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Compute Stick vs NUC for remote capture?

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#1 johngwheeler

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:04 PM

I'm currently using a Win 7 laptop for image capture with SGP/PHD2/ASCOM & associated software, but would like something a bit more compact that I can mount either on the scope, or on the tripod. I'm using Remote Desktop to access the setup from indoors from an Apple Mac.

I'm intrigued by the Intel Compute stick, but am wondering whether it has any advantages over the Intel NUC style mini PC, other than being slightly smaller. Generally the NUC seems to be better value and have significantly better specs: core i3,i5 or i7 (compared to Atom or Core-M in the Stick), option of 16GB RAM, standard M.2 or Sata-3 SSDs (compared to slower Flash memory in Stick) and lots more USB ports (so no need for a hub)

Is the Compute Stick (in core-M variety) sufficient to run multiple apps for capture, guiding, telescope control, planetarium software etc. and would an i5 NUC give any significant improvement?

Maybe the big considerations are power consumption and mounting options. I would be a bit hesitant to have a computer mounted on the telescope tube itself due to weight and exposure to the elements (but then again the cameras seem OK!), but I can see that having it on the tripod shelf (covered with my Telegizmos tripod cover) would provide good protection and keep cable runs short. Can you easily power a NUC from a 12V battery?


Thanks,

John
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#2 ccs_hello

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 07:52 PM

NUC, especially the ones using i3, i5, i7 (they do support AVX and AVX2 instructions, unlike low end ATOM) are designed as the workhorse/perfomer.

Remember that better heat dissipation, higher TDP (or SDP) value is designed for heavy lifting. Smallest possible form factor is for size and power conservation.

It can run off 12V DC at 3A or more rated P.S.

 

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#3 bobzeq25

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 07:58 PM

I got a NUC, but the stick was very appealing.  One advantage is that you can mount it on the scope.

 

The particular NUC I got was upgradable to 8GB memory, and any SSD you wanted.  That tipped the balance for me, the stick has enough storage, but not an excess, you need to manage things.  Came preloaded with Win10, the whole thing has a comfort level for me the stick didn't have.

 

Power consumption is a tricky deal.  I decided (not sure I'm right) that the low demands of astro mean the NUC will be very low power consumption.  I'll see if I was right.  It's rated for 12-19V (mine, anyway), I plan to run it off a battery that's solar charged, in an observatory I'm building.


Edited by bobzeq25, 31 May 2016 - 08:00 PM.


#4 ccs_hello

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 08:39 PM

Just wish to make a clarification on my previous post:

 

ATOM, Celeron, Pentium, etc. are marketing tiers, not necessarily reflecting micro-architecture.

 

The low end ones have the codenames: Airmont, Silvermont, Braswell, BayTrail, CherryTrail, etc.

 

The main stream ones have the names such as: Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake, etc.  <-- AVX and AVX2 instructions


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#5 AstroGabe

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Posted 01 June 2016 - 09:03 AM

If you're not doing any processor intensive work like processing images, I think the compute stick would work fine.  There's a non-negligible difference in price between the NUC and compute stick.  Technology moves very fast, so in 3-4 years I'd rather have a computer that's obsolete that I paid $100 for rather than $400.

 

Gabe



#6 DaveB

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Posted 01 June 2016 - 11:00 AM

I bought this PC stick and I'm very happy with it. It has a quad-core ATOM processor and runs WIndows 10 Home edition. I run SGP, PHD, ASCOM, PoleMaster software, and use TeamViewer for remote access. I've heard that Windows Remote Desktop is less CPU intensive, so I may consider installing the necessary drivers to get that working on W10 Home, but I'm happy as is. Note that I had to buy a display emulator and a female-female HDMI adapter to get TeamViewer to work, but that is not necessary for Windows Remote Desktop.

 

The same company sells a less expensive PC stick that comes with Win8 and doesn't have an ethernet port. I saw a few folks that had issues updating their stick to W10, so for the small price increase, I went with the already-installed W10 version.

 

One last comment - these run W10 32-bit, which is fairly common for PC sticks. I didn't have any issues installing any of the above astro apps.


Edited by DaveB, 01 June 2016 - 11:02 AM.


#7 johngwheeler

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 01:35 AM

I'm wondering whether an Intel Atom based machine will be sufficient; I have an MS Surface 3 tablet PC (quad-core Atom), and it's pretty sluggish for many tasks. I haven't used it for any significant imaging work, though, so maybe I should try it to see whether performance is OK with SGP & my planetarium software. I'm running Win 10 and installed the driver to allow use with Remote Desktop.

I take the point about over-investing in "utility" computing devices. Both the compute stick and the NUC get quite expensive with Core-M5 or Core-i5 options. The NUC is much better value though - the Core-m5 Compute Stick with 4GB RAM / 64GB eSSD is $485 on Amazon, and you only pay $50 more to get an i5 with 16GB RAM and 250GB M.2 SSD, plus lots more ports.

Maybe I should just think about organizing my cables and leaving the computer in a box under the tripod, where the size isn't really an issue.


John.


Edited by johngwheeler, 02 June 2016 - 01:36 AM.


#8 pedxing

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 01:59 AM

I use an Atom-based netbook for acquisition. It isn't super-fast, but it gets the job done.



#9 urbanMark

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 02:38 AM

I bought this PC stick and I'm very happy with it. It has a quad-core ATOM processor and runs WIndows 10 Home edition. I run SGP, PHD, ASCOM, PoleMaster software, and use TeamViewer for remote access. I've heard that Windows Remote Desktop is less CPU intensive, so I may consider installing the necessary drivers to get that working on W10 Home, but I'm happy as is. Note that I had to buy a display emulator and a female-female HDMI adapter to get TeamViewer to work, but that is not necessary for Windows Remote Desktop.

 

The same company sells a less expensive PC stick that comes with Win8 and doesn't have an ethernet port. I saw a few folks that had issues updating their stick to W10, so for the small price increase, I went with the already-installed W10 version.

 

One last comment - these run W10 32-bit, which is fairly common for PC sticks. I didn't have any issues installing any of the above astro apps.

 

This is starting to look like a great solution. I have a portable setup and typically use 2 laptops - one stays out all night connected to the scope (and sucking a fair amount of juice from my deep cycle batteries), and the 2nd is used to check on my setup after I've turned in. The compute stick would allow me to leave one laptop at home and reduce my current draw considerably. 

 

Dave,

 

Looking at the Amazon add for this device, it wasn't clear what ports were on the device (and what adapters I might need to access them). Also, how is power fed to the device?

 

Thanks!



#10 james7ca

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 04:32 AM

Rather than the Quantum I'd consider getting the 2nd generation Intel Compute Stick. The Intel unit has two USB ports (one that is USB3) and a small fan which should prevent any thermal throttling of the CPU. I like the external antenna on the Quantum but the Intel counters that with the newer 802.11AC WiFi standard (practically speaking, however, there will probably be little difference, maybe even an advantage to the Quantum). You might also find that the micro SD card interface on the Intel unit is faster than the one on the Quantum (this was one of the significant improvements that was made in the 2nd generation Compute Stick -- I honestly don't know about the Quantum, it may be just as fast but it could also be more in the line of last year's Compute Stick which didn't do very well over the micro SD card slot). Lastly, the Atom processor in the Intel unit has better/faster graphics.

 

I guess it really depends upon whether you value the LAN port on the Quantum over the USB3 port on the Intel. However, you can never be too thin or have too many USB ports.  :crazy:


Edited by james7ca, 02 June 2016 - 04:43 AM.

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#11 Dunkstar

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 05:17 AM

I'm wondering whether an Intel Atom based machine will be sufficient; I have an MS Surface 3 tablet PC (quad-core Atom), and it's pretty sluggish for many tasks. I haven't used it for any significant imaging work, though, so maybe I should try it to see whether performance is OK with SGP & my planetarium software. I'm running Win 10 and installed the driver to allow use with Remote Desktop.

 

A decent Atom based machine is more than sufficient. I use a Lenovo Ideapad 100S - I believe in your region JB Hifi sells them for under $300. It's a quad core Atom, so can easily handle all the threads necessary for image acquisition and guiding.

 

Similarly, a low-end NUC would do the job also, with a little more expandability but no screen. If power consumption is a concern (for a dark site) then go with the lower end models.



#12 bilgebay

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 05:33 AM

I got a NUC, but the stick was very appealing.  One advantage is that you can mount it on the scope.

 

 

 

My NUC is mounted on my scope with a single bolt. If you think you no longer need a USB hub,  NUC is not way larger than the stick+USB hub. I have purchased a cable to make use of the 2.0 header. This proved to be a very good move because my new Moravian G3-16200 camera didn't like the USB3.0 ports. I have 6 USB ports which is more than enough to discard the headaches of a USB hub.

 

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#13 buckeyestargazer

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 07:44 AM

I'm using a Pipo X7 miniPC for my mobile imaging computer.  It's a bit larger than the NUC and it has a better passive cooling system (than stick PCs).  It has 4 USB ports and an Ethernet port, as well as wifi.  It has an Atom processor and works well, if just a bit slower than my i7 OBS desktop.  For basic image acquisition it is perfect in the field and uses way less power than a laptop.  I've been intrigued by these stick PCs which basically have the same specs as the Pipo X7 but as of yet I haven't seen the need to try one.



#14 johngwheeler

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 04:54 PM

I got a NUC, but the stick was very appealing.  One advantage is that you can mount it on the scope.

 
My NUC is mounted on my scope with a single bolt. If you think you no longer need a USB hub,  NUC is not way larger than the stick+USB hub. I have purchased a cable to make use of the 2.0 header. This proved to be a very good move because my new Moravian G3-16200 camera didn't like the USB3.0 ports. I have 6 USB ports which is more than enough to discard the headaches of a USB hub.


That's a great looking setup! How did you fit the NUC to the screws on the Tak clamshell?

What is the black box on top of the NUC?

Is that a Mesu mount BTW? It looks very nice!


John
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#15 johngwheeler

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 05:13 PM

I'm using a Pipo X7 miniPC for my mobile imaging computer.  It's a bit larger than the NUC and it has a better passive cooling system (than stick PCs).  It has 4 USB ports and an Ethernet port, as well as wifi.  It has an Atom processor and works well, if just a bit slower than my i7 OBS desktop.  For basic image acquisition it is perfect in the field and uses way less power than a laptop.  I've been intrigued by these stick PCs which basically have the same specs as the Pipo X7 but as of yet I haven't seen the need to try one.


Do you find the 2GB RAM and 32GB storage (including the OS I presume?) are sufficient to run your capture software & store enough images?

What software are you typically running on the box concurrently? I need to run SGP, PHD2, PlateSolve2, ASCOM drivers, and often planetarium software such as Cartes Du Ciel or Stellarium (to help me select targets). I have my doubts that this would run well with Windows on only 2GB, so maybe your setup is less complex?


Thanks,

John

#16 giorgio_ne

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 05:36 PM

Hi Sedat, how did you fit the NUC on the tripod bolt of the Tak clamshell? Are you using NUC's supplied VESA mount? Very curious to know since I have a similar setup.


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#17 james7ca

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 05:52 PM

You probably want to use the SD or microSD card slot for storage. I have two 64GB Samsung Pro UHS-I, class 10 microSDXC cards that I use interchangeably with my Intel Compute Stick. I've seen peak write speeds of just over 60MB/s with these cards (while actually saving image data, not with a benchmark utility which could show ever higher rates), and the read speed is even faster (80MB/s). At Amazon you can buy one of these cards for less than $30.

 

I'm not certain how well you could run SGP with PhD2 while also using Cartes Du Ciel (simultaneously). I can be actively using SGP and PhD2 with my ASCOM drivers and a few other small utilities at the same time and still have four or five hundred MBs free on my 2GB DRAM Compute Stick. However, a combination like FireCapture (actively capturing 12MB images at 5fps) with PhD2 is kind of pushing the limits (but still works very well, just with very little free memory available --100MB to 200MBs). Also, while running FireCapture at those high rates the CPU is generally keeping between 70% and 100% utilization and the disk i/o is also pretty constant at 30+MB/s to 60MB/s so you may see some lags in performance with your remote access (over WiFi, which I do with either TeamViewer or Microsoft's RDP). Also, under those "stress" conditions I can measure just under 10 watts of power going to the Compute Stick (not constant, fluctuates between 4 and 9+ watts).

 

You can read about some of the results people have had on several other threads here on CN, for example:

 

 http://www.cloudynig...-interm-review/

 

[UPDATED at 5:18PM to add more specific information on CPU and disk i/o rates and power use.]


Edited by james7ca, 02 June 2016 - 07:18 PM.


#18 syscore

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 06:12 PM

"What software are you typically running on the box concurrently? I need to run SGP, PHD2, PlateSolve2, ASCOM drivers, and often planetarium software such as Cartes Du Ciel or Stellarium (to help me select targets). I have my doubts that this would run well with Windows on only 2GB, so maybe your setup is less complex?"

 

I run Windows 10 Pro, Maxim DL, FocusMax, SkyTools and PHD2 all at the same time. Sometimes SGP instead of MaximDL, or even both SGP and MaximDL (I like MaximDL's all sky view). This is on a netbook with 2GB of ram and 32GB of disk (ssd). After everything is installed, including a couple of plate solving catalogs and a few other programs, like FocusMax, PemPro and CCDAutoPilot, I have 8GB of disk left. That is plenty for a couple nights of regular imaging (60 second or longer subs).

 

I also run FireCapture with all of that running, and can do all or my planetary or lunar crater imaging, although then I make a couple trips out to the scope to dump the video onto a 16GB card during the night.

 

Too be honest, the only thing I haven't tried to run on it is PixInsight.

 

That being said, I am not doing full frame high speed captures with FireCapture. I can go as far as 300 by 300 at 100 FPS, which is more than enough for planets and lunar craters, but to go past that, I would have to do it locally on the netbook, so that I can use USB3, and also close things to free up memory for the buffer. I only use USB2 when I am remote because USB3 kills my wifi.

 

The Stick PC seems to have the same specs as my notebook, although, the processor might be slower by design due to heat? Unfortunately, people are focusing on different kinds of apps and it is hard for me to get a comparison. I expected that the 2GB stick PC would run everything above in the same fashion. But I haven't gotten a confirmation of that yet.



#19 johngwheeler

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 06:33 PM

"What software are you typically running on the box concurrently? I need to run SGP, PHD2, PlateSolve2, ASCOM drivers, and often planetarium software such as Cartes Du Ciel or Stellarium (to help me select targets). I have my doubts that this would run well with Windows on only 2GB, so maybe your setup is less complex?"
 
I run Windows 10 Pro, Maxim DL, FocusMax, SkyTools and PHD2 all at the same time. Sometimes SGP instead of MaximDL, or even both SGP and MaximDL (I like MaximDL's all sky view). This is on a netbook with 2GB of ram and 32GB of disk (ssd). After everything is installed, including a couple of plate solving catalogs and a few other programs, like FocusMax, PemPro and CCDAutoPilot, I have 8GB of disk left. That is plenty for a couple nights of regular imaging (60 second or longer subs).
 
I also run FireCapture with all of that running, and can do all or my planetary or lunar crater imaging, although then I make a couple trips out to the scope to dump the video onto a 16GB card during the night.
 
Too be honest, the only thing I haven't tried to run on it is PixInsight.
 
That being said, I am not doing full frame high speed captures with FireCapture. I can go as far as 300 by 300 at 100 FPS, which is more than enough for planets and lunar craters, but to go past that, I would have to do it locally on the netbook, so that I can use USB3, and also close things to free up memory for the buffer. I only use USB2 when I am remote because USB3 kills my wifi.
 
The Stick PC seems to have the same specs as my notebook, although, the processor might be slower by design due to heat? Unfortunately, people are focusing on different kinds of apps and it is hard for me to get a comparison. I expected that the 2GB stick PC would run everything above in the same fashion. But I haven't gotten a confirmation of that yet.


Thanks syscore! This is good to know, particularly your performance with planetary capture (I use FireCapture as well). I think I will try my quad-core Atom tablet (Surface 3) to see if it is up to the job before I commit to new hardware. I will need a USB 3 hub though - I currently need 3 ports: imaging camera, guide camera & mount control. I'll get a class 10 SD card for my images to keep it separate from the OS & app storage.

John.

#20 syscore

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 06:44 PM

I use a passive hub and run 5 devices. Imaging camera, guide camera, focuser, filter wheel and telescope. The hub can actually accept power, but I don't have anything on it right now that needs it.



#21 buckeyestargazer

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 07:06 PM

 

I'm using a Pipo X7 miniPC for my mobile imaging computer.  It's a bit larger than the NUC and it has a better passive cooling system (than stick PCs).  It has 4 USB ports and an Ethernet port, as well as wifi.  It has an Atom processor and works well, if just a bit slower than my i7 OBS desktop.  For basic image acquisition it is perfect in the field and uses way less power than a laptop.  I've been intrigued by these stick PCs which basically have the same specs as the Pipo X7 but as of yet I haven't seen the need to try one.


Do you find the 2GB RAM and 32GB storage (including the OS I presume?) are sufficient to run your capture software & store enough images?

What software are you typically running on the box concurrently? I need to run SGP, PHD2, PlateSolve2, ASCOM drivers, and often planetarium software such as Cartes Du Ciel or Stellarium (to help me select targets). I have my doubts that this would run well with Windows on only 2GB, so maybe your setup is less complex?


Thanks,

John

 

O ye of little faith.  I run exactly the same set up as you (Stellarium) and have no problems.  Plate solving takes a little longer on the miniPC than my i7 desktop but still not very long.  Image acquisition software really doesn't take a whole lot of memory.

 

When I have all my apps installed I have about 12GB left for storage.  This is plenty for a couple nights images, as long as I'm taking the usual 10-20min exposures.  But like others have said most of these stick and mini PCs have microSD card slots for extra storage, and those cards are pretty cheap.

 

I did try the Kangaroo stick pc and found that the performance was not as good as the Pipo X7.  I think it was prone to getting warmer and throttling the processor a little, whereas a NUC or Pipo X7 has a more open cooling system.  



#22 james7ca

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 07:39 PM

 

 

I'm using a Pipo X7 miniPC for my mobile imaging computer.  It's a bit larger than the NUC and it has a better passive cooling system (than stick PCs).  It has 4 USB ports and an Ethernet port, as well as wifi.  It has an Atom processor and works well, if just a bit slower than my i7 OBS desktop.  For basic image acquisition it is perfect in the field and uses way less power than a laptop.  I've been intrigued by these stick PCs which basically have the same specs as the Pipo X7 but as of yet I haven't seen the need to try one.


Do you find the 2GB RAM and 32GB storage (including the OS I presume?) are sufficient to run your capture software & store enough images?

What software are you typically running on the box concurrently? I need to run SGP, PHD2, PlateSolve2, ASCOM drivers, and often planetarium software such as Cartes Du Ciel or Stellarium (to help me select targets). I have my doubts that this would run well with Windows on only 2GB, so maybe your setup is less complex?


Thanks,

John

 

O ye of little faith.  I run exactly the same set up as you (Stellarium) and have no problems.  Plate solving takes a little longer on the miniPC than my i7 desktop but still not very long.  Image acquisition software really doesn't take a whole lot of memory.

 

When I have all my apps installed I have about 12GB left for storage.  This is plenty for a couple nights images, as long as I'm taking the usual 10-20min exposures.  But like others have said most of these stick and mini PCs have microSD card slots for extra storage, and those cards are pretty cheap.

 

I did try the Kangaroo stick pc and found that the performance was not as good as the Pipo X7.  I think it was prone to getting warmer and throttling the processor a little, whereas a NUC or Pipo X7 has a more open cooling system.  

 

I think it depends on how you are using the applications. If you are only capturing subs every 10 or 20 minutes then your imaging application really has little to do between those events. However, if you are using FireCapture and doing lucky imaging (either on DSOs or planetary) then you will be putting a lot more stress on the system.

 

When I use SGP and PhD and the system is waiting on the next image then CPU utilization can fall WELL below 50% (maybe even as low as 10%) with 500MB of free memory. However, if you capture images more frequently and then have a file transfer going between the Compute Stick and the host of the remote session then things start to get a lot more interesting.  I can actually make file transfers over the WiFi network between the Compute Stick and my desktop PC while actively imaging but depending upon the capture rate and the size of the file transfers the latter either works well or not so well.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't take a huge amount of activity before you start to hit some limits on these stick PCs. That said, in my experience they do seem to work very well with "typical" imaging activity using a set of applications like SGP and PhD.



#23 rkayakr

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 08:31 PM

Anyone using one of theses? It looks interesting to me.

8GB ram, 64 GB SSD, 1 USB 3 (for planetary cam), 4 USB 2 (no need for USB hub) and an RS232 serial port to drive the mount

 

http://www.amazon.co..._dp_o_pC_nS_ttl



#24 ccs_hello

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 08:50 PM

re: post #24

 

See this thread

http://www.cloudynig...-think-of-this/



#25 james7ca

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 10:03 PM

Anyone using one of theses? It looks interesting to me.

8GB ram, 64 GB SSD, 1 USB 3 (for planetary cam), 4 USB 2 (no need for USB hub) and an RS232 serial port to drive the mount

 

http://www.amazon.co..._dp_o_pC_nS_ttl

Looks pretty good, but there are a few potential issues:

 

1.) You have to supply your own OS (it comes with an unlicensed, unactivated copy of Windows 7).

2.) It looks like the WiFi MAY be single band, 2.4GHz which means that the WiFi might NOT work when you connect any USB3 devices. Maybe it does support 5GHz WiFi, but I can't tell.

3.) No SD or microSD card slot (could be added with a USB dongle, but scratch one USB port).

4.) The HDMI port isn't identified/labeled because the vendor is trying to avoid either an import regulation or tariff (or maybe it just isn't licensed for use in the U.S.).

5.) Uses more power than an Intel Compute Stick (the CPU alone is 10W versus the 4W Atom in the Intel Compute Stick).

6.) The cost with shipping and if you need a Windows license would be about $340 (about twice that of the Intel Compute Stick with a USB hub).

 

The advantages (over most stick PCs):

 

1.) Somewhat faster CPU than the Atom X5-Z8300 that comes with the 2nd generation Intel Compute Stick (PCMark on Celeron J1900 is 1880 versus the Atom CPU with a PCMark of 1205).

2.) More USB2 ports than on the Compute Stick.

3.) Has a built-in serial port.

4.) Has a built-in ethernet port.

5.) Runs on 12VDC.

6.) More memory (DRAM) and internal storage space (a significant advantage).

 

Thus, unless you need a built-in (physical) serial port the only practical advantage I can see is the greater amount of DRAM and the slightly faster CPU. I'm talking in comparison to the below image of a 2nd generation Intel Compute Stick with a 4-port hub. Of course, if the Compute Stick didn't/doesn't work for you then one of the Qotom or NUC systems might be the next logical step up (with a larger physical size and higher initial cost).

Attached Thumbnails

  • Compute Stick with Anker USB3 Hub.jpg

Edited by james7ca, 02 June 2016 - 10:22 PM.



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