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ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

These are the results of our tests on the ASRock J4205-ITX, the first mainboard with an embedded Apollo Lake Processor, one of Intel’s new processors. Apollo Lake is based on the Intel Goldmont architecture and is the successors of Braswell. Even prior to launching, Intel spoke of an enormous boost in performance of up to 30% with the same clock speed.

In the case of the ASRock J4205-ITX at least, the maximum turbo clock speeds of 2.6 GHz are identical with those of the previous model, although Intel has promised processors with considerably higher clock speeds in the near future.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC
The ASRock J4205-ITX replaces the ASRock J3710-ITX, which was recently launched as the Braswell Refresh and gave us a processor with clock speeds of up to 2.64 GHz. In a direct CPU comparison, the Intel Pentium J4205 embedded in the ASRock J4205-ITX is approximately 20 % faster than its predecessor.

This is impressive, as both architectures are produced in a 14 nm manufacturing process, which means that the increased performance with the same clock speed can be attributed purely to the improved IPC (Instructions per Cycle). The Intel Pentium J4205 has a TDP budget of 10W compared to the 6.4W of its predecessor. In practice, the increase in TDP is not noticeable; the waste heat is almost identical to that of the previous model with Braswell architecture.

As in the case of its predecessor, the architecture also supports AES-Ni for encoding files via hardware. The new Intel HD Graphics 505 is based on Intel's 9th GPU-Generation which is already built into the Skylake processors. An important difference: H.265 (HEVC) is now also calculated in 10 bit completely via hardware, as is Google's free VP-9 Codec. Among the larger Intel processors, only the newly launched Kaby Lake Architecture can do this, Skylake had to pass on this one.



Mainboard with HDMI 2.0

The ASRock J4205-ITX has 6 USB 2.0 and 4 USB 3.0 ports, of which only 2 of the USB 2.0 and 2 of the USB 3.0 can be used directly via the I/O panel.

The previous model, ASRock J3710-ITX, had 4 USB 3.0 ports, so 2 more than its successor. However, the front USB 3.0 ports can now be used parallel to those in the I/O panel, so that in fact 4 USB ports are available. In addition, there are also 4 SATA3 ports, two of which are directly connected to the Intel CPU and the other two via an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. All ports support NCQ, AHCI and Hot-Plug.


ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

The highlight of the new mainboard is the HDMI 2.0 connection, which allows a resolution of 4K x 2K (4096x2160) @ 60 Hz. Officially, however, Intel's new Apollo Lake Processors do not support HDMI 2.0.

In order to do this, ASRock uses a trick which Intel itself used with the Intel NUC6i7KYK: a special DisplayPort chip supplies the HDMI port with data. This, together with the ability to calculate all new codecs in hardware, makes the ASRock J4205-ITX ideal as a premium media player, which can play almost all media smoothly in 4K resolution via HDMI.

A total of 3 monitors can be connected simultaneously and digitally to the graphics processing unit. Via the M.2 slot, a wireless card can be installed if required. A possibility here is the Intel Dual Band Wireless 8260 with max. 867 Mbps for €19.

MainboardHDMIDisplayPortDVIVGA
ASRock J4205-ITX
(Apollo Lake)
1x 2.0
4096x2160 @ 60Hz
--
1x DVI-D
1920x1200 @ 60Hz
1x D-Sub
2048x1536 @ 60 Hz
ASRock J3710-ITX
(Braswell Refresh)
1x 1.4
3840x2160 @ 30Hz
2560x1600 @ 60Hz
1x 1.1a
3840x2160 @ 30Hz
2560x1600 @ 60Hz
1x DVI-D
1920x1200 @ 60Hz
--
ASRock N3700-ITX
(Braswell)
1x 1.4
3840x2160 @ 30Hz
2560x1600 @ 60Hz
1x 1.1a
3840x2160 @ 30Hz
2560x1600 @ 60Hz
1x DVI-D
1920x1200 @ 60Hz
--


As well as the internal Generation 9 graphics with 18 execution units, the mainboard can work with DDR3/DDR3L-1866. This means that ASRock has limited the processor unnecessarily, since, theoretically, the new Apollo Lake processors can also work with DDR4-2400 working memory. There is only a slight improvement in the number of PCIe connectors, from 4 x PCIe 2.0 x4 to 6 x PCIe 2.0.



Bios

Version 1.10, the newest version at the time of testing, ran reliably. The BIOS was clearly structured, as is typical of ASRock, but the configuration options have been reduced to a minimum. All the important basic settings such as energy-saving modes or Wake on Lan can be selected. Worthy of note is the BIOS update function via the Internet. ASRock allows the BIOS to be updated directly from the BIOS itself, which is very user-friendly.

As with nearly all ASRock mainboards, the option “PCIe Devices Power on” must be activated for the Wake On Lan (WOL) feature. This functions reliably and is of particular interest for NAS systems.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

The function “Power Gear” has been included in BIOS since Braswell. As well as the “Normal Mode”, it is possible to select an “Eco Mode” or a “Sport Mode”. While there is no difference in performance between the “Normal Mode” and the “Sport Mode”, in the “Eco Mode” there is a reduction in the maximum clock speed in multi-core operation.

However, we see little sense in the Eco Mode, as the system is forced to work longer, which could mean that in practice, more energy is used than in Normal Mode. While in the Cinebench R15 Multicore Benchmark there was an energy saving of 9%, performance was a whole 20% below the two other modi. We therefore consider Power Gear to be nothing more than a gimmick – it seemed to us to be of no real use.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

Should you want to install Linux, we recommend that you activate the CSM (Compatibility Support Module), otherwise the mainboard boots up only in the UEFI mode.



Test system

In the ASRock J4205-ITX we used both memory banks and installed two 4GB DDR3L-1600 So-Dimm (1.35V) Kingston modules (KVR16LS11/4). This meant that we could profit from the dual channel mode, which considerably enhances the performance of the processor graphics.

Unfortunately, using the ASRock Mainboard with the dual channel working memory proved to be very tricky, and for this reason we recommend the Kingston KVR16LS11/4, which have proved to be very reliable and compatible. We found the same when testing the Braswell Mainboards.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

For the system hard drive we relied on a current Samsung 850 Pro with 256GB, which we connected to an Intel SATA3 port (2 SATA3 ports were connected to the processor via the southbridge and 2 further SATA3 ports via an ASMedia 106x Controller). The ASMedia Controller is relatively common and not bad, however in our experience, using the built-in SATA3 ports is a bit faster.

For these two systems, an internal ATX power supply unit would be rather large, so we decided on a PicoPSU-90 voltage transformer (90W) for 29 USD and a 72W Switching Power Supply Adapter with a 5.5mm/2.5mm socket at arround 12 USD. This means the system is completely without a cooling fan and therefore silent.



Internal or external power supply?

Should you want to build a small, economical PC, it generally makes no sense to use an internal ATX power pack. For this type of PC, we recommend a PicoPSU-90 with an external 60 or 70W power pack. Tests we have carried out in the past showed that under minimum load even the very efficient ATX power packs are inefficient.

Compared to a EVGA 400 N1, 400W internal power supply, a saving of approximately 4-6W can be made using a 72W Switching Power Supply Adapter together with the PicoPSU-90. However, this adds 10 USD to the inital cost, and calculating on the basis of 8 hours of use per day (~12W) it would take approx. 2 years for the investment to pay off.

A pleasant side-effect of an external power pack is that it is absolutely silent, whereas internal ATX-power packs in this price range are always actively cooled.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

It may come as a surprise that the PicoPSU-90 only uses an ATX plug. The 4 additional connections are for the redundant power supply not needed by smaller systems.



Windows 10

The Intel Pentium J4205 is entirely adequate for Office programs such as Word, Excel or Outlook and for surfing the Internet. Simple Photoshop tasks can also be done fairly quickly, but the system reaches its limits when filters are used. Anybody who uses Photoshop on a daily basis should, therefore, go for a processor from Intel’s Core i series.

Compared with its predecessor with Intel Pentium J3710, the new Intel Pentium 4205 is approximately 20 % faster. This is not noticeable in everyday use, however, as its predecessor was fast enough for normal tasks.

The Intel Pentium J4205 is a good choice for the normal user and at the same time very economical: an office computer with an energy use of 11W during idle periods without any additional IOS tweaks. Even under maximum load, the gauge never showed more than 26 watts.

Windows 7 is no longer officially supported, as the built-in XHCI-Controller of its predecessor could only be correctly installed using an altered Windows 7 installation image. Because of the new processor, we were not able to start LibreELEC 7. OpenMediaVault 3 Beta (Debian 8) also does not work perfectly with the Apollo Lake processors.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

In OMV 3.0 Beta, the system load during idle periods is extremely high. This makes the system very slow, and the installation alone takes about one hour. There still seem to be huge compatibility problems between Linux and the new Apollo Lake processors.



Benchmarks

According to Cinebench R15, the computing performance of the internal processor graphics has increased by nearly 25%. Compared with its predecessor, Intel has increased CPU performance by approximately 20 %. The benchmark tool AIDA64 does not support the new Apollo Lake processors yet.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

While the predecessors were able to maintain a constant turbo clock speed in single and multicore operation despite a lower TDP of 6.5W, the Intel Pentium J4205 fails in multicore operation at 2,4 GHz and in single core operation the turbo clock speed fluctuates between 2.4 and 2.6 GHz.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

The AIDA64 stability test showed no problems. The CPU heated to a maximum temperature of 70°C (core temperature). The passive cooling element heated to a maximum temperature of 52°C. The cooling element should not be touched at this point.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

Even the newest version 1.7.7 of CPU-Z did not recognize the system without error and continued to show the clock speed during idle periods. The CPU-Z indicator did not change under load.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC


The AES acceleration of the processor meant that the Intel Pentium J4205 attained 1.4 GB/s in the Truecrypt Benchmark. The Intel Pentium J3710 (Braswell) reached 1.0 GB/s.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC




Video playback

The system had absolutely no problems playing videos, even those with modern codecs. When playing 4k content with H265 (HEVC), the maximum system load of the Intel Pentium J4205 was 30%. All videos played fluidly and without errors.

As well as H264, VC-1 and AVC, Apollo Lake processors can also handle the new codecs H265 (HEVC) in 8 und 10-bit formats and Google’s free VP9 Codec. This means that the platform supports all modern codecs. While 8-bit content can draw from a maximum palette of 16,7 million colors (256 nuances of all primary colors), 10-bit content can draw from 1,07 billion colors (1024 nuances of all primary colors).

Kodi 17.0 Beta - h265 HEVC @ 2160p (4K) 8bit
ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

Kodi 17.0 Beta - h265 HEVC @ 2160p (4K) 10bit - 140 Mbps Max UHD Bandbreite
ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC

Kodi 17.0 Beta - h264 @ 2160p (4K)
ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC



Cooling and noise level

ASRock’s Intel Pentium J4205 uses the same passive cooling system as its predecessors. Despite a rise in TDP from 6.5 to 10W, this cooling system is enough to cool the processor sufficiently.

ASRock J4205-ITX Test – Apollo Lake with HDMI 2.0 and 10-bit HEVC


As there is no active cooling system on the mainboard and no audible coil whine, the system functions noiselessly. Whether it is necessary to opt for an active case fan depends on intended use and the desired case. For an NAS, for example, it is always recommended that the hard drives are cooled, as hard drives are sensitive to heat.



Energy consumption

An Intel Pentium J4205, two 4GB Kingston DDR3L (KVR16LS11/4) memory modules (1.35V) and a 256GB Samsung 850 Pro are built into our test system. The PicoPSU-90 is powered by a Salcar 72W power adapter.

In order to get a quick idea of the energy consumption, we also tested the previous model ASRock N3710-ITX. In all respects, the energy consumption is more economical compared with the previous model. In particular, there is a marked improvement in consumption during idle periods as a result of the reduced base clock speed.

SituationASRock J4205-ITXASRock N3710-ITX
Windows 10 - power of2,4 W3,1 W
Windows 10 - standby2,6 W3,6 W
Windows 10 - desktop / idle (Bios-defaults)8,2 W11,4 W
Windows 10 - full utilization32,5 W--
Windows 10 - Kodi 17.0 beta h.265 HEVC max18,0 W--



Conclusion

The ASRock J4205-ITX is the first mainboard to have an embedded Intel Apollo Lake Processor. It showed an increase in CPU performance of about 20%, a boost in GPU performance of approximately 25%, and compared with the predecessor on Braswell architecture, an improvement in energy intake during idle periods of approx. 3W.

In addition, thanks to the drilled down Gen9 graphics, the new Apollo Lake Processor hardware can fully handle H265 (HEVC) 10 bit and Google’s VP9 codec, and so can play all modern media in 4K resolution fluidly. Video output is also finally possible via HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60 Hz). The fact that ASRock had to embed a DisplayPort 1.2 onto a HDMI 2.0 converter chip shows that Intel has missed the boat on this one. Luckily ASRock has thought this through and recognized the need for HDMI 2.0 on this platform.

Anyone wanting to put together a modern media player with future application potential can’t go wrong with the ASRock J4205-ITX. The 4 SATA3 ports also mean that building all-in-one systems (such as NAS and media player in one system) using the new ASRock J4205-ITX is no problem. However, it is important to ensure that Linux fully supports the new Apollo Lake Processors.



Components used in this test

The following is a list of all the components used in our test.

ComponentNamePrice
MainboardASRock J4205-ITX 99 USD
Mainboard (Alternative)ASRock J3455-ITX 86 USD

RAM2x 4GB Kingston DDR3L-1600 1,35V (KVR16LS11/4)26 USD

SSDSamsung 850 Pro 256GB155 USD

Power SupplyPicoPSU-9028 USD
External power supply72W Switching Power Supply Adapter12 USD
Internal power supply (alternative)EVGA 400 N1, 400W30 USD

Case (Mini-ITX)Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced40 USD



1 comments

by Tom at 2017-06-07
Visitor

And what do you think about Gigabyte GA-J3455N-D3H? It has 2nd LAN and USB 3.1 but 1 PCI for expansion while Asrock has 1x LAN and USB 3.0, m.2, PCI-E and optical audio. Gigabyte besides need 2x 12V connection. What to choose?

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Mit seinen 36 Jahren ist Dennis nicht nur der Senior des Technikaffe Teams, er hat im Laufe seines langen Lebens auch viel Erfahrung im Heimkinobereich sammeln können. Für seine "Packen wirs einfach an" Mentalität mögen wir Ihn noch mehr als für seine Fahrkünste.