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Interesting (cheap) HPC-adjacent device

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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-10-25 6:59 PM
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I'm not sure if this warrants its own thread, but I'm not sure it fits under any of the other threads so here it is...

Whilst looking for screens for the my upcoming Hackboard (x86) based project machine, I happened upon this:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002917820325.html

It's a 7" device with a keyboard, Trackpoint-style pointer and touchscreen. It runs on a Celeron J3455 CPU and has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in base spec.

I'll get out of the way first that it has a number of disadvantages vs. the GPD / One Netbook machines:

- Relatively power-hungry CPU (10W TDP)

- Low resolution screen (1024 x 600) vs. 1080p on most of the others

- Raised portion behind the screen hinge that stops it folding 'flat'

- Thicker and somewhat larger footprint (186*140*20mm)

- Proprietary charger (not clear on voltage) and no USB-C ports, though it does have USB3, USB2 and Mini-HDMI.

The one definite advantage it does have is price - Starting at around $230 (US) it's far cheaper than any other device in this class. The storage is also an M.2 module so there's nothing to stop you from upgrading this after purchase. At this kind of price I might even be tempted to try and upgrade the LCD to a higher resolution one - I've no idea what interface it uses but looking at the specs for the J3455 there's a good chance it's MIPI of some sort. I doubt there's much space to spare inside but with some minor case mods it may be possible to get a slightly bigger battery in it too.

The keyboard looks suspiciously similar to the one on the first generation GPD Pocket - Barring the slightly awkward layout this is probably not a terrible thing.

I'm quite tempted - Although if it's any good at all it does make the aforementioned Hackboard-based DIY machine a little redundant. Even if it's an ergonomic disaster or the battery life is terrible there will be some useful parts in there!

It seems to be available under quite a few brands / names, but I've found a few reviews under the name 'Topton L4' so probably a good place to start if you want to do a little research.

I'm interested to know what others think and whether I'm the only one who finds this appealing!



(Topton L4.jpg)



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Attachments Topton L4.jpg (54KB - 1 downloads)
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WallyB110 Page Icon Posted 2021-10-25 8:33 PM
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Haha no way ! I was just looking at this same unit. Battery life is ehhh tho. Prob the biggest reason I wont get one. If it had 8+ hours id have bought it. Maybe you could put a better battery in it ? im not sure.
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-10-25 9:02 PM
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WallyB110 - 2021-10-25 8:33 PM

Haha no way ! I was just looking at this same unit. Battery life is ehhh tho. Prob the biggest reason I wont get one. If it had 8+ hours id have bought it. Maybe you could put a better battery in it ? im not sure.


Yeah, that is a bit of a concern - I don't know why they didn't just put a bigger one in, given it's not exactly slim to begin with and LiPo batteries being available in just about every shape and size by now... Annoyingly I've seen the battery listed as both '7.4v, 3000mAh' and '38Wh', which are not the same! Interestingly I saw a couple of people claim they got significantly better battery life in Linux than in Windows - A bit surprising as that's not been my experience with most of the laptops I've put Linux on. Perhaps I could even 3D print an alternative base with space for a bigger battery in.
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WallyB110 Page Icon Posted 2021-10-25 10:03 PM
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If you 3D print a new base, you let me know ! LOL! If i could get 8+ hours id be happy as a clam. Hehe.

Also theres no HDMI, I was kinda shocked about that. But that is not a killer on the sale for me, its the battery. Also the resolution as well, but I can live with that. My Dell 2120 Latitude is like that. But my Dell wont take more than 2gb of ram which makes this lil laptop/netbook/pda? hehe very intriguing.

Has anyone on here owned one of these ? They make a few different models of this.

-Walt B

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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 12:17 AM
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Update: I couldn't resist any longer - I've ordered one.

I've gone for the 128GB storage option - I can't see myself needing more than this in the near future, and if I do I won't have any trouble picking up an M.2 SSD. It will be interesting to see if it accepts NVMe SSDs or just SATA - Either way it will be better than eMMC and certainly better than the mechanical disk that's in my current (ancient) laptop.

I'm reserving judgment until it arrives - To my mind it could go one of three ways:

1. It's as good as (or better than) the specs suggest - In this case it's a lucky find!

2. It has some major usability or reliability issues and is only good for parts - In this case I'll use it as the basis of a machine with a different hinge design and a bigger battery, maybe a better screen too if that's possible.

3. (Most likely in my opinion) - It's somewhere in between, and will need some tinkering or modifications (e.g. battery) before it's a truly useful / enjoyable machine.

I'll post another update once it arrives - It'll have Windows 10 preinstalled but I'll be installing Kubuntu pretty soon after I get it - I believe there may be some driver issues in Linux but I'm no stranger to those by now!
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WallyB110 Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 2:29 PM
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Def let us know. I had been looking at this on and off for a few months.

-Walt B
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 9:17 PM
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@robertojones, how do you fancy the idea of writing a formal review for the reviews section on it?
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 10:29 PM
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"We have pre-installed the win10 system. In order to avoid system driver problems, please do not reinstall the system, which may cause the product to not work normally"

That could be a problem. You'll prolly want to do a Acronis backup right away.

Still, looks like fun, Can't wait to hear about it (brutal placement of Quote/Double Quote key--why doesn't everybody just put it on the Right Shift row? It's misplaced on so many of these devices).

Jake

Edited by Jake 2021-10-26 10:30 PM
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 11:11 PM
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C:Amie - 2021-10-26 9:17 PM

@robertojones, how do you fancy the idea of writing a formal review for the reviews section on it?


Absolutely - I can't promise as entertaining a read as Jake's excellent review of the GPD MicroPC, but I will at least be thorough. I'll use something better than my Key2 for the photos too - In keeping with Blackberry tradition the camera is appalling.
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 11:24 PM
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Jake - 2021-10-26 10:29 PM

"We have pre-installed the win10 system. In order to avoid system driver problems, please do not reinstall the system, which may cause the product to not work normally"

That could be a problem. You'll prolly want to do a Acronis backup right away.

Jake


Agreed - I'll also make a note of the names and Device IDs of all the key devices (wireless, power management, sound etc.) I had some issues with the GPD Win (for the few months I had mine) related to its weird hardware / software setup - If memory serves I had to re-image the machine rather than reinstalling Windows the conventional way. Might even be worth doing any experimenting on separate SSDs and keeping the original as a backup. In part I think this is because they rush these machines onto the market as soon as they're functional rather than doing any serious testing / fixing. I don't know what GPD is like with this nowadays - I understand the build quality has gone up significantly since the first-generation machines - I'd be interested to know what your experience has been with your MicroPC on the software / drivers / support side of things.

Given that the CPU is a few years old (2016) I'm hoping Linux support is reasonable - There is always the option of building drivers from source / packaging Windows drivers too, as clunky as those methods can be.

Edited by robertojones 2021-10-26 11:39 PM
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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2021-10-26 11:46 PM
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Look forward to hearing about your thoughts about this little guy, Roberto.

Especially, about how it goes with linux.

Thanks,

Mark
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-10-27 12:26 AM
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Nice find!

It reminds me a bit of the older ALIENWARE 13R3 laptops and Lenovo machine.

-stingraze
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Ameowli Page Icon Posted 2021-10-27 3:32 AM
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It looks like an itty-bitty ThinkPad with its all black design and red pointing stick, and now I kinda want one but I also don't want to deal with AliExpress any more, but I too would like to know about the experience.
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WallyB110 Page Icon Posted 2021-10-27 5:48 AM
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^ See that is another fear I have, I dont want to deal with ali express. I cant find these anywhere else, so it seems you have to order thru them sadly.

But plz as I said and others have, keep us in the loop. I am very interested. Hopefully you can build a better battery and figure out a way to get video onto a TV. No HDMI is bogus.

-Walt B
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2021-10-27 9:05 AM
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robertojones - 2021-10-26 11:11 PM

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C:Amie - 2021-10-26 9:17 PM

@robertojones, how do you fancy the idea of writing a formal review for the reviews section on it?


Absolutely - I can't promise as entertaining a read as Jake's excellent review of the GPD MicroPC, but I will at least be thorough. I'll use something better than my Key2 for the photos too - In keeping with Blackberry tradition the camera is appalling.
Fantastic, please let me know if you would like any help or tips
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