Heavy gaming on this tiny computer! (Lattepanda alpha m3-8100y)

Heavy gaming on this tiny computer! (Lattepanda alpha m3-8100y)


This video is brought to you by Curiosity
Stream and the 30 free days of documentaries you can get on the link down bellow. Let me show you one of my favourite new computers
I own: the new version of the LattePanda alpha, an x86 Windows capable single-board Arduino
compatible computer. This gadget has been floating around gadget
YouTube for a while, for good reason. Let’s talk about single board computers for
a minute. Thanks to the maker movement and the never-ending
stream of hobbyist building projects as well as engineers and designers that are using
popular single-board computers in commercial environments, either as a prototyping tool
or as a component in a final product, we live in an era where you go from well known
single board computers like Raspberry Pi (of which I have talked a fair bit on this channel) to boards by many other startups and occasionally
large companies trying to get into the game either competing on price, functionality or
power. One of the angles that is a growing battleground
for these new computers is x86 architecture and windows compatibility. Most of the single-board computers out there
run ARM chips, mainly due to availability and cost. Many companies make ARM chips and there a
wide variety of tiers and cost levels and while Microsoft is making progress on Windows 10 ARM
edition and its x86 emulation this is not even close to being on the level required
to run something as complex as a game. If you go down the road of trying to have
actual PC or Laptop components in a single board computer your options are reduced to two companies, you become way more sensitive
to component shortages and your price and power consumption will increase severely. Most of the boards I have seen out there doing x 86 try to combat this issue by using older atom CPUs. The modern Atom SoC line was designed by Intel
to provide full PC capabilities with very low power usage and in that sense, they can
be pretty decent. The most powerful atom out there is the x7-Z8750
released back in 2016 which you can find for example, in the GPD Pocket and considering
how often I end up using this laptop for web browsing and script writing I would say it
definitely accomplishes that mission. However, it has been a while since Intel has
released a new upgraded laptop Atom CPU. In fact, while researching this video I discovered
that they made “microserver” atoms with like crazy core counts and I got to get my
hands on that. But since their thing is the lowest power
consumption possible they are not exactly gaming ready, although it can perfectly do games such as
PUBG Lite and can do much heavier stuff with a bit of patience even if it does not look
particularly good. Because of their relatively small cost, size
and power consumption intel atoms are what powers boards like the cheap atomic pi, of
which I have received a billion requests from viewers to do a video about but they only
ship to the US Then we have stuff like the original LattePanda. Both are small x86 single-board PCs powered
by the Intel Atom x5-Z8350, a quadcore CPU similar to the one in the Intel Stick v2 which I tried out for older
games years ago, with similar varying degrees of success. Now what makes things interesting is that
LattePanda, the company that made one of those boards started a crowdfunding campaign for
the alpha, a new improved windows compatible single board computer running on an m3 CPU. I have talked about m3 a little bit before. As intel iterated trying to cover all posible
use cases in laptops they created m3 and m5 CPUs as ultra-low-power consumptions versions
of laptop i3s and i5s and in that sense, the line seemed like a success with core m3
CPUs bringing something closer to true laptop performance (way over what an Intel atom could
do) but with TDPs as low as 5 Watts which make them ideal for the smallest of laptops
and in that front they had a great deal of success most notably showing up in the Macbook
in early 2016 and the updated Macbook in mid 2017. That last MacBook was powered by the M3-7Y32
the same chip promised to be inside the latte panda alpha. So the promise was clear, the power of a 2017
MacBook on a very small single-board computer, and what a promise that was. If you have been following this channel for
a while you might have seen that same m3-7y32 MacBook CPU before, as it is also in the hearth of GPD Win 2,
the absolutely fantastic handheld gaming device that is my primary platform for playing indie
or lighter games and that I have made a fair amount of content about and it was the CPU inside the first versions of
the GPD Pocket 2 laptop like the one I received and that would be my prefered travel device
if the review unit had more than 4 GB of RAM. “Wait. You have mentioned like 4 computers already
that you travel with. How many laptops do you actually carry around?” More than I should. Going through airport security is always fun. Now the venerable 7y32 has a problem… it
was released in 2017 and that was a while ago. Maybe Intel stopped producing them but sometime
late 2018 everyone seemed to start reporting shortages of this older CPU as GPD updated
the pocket 2 to its successor: 2018 m3-8100y. This shortage also affected the lattepanda
Alpha which announced the upgrade to the newest m3, with the upgraded board being the one
I received. Meaning that to my knowledge most of the boards
that you will see floating around on videos before this one are running the older CPU. I managed to get my hands
on one of the updated boards, thanks to DFRobot the official distributor for Lattepanda of
which you can find the purchase link in the description. Great right? Newer CPU means more power and possibly an
improved IntelHD right? Not so fast. There were some unexpected downsides with
this change that we should talk about. But we will get there. Now that I have spent a million years talking
about CPUs let’s look at the board itself. The Lattepanda Alpha is a comparatively tiny
and beautiful device with laptop functionality but the jump from an intel atom means that
you also get laptop pricing. At least if this device claims that it could
substitute a desktop PC it can actually get closer to deliver that with 3 USB 3.0 ports. Full HDMI output, audio jack, Gigabit internet,
USB type C for power but that can be used for additional display or USB, a micro SD
slot and all sorts of extra ports for an external battery or touch display. This thing is stacked considering its size. It even includes two m.2 slots for extra hard
drivers or even PCIe expansion. There are two versions of this device for
sale with the same specs and ports with the only difference being an internal memory,
so if you get the cheaper one you will have to rely on something external to store your
OS. You might have noticed a large number of IO
pins on the sides. This betrays the actual intended use of this
computer, which is being a sort of super-powered maker board for experiments. In fact, under the fan is the same microcontrollers
found an Arduino Leonardo which can be controlled from the Arduino program in windows. Also under the fan is the newest 8th gen m3,
and when you compare to the older model on paper it does seem like a great improvement
over the older generation in terms of CPU and at least the same in terms of GPU… If it weren’t for the memory. So, the older m3 latte panda alpha sported
8 GB dual-channel 1867 MHz and the new one has 8 GB of 1600 MHz single-channel. That is a cut on base speed and going single
channel on top of that. Ouch. I will be the first one that points out that
a lot of people online, at least in gaming, will overestimate the effect RAM speed will
serve on game performance on low-end devices… With one exception. I have talked about this a lot lately after
LTX but on integrated graphics, such as this device, there is no dedicated VRAM and parts
of the RAM are used as VRAM. If the RAM is slow then you can run into performance
issues due to memory bandwidth which will likely be the case for this device so if later
in this video you see game performance that is lower to what you have seen in other videos
about this device… it is likely going to be this memory bandwidth issue. Now what I believe happened is that when the
m3-7y30 started becoming difficult to find and they were forced to upgrade this meant
spending more on the CPU which meant that something had to be reduced to keep the same
selling price and in that sense, I very much understand the decision. If I had been in the position of their engineers
when faced with the problem and it was between using slower single-channel RAM or cutting
the ram to something harder to use like 4 GB or cutting some other functionality the
change in RAM seems like the right choice. After all, this is not a gaming intended device
and you can get a lot more functionality from maintaining 8 GB of RAM at all cost. Also, they probably did not have a lot of
time to implement the change, considering how so many places within the OS still report
the wrong CPU. And to be honest that single channel change
is pretty much the only thing I personally did not like about this device and I am absolutely
in love with everything else that I can do using something so tiny. Which gets me to gaming. It might have not been intended for it but
we are going to try anyway. Before heading there. Let’s do a few hardware adjustments. Predicting performance on any low power consumption
chip just based on specs is a nightmare because it will often depend on the configured TDP
or its temperature. Often with this sort of gadget if you are
lucky there will be an option on the bios to straight-up change the TDP which means
the device will get hotter but you will get extra performance, as is the case with the
GPD Win 2. For the LattePanda alpha, such an option is
not there, although we do get some options regarding when the fan starts and stop which
I imagine will be useful for certain projects but not as much for us. I will leave it on the one fires it up faster
since it is really not that loud anyway. However, we get some leeway on increasing
performance thanks to the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. This program is often used by overclockers
and tweakers to play around with their voltages and clocks speed and while we do get a reduced
set on options on a device like this we can still do improvements. I am looking in particular at the Turbo Boost
Power and Time Window. Most modern x86 CPUs can boost their clocks
temporarily to a higher level as long as temperature and power consumption is kept under control,
which is what Intel calls Turbo Boost. Increasing the Time Window to the max gets
the CPU turbo-boosting as long as possible and increasing the power is a replacement
of sorts for increasing the TDP, as it increases the TDP the chip can scale to while boosting,
and this makes a huge difference. While the CPU will still not reach its maximum
spec speed it will still boost pretty high. With a problem, it makes the device very hot. This time we have the advantage that this
is a table device rather than something you hold with your hands so we can get a bit crazier
than what I would find comfortable on a GPD Handheld but still, the small fan is likely
not designed for this sort of hit. Which is also why I used the offset to undervolt
the CPU a bit. Undervolting can be a bit of a hit or miss
process and is usually a matter of seeing how much you can drop the voltage and still
get a stable computer when stress testing. On this matter, I was able to offset the voltage
by about 0.09 volts. 0.1 would mostly work but would bluescreen
occasionally in some high-stress scenarios. If you decide to undervolt this or any device
keep in mind every chip will function a bit differently and to do some research before
you engage. With these changes, we are ready to roll,
and for starters this machine can be an excellent indie or 2D gaming console with titles like
Cuphead working perfectly on 720p with no issues. But let’s try something outside the normal
range. Like 2016’s Doom, which is interesting for
several reasons: The Intel UHD on this m3 is compatible with Vulkan so we can make use
of its absurd level of optimization and you can turn off shadows with one console command. While this game is likely very affected by
the slow memory the performance is still pretty good at lowest settings, 720p, 50% resolution
scale and shadows disabled. The game at least maintains 30 FPS at the
worst, and I am pushing here as hard as it will go so this is a fantastic result. Let’s look at CSGO, at first using the very
heavy benchmarking community map at the lowest setting and a custom resolution of 960×540
with a decent average of 53 fps which seemed consistent with my experience
on actual gameplay. Just close of a cool 60 FPS. Keeping that esports vive going, here is rocket
league. But do not allow this initial performance
to fool you. Rocket League is part of several games that
tend to continue loading even after the game has started. This is not noticeable on most capable CPUs
but leads to a huge spike of CPU usage that draws the entire performance of a match down until it is finally loaded and the game goes
back to normality. Here I am playing on 720p lowest settings,
and while I could not quite reach 60 FPS the game was fluid enough for an entire match
to work and be as fun as always. Now Fortnite is a bit of a mystery for several
reasons. In my experience, Fortnite tends to be decently
well optimized for IntelHD GPUs and not particularly CPU heavy… although the large map can cause
some bandwidth issues, especially when looking at large parts of it. While performance, in general, was fine and
almost to acceptable levels there were some issues in loading that consistently cause
the game to fail to load full detail assets. While I wish this was something one could
control for performance improvement this seemed like either a memory issue or a hard drive
issue (which is a bit unusual because the name had never caused issues loading from
this hard drive on any other PC). I was not able to exactly diagnose what happened
here, so put a pin on that because I will finitely return to this on a later date. GTA V was another very, very interesting case
study. While this game is a bit old for modern standards
it has never-ending popularity and its still incredibly demanding system requirements,
especially in terms of GPU and VRAM bandwidth which makes it a fantastic test. For this benchmark I am running 720p, %50
resolution scaling and shadows disabled using the configuration file and it does much better
than I expected. Here is the thing though I have covered GTA
V several times in the past. Don’t watch those they are terrible and I
had no idea what I was doing. And since then I have realized that I barely
talked about the ways you can control the level of detail on this game simply by changing
the configuration file which can lead to an extreme graphical reduction but potentially
incredible performance gains in limited environments like this one. Heck, this computer is perfect for that so
I will probably return to this for a more in-depth GTA V video in the upcoming months. Before that, a couple of other interesting
cases. The first is Wolfenstein 2 the New Colossus. This Vulkan game is a heavy shooter, so I
tend to use it as a great torture-test for integrated GPUs and at minimum settings, %50
resolution scale and 960×540 with Shadows Disabled using the console tweaks from its
video it does way better than I expected in an intense combat scene. Hell, I would say it is almost there. The other almost there case which is interesting
to observe is Overwatch. Overwatch is very GPU optimized but a bit
more CPU heavy than many other shooters and in a controlled training environment with
lowest settings, it would do just fine but would have a very obvious stutter that
would not go away during actual play no matter the FPS limit that I would set. While this is usually a sign of lack of CPU
power I have personally gotten this game working much better on much weaker CPUs so… there
is room here for more experimentation and tweaking. Which we will get to because as previously
mentioned this m.2 slots have PCIe access, meaning that with a simple and cheap adapter
it would be relatively trivial to add an external GPU to this thing. Which is why Linus already did it, and ETA Prime did it TWICE. But both of those were using the older version
of the board, which means this one should provide better
CPU performance and a dedicated GPU would be able to sidestep the VRAM memory bandwidth
issue and more importantly, with the correct low-end GPU would make for
a janky but small and fully capable PC that would probably fit in a hand luggage making
the ideal low-spec setup for the next conference LAN party which is
veeeery tempting. But as you might have noticed this video is
getting kinda long so I will save that for the exciting next part of this saga. Join us “soon” as I create my next mini Lan
party PC which will be my main machine for those events, for playing overwatch, maybe
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