ASRock announced five new motherboards with embedded Apollo Lake SoCs, all of which use passive cooling to keep your system completely silent.
Intel’s manufactures its Apollo Lake SoCs on its 14nm tri-gate process with the new Goldmont microarchitecture. Compared to the preceding Braswell SoCs, Apollo Lake desktop SoCs have a higher 10W TDP that should help them maintain boost frequencies for longer periods of time. Apollo Lake also has an updated Gen9 graphics core based on Skylake’s iGPU.
As we mentioned above, ASRock uses passive cooling with all of the SoCs. The cooling solution should be sufficient for these low-power processors, but it may limit performance somewhat as the CPU will throttle once it reaches a certain temperature.
Although Apollo Lake supports DDR4 memory, ASRock opted to use DDR3 RAM on all five of its motherboards. This won’t affect CPU performance much, but it will hamper the performance of the iGPU somewhat.
ASRock designed three of the motherboards around the mini-ITX form factor and used SO-DIMM RAM to conserve space.
The fastest of these new boards is the ASRock Super Alloy J4205-ITX, which uses the Pentium J4205 SoC. The J4205 is clocked slightly higher than other Apollo Lake SKUs and has a beefier iGPU with more EUs.
There is currently no word on pricing or availability.
|Asrock’s Apollo Lake Motherboards|
|Model||ASRock Super Alloy J3355M||ASRock Super Alloy J3355B-ITX||ASRock Super Alloy J3455-ITX||ASRock Super Alloy J3455-ITX||ASRock Super Alloy J4205-ITX|
|SoC||Apollo Lake Celeron J3355||Apollo Lake Celeron J3355||Apollo Lake Celeron J3455||Apollo Lake Celeron J3455||Apollo Lake Pentium J4205|
|Clock Speed||2GHz / 2.5GHz Boost||2GHz / 2.5GHz Boost||1.5GHz / 2.3GHz Boost||1.5GHz / 2.3GHz Boost||1.5GHz / 2.6GHz Boost|
|iGPU||HD Graphics 500 (12 EUs)||HD Graphics 500 (12 EUs)||HD Graphics 500 (12 EUs)||HD Graphics 500 (12 EUs)||HD Graphics 505 (16 EUs)|
|Memory Support||Up To 2 x 8GB DDR3 1866MHz DIMM||Up To 2 x 8GB DDR3 1866MHz SO-DIMM||Up To 2 x 8GB DDR3 1866MHz SO-DIMM||Up To 2 x 8GB DDR3 1866MHz DIMM||Up To 2 x 8GB DDR3 1866MHz SO-DIMM|
|Expansion Slots||PCI-E 2.0 x162 x PCI-E 2.0 x1||PCI-E 2.0 x16||PCI-E 2.0 x1M.2 Key E||PCI-E 2.0 x162 x PCI-E 2.0 x1||PCI-E 2.0 x1M.2 Key E|
|Storage||2 x SATA-III (6Gbps)||2 x SATA-III (6Gbps)||4 x SATA-III (6Gbps)(Two Controlled By Asmedia ASM1061 Controller)||2 x SATA-III (6Gbps)||4 x SATA-III (6Gbps)(Two Controlled By Asmedia ASM1061 Controller)|
|LAN||Realtek RTL8111E||Realtek RTL8111GR||Realtek RTL8111GR||Realtek RTL8111E||Realtek RTL8111GR|
|Audio||Realtek ALC887||Realtek ALC887||Realtek ALC892||Realtek ALC887||Realtek ALC892|
|USB||4 x USB 3.0 (2 on Rear I/O)7 x USB 2.0 (2 on Rear I/O)||5 x USB 3.0 (3 on Rear I/O)5 x USB 2.0 (1 on Rear I/O)||4 x USB 3.0 (2 on Rear I/O)5 x USB 2.0 (2 on Rear I/O)||4 x USB 3.0 (2 on Rear I/O)7 x USB 2.0 (2 on Rear I/O)||5 x USB 3.0 (2 on Rear I/O)5 x USB 2.0 (2 on Rear I/O)|
The upper end ones would work fine for 1080p and lower content. Throw FreeNAS and plex on one of these with 4 sata ports and you would have a pretty capable little device.
I suppose the biggest issue would be RAM capacity... My freeNAS box sucks down a solid 22GB of RAM. Can't imagine getting that much over 2 dimms on these boards... but then again you can't slap 7-8 HDDs on these boards either, so it may be fine.
Still, should be pretty good if the price is appropriate (ie $30-60 with the CPU on board).
Also, the SoCs all have only 6 lanes of PCIe 2.0 and 2x integrated SATA3 ports.
I assume these have Goldmont cores, which aren't bad but still probably get fewer instructions-per-clock than Ivy. Couple that with the slower clock speed, and she won't be thanking you.
And even if the board has a x16 PCIe 2.0 slot, it can't have more than 4 lanes actually connected.
If you want something small & quiet, just get a NUC with a proper Broadwell or Skylake CPU. You can get them with the Iris Pro graphics, which might be enough for most casual gaming @ 1080p.
Amazingly, the Skylake i7 version is even quad-core (also, not cheap and maybe not even that quiet, under load):
With the suggested pricing of the CPU alone being $100+....I doubt you'll find them in the $30-60 price range. The MSRP for the Celeron 3355 is $107 and the Pentium 4205 is $161. Then ASRock and Asus will add on whatever they feel the motherboard is worth.
I have a Plex server running on a Gigabyte Brix ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gigabyte-Brix-BXBT-1900-Ultra-Compact/dp/B00MOEMZMQ ) which uses a much older Intel Atom chip, the J1900. Have installed 4Gb of DDR3L 1600 and a 128Gb SSD with Windows 10 Pro, then an external 2Tb USB3 harddrive with all my media on it.
If reencoding is required it's able to serve up one stream, but it chokes re-encoding 2 x 1080p videos simultaneously. If no reencoding is required then it's quite happy to serve multiple Plex clients simultaneously.
Anyway, I'm really curious to see how these Apollo Lake chips perform. I'd love for my server to be completely silent.
My biggest issue with these is that the form factor is wrong. It should be mini-STX.