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Tiny Gemini Lake mini-PC supports Linux

Sep 8, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 1484 views

XDO Tech has Kickstarter’ed a tiny, $149-and-up “Pantera PicoPC” mini-PC that runs Linux or Win 10/11 on a quad-core Gemini Lake CPU and offers up to 8GB LPDDR4, an SSD, 802.11ax/BT, HDMI, 3x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and Type-C power with an optional battery.

XDO Tech has gone to Kickstarter to successfully launch a fan-cooled, 69 x 69 x 53mm mini-PC equipped with a Gemini Lake Refresh — Intel’s Atom-class follow-on to Apollo Lake. The Pantera PicoPC starts at $149 for a Super Early Bird model with 4GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC. There is also a $179 Super Early Bird with 8GB RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD. Other 8GB RAM packages supply 512GB ($212) and 1TB ($250) SSDs. The campaign runs through Oct. 3 and shipments are expected in November.



Pantera PicoPC (left) and accessories
(click images to enlarge)

If the Pantera PicoPC looks familiar, it’s probably because you saw CHUWI’s very similar, 61 x 61 x 43mm LarkBox mini-PC, which similarly runs Linux or Windows on Gemini Lake. Or you may have seen the currently unavailable and almost identical LarkBox Pro follow-on, which upgraded to a Gemini Lake Refresh processor.


LarkBox

The CNXSoft story that alerted us to the project seems to suggest that XDO Tech is a reboot of CHUWI after the Indiegogo campaign for the Pro was delayed and closed. It may be more complicated than that, as the KS page touts the PicoPC for offering more USB ports than its competitors. Indeed, the PicoPC has 4x USB host ports compared to two on the LarkBox Pro.

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The origin story is even more complicated in that the PicoPC was announced late last year by XDO Tech, which then called itself XDO.ai. The product was teased on Indiegogo, but never opened for pre-orders. On the KS comments page, the Hong Kong based developers explained that they decided to switch to a later KS launch, which gave them time to upgrade the mini-PC with improvements including adding a microphone capability to the audio jack and upgrading the fan, heatsink, BIOS, and some other components.

The Pantera PicoPC offers the same quad-core, 2.0GHz/2.7GHz Celeron J4125 used by the LarkBox Pro, with Intel UHD Graphics 600 and a 10W TDP. The system is available with optional pre-installed Windows 10. With its TPM 2.0 chip and secure boot capability, it will also support Windows 11, and unlike many consumer mini-PCs, it has been tested with Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other Linux distributions.



Pantera PicoPC detail views
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to adding USB ports (3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0) and switching from side-by-side I/O panels to front and back, the only other significant difference we can see from the LarkBox Pro is a switch to dual-channel memory. You can order 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4 instead of the LarkBox Pro’s single-channel 6GB. The dual-channel RAM is touted for its faster performance, especially when multi-tasking

An eMMC socket is available, which is filled with 64GB on the lowest-end model. There is also a microSD slot and an M.2 socket for the SSD.

There is no Ethernet, but you get dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), as well as Bluetooth 5.1 for adding a mouse/keyboard or other peripherals. The HDMI port supports up to [email protected], and there is an audio I/O jack.

A USB Type-C port supports 12V input and there is a power button, reset hole, and wrap-around LED strip. XDA Tech claims that it included the LED strip because the mini-PC’s “Ultra Silent Active Cooling System’s fan is so silent, you need to have a way of finding out if the computer is running or not.” A heatsink also helps to cool things down.

An extensive line of accessories will be available upon shipment, when you can choose from multiple colors, apparently without extra cost. Accessories include two different carrying cases, folding keyboard, miniature mice, external batteries and hubs, and a PicoProjector (see image farther above).

XDA Tech claims the system can run games like Minecraft, CS Go!, and Half-Life 2. As the Gear Seekers review video below shows, that may be technically correct, but Gemini Lake loses frames and has other issues with high-end games. Nevertheless, Gear Seekers was mostly positive about the nifty little device, but wished there was some GPIO for tinkering.




Pantera PicoPC video review by Gear Seekers

 
Further information

The Pantera PicoPC is available for pre-order through Oct. 3 starting at $149 (1,158 HK$) on Kickstarter. XDO Tech expects shipments to begin in November.
 

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