Using a mini-Processor


April 2021... I decided to try one of these mini-PCs to replace my aging Atom PC. With budget in mind I chose the cheapest made by Asus, the M40 using a 7th generation Celeron N4020 processor. The M40 is poorly described in its technical blurb as far as I'm concerned and, although I'd have preferred Windows 7 as my operating system, it seems there was no option but to use Windows 10 x 64 (set to "best performance" with as many "helpful" options as possible, switched off!).

As you can see in the picture above, although I could have used a standard SSD, I used an M2 having 256GB, and as RAM needed to be the smaller SODIMM type I selected a pair of 4GB strips of DDR4. Once the operating system had been installed... without a hiccup I should add, I decided to try Simon's SDR Console with my old SDR Play. This would be a fairly severe test and below is a picture of the result, using a short length of wire as an aerial.

 How did I get on? Well I found some difficulty and was restricted to using a 1MHz bandwidth. 2MHz would almost work faultlessly but 1MHz was fine (10MHz crashed the console). I checked to see the level of processor usage and found initially it was 100%, but I discovered that by reducing the area of display occupied by the console the stress was reduced and the processor usage dropped to 80%. I settled at about one third of the 1920 display screen and performance was OK, but copying the file above to a memory stick for example did result in audio problems. The M40 is specified to drive a 4K monitor and as our new TV has that scan rate I'm interested to see how the M40 will cope. Currently, I'm using an Intel Atom PC to receive BT Sport HD. This also uses Windows 10 x64 and copes quite well with playing DVDs and HD over the Internet.

 The next step was to try the Mini on my TV and see if it worked as well with a higher resolution output. Until recently I've been using a Atom-based PC with an output of 1920x1080 and this was being fed via a VGA lead to our old 40" Sony TV, but a few months ago I bought a larger 55" 4K UHD TV without a VGA input. I imagined I'd lose processing power but was pleasantly surprised to see a clear 3840 x 2160 Desktop from the Mini via its HDMI output. I turned on the SDR Play and found it was just about the same as when I used the 24" monitor at 1920 output. Again the picture needed to be reduced from full screen and the SDR limited to 1MHz bandwidth. It worked at 2MHz but waggling the mouse, which pinches a little processing power caused audio glitches. An option is to switch to a faster Mini; for example I have the more expensive version based on a Pentium N5000. Performance-wise the Celeron benchmark is 1603 and the Pentium 2611. As a yardstick my business PC, now pretty old, uses an i5-3570 rated at 4873.

Bearing in mind the whole purpose of using the Asus Mini is to reduce the size of my Media PC to aid TV Internet access and perhaps play video files so the Celeron N4020 will be fine. I don't really intend to use it for SDR reception and it seems the model using the N5000 would be a lot better for comfortable SDR use. My workshop PC uses a G4560 rated at 3538 and this works perfectly for SDR reception. The latest basic Pentium processor at the time of writing this is the G4605 @ 4.1GHz with a benchmark better than 4213.. I say "better than" because it is too new for a benchmark figure so I've quoted the figure for the G4600 example.

 Just a comment in passing... advertisements are becoming absolutely intolerable. Apart from messing up websites with utterly misleading text they slow things down. Even trying to find SDR Console was a real pain and I hope visitors to my website appreciate the absence of advertising. Frankly I just do not understand the way things are heading and I fail to see how advertising a product to the detriment of a user makes sense?

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