Regular readers will probably know by now that I’m enamoured of the tiny, all-in-one, Intel-based systems generally referred to as “Mini-PCs”. They are more expensive than a Raspberry Pi, but they come with a case, a PSU, an on-board RTC, generally a decent amount of memory and sometimes built-in eMMC storage, too. Prices have increased over the past few months (the C-19 effect, again), but the bottom-end models (generally the quad-core Atom Z8350 equipped systems) are still available for around the $100 range (GearBest, FastTech, CDiscount, etc).
I already have a few of these mini systems and one which underwhelmed me on first impressions was the AP35 Beelink J3355-based box, mainly because it was advertised as “fanless”, but does have a CPU blower and because the eMMC just would not work reliably. I gave up on the eMMC and put in a small, internal SSD and since then it has been giving sterling service as a mini NAS (ZFS filesystems with TimeMachine as a backup server for various Macs) as well as running a couple of Bhyve virtual machines (doing very light duty). Once I stopped trying to use the eMMC and put it in the basement “computer room”, my opinion of it increased considerably. It’s a little work horse and, although not a speed monster, performs well enough for my requirements and has been absolutely reliable over the past year (again, since I gave up on the eMMC).
I mention that system specifically simply because I’ve been keeping an eye on prices, with the idea of adding another machine to the collection, if the price is right and the target machine has more than two USB-3 ports. I’ve noticed that there are a few other J3355-based models appearing, with a form-factor pretty much the same as the Z8350 systems and priced in the same general area (ie:- the bottom end of the price range). One thing which I’ve noticed recently though, is that almost all of the advertisments for these systems specify the J3355 as a “quad-core” CPU chip. It isn’t. Here’s an excerpt from the dmesg output of the AP35:-
FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE-p6 GENERIC amd64
FreeBSD clang version 8.0.1 (tags/RELEASE_801/final 366581) (based on LLVM 8.0.1)
VT(efifb): resolution 800×600
Skipping TSC calibration since no legacy devices reported by FADT and CPUID works
CPU: Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU J3355 @ 2.00GHz (1996.80-MHz K8-class CPU)
Origin=”GenuineIntel” Id=0x506c9 Family=0x6 Model=0x5c Stepping=9
Structured Extended Features=0x2294e283
Structured Extended Features3=0x2c000000
TSC: P-state invariant, performance statistics
real memory = 4294967296 (4096 MB)
avail memory = 3894444032 (3714 MB)
Event timer “LAPIC” quality 600
ACPI APIC Table:
WARNING: L1 data cache covers fewer APIC IDs than a core (0 < 1)
FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 2 CPUs
FreeBSD/SMP: 1 package(s) x 2 core(s)
…and, just in case you think FreeBSD might be mis-reporting, you can go to the Intel information page for the CPU and check.
Having said all of that, here’s a link to a system on FastTech’s site to an MII-V with 4GB/64GB, GbE and four USB-3 ports which, at $112.45 (with free shipping), seems to be the best, generally available deal on this class of machine at the moment …just remember, it is DUAL-core (no matter what they say).
[ …and, Beelink please take note, so is the N3350. ]