RoadTest: Gizmo 2
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Any sufficiently advanced single board computer. I used the motherboard that was removed from a netbook with a broken screen as a testbed before Gizmo2 arrived.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Finding specific drivers to enable all of the hardware possibilities.
Gizmo2 has been a fun little computer to work with, the creators behind it, Gizmosphere must be proud of their creation it's a great asset towards forward thinking and new technology. Many thanks to them and element14 for the opportunity of designing a fun project out of it.
I'd had this great idea of having a games console dedicated to emulating older computers, consoles and arcade machines. About the same time, Gizmo2 came up for roadtest and at first, I was a bit sceptical about whether it would perform adequately enough for the task. I left it for a while but finally applied on the closing day. What swayed the decision for me to apply was the option of gpio pins and spi bus to add extra features to a standalone console that would have otherwise been difficult to achieve by cannibalising a small computer.
As I write this, I'm halfway through my project which I expect to have completed or a close to complete system including custom enclosure by the end of may 2015, you can get up to date and follow new progress by checking out my blog http://www.element14.com/community/people/violet/blog/2015/04/15/hadron-vortex-g2--content-index
Product Performs To Expectations
It still constantly surprised me when I see how small Gizmo2 is, especially when you realise the amount of computing power it packs. At first, I expected it to be something of a slightly beefed up version of a Raspeberry Pi or Beaglebone capable of running only a very lightweight minimal operating system. That was until I installed Ubuntu and ran hardinfo to get the full specs, the basic benchmarks way exceeded my expectations.
To put it in a category of performance that's easy to place, think somewhere between a good netbook and an entry level laptop but with benefits that I'm going to talk about in the next section.
Price To Performance
I was asked in one of my blogs what I thought of the price and whether it was worth it, this was just after I'd been reading somewhere else about it not being worth the money because you can can tablets with better performance for less. I thought I'd save my views until the review so here they are:
Sure, there are tablets out there with some amazing specs and if it's a tablet that you want then great. But what if you want more? can you add a miniPCIe card to a tablet? or an SSD drive?
Gizmo2 has so many possible applications, if you were to use it as a file server or a web server or streamer then you really want a wired network connection, If you want it to capture sensor data or provide custom automation then you need gpio. It's difficult to compare to things like a tablet because it isn't one.
The only part of the performance and specs that I feel is an issue for something like Gizmo2 is the memory. 1GB really does get eaten up pretty quickly these days. Having firefox running with just this webpage alone is taking up 174MB so this maybe the achilles heel of Gizmo2 right now. Having modules to take it up to 2GB would have pushed the price beyond $200 and into a category with higher expectation. Hopefully, in the not to distant future, costs will drop or maybe an optional 2GB version becomes available.
The demo software included is of good quality and demonstrates the use as a media centre, the interface is very proprietary and takes some getting used to but so does the interface on most media centres!
Going beyond using it as a media centre, it's easy enough to install your own operating system. For this it's best to invest in an mSata ssd drive, these can be picked up very cheaply on ebay and really expands the capacity and capability of Gizmo2.
So nothings perfect when it's new and usually needs something tweaking or something extra to make it work right, and Gizmo2 is no exception. To get the most out of Gizmo2's hardware requires extra drivers, both the drivers for the graphics chipset and also to access the hardware devices like gpio pins need installing. Gizmo2 is more than capable of being used without them but in order to fully utilise it to it's full potential required tracking these down and working out how to use them with different operating systems. There are downloads of the drivers and also small guides on installing them in my blog,
It would be useful if these could be made available in an easy to find central location so others can get the most out of using Gizmo2.
I'm currently writing this review on Gizmo2, and if you check out my blog, all of the posts and materials pertaining to my games console project were created on the Gizmo2.
Yes, this includes the video rendering, formatting, picture editing, researching, surfing, game play. Everything!!, and the most important thing is that none of it was painful to produce. Gizmo2 is definitely worth checking out! and not to be overlooked, it has so many possible applications and a small enough footprint to do it's duties in a much smaller area than systems it can replace use up.
Here's a great example of how powerful single board computers are becoming and also a glimpse into the future of modern day computing.