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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  • Pissedoffyouth - Tuesday, March 01, 2016 - link

    I wish Intel could sort out it's Atom Linux support. Something like this with Linux support would be fantastic. It's been like 3 years and my Asus t100 Baytrail still doesn't work properly 100% without invasive patches for its kernel. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, March 01, 2016 - link

    I've had endless problems getting Linux working on an Asus X205TA that's got a Bay Trail to the point where I've given up on it and it's basically a Windows paperweight sitting in a drawer. HP was a lot better/easier with the Stream 11, but even it isn't as easy as it ought to be to get a proper operating system installed. The hardware specs on these low end Atoms with their passive cooling and low price make them perfect candidates for Linux. I'm not one to spread conspiracy theories, but I think that there's been active work put into the idea of preventing people from easily abandoning Windows on cheaper systems. After all, if Microsoft is giving the OS away for free, they need to recoup their costs through targeted advertising and the Windows Store so the last thing Microsoft would want is the end user population hopping onto an OS where they don't reap any financial return. Reply
  • PsychoPif - Wednesday, March 02, 2016 - link

    "I'm not one to spread conspiracy theories, "

    Except you just did :)

    Unless you can provide any shadow of a doubt, I'll keep beliving it has more to do with the fact that Linux is too small of a market to warrant the cost for the hardware maker.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Wednesday, March 02, 2016 - link

    I might be mistaken, but the number of computing devices running a Linux kernel is currently higher than those running a Microsoft built kernel. While a lot of that is due to Android, there's also super computer dominance and other fringe markets. Because of Microsoft's recent missteps with Windows 8's user interface and privacy concerns that arose due to Windows 10 telemetry, I think there's a reason for shareholders to be concerned. It didn't take that many years for the Linux kernel to reach a dominant state in the mobile sector. Yes, on desktop and laptop PCs, the market share is about 1.7% running Linux, but that traditional computing model is mature and even in a state of decline as mobile devices running alternative operating systems are apparently taking sales. As handsets have proven, change can happen quickly. It's in Microsoft's best interest, particularly with Secure Boot, to implement mechanisms that help to achieve ecosystem lock-in. Reply
  • Flunk - Tuesday, March 01, 2016 - link

    I don't think it's Intel's problem that the Linux kernel has compatibility issues with their hardware. Microsoft initially had some problems with bay trail and cherry trail too, but they fixed their issues. The issues are mostly concerned with certain hardware things these SoCs no longer have that OSes assume x86 chips have. It's not an issue with the hardware. Reply
  • Flunk - Tuesday, March 01, 2016 - link

    Also, I should follow this up with the standard open-source argument. If you want bay trail/cherry trail support then you should write it yourself. Reply
  • eek2121 - Thursday, March 03, 2016 - link

    I'm not normally one to agree with a troll, but thank you Flunk, as someone who has read that very line across many different open source projects...you made my night. I said this 15 years ago, and i'll say it again. The open source world has 3 problems when it comes to open source adoption. The biggest one is the asshole community. Fix that issue and you'll go a long way towards widespread open source adoption. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of assholes out there...so good luck! Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, March 01, 2016 - link

    I'm on such a cpu right now, the Pentium 3700. About the only issues with Linux are video, and the drivers for it are from Intel, open source as well.
    What is weirder is that video wise, Android works way better than typical Linux. Probably because it doesn't use X. I'd look into Remix OS or the Android x86 project. Best part of the latter is you'll have no issue with updates or upgrades vs the typical android tablet.
    Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, March 02, 2016 - link

    No, it is an issue with Intel because they should be submitting the patches and drivers to make stuff work properly. Reply
  • Camikazi - Wednesday, March 02, 2016 - link

    But it's Linux, if it doesn't work you can fix it yourself, isn't that the big thing about it? I don't think Intel should submit anything to make it work, they do it if they can and if they want to other than that you are on your own making it work. Reply

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