Gizmo2 first impressions

17Oct15

The kind folk at Newark Element14 sent me a Gizmo2 dev board to try out. I’ve not been able to do much with it yet, so here are some first impressions.

What is it?

I’d completely missed the first generation Gizmo, and hadn’t heard of the new one until it was brought up by Brandon at Element14. It’s an x86 single board PC packing an AMD GX210HA dual core CPU running at 1GHz with 1GB of DDR3 RAM on board.

It’s about the same size as the board in a small form factor (SFF) PC such as a NUC or Brix, but comes without any case.

Connectivity is pretty comprehensive with 2 USB2, 2 USB3, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, 3.5mm audio in/out and microSD. There’s also an mSATA/mini PCIe port and headers for JTAG and SPI.

The thing that differentiates this board from other SFF PCs is the pair of edge connectors along one side. One is described as ‘low speed’ and carries USB2, 8 GPIOs, 2 PWMs, 2 Counters and SPI. The other is described as ‘high speed’ and carries Display Port, 2 PCIe X1, SATA and 2 USB2.

What’s in the box?

Gizmo2box

The board comes with a 4GB microSD card that can be booted up into Linux along with some demo apps. A 12v power supply with a US plug is included along with a travel adaptor kit that let me use it with my UK sockets. There’s also a handy getting started guide.

Why won’t it boot up?

I plugged in my USB keyboard and mouse, monitor, network and power, pressed the power button, and nothing happened.

After confirming that the power supply was pushing out 12v (with a handy strip of 5050 RGB LEDs) I was starting to fear a dead on arrival board. Had UPS done something terrible to cause the hole in the shipping box and actually managed to damage the board inside?

It turned out that the culprit was my Matias Quiet Pro USB keyboard. As soon as I unplugged it some LEDs lit up on the Gizmo2. After swapping over to an Anker wireless USB keyboard I was off to the races and able to boot up. It seems that the Gizmo2 is even worse than the original Raspberry Pi (which the Matias keyboard works fine with) at supplying juice to USB peripherals.

Demo environment

Once booted from the supplied microSD card the system brings up a ‘Timesys’ application launcher that I can only describe as dreadful – it shows you a bunch of icons, but you can only select them by clicking on left/right arrows (not the icons themselves).

Big Buck Bunny is supplied as a video demo in 1080p (H.264) and can also be watched from the bundled XBMC player (not the more recent Kodi). It’s also possible to escape to a fairly vanila Xfce desktop, and from there launch a terminal to get a root BusyBox shell.

Niggles

It’s noisy – the CPU is a 9W part, which isn’t a huge amount of power, but sufficient to rule out pure passive cooling. It’s a shame that the fan is so loud, as it pretty much ruins any ideas I might have had for using the Gizmo2 as a media player. I’m still going to try out getting OpenELEC onto it, but even if it can handle the VC1 MKVs that make my Raspberry Pi choke up I can’t see the Gizmo2 displacing my much quieter Gigabyte Brix.

I’ve had a right struggle getting the USB dongle for my keyboard out of the USB2 ports – they’re way too grippy.

The fuse behind the power adaptor looks like it’s pretty much designed to break off.

There’s onboard SATA, but no actual connector for it unless you solder one on yourself. I’ve also read about people having compatibility problems with some mSATA drives (and having to unsolder a resistor to get them working)

I’d rather have the GPIOs on header pins than an edge connector.

I can see the USB current draw issue I hit with the keyboard being problematic for DVB adaptors and other things. The Raspberry Pi people (and community) learned about this stuff the hard way, and it’s a shame that Gizmosphere didn’t pick up on that lesson and put in a beefy enough power system.

Next steps

I’ve read a few accounts of people running Kodi on the Gizmo2, including some excellent analysis of media streaming performance, but since I’ve done a bunch of stuff with OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi I’m going to take a swing at getting that working on the Gizmo2. I’ll also take a look at what’s involved in getting Ubuntu running on it.



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