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Tiny fanless mini-PC runs Linux on quad-core AMD SoC

Jan 14, 2015 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 69,909 views

[Updated Jan 16] — CompuLab’s tiny “Fitlet” mini-PC runs Linux or Windows on a dual- or quad-core 64-bit AMD x86 SoC, and offers generous I/O, plus modular expansion options.

CompuLab today unveiled its latest mini-PC: the “Fitlet.” This tiny, fanless x86 architecture system consumes just 0.22l of volume and is offered with a choice of either a quad- or dual-core 64-bit AMD SoC, clocked at up to 1.6GHz and accompanied by AMD’s Radeon R3 or R2 Graphics GPUs.

The Fitlet joins CompuLab’s long standing “FIt-PC” line of fanless mini-PCs, which encompass both x86- and ARM-based designs, support both Linux and Windows OSes, and include a specially discounted series of preconfigured MintBox mini-PCs, based on a collaboration with the Linux Mint project. Non-minty Fit-PC models familiar to LinuxGizmos readers include the Fit-PC3, Intense PC, and ruggedized uSVR based on dual-core AMD AMD G-T40E and G-T46N APUs , the Intense PC2 based on a dual-core Intel Core i7, and the Fit-PC4 based on AMD’s quad-core GX-420CA SoC with Radeon HD 8400E graphics.



Compulab Fitlet, front view
(click images to enlarge)

CompuLab says the Fitlet offers a slew of advantages relative to its older sibling, the Fit-PC2. These, according to the company, include:
  • 30 percent smaller size, at 108 x 83 x 24 mm (4.25 x 3.25 x 0.95 in. ) and 0.22 liters of volume
  • Four times the performance and memory capacity
  • “Graphics, networking, connectivity, and storage… improved beyond comparison”
  • “Hacker friendly” features including a serial port, GPIOs, and an internal mini-PCIe socket
  • Easily opened for access to all internal devices
  • Entry price reduced by more than half
  • An extended (five year) warranty

CompuLab will initially offer three standard models of the Fitlet, as described below.

 
Fitlet-B

This entry-level Fitlet model is based on the dual-core 64-bit AMD E1 Micro-6200T SoC, clocked at up to 1.4GHz, with AMD Radeon R2 Graphics. An SODIMM socket supports up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and offers dual HDMI ports, a single gigabit Ethernet interface, and five USB ports (three USB2 and 2 USB3). Other I/O includes mSATA and micro-SD slots, an RS232 serial port, and an auxiliary I/O connector containing UART, SMBus, GPIO signals.



Fitlet-B block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Other Fitlet-B features common to all Fitlet models include power and USB connector locking, a replaceable CMOS battery, programmable power-on settings, power button locking, and “robost” mounting options, says CompuLab.

 
Fitlet-i

This Fitlet-i steps up to AMD’s quad-core 64-bit A4 Micro-6400T SoC, which supports clock rates up to 1.6GHz and offers a low, 4.5W TDP.



Fitlet-i block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to the more powerful AMD SoC, other differences from the Fitlet-B base model include a second built-in gigabit Ethernet port, a socket for expansion via standard mini-PCIe cards, and remote power button support (a feature it shares with the Fitlet-X).

 
FItlet-X

Like the Fitlet-i, the Fitlet-X uses AMD’s powerful 64-bit A4 Micro-6400T SoC. Like Fitlet-B model, on the other hand, this model lacks the Fitlet-i’s second gigabit Ethernet port. The most significant unique aspect of the Fitlet-X, however, is its substitution of a socket for CompuLab’s unique “FACET” (Function And Connectivity Extension T-Card) modular system expansion mechanism, for the Fitlet-i’s mini-PCIe expansion socket. FACET is to Fitlet, what FACE is to the larger Fit-PC line.



Fitlet-X block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The optional internal FACET module presents its real-world I/O through a removable, customizable panel on one side of the Fitlet-X enclosure. The photo below shows the Fitlet-X fitted with CompuLab’s optional FACET-LAN module, which provides three additional RJ45 gigabit Ethernet ports. Additional photos showing the internal construction of the Fitlet-X appear farther below.


Fitlet-X with optional multi-GbE FACET module installed
(click image to enlarge)

CompuLab has yet to release mechanical and electrical details of its FACET spec, so at this point it’s not clear how much FACET cards differ from standard mini-PCIe cards. One clear difference is the FACET PCB’s extended area for real-world I/O connectors that protrude through the system enclosure (see FACET LAN card rendering and prototype photo farther below).

In any event, CompuLab says standard mini-PCIe cards are compatible with FACET sockets. As seen in the Fitlet-X block diagram (farther above), FACET’s system interface consists of LPC Bus, a 3x PCIe2.0 lanes, and a USB2.0 interface. The FACET platform within the system also provides a Micro SIM slot that supports the use of mini-PCIe or FACET cellular communications cards.

 
Peering under the Fitlet-X’s hood

The four photos below show the upper and lower Fitlet-X mainboards, installed and outside of the enclosure.




Fitlet-X internal electronics: top boards (upper row) and lower boards
(click images to enlarge)

The illustrations below show how the various PC boards and mechanical components come together to form the Fitlet-X mini-PC. The lower row shows the multi-Ethernet FACET card and I/O bracket rendering, and the first prototype.



Fitlet-X parts: main boards (above) and FACET card
(click images to enlarge)

“Since FACET is mini-PCIe compatible, a user can immediately install any off-the-shelf card, but the true power is with purpose-built FACET cards incorporating multiple interfaces and I/O connectors,” says Arthur Rabner, CompuLab’s Fitlet system architect.

According to CompuLab, FACET is fully open, enabling third parties to design custom Fitlet expansion cards. To facilitate this process, the company says it will be publishing a detailed FACET electrical and mechanical design guide, as well as a complete reference design. The intent, here, is for OEMs to develop custom FACET cards that meet specialized requirements. Additionally, CompuLab will develop additional off-the-shelf FACET cards in the future.

CompuLab says it plans to offer Fitlet-X LAN, an “advanced networking appliance” consisting of a Fitlet-X system with an internal “FACET-LAN” FACET card that adds three GbE ports.

 
Special Linux Mint version coming soon


MintBox 2

In addition to the three Fitlet models being announced today, CompuLab says that in Q2 it will begin shipping “MintBox Mini,” a special Linux version of the Fitlet mini-PC that was developed in conjunction with the Linux Mint team.

In a blog post, the Linux Mint project announced these features for the MintBox Mini:

  • Quad-core AMD A4 6400T SoC with Radeon R3 GPU
  • Includes a 4GB RAM SODIMM
  • Includes a 64GB flash disk (presumably mSATA)
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wifi and Gigabit Ethernet network connectivity
  • 5 USB ports — 3x USB2.0 and 2x USB3.0
  • microSD card slot
  • 2x HDMI connectors

Based this list, we can conclude that the MintBox Mini is essentially a Fitlet-X kitted out with a 4GB SODIMM and a 64GB flash disk with Linux Mint pre-installed, although it’s unclear whether the FACET expansion feature of a normal Fitlet-X is included in the minty version. Pricing for this package will be $295, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Linux Mint project. For a full list of specs, see the comprehensive compilation of Fitlet specs farther below.



Coming in Q2: MintBox Mini
(click image to enlarge)

“We’re very excited to work with CompuLab on the new MintBox Mini,” said Clement Lefebvre, Project Leader at Linux Mint. “This new unit is smaller in size (about a 5th of the MintBox’s volume) and it can fit in your pocket. At half the price, it’s more affordable than the MintBox 2 and it features great connectivity, SSD storage and very decent performance (twice as fast as the original MintBox Pro model).”

“CompuLab and the Linux Mint team share a passion for openness and elegance.” said Irad Stavi, Chief Product Officer at CompuLab. “Linux Mint out-of-the-box makes it more approachable, and we are glad that we can extend Linux Mint reach further by offering it on MintBox Mini which is smaller and more affordable than ever before.”

 
Summary of Fitlet specifications:

CompuLab lists the following Fitlet mini-PC specifications:

  • Processor:
    • Fitlet-X and Fitlet-i — quad-core, 64-bit AMD A4 Micro-6400T (“SteppeEagle”) SoC, clockable to 1.6GHz; 4.5W TDP; SoC includes AMD Radeon R3 Graphics
    • Fitlet-B — dual-core, 64-bit AMD E1 Micro 6200T (“Mullins”) SoC, clockable to 1.4GHz; 3.95W TDP; SoC includes AMD Radeon R2 Graphics
  • Display — dual HDMI 1.4a, 1920×[email protected] (with audio)
  • Memory — 1x SODIMM socket, for up to 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage:
    • mSATA — supports up to 1TB SATA 3.0 6Gbps
    • Power eSATA (5V) — supports SATA 3.0 6Gbps (Fitlet-i only)
    • microSD socket — supports SDXC 25 MB/s
  • Networking:
    • Fitlet-B and Fitlet-X — 1x gigabit Ethernet port
    • Fitlet-i — 2x gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Wireless:
    • Fitlet-B and Fitlet-X — 802.11b/g/n WiFi via USB dongle; external antenna
    • Fitlet-i — 802.11ac WiFi (2.4/5GHz dual band Intel 7260HMW); Bluetooth 4.0
    • Fitlet-i and Fitlet-X — cellular support via onboard micro-SIM socket
  • USB ports:
    • Fitlet-B and Fitlet-X — 2x USB 3.0 plus 3x USB 2.0 ports
    • Fitlet-i — 2x USB 3.0 plus 4x USB 2.0 ports
  • Audio:
    • S/PDIF 7.1+2 channels in/out
    • Stereo line in/out
    • HDMI audio
  • Other I/O — RS232 UART (3.3V); SMBUS; 8x GPIOs
  • Expansion:
    • Fitlet-i — mini-PCIe (half-size/full-size; normally used for WLAN)
    • Fitlet-X — FACET (accepts mini-PCIe cards)
  • Dimensions — 108 x 83 x 24 mm (0.22 liter volume)
  • Weight — 250g
  • Operating temperature (three ranges available):
    • Commercial — 0 to 50°C with HDD storage; 0 to 70°C
    • Extended — -20 to 70°C (requires SSD storage)
    • Industrial — -40 to 70°C (requires SSD storage)
  • Power:
    • Input range — 10 to 15V DC
    • Consumption — TBD
  • Supported operating systems — LInux Mint; Windows 7/8 64-bit

“Fitlet is the fruit of 8 years’ experience in fanless PC design, so it solves many usability problems that newcomers to the art of fanless PC design are yet to learn about,” stated Irad Stavi, Chief Product Officer at CompuLab. “Openness and modularity pose major design challenges in a miniature PC. Fitlet was designed from the ground up to address these challenges.”

“We expected fitlet to perform well,” stated Dimitry Katkov, VP R&D at CompuLab, “but once we started benchmarking it we found fitlet performance exceeding not only our expectations, but surpassing the performance of popular computers in our product line that are 5 times fitlet size!”

 
Further information

CompuLab will begin accepting Fitlet orders starting in February. Pricing starts at $129 for the Fitlet-B Barebone model. The MintBox Mini, meanwhile, will be ready for shipments in Q2, priced at $295, pre-configured with 4GB RAM, 64GB flash, and ready-to-run Linux Mint OS. The Fitlet and MintBox Mini can both be ordered in North America and Europe through Amazon, as well as from CompuLab or its international resellers. Further details are at CompuLab’s Fitlet and MintBox Mini pages.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

0 responses to “Tiny fanless mini-PC runs Linux on quad-core AMD SoC”

  1. jezra says:

    An interesting bit of kit. Hopefully the version of Mint that they release has a kernel with GPIO enabled so that people interested in using the IO don’t have compile a custom kernel.

  2. jsoe says:

    You should mention the awesome features supported by AMD in linux 😉 For example, these APUs/SoCs support HSA… right? BTW, what about temperatures when gaming?

  3. Wilmer Feliciano says:

    Where and when do they go on sale. Where to buy?

  4. pm says:

    There is no internal storage in the specs. How does it boot?

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