Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 07:02 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vpro, SFF, sbc, modular computer, Intel, computex, compute card
Launched earlier this year at CES, Intel’s credit card sized Compute Cards will begin shipping in August. Intel and its partners used Computex to show off the Compute Card itself along with prototype and concept devices based around the new platform.
techtechtech opened up the Core M3-7Y30 equipped Compute Card at Computex.
As a quick refresher, the Compute Card is a full PC in a small card shaped form factor measuring 95mm x 55mm x 5mm that features an Intel SoC, DDR3 RAM, solid state storage, wireless connectivity, and standardized I/O (one USB-C and a proprietary Intel connector sit side by side on one edge of the card). The small cards are designed to slot into devices that will use the Compute Card as their brains for smart home automation, appliances, industrial applications, smart whiteboards, and consumer products such as tablets, notebooks, and smart TVs.
At its Computex press events, Intel revealed details on specifications. The initial launch will include four Compute Card SKUs with two lower end and two higher end models. All four of the cards are equipped with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and either 64GB of eMMC or 128GB SSD storage. The two lower end SKUs use Intel Wireless-AC 7265 while the more expensive models have Intel Wireless-AC 8265 (both are 2x2 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2). Processor options from top to bottom include the 7th generation Intel i5-7Y57, Core m3-7Y30, Pentium N4200, and Celeron N3450. Enterprise customers will appreciate the TPM support and security features. Reportedly, the Compute Cards will start at $199 for the low-end model and go up to $499+ for the higher end cards.
Intel partners Dell, HP, and Lenovo were reportedly not ready to show off any devices but will launch Compute Card compatible devices at some point. ECS, Foxconn, LG Display, NexDock, Sharp, and others did have prototype devices at Computex and have announced their support for the platform. The Compute Card concept devices shown off include tablets, laptops, All In Ones, digital signage, kiosks, and a monitor stand dock that lets the user add their own monitor and have an AIO powered by a Compute Card. Other uses include ATMs, smart whiteboards, mini PCs for desktop and HTCP uses, and docks that would allow business user sand students to have a single PC with storage that they could take anywhere and get work done. Students could plug their Compute Card into a laptop shell, computer lab PC, whiteboard for presentations, their home dock, and other devices..
(My opinions follow:)
It is an interesting concept that has been tried before with smartphones (and Samsung is currently trying with its S8 and docks) but never really caught on. The promise and idea of being able to easily upgrade a smart TV, computer, smart appliance, home security system, ect without having to replace the entire unit (just upgrading the brains) is a great one, but thus far has not really gained traction. Similarly, the idea of a single PC that you carry everywhere in your pocket and use whatever display you have handy has been promised before but never delivered. Perhaps Intel can drive this modular PC idea home and we could finally see it come to fruition. Unexpectedly absent from the list of partners is Asus and Samsung. Samsung I can understand since they are trying to do their own thing with the S8 but I was a bit surprised to see Asus was not out front with a Compute Card support as they were Intel's partner with its Zenfone and they seem like a company with a good balance of R&D and manufacturing power but nimble enough to test out new markets. The other big PC guys (Dell, HP, and Lenovo) aren't ready with their devices yet either though so I guess we will just have to see what happens in terms of support and adoption. The other thing that could hold the Compute Card back is that Intel will reportedly allow manufacturer lock-in where devices and Compute Cards can be made to only work with hardware from the same manufacturer. Restricting interoperability might hurt the platform, but it might aslo creat less confusion for consumers with the onus being on each manufacturer to actually support an upgrade path I guess.
What are your thoughts on the Compute Card?
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2017 - 04:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: raspberry pi zero, single board computer, sbc, broadcom
The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently introduced a $10 Pi Zero W which resembles the $5 single board Pi Zero computer it launched in 2015 but adds built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios.
At the heart of the Raspberry Pi Zero W is a 1GHz single core Broadcom BCM2835 application processor and 512MB of RAM. Storage is handled by s micro SD card slot. The tiny board includes the following I/O options:
- 1 x Mini HDMI
- 1 x Micro USB OTG
- 1 x Micro USB for power
- 1 x 40-pin HAT compatible header
- 1 x CSI camera connector
- 1 x Composite video header
- 1 x reset header
The Pi Zero W uses the same Cypress CYW43438 chip as the Pi 3 Model B and offers 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, they found that many users were using USB wireless dongles along with a HID (keyboard/mouse) and they needed to carry around a hub or integrate it into their project. Adding built in wireless frees up the single Micro USB port for ither devices and hopefully allows smaller devices that use a Pi Zero as its brains.
Per RasPi.TV’s testing, the new Pi Zero W uses approximately 20mA more power than the Pi Zero which the site attributes to the wireless radios. While it more power than the previous model it is still half that of the Raspberry Pi 3 B. Specifically, the Pi Zero W pulls 120mA at idle and up to 170mA when playing back a 1080p video. Recording 1080p video from a camera uses ~230 mA. The SBC is rated at 0.6W to 1.2W (120 to 230 mA at 5.19V).
A modular official case is being released alongside the new board. US residents will be able to pick up the $10 single board computer at Adafruit, CanaKit, and Micro Center.
The Pi Zero has been used in a large variety of projects including robotics, arcade games, home automation and motion sensing cameras IoT, information displays, and electric skateboards. Integrating the wireless radio should make similar projects just a bit easier to out together.
Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2017 - 12:53 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: asus, tinker board, Rockchip, rk3288, cortex a17, Raspberry Pi, sbc, 4k, kodi, xbmc
Asus is jumping into the single board computer market with its 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board. With a physical layout matching the latest Raspberry Pi 3, the Tinker Board offers up faster hardware including support for 4K H.264 video decode.
The single board PC offers up the following I/O options:
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x HDMI 2.0
- 1 x Micro SD (UHS-1)
- 1 x Micro USB (for power)
- 1 x Audio (192 Hz / 24 bit)
- 40 pin header (28 pin GPIO)
- 1 x CSI (camera)
- 1 x DSI (display)
- PWM and S/PDIF solder points
Asus has opted to use a 32-bit ARM processor to power the device rather than the 64-bit SoC found in the Raspberry Pi 3. Specifally, Asus is using the Rockchip RK3288 which features four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores clocked at 1.8 GHz and a Mali-T764 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and wireless radios for 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0.
Compared to the Raspberry Pi, the Asus Tinker Board has twice the RAM and allegedly twice the processing power with GeekBench score of 3,925 versus the Pi’s 2,092. The Mali-T764 GPU is capable of 4K H.264 (and 10-bit H.265) video decoding which makes it better than the Pi which can only do 1080p in hardware. The cores are clocked faster on the Tinker Board but obviously do not support 64-bit instructions. The increase of system memory is perhaps the biggest boon for those looking to use it for a cheap desktop or media streamer. And for those using analog audio, Asus has included its own audio solution that is, at least on paper, much better than the Pi's.
The Asus SBC reportedly uses up to 5 watts of power with an average power usage of 2.25 watts when playing back a 1080p video with a HDMI display attached.
The Tinker Board at launch is compatible with Debian OS and Kodi media playback software.
The physical layout matches that of the Pi meaning it should be compatible with cases and is potentially a drop in replacement for products powered by a Pi so long as it can supply enough power.
It is currently available from British retailer Farnell for £45.83 ($56.91) or £55 ($68.30) with VAT. It does not appear to be avaiable on this side of the pond quite yet but you can import it if you want to get your hands on it.
More competition in the single board PC space is a good thing, but I do wonder how successful the Asus Tinker Board will be. It is faster, but it is also nearly twice as expensive as the Pi. A lot is going to depend on how well it is received by the software and modding communities and how well Asus supports that Rockchip processor with various Linux distributions and applications at launch and over time. The Pi’s VideoCore IV GPU is closed source and getting information from Broadcom is a pain, but at least it is a known quantity at this point and the boards using it (like the Pi) have the market share and community support to get things working with it. I am also curious how well the audio solution works and whether or not the Gigabit Ethernet port can actually hit gigabit speeds.
What are your thoughts on the Asus Tinker Board?