I have received my Gizmo 2 just before the Easter weekend. Its arrival was perfect timing for me to see try out its capabilities out of the box and share that experience in this post. There are already a few great reviews in this community who had earlier access to this wonderful single board machine, and I strongly recommend them as they are well worth the read.
What's inside the box?
Upon opening the box, one will find:
- The Gizmo 2 Single Board Computer inside the anti-static bag
- A Kensington 4GB microSD card preloaded with Timesys Embedded Linux Demo
- 12V DC travel adapter
- and a Quick Start Guide
Form Factor and Peripherals
The Gizmo 2 board measures 10cmx10cm (or approximately 4inx4in), almost twice the size of Raspberry Pi and about a quarter of Advantech mini-ITX x86-based board I have lying around.
Comparing the Gizmo 2 board with another x86 SBC, Vortex Tiny SBC Module VDX-6318, the Gizmo 2 board is relatively larger as can be seen in the picture below.
For the peripherals, the Gizmo 2 is packed with modern connectivity ports:
Physical PCIe 36-pin and x4 edge connectors standout between the boards presented above. These edge connectors provide direct access to the embedded peripherals of the board, i.e. GPIO, ADC/DAC, PWM, SPI, (more) USB, I2C, display port, PCIe, and SATA. By designing a daughter board, the Gizmo's functionality can be extended to meet other application requirements. Some of the examples that I can think of is by the creation of a daughter board with SATA connector, the Gizmo board can be used to build a NAS server. Another would be to directly interface with sensors and read sensor values via ADC, or connect to other RF modules such as ZigBee through the SPI lines, etc. With this capability, it actually makes it possible to create a product application utilising low-level peripherals without the need for an extra MCU.
Embedded Linux OS
The 4GB microSD card that came with the board is preloaded with an embedded Linux OS and Timesys embedded demo (launcher) application. Booting from the included microSD card will automatically run Timesys Launcher application and starts off with a quick tutorial on how to use the launcher application. There are five round buttons on top of the screen, (1) Video Player Demo (2) About GizmoSphere (3) Exit to Desktop (4) XBMC launcher (5) About Timesys. So I started to see how video playback would be and launched the Video Player Demo.
Side note. The navigation of this UI is horrendous, the button on the top are NOT clickable, you have to click one side and drag the pointer to either left or right simulating a "swipe" action to highlight a button. This UI and its experience is really bad when using a mouse and non-touch monitor (or TV in most cases).
The demo video player plays the Big Buck Bunny clip smoothly on 1080p, keen to test the video on 4K UHD-TV (will update soon).
Testing out XBMC
XBMC is... well XBMC and it can only be experienced fully if the system is connected to the Internet (at least initially) so it can be configured and can be used to stream online channels. All being good and being used to XBMC, I added more videos to test and so I stuck one movie in a USB flash drive and added that to the play list. The movie did play just fine except when it requires to refresh fast, triangles used in rendering the video can be noticed.
Since I wanted to connect the Gizmo 2 board to my monitor in the room where there is no LAN cable running, I decided to attach a USB WiFi dongle to connect to the network. However the default OS does not provide any default drivers.
The Desktop is XFCE and has a few standard pre-installed apps, such as Firefox, LeafPad, and Screen Grabber Util among others. I was able to run Firefox once to experience web browsing on the Gizmo board and relate that experience with rPi (for example). However, running Firefox seemed to have slowed down the whole system, and typing on the address bar was really clunky to a point that the system felt frozen and unresponsive. This happened a few times to a point where I now can no longer run the Firefox.
Since I wanted to capture the Timesys Launcher screen, I attempted to use the screen grabbing tool and set a delay to capture the whole screen after 10 seconds. This did not seemed to work, starting the countdown and switching the app to show the Timesys launcher halted the whole system and had to restart. I stopped after a few moments and decided not to spend more time with the default OS.