Topton Jasper Lake Quad i225V Mini PC Report

Wasmachineman_NL

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Aug 7, 2019
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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.
That's just the way Chinese do business ReturnedSword. Not that other countries are anything better *cough* me getting sent a B-grade Precision M6600 base instead of a new one *cough*
 
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oneplane

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Oh it's definitely not Topton-specific, they all do the same thing trying to let the window expire. Same with the confirm delivery thing where any vendor will try to get you to confirm delivery before doing anything else. A lot of white label ODMs really don't have much to gain from supporting individual customers since the market is so extremely large and highly unlikely to have any sales impact from not supporting anything/anyone.

For this very reason, if you do commercial installations without a local distributor, order spares for everything. It'll still be cheaper and more versatile in many cases, and when the contract allows it's also a much better result for all parties involved vs. some low-end cisco/otherbrand offering.

Normally all of this would be handled by the locally responsible distribution party and because they may only have a potential market of a couple of tens of millions of customers they really do have to work a bit harder and comply with local laws to deliver a product that works. But in China, your market is both locally a quarter of a billion of potential customers and then there's the neighbours that might not have that much of a high bar to set (mass markets like India have a ton of potential customers) that add on top of that. In a nutshell: when you are volume-based and your volume is one or two orders of magnitude bigger than the competition you really can ignore your individual customers. Especially when no consumer protections apply.

Back to the topic at hand: if AliExpress can do their whole dance around the dispute window but allow you do file one, you are likely going to have to ship it back because that's what the 'manager' sometimes feels like, regardless of what the ODM wanted. This isn't a big deal, but sending stuff take forever if EMS is going to handle it. With Qotom I always use DHL because it's simply not worth the wait to use some slow delivery service. With KSGER (different products) it matters a bit less and I often do take the cheapest option because for me, it's also just cheap volume that matters, and getting 20% DoA really doesn't matter if you simply order twice as much as you might need.

This is also reflected in their weird UEFI setup, they just get the default bare-minimum Aptio/AMI/Whatever IBV toolkit, make it work "just enough" and leave everything else on 'enabled' just in case something might ask for it in the future, even if it doesn't do anything. Technically, they are not wrong to do so, locking down and smoothing over the firmware really doesn't make the product better considering they are industrial use cases and besides signage, networking and data aggregation (the models with 6 COM ports) they really don't target other uses. Some vendors default to "no video" and "boot on power" because they know that 99% of the time the units will run headless and this gets them closer to mimic name brand devices that are ten times as expensive without doing the work. Downside is that you get a lot of people complaining that the device is DoA because the HDMI port doesn't work, and only if it happens a lot they'll modify the defaults and publish a BIOS update in some obscure place with a download speed that reminds you of 1995.

But even with all of those drawbacks, if you just order a handful of units, or if you build your own process around it and bulk-order them, it's still a very good choice. When you are in between those points (one or two crates of units, with perhaps some config variations as well) the overhead of getting it to work the way you want it in a repeatable way is going to be a pain in the ass and then going back to your classic HP/Dell/Lenovo vendor might be the way to go. And then there's the contractual obligations if you do them commercially where it might not be an option, and beyond that there's hyperscalers and they just order from Foxconn and Quanta directly and just spec out everything from components selection to QA criteria and deadline/DoA/QA penalties. :p
 
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newabc

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Jan 20, 2019
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About my recent dispute experience on aliexpress for RS232 to USB cables:

I ordered a pair of RS232 to USB cables from IOCrest official store on aliexpress. But when the package arrived, there was only 1 in the package. I sent message via aliexpress' message center to the store when I found that. The store agreed to refund a half of the invoice amount(price + tax + shipping fee). But I still had to wait for the expiration date of the aliexpress platform's shipping estimated time length. On the next day of the expiration date, I opened a dispute and attached a screenshot of the messages between me and the IOCrest store, for a refund of the half of the invoice amount. In hours, the Aliexpress platform approved this refund.

This period was pretty pretty long if the aliexpress platform's shipping estimated time length was long.

Conclusion: I think the Aliexpress' policies are closed to the Taobao.com but there are many differences between it and ebay.com.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Jun 15, 2018
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Welp, another update on my AliExpress adventure. The AliExpress CS manager “approved” a refund. By approved, meaning AliExpress sent Topton a message instructing Topton to refund me. No mention of if it’s a refund in full, if I’ll have to ship back the unit, or anything else. We’ll see.

I was checking out KingNovy, and it appears either their store copy-pastes Topton’s descriptions, or they are in fact the same company under different names.

Oh it's definitely not Topton-specific, they all do the same thing trying to let the window expire. Same with the confirm delivery thing where any vendor will try to get you to confirm delivery before doing anything else. A lot of white label ODMs really don't have much to gain from supporting individual customers since the market is so extremely large and highly unlikely to have any sales impact from not supporting anything/anyone.

For this very reason, if you do commercial installations without a local distributor, order spares for everything. It'll still be cheaper and more versatile in many cases, and when the contract allows it's also a much better result for all parties involved vs. some low-end cisco/otherbrand offering.

Normally all of this would be handled by the locally responsible distribution party and because they may only have a potential market of a couple of tens of millions of customers they really do have to work a bit harder and comply with local laws to deliver a product that works. But in China, your market is both locally a quarter of a billion of potential customers and then there's the neighbours that might not have that much of a high bar to set (mass markets like India have a ton of potential customers) that add on top of that. In a nutshell: when you are volume-based and your volume is one or two orders of magnitude bigger than the competition you really can ignore your individual customers. Especially when no consumer protections apply.

Back to the topic at hand: if AliExpress can do their whole dance around the dispute window but allow you do file one, you are likely going to have to ship it back because that's what the 'manager' sometimes feels like, regardless of what the ODM wanted. This isn't a big deal, but sending stuff take forever if EMS is going to handle it. With Qotom I always use DHL because it's simply not worth the wait to use some slow delivery service. With KSGER (different products) it matters a bit less and I often do take the cheapest option because for me, it's also just cheap volume that matters, and getting 20% DoA really doesn't matter if you simply order twice as much as you might need.
This experience is a lesson learned for sure. Funny how Alibaba has been pushing AliExpress pretty hard in ads lately in the US market, complete with slick video ads on YouTube. I think they’re going to find that Americans expect a minimal level of service. I’d rather pay a little more for that service level. The issue here is there were no (and are still none) alternatives to these AliExpress mini network appliances.

This is also reflected in their weird UEFI setup, they just get the default bare-minimum Aptio/AMI/Whatever IBV toolkit, make it work "just enough" and leave everything else on 'enabled' just in case something might ask for it in the future, even if it doesn't do anything. Technically, they are not wrong to do so, locking down and smoothing over the firmware really doesn't make the product better considering they are industrial use cases and besides signage, networking and data aggregation (the models with 6 COM ports) they really don't target other uses. Some vendors default to "no video" and "boot on power" because they know that 99% of the time the units will run headless and this gets them closer to mimic name brand devices that are ten times as expensive without doing the work. Downside is that you get a lot of people complaining that the device is DoA because the HDMI port doesn't work, and only if it happens a lot they'll modify the defaults and publish a BIOS update in some obscure place with a download speed that reminds you of 1995.

But even with all of those drawbacks, if you just order a handful of units, or if you build your own process around it and bulk-order them, it's still a very good choice. When you are in between those points (one or two crates of units, with perhaps some config variations as well) the overhead of getting it to work the way you want it in a repeatable way is going to be a pain in the ass and then going back to your classic HP/Dell/Lenovo vendor might be the way to go. And then there's the contractual obligations if you do them commercially where it might not be an option, and beyond that there's hyperscalers and they just order from Foxconn and Quanta directly and just spec out everything from components selection to QA criteria and deadline/DoA/QA penalties. :p
The strange part is, at least the last time I had insight into BIOS tools from AMI, etc, it’s trivial to disable all the “fluff” options and enable the relevant options only. I suppose that also requires the company selling to either work with the ODM or do it themselves to do actual testing however minimal.

Still, the most glaring part for me was the bad flux cleanup job by Changwang, and the fact that there was no attempt to make sure the passive chassis’ copper plug to actually be more aligned with the CPU package. To me at least that would’ve taken minimal effort to alter the design of the chassis. After all, changing settings in a CNC machine to move the mount point of the copper plug over by 1-2 cm is much easier than having Changwang redesign the motherboard, since the copper plug is attached by a simple 2-screw system anyway.

I had considered deploying this as a solution to SMB clients that don’t require a more beefy solution and self-warranty issues. But damn, there are standards I hold myself by. I couldn’t in good conscience sell anyone these units, especially so for a commercial client.

I’ve done more than quite a few digital signage projects (not my preference). I had always preferred a supported solution though such as a stick PC from a major vendor, or an embedded solution for tier-2, but still large vendors such as Jetway IPC.
 

ReturnedSword

Active Member
Jun 15, 2018
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Santa Monica, CA
About my recent dispute experience on aliexpress for RS232 to USB cables:

I ordered a pair of RS232 to USB cables from IOCrest official store on aliexpress. But when the package arrived, there was only 1 in the package. I sent message via aliexpress' message center to the store when I found that. The store agreed to refund a half of the invoice amount(price + tax + shipping fee). But I still had to wait for the expiration date of the aliexpress platform's shipping estimated time length. On the next day of the expiration date, I opened a dispute and attached a screenshot of the messages between me and the IOCrest store, for a refund of the half of the invoice amount. In hours, the Aliexpress platform approved this refund.

This period was pretty pretty long if the aliexpress platform's shipping estimated time length was long.

Conclusion: I think the Aliexpress' policies are closed to the Taobao.com but there are many differences between it and ebay.com.
I had a few experiences with IOCrest. Their products are the worse and shoddy.

It’s interesting. In this first experience of mine, the shipping estimate was too optimistic and I received the unit way past the estimate window. Actually, just 1 day before the system would’ve auto-refunded me :D
 

Stephan

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Apr 21, 2017
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IMHO buying in China is an adventure. But also a good learning experience. What good is a BMW car with 2 wheels and an axle missing, at 60% off? Worth sjit. With all that in mind, I thought so hey, order stuff rather from USA. So I ordered two Xeon Platinums and a bunch of interposers. Result was two damaged CPUs, major ebay hassle, wrong interposers, people sending stuff with truck from California to Kentucky first, etc. Nothing for impatient people or a weak fuse. Your Topton is just one more incident and only accidentally from China. Company and brand will be gone in 6 months and stuff will then be sold from Mopton.

I think you were right and refund was the way to go. And whatever you buy, put the stuff you get through a couple hours torture test first. Passmark Memtest, Testmem5, Prime95, FIRESTARTER, stress-ng, fio, a short Cat6 cable and RSTP off (broadcast storm to test an ethernet NIC), all free.

Next time I am looking for something expensive that is only on ebay, I'll call the guy or gal up first. See whats up, communicate what I really do not want and what I am looking for precisely. Then buy, or move on.
 

oneplane

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Jul 23, 2021
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eBay can be just as bad as Aliexpress but with the downside that it's unlikely a production company isn't likely to be on eBay so if the product you want isn't available they can't simply 'manufacture more'. It also really depends on where you are in the world. Most good eBay scores are only usable in the US or Canada. But that makes shipping extremely slow and expensive, so unless you already have a crate you can top up with extra stuff, only really small stuff is worth it.

Either way, this just brings us back to the 'either play the role of importer, or buy it from an actual importer and pay lots more' problem. (well, not problem, but reality)
 
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djtech2k

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May 18, 2022
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Well this definitely stinks. I had high hopes to grab something like this and use it as a pfsense appliance. With this experience, I am not likely to do that now. I have been looking for dependable alternatives but there doesn't seem to be many good ones. Seems like the Netgate devices are good but the cost for decent hardware perf is significantly higher. Bummer.
 

adman_c

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Well this definitely stinks. I had high hopes to grab something like this and use it as a pfsense appliance. With this experience, I am not likely to do that now. I have been looking for dependable alternatives but there doesn't seem to be many good ones. Seems like the Netgate devices are good but the cost for decent hardware perf is significantly higher. Bummer.
Not quite as compact as the Topton/Qotom units, and not fanless, but certain of the Lenovo Tiny boxes can accommodate a 4x gigabit or 2x 10 gigabit NIC. I have a pair of these with Supermicro x520 10gbe NICs running Proxmox with pfsense virtualized and they usually sit at about 12-15 watts, not much more than the N5105 systems that Patrick reviewed last month. Of course this is very much a DIY approach and not an off-the-shelf unit like the Toptons. But worth considering if it's for your homelab and not production, as these Lenovo boxes are excellently engineered and very capable.
 

adman_c

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What kind of cost are those boxes? I did a quick glance and I saw some going for > $1k.
If you want new, they're not cheap. But the M720q with an 8th Gen i5 can pretty routinely be had for around $250 depending on config. Then you'll need one of Lenovo's proprietary PCIE risers and a suitably compact NIC. I'm partial to the SuperMicro AOC-STGN-I2S Rev 2.0, which is very tiny. But the Mellanox CX312A also works. The two I built from used parts were both under $400 all in, tax and shipping included. If you're interested in doing one of these yourself, check out the thread over in the DIY Builds forum for a lot more info and pics (mine included).
 
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Patrick

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An interesting update, although I think this thread has become more of a beware of AliExpress thread.

I ordered both the 6-port Atom and Celeron ones around the ISC trip in May. They said they needed to test the units, even though I ordered barebones. Now stonewalled by Topton :-/

What is also interesting though, is that after doing the videos, I have had people tell me that they buy these in quantity for their MSP business.

TBH - I somewhat want to just get a run of 100 of these done with slight upgrades (thermal, RAM, SSD) and start selling them just so people do not have to go through AliExpress. Basically, STH Protectli. When I looked at it, doing something like that will add fairly hefty costs even if I wanted to make 10% margin (unrealistically low.) Then I would get to deal with "STH jacked up the price 30% over AliExpress!!!!"

I think the challenge is that at this price range, you just do not get many options. Either cheap (AliExpress) or good (local company) but not both.
 

PigLover

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@Patrick One thing I'm curious about is the ES CPU reported here. Can you confirm if the unit(s) you received had this same issue or did they report Intel production s-spec IDs for the CPU?
 
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oneplane

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With MSP or even bulk-SMB (which technically makes you an MSP if you also manage them, or an importer/distributor I suppose) you essentially fulfil the role of an actual ODM reseller at which point you just order a few percent more than what you actually need and send back/discount based on DoAs.

I think AliExpress can best be explained like a factory-to-consumer outlet where you have no contractual obligations except what AliExpress requires in terms of delivery confirmation and the refund window. It's not an eBay and definitely not a retail webshop and that's okay, just a very important thing to know.

But knowing how it works, and knowing what time/knowledge you'll have to invest, the products can still be a very good choice. For a one-off for personal use where there is no urgency, it's really hard to beat. And for commercial use your customer is likely not going to care who the ODM is since you (the installer) is the point of contact. And if the customer does care (i.e. via contractual agreement) then you'll either have to have ODMs manufacture to spec, or you'll get something from a local retailer.

Keep in mind that even if a device takes the route from manufacturing to shipping to branding to distribution to retail and then to your hands, we still get weird stuff, DoA's and bad hardware, software, firmware and support. So even if the entire supply chain is that of a well known brand, all it does is reduce the amount of unhappy outcomes, it doesn't eliminate it. How much of a guaranteed outcome you desire is what essentially sets the price.
 
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Patrick

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@Patrick One thing I'm curious about is the ES CPU reported here. Can you confirm if the unit(s) you received had this same issue or did they report Intel production s-spec IDs for the CPU?
I do not have Windows for CPU-Z on any of them. Still, the N6005's I have do not show QS/ ES in anything I am seeing. hwinfo in Linux does not show this unless it is in the CPU string.

I wonder if it is a difference in timing since mine were quite a bit delayed.

AliExpress 4x 2.5GbE Firewall Intel Pentium Silver 6005 BIOS.jpgAliExpress 4x 2.5GbE Firewall Intel Pentium Silver 6005 hwinfo output.jpgAliExpress 4x 2.5GbE Firewall Intel Pentium Silver 6005 cpu-x output.jpgAliExpress 4x 2.5GbE Firewall Intel Pentium Silver 6005 lscpu output.jpg
 
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oneplane

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I would guess that they just need to keep moving boxes to keep a noticeable volume flowing (maybe for attention/marketing, maybe to keep manufacturing capacity reserved?) and as such they'd rather take a chance with ES/QS chips assuming that 50%+ will be returned and the rest will just function unnoticed. I have no idea what the current numbers are like, but I'd take another guess and think that the cost of (re)starting manufacturing is a whole lot higher than just moving a bunch of known-bad devices around to keep logistics active.
 
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PigLover

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Alternatively, it could be that the version of CPU-Z used to indicate the ES cpu might not be up to date and, not knowing what a Jasper Lake CPU is it just lists it as "ES". From Patrick's pics I don't see any of the usual earmarks of ES CPU. For one thing, the identifier string on an ES CPU almost never shows the processor family. Rather than "Jasper Lake ULX" is would say "GenuineIntel".

I can see ES CPUs leaking out on the resale market - but Intel sitting quietly while somebody moves ES stock at commercial volume seems really unlikely to me.

All of the other quality concerns remain a big issue. I should find out what I think in a few days as my N6005 unit from Topton is finally on the last leg of its now 85 day journey from China!
 

oneplane

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Alternatively, it could be that the version of CPU-Z used to indicate the ES cpu might not be up to date and, not knowing what a Jasper Lake CPU is it just lists it as "ES". From Patrick's pics I don't see any of the usual earmarks of ES CPU. For one thing, the identifier string on an ES CPU almost never shows the processor family. Rather than "Jasper Lake ULX" is would say "GenuineIntel".
Or they sometimes say "Intel 0000" and the likes. I did initially think CPU-Z might indeed simply not know the CPU, but then the heat/crashyness that was reported gives me more ES vibes so maybe it's just a low percentage of bad chips. Heck, maybe they manufacture boards with no CPUs when they can't get any and if someone comes in to the office with a handful of ES or QS chips they just hand-solder them with one of those re-balling setups that can do BGA jobs with extra large amounts of flux :p
 

Patrick

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There is also a difference between ES and QS CPUs. Usually, QS steppings of Intel chips are pretty close to production. We even have Intel Confidential physically marked chips that are called "QS" but are just etched differently from production chips for Intel accounting purposes.

Just as a FYI @PigLover I have been spending extra for DHL just to get these a few days faster once they do ship. That is just to help them arrive and get in the process sooner.
 
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