovation for computing.

The cards come with a three (3) year warranty and the dock comes with a one (1) year warranty no doubt limited because of the internal fan. The support that Intel offers is very good with regular BIOS updates and drivers available from their support website and RMA for defective devices under warranty in the country of purchase.

However for consumers who are less risk-averse they are expensive especially when compared to other mini PCs using the same Apollo Lake SOCs and when the cost of support is not factored into the purchase price.

The price also reflects the premium of the form-factor. Whilst the card and dock fulfill the functions of a mini PC the cost of ‘portability’ is hard for consumers to justify given the alternatives to the dock such as a card based laptops or a card based all-in-ones have so far failed to materialize. Equally the Core m cards and dock are competing both on price and better configurability with Intel’s own NUC range. From a consumer perspective the Intel Core m3 Compute Stick with pre-installed and fully licensed Windows 10 is actually a better option purely because it is cheaper than the overall cost of the cheapest card (Celeron), dock plus the cost of the Windows 10 software and would then offer a far superior performance than the compute card package.

With Gemini SOC mini PCs already announced it seems unlikely the card and dock will be popular with consumers unless manufacturers can offer products which use the cards at price competitive points. Which is a shame as they are very good products with very good support.

Logic Supply Introduces ML350 Customizable Fanless Industrial Computer Based on Intel Apollo Lake Processor

January 25th, 2018 2 comments

Logic Supply has just unveiled their latest industrial grade computer with ML350 model that features an Intel Celeron or Pentium Apollo Lake processor, with up to 8GB RAM, two DisplayPorts, up to two Gigabit Ethernet ports, mPCIe and mSATA expansion slots and more.

The mini PC is customizable, so when you order you can configure it match your exact requirements, for example you can select the amount of RAM (4GB or 8GB), storage up to 2TB mSATA SSDs, wireless connectivity (WiFI, Bluetooth, 4G), mounting options, and other hardware options. The company can also change the color of the front and back panels and add your own logo though their Rapid Branding program.Logic Supply ML350 (ML350G-10) specifications:

  • SoC (one of the other)
    • Intel Celeron N3350 dual core processor @ 1.10 / 2.40 GHz with Intel HD graphics 500
    • Intel Pentium N4200 quad core processor @ 1.10 / 2.50 GHz with Intel HD graphics 505
  • System Memory – 1x DDR3L DIMM (non-ECC) up to 8 GB @ 1600 MHz
  • Storage – 2x mSATA (1 shared with full/half size mPCIe)
  • Rear I/O
    • 2x DisplayPort outputs
    • 1 GbE LAN port (N3350) or  2 GbE LAN ports (N4200) via Realtek RTL8111G
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • Optional openings for 4x antennas
  • Front I/O
    • 2x USB 3.0 ports
    • 1x USB Type C port
    • Up to 2x RS-232/485 COM ports (Optional)
    • 1x Audio jack (mic in, line out)
    • Power button
  • Expansion
    • 1x Full size mPCIe socket
    • 1x Full/half size mPCIe socket (shared with mSATA)
  • Misc – Watchdog Timer
  • Power Supply – 9~24 VDC input via DC jack; 12V/3A or 12V/5A power supplies are offered by the company
  • Dimensions (WxHxD) – 196 x 36.2 x 121.3 mm (Aluminum & steel case )
  • Temperature Range – 0 ~ 50°C
  • Certfications – CE standards applied (EN 55022 / EN 55024 / EN 55032 / EN 60950-1); FCC – Assembled using FCC certified components; RoHS

Mounting options include DIN, VESA, or wall-mounts. The mini PC can be purchased without operating system, but the company can also install Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10 IoT, Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro at extra cost.
Typical applications for this type of system include digital signage & kiosk, industrial workstation, and industrial automation hub.

The basic configuration with Intel Celeron N3350 motherboard with a single Gigabit Ethernet port, 4GB RAM, 32 GB mSATA SSD, no wireless module nor COM ports, and a 12V/3A goes for $558.95 and up, while the Pentium N4200 model with dual Gigabit Ethernet starts at $639.95. You can try to build your own configuration to see what the options are, and what the total price would be. Discount are available for volume orders.

Via FanlessTech

ASRock Unveils J4105-ITX & J4105B-ITX Gemini Lake Mini-ITX Motherboards

January 19th, 2018 24 comments

We’ve already seen several Intel Gemini Lake mini PCs at CES 2018 from companies such as ZOTAC, MeLE or ECS, but if we exclude LattePanda Delta development board, I had not seen any motherboards with the latest low power Intel processors.

But today I found out ASRock had listed at least two Gemini Lake mini-ITX motherboards  on their website, namely J4105-ITX & J4105B-ITX, both powered by an Intel Celeron J4105 quad core Desktop processor.

ASRock J4105-ITX – Click to Enlarge

Both motherboards have similar specifications, except for some connectors and features:

  • SoC –  Intel Celeron J4105 quad core processor @ 1.50/2.5 GHz with 12EU Intel UHD Graphics 600 up to 750 MHz; 10W TDP
  • System Memory – 2x DDR4-2400/2100 SO-DIMM slots up to 8GB (2GB per module not supported)
  • Storage
    • 2x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug
    • 128Mb NOR flash for AMI UEFI BIOS with GUI support
    • J4105-ITX only – 2x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors via ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug
  • Video Output
    • J4105-ITX
      • D-Sub (VGA) up to 2048×1536 @ 60Hz
      • HDMI 2.0 up to 4K x 2K (4096×2160) @ 60Hz
      • DVI-D up to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz
    • J4105B-ITX
      • D-Sub (VGA) up to 2048×1536 @ 60Hz
      • HDMI up to 4K x 2K (4096×2160) @ 30Hz (Not sure why, since GLK processor should all support HDMI 2.0, maybe error in specs?)
  • Video
    • HW Acceleration Decode: HEVC (H.265) 8 bit, HEVC (H.265)10 bit, H.264 @ Lvl5.2 (AVC), JPEG/MJPEG, VP8, VP9 8bit, VP9 10 bit
    • HW Acceleration Encode: HEVC (H.265) 8 bit, HEVC (H.265)10 bit, H.264 @ Lvl5.2 (AVC), JPEG/MJPEG, VP8, VP9 8bit
  • Audio
    • J4105-ITX
      • 7.1 CH HD Audio with content protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
      • Premium Blu-ray Audio support
      • 1x Optical SPDIF Out Port
      • HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
    • J4105B-ITX
      • 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC887 Audio Codec)
      • HD Audio Jacks: Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
    • Supports Surge Protection, and comes with ELNA Audio Caps
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet via Realtek RTL8111H with Wake-On-LAN, Lightning/ESD Protection, 802.3az, and PXE support
  • USB ports
    •  J4105-ITX – 2x USB 2.0 ports (with ESD Protection); 2x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports (with ESD protection)
    • J4105B-ITX – 1x USB 2.0 Port (with ESD Protection); 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports (with ESD Protection)
  • Expansion Slots
    • 1x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
    • J4105-ITX only – 1x M.2 Socket (Key E), supports type 2230 WiFi/BT module and Intel CNVi (Integrated WiFi/BT)
  • Internal headers and connectors:
    • 1x COM Port Header
    • 1x Chassis Intrusion and Speaker Header
    • 1x CPU Fan Connector (3-pin)
    • 1x Chassis Fan Connector (3-pin)
    • 1x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
    • 1x Front Panel Audio Connector
    • 2x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 3 or 4 USB 2.0 ports) (Supports ESD Protection)
    • 1x USB 3.1 Gen1 Header (Supports 2 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • Misc
    • J4105-ITX – 1x PS/2 Mouse Port, 1x PS/2 Keyboard Port, hardware monitor (temperature, fan control, and voltage)
    • J4105B-ITX – 1x PS/2 mouse/keyboard combo port, 1x parallel Port (ECP/EPP Support), 1x serial port (COM1),
  • Dimensions – 17.0 cm x 17.0 cm (mini-ITX form factor)
  • Certifications – FCC, CE, ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply required)

ASRock J4105-ITX – Click to Enlarge

So J4105-ITX motherboard supports up to three monitors, comes with four SATA ports, better audio support, and an M.2 socket for wireless modules, while J4105B-ITX supports dual display setup, comes with less SATA ports (two), but includes serial and parallel ports, and more USB 3.0 ports

Both support Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit (no word about Linux), and come with ASRock software and UEFI features such as Power Gear, XFast LAN, Instant Flash, and Internet Flash which can be download from ASRock Live Update & APP Shop.

J4105-ITX (Top) vs J4105B-ITX (Bottom) – Click to Enlarge

The motherboards will ship with a support CD including drivers, utilities, an AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), Google Chrome browser and toolbar, a quick installation guide, and an I/O shield. J4105-ITX model also includes a screw for the M.2 socket.

Availability and pricing are unknown at this stage, but I’d expect the motherboards to launch at the same time as mini PCs that is at the end of March, or in Q2 2018. Visit the product pages here and there for more details.


Review of GOLE 10 Mini PC with 10.1″ Touchscreen Display – Part 2: Windows 10 Pro

January 17th, 2018 6 comments

Depending on your point of view, GOLE 10 is a mini PC with a touchscreen display, or a really thick tablet with an inclined display.  I’ve already received a sample, and had a look at the hardware in the first part of the review, so in the second I tested the performance and stability, and thought about and test some use cases for this type of products.

GOLE 10 (aka F6) Setup and System Info

There are various way to use the mini PC, either as a standalone screen without any peripheral connected using the touchscreen, or as a mini PC with USB keyboard and mouse and potential other accessories, or in a dual display setup with the device connected to an HDMI TV or monitor.

I decided to connect it to my “test” TV, add a USB 3.0 drive, USB keyboard and mouse, Ethernet cable, and of course the power supply. Note that contrary to other similar model, GOLE 10 does not come with a battery. I pressed the power button on the right setup, and the first time it started in portrait mode, but after moving the PC (to take the photo below), it automatically switched to landscape mode.

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This made me wonder if you was practical / feasible to use it in portrait mode, and while it’s not really designed for this, the left side does not come with any connector, so you could rotate it 90-degres anti-clockwise to switch to portrait mode.

As you can see from the first picture, the system is configured to use Clone displays by default when HDMI is connected, but you can obviously switch to Extended Desktop mode. You may want to see the HDMI TV/monitor as the primary display if you plan to use the touchscreen display as a control console, as some apps like Kodi will apparently start on the primary display by default.

I could not find a way to force the display orientation, and a few times GOLE 10 started in portrait. You can either move it around, or go to the settings and set orientation to 270 degrees.

We can find some basic info about the computer and operating system in Control Panel -> System and Security -> System. The hardware info is as expected with an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor and 2.00 GB RAM (GOLE 10 is also sold with 4GB as option), but the operating systems is sort of a disappointment as we have an unactivated Windows 10 Pro 32-bit OS installed.

I tried to see if I could activate it by click on Activate Windows, but unsurprisingly it did not work. So you’d have to get your own key. [Update: If you click on Troubleshoot in the screenshot above, it will activate Windows successfully. See comments.]

Windows 10 recognized the NTFS and EXFAT partitions in my USB 3.0 expansion drive, and we got 15.3 GB free of 28.4 GB in the eMMC flash partition (C:).

At this point, I got a pop-up window saying a Windows update was available, so I went ahead thinking it would not take that long, but it ended being a rather large Windows 10 update that took close to 4 hours to complete…

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I wanted to check the installed update to check for Meltdown / Spectre, but none would show, so I clicked on Uninstall an update to get a list. KB4056892 does not show up, and all updates are older, and somehow Windows 10 did not ask me to update any further, maybe because it’s not activated? I don’t know.

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Device Manager show further information about the hardware, and surprisingly a TPM 2.0 module appears to be installed. HWiNFO32 shows about the same information as other Atom x5-Z8350 mini PCs.

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I’ve been using a mouse and keyboard so far, but I wanted to see how it would feel to remove them, and instead use the touchscreen and software keyboard instead. It did not started so well. as the software keyboard would not show up automatically by default.

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So I had to go to Ease of Use-> Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard, and tick “Use On-screen keyboard“. The keyboard works but the keys are really tiny on a 10.1” 1920×1200 display, so you’d have to resize it to make it suitable, or use a capacitive touch stylus. I could not make the keyboard automatically when I select a text input, e.g. a search box in a web browser, so I pinned the on-screen keyboard app to the taskbar to call it whenever I needed it, and minimize it when not. This is not ideal, but that’s the only way I found.

GOLE 10 Benchmarks

Let’s go through some benchmarks – without HDMI display just in case – to check the system runs normally, starting with PCMARK 10, and oops “To run this test you need to run PCMark 10 in 64-bit mode on a 64-bit operating system”, so it looks like PCMARK 10 does not work on 32-bit systems. Good to know.

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I’ll try PCMARK 8 later, but in the meantime, I went with Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0, with a score of 601.0 points compared to 698.8 points for MINIX NEO Z83-4 Pro, but keeping in mind that the 3D graphics test completely failed.

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So a direct comparison of the total score is not possible, but if we go to the detailed score, and compare it to the results for MINIX NEO Z83-4 Pro, we can see something is really wrong.

PassMark 8.0 – GOLE 10 vs MINIX NEO Z83-4 – Click to Enlarge

Every single score is significantly lower on GOLE 10, except Disk Mark. I include HWiNFO32 sensor data in the Passmark scrrenshot, and while throttling is not officially detected we can see temperatures went really high, and the system most likely throttled, something I’ve not seen in a long time by just running this benchmark.

Then I tried 3DMark, and somehow I had no benchmarks installed so I tried to click on Install Fire Strike, but it said “Your license does not allow installing this update”.

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Then I tried to uninstall it, and decompress the downloaded file again, and this time I noticed the USB 3.0 hard drive – where I had downloaded the benchmarks – would from time to time disconnect during decompression, and then I remembered that during download I had some beep, following by a message asking me to resume download. I realized that connection my USB 3.0 drive to the USB 3.0 port ofthe mini PC was not such a good idea after all, and the system’s power supply or circuitry could not handle it. So instead I connected it to the adjacent  USB 2.0 port, and I could extract, install, and run 3D benchmarks.

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I only ran two:

Again this does not look good, as MINIX NEO Z83-4 Pro with the exact same processor, but proper cooling and a Window 10 Pro 64-bit OS, achieved respectively 233 and 20,284 points in those same benchmarks


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I went back to PCMARK 8, and the system got 1,006 points, against 1,445 points, so poor performance is confirmed. I should probably also point out that it is winter here, so room temperature is now 20 to 22°C instead of the usual 28 to 30°C.

The eMMC flash is however faster than in the one in MINIX NEO Z83-4 Pro, as shown in CrystalDiskMark 6.0.0 above, as well as Passmark above.

Stress Testing / Power Consumption

Based on the results above, I was not expecting too much from AID64 Extreme system stability test, and after 12 minutes I decided to stop since I had enough data.

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The good news is that neither AID64 nor HWiNFO32 detect thermal throttling nor power limit exceeded, but the bad news is that this info is obviously bogus as temperatures run really high, and we can see frequency drops to as low as around 480 MHz during the test, averaging around 1,170 MHz for a CPU with a 1,440 MHz base frequency.For reference, MINIX NEO Z83-4 Pro averages 1680 MHz for the same test for a 2-hour period.

Since there’s no battery, I could take power consumption numbers (without HDD connected unless otherwise stated) from a kill-a-watt clone connected to the mini PC only:

  • Power off – 0.0 Watt
  • Sleep – 1.3 Watts
  • Idle (100% brightness) – 9.1 to 10.1 Watts
  • Idle (50% brightness) – 6.4 to 7.2 Watts
  • Idle (0% brightness) – 5.0 to 5.3 Watts
  • AIDA64 Stability Test (100% brightness) – 13.2 to 14.2 Watts
  • Kodi 1080p H.264 video playback to HDMI TV from USB 3.0 HDD (100% brightness) – 16.0 to 16.4 Watts

Potential Use Cases for GOLE 10 mini PC

I’ve been thinking about potential application for GOLE 10, and similar type of mini PCs with inclined display, and based on the results above it’s clear that anything involving multitasking or heavy loads is clearly not well-suited to the GOLE 10 due to the poor thermal design. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • Single Display Setup
    • Home automation control panel
    • 3D printer control panel
    • USB microscope display
    • WiFi or USB oscilloscope or logic analyzer display
  • Dual Display Setup
    • Point-of-sales with touchscreen for cashier, and secondary screen for customer, with barcode reader connected to DB9 serial port
    • VLC for music or video with media shown on HDMI TV, and playlist on touchscreen display.
    • Kodi for music, photos or vidoes with media shown on HDMI TV, and web based interface on touchscreen display

I’ve tested four of the use cases above using my USB microscope to check out a Raspberry Pi Zero board, IkaScope WS200 wireless oscilloscope, as well as VLC and Kodi is dual display configuration, all of which can be seen in the video below.

As a side note, at first I tried to find Windows 10 Kodi remote control in the Windows Store, and I discovered Windows Store had a limit of 10 devices, so I was taken to the page below to remove some of my devices.

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After I could find some remote for Kodi, and tried mrRemote for Kodi, and XBMCee, but was unable to connect to Kodi, while it worked just fine from Firefox as shown in the video.


I find GOLE 10 to be much more useful than GOLE1 mini PC with a 5″ display I reviewed in 2016, as the display is now much bigger and usable in Windows 10. You’ll have to do without battery however, and the system has some serious limitations as thermal design is poor so it will almost immediately throttle, and the 5V/3A power supply provided with the device is underpowered if you plan to use a USB 3.0 hard drive connected to the USB 3.0 port. I managed to work around the latter by connecting the drive to the USB 2.0 port, or you could lower brightness which also greatly impacts the power draw. Using a better power supply might help too, provided the board does not have other limitation with regards to power draw.

The device can still be used for applications that are not too demanding, and the best fit would probably be point-of-sales, followed by control panel for automation / 3D printer, and display for USB or wireless tools such as microscopes or oscilloscopes. VLC and Kodi works, but I’m not sure it’s very useful, as surely controlling the players from a smartphone should be more convenient.

If you are interested, HIGOLE GOLE 10 can be purchased for $168.99 on GearBest (2GB RAM).

GPD WIN 2 is a Handheld Game Console Powered by an Intel Core m3-7Y30 Processor (Crowdfunding)

January 15th, 2018 7 comments

GPD Win was a Windows 10 portable game console powered by an Intel Cherry Trail processor launched in Indiegogo in early 2016, that managed to raise over $700,000 from nearly 2,300 backers.

The company has been teasing an update for a while now, powered by an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor with 8GB RAM, a 128GB M.2 SSD, and has just launched it on Indiegogo where it has raised close to $600,000 from almost 1,000 backers in the first few hours.

GPD WIN 2 external design has gone through some tweaks, but it’s mostly the same as the first model except it’s larger with a 6″ instead of 5.5″ and some buttons have been moved around, but the real differences can be found under the hood:

  • SoC – Intel Core m3-7Y30 dual core quad thread Kaby Lake processor @ 1.00/2.60 GHz (burst frequency) with 24EU Intel HD graphics 615 @ up to 300/900MHz; 4.5W TDP
  • System Memory – 8GB LPDDR3-1866
  • Storage – 128 M.2 2242 SSD (replaceable), micro SD card
  • Display – 6″ capacitive touch IPS screen; 1280×720 resolution; Corning Gorilla Glass 4; H-IPS technology
  • Video Output – micro HDMI 1.4, or DP 1.2 via USB-C port
  • Audio – Via micro HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack, built-in microphone and dual speaker
  • Connectivity – Dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac up to 867 Mbps, and Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port with DP Al mode supports
  • HID – QWERTY keyboard with DPAD, two ALPS Joysticks (including one acting a mouse when needed), ABXY controls, volume and gaming buttons
  • Sensors – Hall effect sensor
  • Misc – Power LED, double vibration motor, active cooling (i.e. fan)
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A via USB type C port
  • Battery – 2x 4,900 mAh Li-Po battery in series, good for 6 to 8 hours
  • Dimensions – 162 x 99 x 25 mm
  • Weight – 460 grams

The console will ships with a power adapter, a warranty card, and specification sheet. GPD WIN 2 runs Windows 10 Home 64-bit and is said to support AAA games including GTA5, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, etc… as long as you run them at low quality settings. Nevertheless, the new GPD Win 2 is a big improvement of GPD Win as framerate often doubles, or even triples in many games.

The company has already sent out beta units, and we already have early reviews such as the one uploaded by The Phawx which discusses performance, thermal design, video output, Linux support, replacing the battery, and so on. Overall a rather positive review. You’ll also find games demo on his channel, as well as Mobimaniak3000 channel.

Intel Core m3 processors are not exactly know for their cheap, but the doubling/tripling of performance, also comes with a doubling of the price, with GPD Win 2 game console going for $599 initially for the first 1,000 units. But that’s now gone and price is now $649. Shipping is planned for May 2018 with free worldwide delivery.