Friday 29 September 2017

First look at an Intel Compute Card and Dock

Previously I covered the product details of the new Intel Compute Cards and Dock so this post looks at the physical devices and their actual operation and performance which is possible thanks to Intel who kindly provided me with a Compute Card (CD1M3128MK) and Dock (DK132EPJ).

The Dock comes with a small power brick with international plug adaptors similar in size to the power brick supplied with the Intel Core Compute Sticks and can be used with any of the Compute Cards. The Card slides into the Dock and requires a firm push to ensure connectivity and can't be retrieved unless the power is connected and the eject button is pressed.

Depending on the BIOS setting the Card will either boot immediately or after the power buttom is pressed.

The BIOS can be accessed by pressing F2 immediately:

Video of CD1M3128MK BIOS
Alternatively F10 can be pressed for the Boot Menu which is how to install an Operating System.

Both legacy and UEFI enabled OS are supported so a USB with an Ubuntu ISO will show two entries.

The specification of the CD1M3128MK Compute Card includes:

and the DK132EPJ Dock includes:

I first installed Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation to look at performance under Windows.

The performance is very good in part because the SSD storage is attached via NVMe:

and the Core m3 Compute Card performance improves on the Core m3 Compute Stick:

The m3-7Y30 CPU makes watching 8K video possible:

Next I created a 20 GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu:

I used a standard Ubuntu 17.04 desktop ISO however whilst the installation completed sucessfully the Ubuntu NVRAM entry was incorrect and needed to be fixed by entering:

efibootmgr -b 4 -B
efibootmgr -c -d /dev/nvme0n1 -p 2 -l \\EFI\\ubuntu\\shimx64.efi -L ubuntu

This resulted in a F10 Boot Menu only showing Ubuntu:

which of course is not an issue as Windows can be booted from the GRUB menu:

as can Ubuntu:

Looking at the hardware in more detail for the Core m3 Card and Dock the CPU is a dual core m3-7Y30:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C cpu
       description: CPU
       product: Intel(R) Core(TM) m3-7Y30 CPU @ 1.00GHz
       vendor: Intel Corp.
       physical id: 46
       bus info: cpu@0
       version: Intel(R) Core(TM) m3-7Y30 CPU @ 1.00GHz
       serial: To Be Filled By O.E.M.
       slot: U3E1
       size: 2599MHz
       capacity: 4005MHz
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 100MHz
       capabilities: x86-64 fpu fpu_exception wp vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp constant_tsc art arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf tsc_known_freq pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 sdbg fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch epb intel_pt tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid mpx rdseed adx smap clflushopt xsaveopt xsavec xgetbv1 xsaves dtherm ida arat pln pts hwp hwp_notify hwp_act_window hwp_epp cpufreq
       configuration: cores=2 enabledcores=2 threads=4

with dual channel memory:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C memory
       description: BIOS
       vendor: Intel Corp.
       physical id: 0
       version: MKKBLY35.86A.1032.2017.0810.1942
       date: 08/10/2017
       size: 64KiB
       capacity: 15MiB
       capabilities: pci upgrade shadowing cdboot bootselect socketedrom edd int13floppy1200 int13floppy720 int13floppy2880 int5printscreen int14serial int17printer acpi usb biosbootspecification uefi
       description: System Memory
       physical id: 3e
       slot: System board or motherboard
       size: 4GiB
          description: Row of chips LPDDR3 Synchronous Unbuffered (Unregistered) 1867 MHz (0.5 ns)
          vendor: Micron
          physical id: 0
          serial: 00000000
          slot: ChannelA-DIMM0
          size: 2GiB
          width: 64 bits
          clock: 1867MHz (0.5ns)
          description: Row of chips LPDDR3 Synchronous Unbuffered (Unregistered) 1867 MHz (0.5 ns)
          vendor: Micron
          physical id: 1
          serial: 00000000
          slot: ChannelB-DIMM0
          size: 2GiB
          width: 64 bits
          clock: 1867MHz (0.5ns)
       description: L1 cache
       physical id: 43
       slot: L1 Cache
       size: 128KiB
       capacity: 128KiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=1
       description: L2 cache
       physical id: 44
       slot: L2 Cache
       size: 512KiB
       capacity: 512KiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=2
       description: L3 cache
       physical id: 45
       slot: L3 Cache
       size: 4MiB
       capacity: 4MiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=3
       description: Memory controller
       product: Sunrise Point-LP PMC
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 1f.2
       bus info: pci@0000:00:1f.2
       version: 21
       width: 32 bits
       clock: 33MHz (30.3ns)
       configuration: driver=intel_pmc_core latency=0
       resources: irq:0 memory:df324000-df327fff

and wifi is provided by the Card and ethernet by the Dock:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C network
       description: Wireless interface
       product: Wireless 8265 / 8275
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 0
       bus info: pci@0000:01:00.0
       logical name: wlp1s0
       version: 78
       serial: 1a:8e:b3:2b:59:f2
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm msi pciexpress bus_master cap_list ethernet physical wireless
       configuration: broadcast=yes driver=iwlwifi driverversion=4.10.0-19-generic firmware=22.391740.0 latency=0 link=no multicast=yes wireless=IEEE 802.11
       resources: irq:289 memory:df200000-df201fff
       description: Ethernet interface
       product: I211 Gigabit Network Connection
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 0
       bus info: pci@0000:02:00.0
       logical name: eno1
       version: 03
       serial: f4:4d:30:c0:62:a7
       size: 1Gbit/s
       capacity: 1Gbit/s
       width: 32 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm msi msix pciexpress bus_master cap_list ethernet physical tp 10bt 10bt-fd 100bt 100bt-fd 1000bt-fd autonegotiation
       configuration: autonegotiation=on broadcast=yes driver=igb driverversion=5.4.0-k duplex=full firmware=0. 6-1 ip= latency=0 link=yes multicast=yes port=twisted pair speed=1Gbit/s
       resources: irq:19 memory:df100000-df11ffff ioport:e000(size=32) memory:df120000-df123fff

with storage using NVMe:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# blkid
/dev/nvme0n1: PTUUID="84ca9e2b-df79-46fd-aac2-3de46da1d716" PTTYPE="gpt"
/dev/nvme0n1p1: LABEL="Recovery" UUID="DAA84E0AA84DE59B" TYPE="ntfs" PARTLABEL="Basic data partition" PARTUUID="f06192fd-455a-4c52-a053-89281d5a6584"
/dev/nvme0n1p2: UUID="F04E-ACEF" TYPE="vfat" PARTLABEL="EFI system partition" PARTUUID="344895d2-98e8-4985-bd74-6b0981d6b330"
/dev/nvme0n1p3: PARTLABEL="Microsoft reserved partition" PARTUUID="4b009a40-9509-4706-8a5d-ab3b78fe3a0b"
/dev/nvme0n1p4: UUID="BAE25191E25152AD" TYPE="ntfs" PARTLABEL="Basic data partition" PARTUUID="0be2fe19-50ea-40b9-8e48-7d5fde6dc711"
/dev/nvme0n1p5: UUID="8239d522-c46d-4d84-852c-8cd1b35414d5" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="c96dc18d-f394-447c-9b80-fe5e30f82731"
root@CD1M3128MK:~# lsblk -a
loop0         7:0    0         0 loop 
loop1         7:1    0         0 loop 
loop2         7:2    0         0 loop 
loop3         7:3    0         0 loop 
loop4         7:4    0         0 loop 
loop5         7:5    0         0 loop 
loop6         7:6    0         0 loop 
loop7         7:7    0         0 loop 
nvme0n1     259:0    0 119.2G  0 disk 
├─nvme0n1p1 259:1    0   450M  0 part 
├─nvme0n1p2 259:2    0   100M  0 part /boot/efi
├─nvme0n1p3 259:3    0    16M  0 part 
├─nvme0n1p4 259:4    0  98.7G  0 part 
└─nvme0n1p5 259:5    0    20G  0 part / 
root@CD1M3128MK:~# lsblk -f
NAME        FSTYPE LABEL    UUID                                 MOUNTPOINT
├─nvme0n1p1 ntfs   Recovery DAA84E0AA84DE59B                     
├─nvme0n1p2 vfat            F04E-ACEF                            /boot/efi
├─nvme0n1p4 ntfs            BAE25191E25152AD                     
└─nvme0n1p5 ext4            8239d522-c46d-4d84-852c-8cd1b35414d5 /                     
root@CD1M3128MK:~# df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
udev            1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /dev
tmpfs           385M   12M  374M   3% /run
/dev/nvme0n1p5   20G  7.8G   11G  42% /
tmpfs           1.9G   12K  1.9G   1% /dev/shm
tmpfs           5.0M  4.0K  5.0M   1% /run/lock
tmpfs           1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/nvme0n1p2   96M   29M   68M  30% /boot/efi
tmpfs           385M  148K  385M   1% /run/user/1000

with the following PCI configuration:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Device 590c (rev 02)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Device 591e (rev 02)
00:14.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP USB 3.0 xHCI Controller (rev 21)
00:14.2 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Thermal subsystem (rev 21)
00:15.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO I2C Controller #0 (rev 21)
00:15.1 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO I2C Controller #1 (rev 21)
00:16.0 Communication controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP CSME HECI #1 (rev 21)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #5 (rev f1)
00:1c.7 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #8 (rev f1)
00:1d.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #9 (rev f1)
00:1e.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO UART Controller #0 (rev 21)
00:1e.4 SD Host controller: Intel Corporation Device 9d2b (rev 21)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation Device 9d4b (rev 21)
00:1f.2 Memory controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PMC (rev 21)
00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Device 9d71 (rev 21)
00:1f.4 SMBus: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP SMBus (rev 21)
01:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 8265 / 8275 (rev 78)
02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation I211 Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
03:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Intel Corporation Device f1a5 (rev 03)

Running my usual suite of Phoronix tests shows a similar performance improvement of the Core m3 Card over the Core m3 Stick in Ubuntu:

with Ubuntu's Octane result being slightly better than in Windows:

No problems were encountered using Kodi to plays videos:

The Card itself is similar in size to a credit card and not really comparable to the earlier 'stick' form-factor:

The Dock is obviously bigger than a Stick:

and is also slightly larger than a NUC:

The Dock contains a fan as well as providing the additional ports. The fan is effective in keeping the temperature under control and with a resting temperature of around 30°C:

the temperature under load max'ed at just over 70°C:

However the fan does run all the time and is noticeably noisy when under load:

The external temperature of the Dock didn't exceed 30°C:

One issue I've encountered is when removing a Sandisk Ultra Fit USB from the front port. Because the USB is small 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 Card is a great innovation for computing. Whether the Card will be popular as a retail product will be dependent on how useful it is seen together with its adoption by both manufacturers and the public alike.

The original 'stick' form factor initially succeeded as a consumer mini PC because early versions targeted both the portable computing goal and the concept of making TVs 'smart'. To a certain extent though the ongoing success of the 'stick' has been limited by its own form factor and 'boxes' have gained traction due to their provision of USB ports, inclusion of ethernet and better including fanless cooling. But whilst 'sticks' have remained popular for their portability and small size their commercial continuance is under threat. With market segments including digital signage seeing the potential their business requirements have heavily influenced the evolution of design.

A Card and Dock still fulfills the basic requirements of a mini PC. Portability is certainly addressed by the design with the ability to swap out Cards from a Dock. And if alternatives to the 'dock' such as a Card based laptop or a Card based all-in-one materialize then subject to cost popularity should follow. However whilst the Card may be well suited to the commercial market the Card and Dock face challenges in the consumer mini PC market given the size, fan, configurability and price as there are alternatives to using a Card and Dock as a mini PC.

Several Apollo Lake 'boxes' are already available in the market including fanless devices. For the Apollo Lake Cards if a fanless 'dock' creating a solution similar to the Zotac ZBOX PI225 was offered by Intel or their collaborating partners it would make the Apollo Lake Cards more attractive as an alternative 'next generation' Stick. 

Equally for the Core m3 Card the price and configurability offered by Intel's own NUC NUC7i3BNK or similar will probably undermine the need for a second generation Core m3 Stick and is likely preferable to a Core m3 Card and Dock combination although this will still be attractive to those who want a prebuilt solution.

However these points should not detract from what is a very good pair of product offerings. With Intel cancelling its next generation of 'stick' products the Card and Dock proposition must be seen as an alternative to fill that void. It is just that the market has changed and the future of Intel based 'stick' mini PCs is very much dependent on whether manufacturers can offer new products at price competitive points. Unless the Card becomes ubiquitous then 'boxes' are likely to remain as the de facto successor.

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