Topton Jasper Lake Quad i225V Mini PC Report

ReturnedSword

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I had been excited about the Topton Jasper Lake Mini PC with Quad i225V NICs to use as a new pfSense router, so I ordered one on April 7th, 2022. The mini PC is also available under the KingNovy brand, and various other random reseller brands. Due to supply chain constraints of the Intel N6005, I didn't get a ship out notice until May 15th, 2022. I received the product on May 28th, 2022, a full 52 days from ordering to receipt, which is quite unusual even for products from China.

Upon some cursory testing, I can say that I don't have many great feelings about the Topton unit.

Topton N6005 mini PC with quad i225V B3 NICs specifications:
  • Intel Pentium N6005 (Jasper Lake - Tremont arch) 4 core/4 thread @ 2.0 GHz/ 3.3 Ghz (N5095, N5105 also available)
  • 2x16 GB (32 GB) DDR-2933 SO-DIMM maximum
  • CW-N6000 v2.0 motherboard
  • 1 x PCIe 3.0 x2 M.2 Key M 2280 (Note: only x2 lanes)
  • 1 x SATA3
  • 1 x miniPCIe with SIM slot
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 4 x Intel i225V rev. B3 2.5 GbE NICs
  • 1 x Power switch
  • 1 x 12V 36W ungrounded wall wart AC power supply
Cost: USD $277

The package arrived pretty well packed; double boxed with enough tape to enable it to float to its destination in the case of the package falling off the ship. The package probably would've arrived faster that way.
 

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ReturnedSword

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The package has a lot of foam padding inside, and everything is nestled within quite nicely. Topton included a VESA mount for the delay in shipping, which was appreciated, even though I won't be using it.

The 12V 36W AC power supply is a Dajing wall wart, which was different from the power supply in @Patrick's recent review of the Topton/KingNovy units which had power supplies that seemed to be Dell power supply clones complete with DPN.

I had ordered the black unit with curved sides, however it looks like there is some variation of chassis supply as I received the chassis used in the review KingNovy unit, with different front/back plates. It's the chassis with flat sides that can be placed vertically, however I don't recommend that as we can see later due to heat. The front chassis I/O cutouts expose the v2.0 motherboard's HDMI and USB 2.0 ports. A small nitpick is that the USB 2.0 ports were not lined up all the way due to the motherboard soldering job mis-aligning the ports a bit. This caused the USB ports to the a bit "sunken" and not flush with the front plate.I was hoping that the chassis bottom panel would have the curved side chassis' option for a 40mm fan, but this chassis variant doesn't have that capability, as those who work with passive cooling can appreciate that unless a chassis is well designed, heat can become a problem.
 

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ReturnedSword

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Opening up the chassis bottom panel, I was glad to see I had in fact received a unit with a v2.0 motherboard. I wanted to see what kind of CPU thermal paste job was done at the factory, so I removed the motherboard.

The motherboard is removed easily by removing 4 standoff screws. Some care needs to be taken as embedded CPUs are "naked," such as CPUs were in the old days prior to usage of IHS in the CPU package. Due to this, a smooth motion should be used to lift the motherboard out, as any sideways or angled rocking of the motherboard may damage the actual CPU chip itself.

There seems to be a bit too much thermal paste on both the N6005 CPU itself, and the accompanying PCH. I'm not sure about the quality of the thermal paste as it has a thin consistency, so I cleaned it off. Sorry, I had forgotten to take a picture afterwards. A big red flag popped up for me, which was the excess flux that was not cleaned off on the CPU side of the motherboard. Nowadays it's common to use "no clean" flux during the soldering process for mass electronics production, but no clean doesn't mean don't clean. Leftover flux residue can oxidize over time and react with ambient humidity, creating bridges between circuits, which will then short circuit. I had to go through an extra step of cleaning off the flux residue.

The chassis top serves as the main heatsink portion of the fanless chassis. I had expected the copper plug to be soldered, but then noticed a screw, then another screw under the thermal paste. As shown from the thermal paste marks, the CPU/PCH contacts the copper plug at an extreme corner. While the CPU/PCH still makes solid contact with the copper plug, not being closer to the center is a concern and not ideal. It seems this chassis was not designed specifically for this motherboard. I removed the copper plug after unscrewing it. A spudger is needed to pry out the copper plug due to the tension from the thermal paste providing interfacing between the copper plug and the chassis top. I cleaned both as well.

I'm not that confident in the thermal performance of the fanless chassis, as it seems not that much thinking was put into designing the chassis itself. Of course I didn't expect a top of the line CNC machined chassis, but I also didn't expect the chassis to amount to be a hunk of extruded aluminum with two screw holes for a copper plug. Still, Jasper Lake is a fairly lower wattage CPU, so I was a bit surprised at the temperatures as I'll share in the subsequent post.

To complete the inspection, I applied Noctua NT-H2 thermal paste and reassembled the copper plug, chassis top panel, and motherboard.
 

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ReturnedSword

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Due to the Topton unit being fanless, I got a simple M.2 heatsink which I installed on my Samsung PM981 (970 Evo non-Plus equivalent; salvaged from one of my Lenovo TMMs).

I also picked up a G.Skill DDR4-3200 2x8GB kit with default JEDEC timings (CL22). I wanted to see if the RAM would run at DDR4-3200, but Jasper Lake is stuck at DDR4-2933 max.

Both the NVMe drive and RAM installed rather easily, as expected.

Aside: I also picked up a HDMI-to-VGA adapter, as the usual monitor I use for physically checking my firewall only has VGA. It was one of Samsung's earliest LCD models that somehow hasn't died after over 25 years.
 

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I ran some basic tests, and am currently trying to see if I can stress test the Topton unit for at least a few days.

Under load, I encountered some concerning temperatures:
  • The Samsung PM981 reached 85 C (!), with thermal throttling starting at 70 C, which was shocking. The average drive temperature was 59 C.
  • Average motherboard temperature probe read 60 C. This is the RAM/M.2/miniPCIe side.
  • CPU hit 72 C, and averaged 57 C under Prime95. Jasper Lake's TjMax is 105 C so plenty of headroom, though not great performance from the chassis.
  • I used an IR thermometer to check temperatures. I got 52.7 C on top of the chassis (above CPU), 49 C on the side away from the CPU, and 49.7 C on the side closest to the CPU.
On the M.2 performance, the PCIe 3.0 x2 slot was able to do 1,724 MB/s seqRead/1,603 MB/s seqWrite in CrystalDiskMark, which isn't a real world benchmark, but can give an idea for comparison. The PM981 256GB official datasheet specifies 3,500 MB/s seqRead/2,200 MB/s seqWrite.

I ran PassMark to upload the PassMark score, which I didn't screenshot. The score however is in line with the 18 (hah) other uploaded entries.

Upon running the Prime95 blend test, I received an entire system crash after about an hour, with no apparent reason. I wasn't able to replicate the crash. I though I'd be good to go, however after Prime95 runs for around 3-4 hours, one of the CPU cores errors (can't calculate the prime number), and that thread in Prime95 aborts. This was mostly happening with core0 and core1. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the CPU possibly being an ES CPU, or there is something wrong with the motherboard.
 

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Closing thoughts:

I'm not sure why I both CPU-Z and HWiNFO report the N6005 as an ES CPU. Perhaps I received a pre-production/test motherboard? The CPUID and CPU stepping seem to match Patrick's article though on the N5105, which wasn't detected as an ES CPU. I don't have/can't find any CPUID or stepping lists for Jasper Lake, so I couldn't verify.

I also don't think the chassis is very well designed. It's a simple extruded aluminum chassis with a copper plug to interface with the CPU die, where the copper plug isn't soldered to the aluminum heatsink. I wasn't expecting an elaborate heatpipe configuration, however I had expected something slightly better, or that the CPU and the copper plug would actually line up. The chassis just doesn't get rid of heat that well.

The BIOS is very basic, yet exposes a lot of random settings that aren't relevant for an embedded system. At the same time, I tried to enable the fTPM (Intel PTT), yet the motherboard keeps reverting automatically back to dTPM, so I wasn't able to get the built-in TPM detected in Windows. The motherboard doesn't even have a discrete TPM header, so the dTPM option doesn't even make sense to be exposed.

The driver situation also isn’t great in Windows 10. I’m not sure about Windows 11 as I haven’t tried yet. In Windows 10, I had to manually hunt down about a dozen drivers from manufacturers who have Jasper Lake PCs (ASUS, Lenovo, Acer, etc.) that weren’t included on Intel’s support pages. In fact Intel doesn’t even post the Jasper Lake chipset driver package at all, which is just simply appalling considering Jasper Lake was "released" back in Q1 2021, over a year ago.

I'm corresponding with Topton to clarify my concerns, and will update when they reply/provide a resolution.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Ok, for some reason stress testing has now gone on for almost 2 days with no errors. My guess is the thermal solution. Where the CPU/PCH contacts the copper plug, there’s a screw smack dab in that area. After some heat up, perhaps the thermal compound was able to spread out a bit more. I didn’t have the metal burr issue in the screw holes like I saw on a report in another forum, so I had no need to de-burr.

Has anyone else got a Topton/KingNovy N6005 variant using the CW-N6000 motherboard and can check if their CPU is reported as an ES CPU?
 
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oneplane

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I don't run windows on any of them so I can't use those GUI tools there. In Linux and FreeBSD none are reporting as ES. Maybe yours isn't an ES and it's wrongly detected, or it is an ES and the ODM couldn't get enough chips so they got ES instead :(
 
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ReturnedSword

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Well, spoke too soon about the stress testing being stable for 2 days. The Topton unit crashed about an hour under 2 days according to the logs.

I installed Ubuntu and FreeBSD. Under both, I was able to verify the N6005 CPU in fact has a QDF number, and not an S-Spec number… meaning it is definitely a pre-production sample.

I’m just floored tbh. This is my first experience with the Wild West of Chinese e-commerce, and I expected below par manufacturing, but usable (such as the messy flux job). I didn’t expect Topton or the Changwang ODM to straight up use an ES CPU then sell it as a production unit The half-baked BIOS where multiple settings don’t stick or work, such as C-states and PTT just compound the issue. Ah, and I also realized my particular N6005 pulls about 1.82v idling, which seems quite high compared to around 1.2v idle I’ve seen in other Jasper Lake reviews/posts.

At this point I give up on this particular unit. As mentioned before, I’ve been trying to contact Topton. However, their prior responsiveness prior to sale/shipment now has become unresponsive. I’ll give it a few more days and if there’s no response I’ll file a dispute with AliExpress and PayPal.
 

xShARkx

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Well, spoke too soon about the stress testing being stable for 2 days. The Topton unit crashed about an hour under 2 days according to the logs.

I installed Ubuntu and FreeBSD. Under both, I was able to verify the N6005 CPU in fact has a QDF number, and not an S-Spec number… meaning it is definitely a pre-production sample.

I’m just floored tbh. This is my first experience with the Wild West of Chinese e-commerce, and I expected below par manufacturing, but usable (such as the messy flux job). I didn’t expect Topton or the Changwang ODM to straight up use an ES CPU then sell it as a production unit The half-baked BIOS where multiple settings don’t stick or work, such as C-states and PTT just compound the issue. Ah, and I also realized my particular N6005 pulls about 1.82v idling, which seems quite high compared to around 1.2v idle I’ve seen in other Jasper Lake reviews/posts.

At this point I give up on this particular unit. As mentioned before, I’ve been trying to contact Topton. However, their prior responsiveness prior to sale/shipment now has become unresponsive. I’ll give it a few more days and if there’s no response I’ll file a dispute with AliExpress and PayPal.
have you checked this german site out? Use google translate...


Which have some "tips" and link to a bios update?
 
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ReturnedSword

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Yes I noticed that German blog the other day, but had already figured out the same conclusions separately beforehand. I had already re-flashed the BIOS from Changwang’s support site (though the re-flash is the same version from 04/25/2022 as already present).

In addition I did a full tear down, mostly to check the thermal solution. I had come up with the same conclusion as that German blog, and fixed it with better paste. This reduced temperature a bit, but not by a big amount, because the chassis thermal solution just sucks as shown in my pictures :D
 
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xShARkx

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Yes I noticed that German blog the other day, but had already figured out the same conclusions separately beforehand. I had already re-flashed the BIOS from Changwang’s support site (though the re-flash is the same version from 04/25/2022 as already present).

In addition I did a full tear down, mostly to check the thermal solution. I had come up with the same conclusion as that German blog, and fixed it with better paste. This reduced temperature a bit, but not by a big amount, because the chassis thermal solution just sucks as shown in my pictures :D
I see, that's a bummer than...

I see other manufactures or models in aliexpress, maybe there is one more descent? Cause i see some models with com ports and such which have different looking mother board and metal case.

Like:


Ofc this one uses n5105 and not the n6005.
 
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ReturnedSword

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The fly by night Chinese ODMs seem to really have shoddy QC. The bad flux job alone would be a reason to reject such a board by any other reputable ODM. I guess that’s why these units are cheap! :p The main reason I’m interested is that I planned to use these little units until I transition my network to full 10G, at which point I’ll upgrade my father’s equipment with this unit.

If I were to rebuy I’d probably go with a N5105 rather than N6005. I’ve read some reports that these little network appliance boards are all made by Changwang or Bluetech, both of which I’ve never heard about until recently. My former go-to was Jetway IPC’s industrial appliance boards, but it seems Jetway hasn’t updated their Atom line for a while.
 
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oneplane

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Oh yeah Jetway not updating (or getting a bit more interoperable) is a real bummer. Same with the Commel or PCEngines APU and ALIX boards where it's usually a one-off design around a single SoC and when that SoC is no longer in stock or produced the boards simply won't be made anymore. I get it, designing a board is hard, but it would be so nice if there were more options available.

I have tried out NUC-boards too, but they are both expensive and not really a great fit for the job. Even then you'll always end up with a hacky mini-PCIe to Ethernet adapter, or multiple VLANs over a single interface. Qotom has been pretty reliable, but those haven't really been updated much and we're still waiting for higher speed models.

It seems that we're screwed either way :p Maybe the lower end N-models with better SoC availability are the best choices now so they won't be hacking in ES or QS chips just to move product.
 

ReturnedSword

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Yeah RIP Jetway not updating their network appliance mITX and SBC boards to newer generations. I have a love hate relationship with Jetway’s daughter boards. A great concept but not interoperable.

The problem with NUC boards is no suitable alternative chassis that can support a PCIe slot. Or at least I haven’t seen one so far. I’m thinking at this point I may build a custom sub-5L mITX dual slot router, possibly using a clone chassis from China as it’s been difficult for SFF.net small designers to get production runs in the last 2 years. I considered a Lenovo Tiny, or HP T740, however I have concerns about heat build up when using a quad copper GbE NIC as those units only have a single fan (on the CPU).

Well, update on Topton. Every time they read my message since Friday (6 days ago), I messaged an update, which they read and never replied. I think they have ghosted me basically :rolleyes: I’m going to send another message, and give a courtesy wait until Monday then submit a dispute with PayPal. I also won’t be buying from Topton again in the future.
 

oneplane

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Well, update on Topton. Every time they read my message since Friday (6 days ago), I messaged an update, which they read and never replied. I think they have ghosted me basically :rolleyes: I’m going to send another message, and give a courtesy wait until Monday then submit a dispute with PayPal. I also won’t be buying from Topton again in the future.
Yeah, that's how they generally operate. Keep in mind that their reputation/dispute system isn't the same as say, eBay etc. Just immediately open a dispute, that's the way to do. Even for little things like "wrong color" that's how you get things done. The reason for this is that reputation is simply 'bought' and the only value (especially in trade there) is volume.

While I haven't had any issues with any of the compute stuff (besides the minimum effort cooling setup - but still plenty for normal non-QS/ES), I've had things like soldering iron cartridges just being the wrong diameter, and a simple "this is the wrong product" dispute/signal using aliexpress's own interface immediately made them send the right one. Due to their need for volume and because of the subsidised one-way shipping, they nearly never want the product returned, they'll just ship a new one instead.

It's all a bit different from general western commercial trade, but somewhere down the line, any product we buy came from there anyway.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Topton’s rep kept insisting that I *can* leave a positive feedback, even before receipt of the unit :p

Ah good to know. I’m used to the eBay courtesies such as trying to work with the seller before escalating. I don’t have much experience with buying from Chinese eCommerce. Until now my only experience are high powered LED mini flashlights from Banggood to feed my compulsive flashlight collecting hobby haha.

This experience has taught me that the design and quality control issues are pretty bad though with these small Chinese companies. I mean, if they had gone through the effort of faking a mid performance passive chassis they might as well add even a single *soldered* heat pipe to evenly spread the heat to both sides is the chassis. Or at least make sure the copper plug is more centered on where the CPU die actually is. And while they were at it, make sure the CPU isn’t a QS/ES.
 

ReturnedSword

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Another update on Topton having atrocious service. They are still ghosting me so I tried to submit an AliExpress dispute today. Surprise! Topton was trying to buy time so the dispute window would expire. I had to contact AliExpress directly and escalate the issue, so waiting for a manager’s reply in a day or two. Maybe I should just go ahead of submit a PayPal dispute as well.

Not sure how others experiences with Topton is, but it seems they really don’t like resolving issues.