• What can you do with a $ 200 mini PC with lots of power, tons of ports, and very few restrictions?

    Jim Salter

  • Odyssey (left) is significantly larger than the ARM-based Odroid XU4 (right). It is also much more powerful and expandable.

    Jim Salter

  • The clear lid of the Odyssey re_computer case can be lifted off for easy access. To do this, use a spudger inserted into the seam or a fine blade to detach it from its magnetic contacts.

    Jim Salter

Today, let's take a look at Seeed Studio's Odyssey X86J4105 – a Celeron-drive mini-PC tailored to manufacturers and manufacturers. The small device seems to be what you'd get if a Chromebox and a Raspberry Pi made sweet, sweet love – it's a Celeron-based all-in-one system on chip (SoC) board, sold without a case with Raspberry is Pi-compatible GPIO headers and an Arduino coprocessor for more hardware-based maker projects.

I have to make a confession: I never really loved the Raspberry Pi. Heresy, I know! But despite how cheap the popular little boxes are, they never seem strong enough for the projects I would be interested in. I have occasionally flirted with other ARM mini-PCs that are a bit more expensive and more powerful – like Odroid XU4 or the newer Odroid N2 – but they still felt pretty limited compared to inexpensive x86 PCs. The odyssey appears to be tailor-made to solve these performance problems.

Specifications and functions

Technical data at a glance: Odyssey X86J4105
operating system Windows 10 Enterprise (activated)
Central processor Quad-core Celeron J4105
R.A.M. 8GiB LPDDR4
GPU integrated Intel UHD 600
Wireless Internet access Dual band Intel 9650 Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 5.0
SSD Sandisk 64 GB (59.6 GB) eMMC
connections
  • 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO
  • 28-pin Arduino header
  • 3.5mm audio combo jack
  • 2x Intel I211 1 Gbit / s Ethernet
  • 1x SATA
  • 2x M.2 (1 B button, 1 M button)
  • 2x USB2 type A.
  • 1x USB3.1 type A.
  • 1x USB 3.1 type C.
  • 1x microSD card slot
  • 1x SIM (LTE) slot
  • 1x 12-19VDC power supply
Price as tested Odyssey with activated Win10 Enterprise: $ 258
See re_computer case: $ 20

See Studio Odyssey X86J4105 Mini PC

Buy now
$ 229 from Amazon (64GB eMMC) $ 218 from Seeed Studio (64GB eMMC)

(Ars Technica can receive compensation for sales of links through this post through affiliate programs.)

Odyssey's quad-core Celeron SoC may not be a powerhouse by desktop standards – but more than powerful enough to deliver a full Windows 10 desktop experience. Add 8 GB RAM, 64 GB eMMC storage, a SATA III connector, two 1 Gbit / s Ethernet sockets, two M.2 slots (a B button and an M button), Intel 9560 Wi-Fi, Intel UHD 600 graphics cards and a full-size HDMI port add on, and it's hard to figure out what this $ 260 box can't do.

If you want to control other hardware at a very low level, Odyssey also has a Raspberry Pi-compatible 40-pin GPIO header and a 28-pin header for the ATSAMD21 Arduino coprocessor. We're not set up to test these features, but Odyssey manufacturer Seeed is also the manufacturer of the renowned Grove sensor system. So when we find that the Odyssey Grove ports and coprocessor are compatible, we tend to believe you.

When it comes to form factor, the Odyssey in its re_computer case reminds us most of an unusually geeky Chromebox. Like the Chromebox, Odyssey in the re_computer housing is only larger than the VESA mounting plate on the back of a monitor – and like the Chromebox, it has VESA-compatible mounting holes on the back. However, you will need to provide your own mounting bolts if you want to use this option.

The re_computer case was frankly a bit of a hassle to assemble – the instructions provided only consist of unlabeled diagrams, and the diagrams are not all correct. In particular, we wished they had told us from the start that the transparent top lid of the re_computer was magnetically attached! In the box, the lid is listed in the inventory as a separate part, but it's already snapped into the case itself, and it's not immediately clear that you can easily remove it with a spudger or other fine-edged tool.

Once you've actually assembled the re_computer case, it's extremely attractive and functional. You can access all the parts you have to deal with by removing the magnetically attached clear cover. The external connections are all easy to reach and unimpeded. We also like the cheerful royal blue that anodizes the sides of the case.

What can you do with an odyssey?

  • Top view of the Odyssey X86J4105. The only thing that is not clearly identified is the Intel 9560 Wi-Fi – to the left of the NVMe SSD label. If installed, an M.2 PCIe SSD will cover this Wi-Fi chipset.

    Jim Salter

  • Bottom view of the Odyssey – just a pre-assembled heat sink and fan that covers the entire underside of the board.

    Jim Salter

  • On the left side of the Odyssey we see a DC barrel socket, two Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports, an HDMI port and two USB 2.0 ports.

    Jim Salter

  • At the top of the Odyssey board, we see 40-pin and 28-pin GPIO headers for Pi Hat and Arduino.

    Jim Salter

  • On the right side of the Odyssey, we see connections for a MicroSD card (not bootable), USB 3.1 Type A, USB 3.1 Type C (charging support) and a 3.5 mm audio headphone / microphone jack.

    Jim Salter

  • There are no external connections at the bottom of the Odyssey. However, we do see a full-size SATA connector with three SATA power connectors and an M.2 SATA slot that can be used for an SSD or an LTE modem.

    Jim Salter

The expressive Celeron J4105 processor from Odyssey has numerous RAM, memory, network and graphics functions. Regardless of whether you want to run Windows or Linux, tasks can be performed that the CPU and I / O limited Raspberry Pi series has to deal with. If you want to build a high-end DIY router, it has dual gigabit Ethernet – and the J4105 CPU is significantly more powerful than the 1037U in our own homebrew router.

If you want to build a Kodi or similar home theater PC system, the J4105 and its UHD 600 graphics are more than up to the task, at least up to 1080P – 4K is passable, but some videos have a small image loss. In our tests, 4K videos played perfectly on Vimeo. 4K could be seen on YouTube, but dropped a frame here and there.

You can even create a miniature file server from the Odyssey. It offers an M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for a high-performance NVMe SSD and a full-size SATA III connector that can be connected to any standard SATA drive. Add this reliable connectivity at full speed to the built-in 8 GB RAM and you have enough computers to run FreeNAS, XigmaNAS or the upcoming TrueNAS Core.

After all, you can easily make it a very user-friendly desktop computer. The version we tested was preinstalled with a fully activated Windows 10 Enterprise. It can be run individually or added to a domain. You can also buy the Odyssey without the Windows 10 license if you prefer a Linux desktop.

If a mobile phone connection is required for an application on which you have landed, Odyssey has taken care of you here too: The M.2-B connection offers space for an LTE module (not included in the scope of delivery) and a SIM card socket .

performance

  • The Odyssey J4105 Celeron is slightly faster than single-threaded and massively faster than our OG homebrew router and the Kano PC.

    Jim Salter

  • Passmark CPU tests show approximately the same relationship as Geekbench 5. (The "homebrew" results in this table are from another Celeron 1037U system published on cpubenchmark.net.)

    Jim Salter

  • In the multi-threaded Cinebench R20 results, we see another crushing win for the Odyssey over Kano PC and this time for Walmart EVOO.

    Jim Salter

  • If you are using Windows on the Odyssey, you have to take care of the start times of the app. It is significantly faster than the already fast Kano PC.

    Jim Salter

The 8 GB RAM and the quad-core Celeron J4105 in the Odyssey as well as the Sandisk 64 GB eMMC are enough to make the small box feel like a real computer even under Windows. Our test device was preinstalled and preactivated with Windows 10 Enterprise and usually completely cold on the desktop – including the POST time – within 15 to 30 seconds. It felt perfect there, either when installing applications or surfing the Internet with Microsoft Edge.

The small system that came with Windows 10 Build 1903 was the first to be updated to 2004. The only out-of-stock software installed on the system is an Arduino software package, so we didn't use Wiztree before and after the system, this time showing disk usage diagrams – this is a standard Windows workload and fits both before and even after the upgrade to the integrated 64 GB eMMC.

We tested the Odyssey against our own 2016 gangster homebrew router, this year's Kano PC, and Walmart's cursed EVOO EV-C-116-5 laptop. Odyssey, OG Homebrew and Kano PC are all Celeron-based systems with low power consumption. The EVOO powered by AMD A4-9120 should be in the same class, but it is not because of its massive factory underclocking.

When we thoroughly tested routing performance with demanding workloads for small packages in 2016, we found that the Celeron 1037U in homebrew was more than sufficient to fling packets with a full Ubuntu installation at full 1 Gbit / s. When we tested pfSense, the more user-friendly and comprehensive router distribution didn't work as well.

Although Kano PC's N4000 is four years newer than Homebrew's 1037U, with twice as many cores and threads, it's not much faster. The Odyssey J4105 is a powerhouse in comparison – it's overwhelmingly faster than testing with multiple threads and slightly faster when booting with one thread.

Although we haven't tested the Odyssey directly as a dedicated router, its benchmarks make us think it would work very well. We suspect that even if pfSense or opnSense is running, it should hang pretty well with the original homebrew that Vanilla Ubuntu is running on.

Conclusions

We are excited about the Odyssey X86J4105. It scratches every manufacturer or IoT project we can think of – and it brings a lot more firepower to the table than ARM-based devices like the Raspberry Pi series or even the more powerful Odroid competitors of the Pi.

If you're looking for the cheapest solution, the Odyssey might not be your cup of tea – but if you don't mind spending a little more, the flexibility that full x86 architecture and stunning connectivity offer is worth the extra money. This standard x86 architecture also allows you to leave the world of custom, hardware-related system images. Instead, you can simply install Windows, Linux or BSD from standard ISOs directly on the hardware.

The Odyssey could also be a great kid, a kiosk, or even a light office PC. It's small, extremely inexpensive for a fully activated Windows system, and offers a good desktop experience – much better than Kano PCs or typical low-end Chromebooks. If you choose 64 GB eMMC storage, it's fast enough and big enough for comfortable use with Windows 10 – or if you want higher performance and more storage, you can choose a standard M.2 instead. Use PCIe or SATA SSD.

The only complaint we have about the Odyssey is how frustrating we found that the included Wi-Fi antennas were connected to the Intel 9560 chipset. The diagrams do not correctly indicate where the chipset is actually on the board, and the connection position made connecting the cables even more frustrating than with a standard laptop. We needed a jeweler's loupe and played around cautiously, gently, and tried again for about ten minutes before finally connecting both cables properly.

The good

  • Many of all types of connectors and connectors you could want
  • Direct current direct current included in the scope of delivery, can alternatively be supplied with power via USB-C
  • Integrated Intel 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) Wi-Fi
  • LTE capability with an additional module
  • The J4105 CPU is much more powerful than the "Celeron" logo implies
  • 8 GB RAM included
  • Pi hat and Arduino headers, Arduino co-processor
  • Can be purchased with or without 64 GB eMMC
  • Can be purchased with or without a Windows 10 Enterprise license
  • Chic blue anodized housing with clear, removable lid
  • Install any operating system – no hardware-specific system images are required

The bad

  • Although 8 GB of RAM should be enough, you can't add more
  • A single SATA connection limits the NAS possibilities
  • Assembly instructions in the event could be much better

The ugly

  • The snapping of these WLAN antenna cables is correct

Listing picture by Jim Salter

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