Intel transitioned their Bay Trail-T Atom lineup (targeting affordable 2-in-1s, tablets and Compute Stick form factors) to 14nm with the introduction of Cherry Trail-T. The Atom x5 and x7 SoCs coming under this family have four Airmont cores and Broadwell-class Intel HD Graphics. We have already seen the x7-Z8700 in action in the Microsoft Surface 3 and the x5-Z8300 in the Cherry Trail Compute Stick. Due to the success of UCFF (ultra-compact form factor) PCs, many vendors (including no-name Asian brands) have resorted to making small computers by using these tablet platforms with minor modifications. One such vendor is Voyo, and their V3 mini-PC is a unique take on the Atom x7-Z8700 platform compared to traditional tablets / affordable 2-in-1s.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

Traditional UCFF PCs have stayed true to Intel's reference designs for such PCs. In particular, the NUC, Mini-Lake and Compute Stick reference platforms have enabled vendors to quickly bring their own variants into the market. Obviously, vendors such as ASRock and Zotac do have custom boards, but, they are usually few in number compared to the number of UCFF PCs in the current market. Since the introduction of Bay Trail-T, we have seen a rise in the number of systems based on reference boards for tablets / 2-in-1s. Most of them just put a case around such a board (with soldered DRAM, eMMC storage etc.) and market it as a PC.

In most cases, we ignore review requests for these types of PCs - after all, they have nothing unqiue to offer and are held back by the abysmal eMMC storage sub-system and skimpy DRAM. So, when GearBest offered to send us a review sample of the Voyo V3 mini-PC equipped with the high-end Atom x7-Z8700, 4GB of RAM and a bonafide 128GB M.2 SSD, we were mildly interested. Some of the advertised aspects such as Windows 10 being pre-installed, USB Type-C support, '5G Wi-Fi' etc. seemed too good to be true for the price, but, we decided it was interesting enough to put through our rigorous test process for low power computing systems.

The specifications of our Voyo V3 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Voyo V3 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom x7-Z8700
Airmont, 4C/4T, 1.6 GHz (2.4 GHz Turbo), 14nm, 2MB L2, 2W SDP
Memory SKHynix LPDDR3
12-15-20-34 @ 1600 MHz
2x2 GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics (Gen8 LP - 16 EUs)
Disk Drive(s) FORESEE FSSSDBEBCC-128G
(128 GB; M.2 2242 SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
Networking Realtek RTL8723BS Wireless LAN 802.11n SDIO Network Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output over HDMI (PCM, DTS, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus, no HD audio)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 1x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
1x micro-SDXC
Operating System Windows 10 Home x64 pre-installed (probably bootlegged), but we reinitialized the drive and re-installed Windows 10 Home x64
Pricing (As configured) $215
Full Specifications Voyo V3 Mini-PC (in Chinese ; English link currently not available)

In addition to the main unit, the package comes with a 24W power adapter (12V @ 2A) that connects to the unit via a Type-C interface. This brings us to the first advertised aspect that has scope for misinterpretation by the consumer. The Voyo V3 does have a Type-C interface, but, it is only for connecting the power adapter. Since the PC can't run without external power, the Type-C interface doesn't provide any data-transmission capabilities. The V3 has one video output - a mini-HDMI 1.4b port. Thankfully, the package also includes a mini-HDMI (male) to full-sized HDMI (male) cable. A specifications / quick setup guide is also included in the package. Unfortunately, there are no driver CDs / USB keys included in the package.

Disassembling the unit was fairly trivial. A credit card (or anything similar) can be used to pry out the glass top held in place with glue. There are four screws to take out on the bottom metal side under the rubber bushings. Inside the unit, we have the main board with the SoC and DRAM covered with a black thermal film. This film keeps in touch with the metallic underside of the PC and helps in dissipating the heat generated by the board components. There are two interesting aspects that need to be noted in the internals. The first one is the Wi-Fi antenna that is attached  to the hard black plastic cover that the top panel is glued to. The second one is the M.2 2242 SSD that is attached to one end of the board. It must be noted that the Cherry Trail-T SoCs do not have a SATA port. The FORESEE M.2 SSD actually connects to the main SoC via a PCIe-SATA bridge chip, the ASMedia ASM1061. The gallery below shows some pictures from our disassembly process.

BIOS and OS

Prior to discussing the pre-installed Windows 10 OS, let us take a look at the various options in the BIOS. Obviously, this is not a system to overclock or do similar tweaks. However, it gives us visibility into the options exposed by Intel to system developers for tablet platforms. There are plenty of options to explore, as shown in the gallery below.

This brings us to the second issue we had with the unit - In the default configuration, the DTS feature for thermal protection is disabled. This is most likely to be the reason for crashes encountered by other reviewers when benchmarking the Voyo V3. In any case, the default option was altered, as we didn't want to take the risk with DTS being disabled - particularly since we have thermal stress testing as part of our evaluation.

The Voyo V3 is advertised as being ready to use out of the box. This claim is true. The system came with Windows 10 Home x64 pre-installed, a default password-less account (username: voyo) and UAC disabled. On top of that, Windows refused to activate for me (though other reviewers have reported the installation being pre-activated). Though I wouldn't fault Voyo for the activation refusal (I had a similar experience with the Intel Compute Stick), the pre-configured user account and UAC being disabled were big red flags. I made the mistake of rushing to completely wipe the internal SSD and reinstalling Windows on my own. For some reason, I was unable to install Windows 10 Profesional, and had to end up installing Windows 10 Home. Fortunately, the 64-bit OS installation was successful (Intel had, at various points of time, indicated to us that Bay Trail-T and Cherry Trail-T don't support Windows x64).

Reinstalling Windows led to a new set of problems. The latest 'RTM' ISO (10586) didn't have the drivers needed for the WLAN chipset in the Voyo V3. A USB Wi-Fi adapter solved that issue, and getting hold of the latest Windows updates enabled the internal WLAN adapter. However, a bunch of drivers were missing - including the one for delivering audio over the HDMI port.

After searching around in vain for drivers on the Voyo website as well as Intel's pages, I found a link to the original Windows installation image from Voyo in a comment on CNX-Software's review of the Voyo V3. Despite having no prior experience with Chinese and translation sites being unhelpful, I did manage to download the ~4.5GB install.wim file from the link and mount it on the Voyo V3 using Windows 'Dism'. I then made Windows search for the drivers in the mounted folder, and finally got a clean 'Device Manager' window with no unrecognized devices. Obviously, audio over HDMI also started to work after the drivers got copied over. This is basically our biggest complaint about the Voyo V3 - Voyo needs to host the drivers necessary for system operation as standalone downloads on their site.

Moving On with Benchmarking...

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Voyo V3 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Voyo V3 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Voyo V3
CPU Intel Atom x7-Z8700 Intel Atom x7-Z8700
GPU Intel HD Graphics (Gen8 LP - 16 EU) Intel HD Graphics (Gen8 LP - 16 EU)
RAM SKHynix LPDDR3
12-15-20-34 @ 1600 MHz
2x2 GB
SKHynix LPDDR3
12-15-20-34 @ 1600 MHz
2x2 GB
Storage FORESEE FSSSDBEBCC-128G
(128 GB; M.2 2242 SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
FORESEE FSSSDBEBCC-128G
(128 GB; M.2 2242 SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
Wi-Fi Realtek RTL8723BS Wireless LAN 802.11n SDIO Network Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Realtek RTL8723BS Wireless LAN 802.11n SDIO Network Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $208 $208
Performance Metrics - I
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  • ragenalien - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    Is the wireless card replaceable. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    The wireless card communicates via SDIO and is soldered to the board. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    You can actually check out the board layout here: http://www.cnx-software.com/wp-content/uploads/201...

    The WLAN card is on the top right (where the black antenna pigtail comes out from), and you can see that it is indeed not replaceable.
    Reply
  • Coelispex - Sunday, April 3, 2016 - link

    Hi Ganeshts,

    If we use a 802.11ac USB adapter, would it work for the Voyo V3?
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    I can't get past the Warez OS issue. If I wanted such a device with Windows on it, it better be a legally installed copy. The idea that I would need to go out and get my own copy means you have to add $100 to the price in order to get it leagal for what it was supposed to come with out of the box. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    I don't think Microsoft allows for 'cheap' licenses if the hardware specs are as good as the Voyo V3.. particularly, I believe the cheap license is available only for the x86 version, not x64. Also, the RAM has to be 2GB or lesser (IIRC).

    Anyways, the cost for the Windows license is an issue with any PC that doesn't have neutered hardware specifications.
    Reply
  • Slawek - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    What are results of Google Octane and Mozilla Kraken? If am going to use it for web browsing these are the most important benchmarks to know. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    Web browsing is a major part of the PCMark 8 benchmarks - and those scores make it clear that this unit is better than other passively cooled Braswell PCs.

    Usually, we don't present web browser benchmarks for mini-PCs because they vary widely with the browser used and also updates to the browsers themselves - making it difficult to go back and compare against older units. It is a different case for more 'closed' systems such as tablets and smartphones. Because of this, we believe that the PCMark 8 browser tests (with their standardized browser engine) are more indicative of performance that users can get at any given point of time.
    Reply
  • Slawek - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    On my laptop difference between the latest Firefox, Chrome and Safari is within 5%, this is precise enough tool that tells me about system performance. Both Octane and Kraken are easy to execute. I can walk up to Microsoft or Apple store and in less than a minute I can compare which computer is faster. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    Can you tell me what is the difference between Firefox 30 and Firefox 44 ? I can't go back and power up every single PC reviewed before to rerun those benchmarks every time the browser version changes.

    I prefer a standardized browsing engine, and that is what PCMark 8 provides.

    It is nice to have quick scores to compare against what you already have, but it doesn't hold up under detailed scrutiny - we need repeatable and reproducible benchmarks for different use-cases.
    Reply

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