Passively cooled computing systems carry many advantages. Most of these turn out to be very important for industrial and embedded applications. In recent years, both AMD and Intel have been paying extra attention to the peformance per watt aspect of their computing platforms. This has led to ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs emerging as ideal candidates for passive industrial computing platforms. We have already reviewed a number of industrial PCs before. Today, we will be taking a look at the Compulab fitlet-XA10-LAN, a unique passively-cooled UCFF PC that doesn't sacrifice on I/O capabilities.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

Compulab is one of the major players in the passively-cooled embedded and industrial PC market space. They have different product lines catering to different requirements. One of the first Intense PC models was reviewed by us back in 2013. Since then, Compulab has introduced the uSVR micro-server for high-end applications and a range of more affordable small-footprint PCs such as the IPC2, fit-PC3 & fit-PC3i, fit-PC4 and the fitlet. The fitlet-XA10-LAN, powered by an AMD Mullins SoC, obviously belongs to the last category.

The dimensions of the PC come in at 10.8cm x 8.3cm x 2.4cm, making it smaller than the NUCs. Compulab has been making improvements to the chassis even after the introduction of the product into the market. The original thermal design allowed for the internal SoCs to operate at their rated TDPs. However, Compulab also started to offer a finned top panel last year. It is a slot-in replacement for the existing top panel and allows the TDP limitations to be safely bypassed. Starting this quarter, they will be replacing the original top panel with something similarly sized, but having a different coating based on the knowledge gained during the development of the Compulab Airtop. For the prupose of this review, Compulab sent us two units of the fitlet-XA10-LAN (one with the original chassis and another with the newly improved top panel). In addition, the fit-Uptime (a UPS for the fitlet series and NUCs with a 18 Whr battery) was also bundled with the review kit.

The fitlet-XA10-LAN comes with a host of additional items to improve I/O capabilities (including a HDMI to DVI adapter and an external USB 2.0 WLAN adapter). A 36W (12V @ 3A) AC adapter is also bundled with the unit. We will cover the hardware aspects in detail in a later section.

The most striking aspect of the fitlet-XA10-LAN is the presence of four gigabit LAN ports. Most fanless UCFF PCs sacrifice I/O capabilities in order to achieve good thermal performance in a compact size. Compulab's innovative FACE modules bring a unique solution to this interesting problem. They allow a compatible PC to sport different 'add-on cards' that provide I/O suitable for the desired application. These FACE (Function And Connectivity Extension) modules have well-documented specifications, enabling third-party designs also. FACE modules, however, are too big for the fitlet series. In its place, Compulab has developed FACET (Function And Connectivity Extension T-Cards) to provide extended peripheral and I/O connectivity for the dimunitive fitlet PCs. FACET cards interface with the main SoC / CPU using three PCIe 2.0 lanes. They also support routing of USB 2.0, SMBus and LPC signals while using the industry-standard mini-PCIe interface. The fitlet-XA10-LAN comes with a FACET LAN card that has three Intel I211 GbE controllers, each of which connect to one PCIe 2.0 lane on the FACET interface.

The specifications of our CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN review configuration are summarized in the table below.

CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN Specifications
Processor AMD A10 Micro-6700T
Puma+ x86 (Mullins)
4C/4T, 1.2 GHz (Turbo to 2.2 GHz), 28nm, 2MB L2, 4.5W TDP
Memory A-Data ADDS1600W8G11-B
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
1x8 GB
Graphics AMD Radeon R6
Disk Drive(s) Micron RealSSD C400v Series C400-MTFDDAT064MAM
(64 GB; mSATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
Networking Mediatek (Ralink) RT5370 Wireless LAN 802.11n USB 2.0 Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
4x RJ-45 Intel i211 Gigabit LAN
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack (headphones / microphone)
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 3x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
1x micro-SDXC
1x Serial Port
Operating System fitlet-XA10-LAN comes with Linux Mint pre-installed
Benchmarking was done with a Windows 10 To Go installation from a USB 3.0 flash drive
Pricing (As configured) $379
Full Specifications fitlet-XA10-LAN Barebones Specifications

The CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN review kit came with Linux Mint pre-installed on both units. However, our evaluation workflow involves Windows. We prepared a Windows 10 Pro x64 installation 'to go' on a Corsair Voyager GTX 256GB USB 3.0 flash drive. We also instrumented it with all our standard benchmarks. On the main mSATA drive with the Linux Mint installation, we created a NTFS partition. This partition was used as the target drive for our storage benchmarking. The system operated flawlessly with our Windows To Go installation once the appropriate drivers were installed.

In the rest of the review, we first take a look at the internal hardware organization, as well as the platform and the BIOS features. This is followed by a look at the various performance benchmarks under Windows. Usually, we talk about the HTPC capabilities of various PCs that we review, but, it is obvious that the target market for the fitlet-XA10-LAN is quite different. Instead of the HTPC aspects, we will discuss some networking performance benchmarks. After that, we move on to the thermal design and its efficiency. In particular, we will compare the thermal performance of the two different configurations. In the final section, we look at some miscellaneous aspects and provide some concluding remarks.

The table below has an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN 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 CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect CompuLab fitlet-XA10-LAN
CPU AMD A10 Micro-6700T AMD A10 Micro-6700T
GPU AMD Radeon R6 Graphics AMD Radeon R6 Graphics
RAM A-Data ADDS1600W8G11-B
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
1x8 GB
A-Data ADDS1600W8G11-B
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
1x8 GB
Storage Micron RealSSD C400v Series C400-MTFDDAT064MAM
(64 GB; mSATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
Micron RealSSD C400v Series C400-MTFDDAT064MAM
(64 GB; mSATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Mediatek (Ralink) RT5370 Wireless LAN 802.11n USB 2.0 Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Mediatek (Ralink) RT5370 Wireless LAN 802.11n USB 2.0 Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $379 $379
Hardware Aspects and BIOS Features
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  • rstuart - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    The Kettop has less than 1/2 the warranty, is still bigger, doesn't have wireless, has VGA vs 2 x HDMI, 2xUSB-2 versus 3xUSB-2 + 2xUSB-3, no serial port, and no m-PCI expansion.

    But yeah, your right. Apart from that you are almost buying the same thing.
    Reply
  • Lazn_W - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    I guess my brief search didn't find anything quite so small.. But there are plenty of options in this arena, perhaps not quite so tiny, but if you need the wifi etc, and more horsepower.. you can get them, here is another MFG for example: http://www.amazon.com/Qotom/b/ref=bl_dp_s_web_1006... Reply
  • rstuart - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    It's the same deal though isn't it? Your original point is there are cheaper options elsewhere, but while it's cheaper it's hardly the same thing. Good for a home router maybe - but doesn't have the ports to do much else. For a person wanting to put in in a remote office literally mega metres away and not touch it, the 1 year warranty doesn't send a good signal.

    As for the AMD vs Intel thing - I simply don't care. It's a bit of mystery to me why anybody would care. What I do care about is you load the OS on it, and it just works. They certainly do that. They've given me less compatibility headaches that any box I can remember. Even Debian stable "just works".

    The one criticism I have of these CompuLab boxes is there is no TPM. TPM's are nice to have in boxes holding secure credentials in remote locations. Oh yeah and the choice of the Intel 7260 wifi module. It works wonderfully as a client, but as a master it only supports 13 stations which isn't enough.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, April 22, 2016 - link

    I'm with you here. The size of the Compulab is impressive but for someone who is going to build and leave this in a not so nice location for human beings, the size difference is not much of an advantage for the Compulab. Reply
  • variab1e - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    Is the J1900 going to be faster than the A10 Micro-6700T ? Reply
  • Lazn_W - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Celeron-J1900-vs-AMD... Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    That is a naive comparison. Only when we actually evaluate the *system* that the real performance comes out. Those 'bot' sites that just compare paper specifications never tell the full story.

    When I started the fitlet-XA10-LAN review, I was pretty sure the Braswell and Bay Trail SoCs would run circles around the A10 Micro-6700T. I was very surprised with the results - the difference lies in the thermal design - the unlocked TDP means the APU can dissipate a lot more power than what it is intended to in its target market (tablets for the A10 Micro-6700T).

    So, we have the A10 Micro-6700T in the fitlet-XA10-LAN that was faster than any Braswell or Bay Trail passively cooled CPU with a larger form factor in *CPU* benchmarks. Credit to Compulab should be given when they deserve it :)
    Reply
  • Lazn_W - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    Sure, I was pointing out other options for those of us who prefer the blue team.

    And if you are willing to spend, there are Core i5/i7 based options out there too. If interested, look on Amazon.
    Reply
  • WorBlux - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - link

    And do they come with a standard 60 month (5 whole years) warranty? Reply
  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    I'm surprised this thing wasn't able to NAT another ~100Mb/s. A $99 ERL can max out a gigabit FTTH connection. Reply

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