Final Words

AMD APUs are usually competitive on price, but, not on performance, when compared with Intel solutions. Consumers looking at the AMD A10 Micro-6700T in the Compulab fitlet-XA10-LAN might be disappointed at first glance. Surprisingly, the Compulab fitlet-XA10-LAN packs a lot of punch for its size. Compulab's ability to unlock the TDP with its thermal design gives a great performance boost to the system. In fact, the fitlet-XA10-LAN manages to surpass all equivalent Bay Trail and Braswell systems in almost all benchmarks.

The four gigabit LAN ports of the unit are the real attraction. The FC-LAN FACET module enables the fitlet-X to transform into a compact, yet powerful network appliance. We tested out the unit with an installation of VyOS and configured it as a router. Cursory benchmarking indicated a NAT throughput of more than 840 Mbps.

The two kits provided by Compulab gave us the opportunity to evaluate different thermal solutions for industrial PCs. The heat-sink lid was created by Compulab to make the thermal performance of the fitlet-XA10-LAN better under heavy stress. However, it does increase the height of the unit and negates the compactness aspect. Compulab's new solution of having a different coating for the original aluminum top panel maintains the original dimensions of the unit. Even though the thermal performance suffers a bit compared to the heat-sink lid, it does prevent the unit from getting thermally throttled.

Prospective consumers need to keep in mind that this is an industrial PC, and the SoC and motherboard configuration mandate that only one DDR3 1333 MHz SO-DIMM can be used. Consumers are also stuck with the outdated mSATA SSD slot. That said, mSATA will probably continue to be supported for some time to come in the industrial PC market.

Compulab has an interesting suite of solutions for various industrial computing applications, and the fit-Uptime UPS targets a niche within that. The UPS seems like an attractive option for small-scale industrial PC rollouts. Addition of intelligence (either via network or USB connectivity) would help widen the appeal of the UPS.

Coming to the business end of the review, Compulab's fitlet-XA10-LAN is a unique computing platform. Consumers looking for a compact x86 PC with more than two LAN ports do not have any other options without sacrificing quite a bit on the form factor. If size is not a concern, Compulab has more powerful passively-cooled platforms with support for multi-LAN cards. These include the fitlet-T (AMD Steppe Eage GX-424) with support for up to 5 gigabit LAN ports, the IPC2 (Haswell/Broadwell Core-i7 U-Series) with support for up to 6 LAN ports, and the Airtop (up to Xeon E3 v4) with up to 6 gigabit LAN ports and an option to add 4-6 more with a PCIe card. For specialized applications, Compulab also provides FACE modules with quad PoE 802.3af ports and dual SFP+ optical networking ports. These FACE modules are compatible only with the fitlet-H and fitlet-T.

Given the usual premium associated with industrial PCs, the $315 price point for the barebones configuration of the fitlet-XA10-LAN is quite reasonable. That said, we would like Compulab to explore options to make the thermal performance even better while maintaining the current dimensions.

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • ganeshts - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    I was a bit surprised too, but, I think the reason is that the ERL might have hardware acceleration for NAT. On the other side, this is a full-fledged PC. It can do a lot more than just routing / I expect consumers might want to run more CPU-intensive network-related tasks in addition to routing duties. Reply
  • freeskier93 - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    EdgeOS is Debian based and supports apt-get so you can install other things on it. Although it did bog down our connection a bit when someone was connected, our ERL ran OpenVPN good enough for occasional use. Reply
  • easp - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    Not a big surprise, considering that ERL has hardware acceleration + tailored/optimized firmware. People running OpenWRT are often able to get a 50% boost out of much more modest with a bit of tuning of kernel parameters, so chances are, a little tweaking of the config would get closer to the max. Reply
  • trane - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    A10 Micro 6700T may be the most underrated SoC in history. A couple of years back when it first released it was faster than Bay Trail across the board, and destroyed it for GPU performance. The Discovery tablet had good battery life too - I suspect within an hour or so of Bay Trail. Sadly, it got ambushed by Intel's Bay Trail contra revenues. Is this the first commercial design for it?

    It's surprising that it's still faster than Intel's latest 14nm Braswell, despite being on 28nm. Though yes, it does use a cTDP up.

    I look forward to see dual-core low power Zen APUs in this market.
    Reply
  • yannigr2 - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    I was curious reading a review of this for over a year. Well, better late than never. Reply
  • Compulab - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    Actually it was Compulab who held back the review. We had to improve the thermal characteristics of the product. Designing the heatsink and new metal panels and coating took a while.
    I think that the review reflects correctly the capabilities of fitlet, something we could not achieve sooner.
    Reply
  • ely105 - Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - link

    When you order the fitlet-LAN from amazon, does it have the new/improved black coating? Reply
  • serendip - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    An x86 SOC that runs Linux out of the box? I think I just saw a unicorn. Too bad AMD couldn't push the Mullins chips to tablet makers. I'm stuck with an Atom tablet that will probably never run Linux with full support, thanks to 32-bit UEFI nonsense and closed source drivers. Reply
  • Compulab - Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - link

    Actually Compulab (together with Linux Mint) has been offering pre-installed "MintBox" for several years now, including MintBox Mini based on fitlet.
    See http://www.fit-pc.com/web/products/mintbox/
    Reply
  • 2disbetter - Thursday, April 28, 2016 - link

    Ganesh, thanks for writing this up. It was the first bit of exposure I've had with Compulab, and I'm very happy I found out about them. Their Airtop and Fitlab models are both very interesting products. Very very interesting. Reply

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