Fanless 4x 2.5GbE Intel Core i3-N305 Internal Hardware Overview
We get a primary M.2 slot. Our unit had a 128GB Faspeed P8 NVMe SSD. If one orders a barebones, there are some amazing deals on low-cost 512GB and 1TB M.2 SSDs, so we would probably suggest going that route.
Memory in the unit is a Samsung 8GB DDR5 SODIMM. If we were configuring this ourselves again from barebones, we would probably get a 16GB SODIMM. With only one SODIMM slot, the expansion is limited to a single DDR5 unit. We get 50% more bandwidth with DDR5, but only half of the channels as previous generations.
While we are tempted to upgrade, the 8GB/128GB is a strong firewall configuration.
The chassis has a plate that goes from the Intel Core i3-N305 to the chassis to passively cool the CPU. If you have one of these fanless units, and you are seeing very high temperatures, the chances are that there is an issue with the contact between the motherboard and the chassis here.
This unit also has the Intel i226-V NICs on the CPU side with their own block. The Intel i226-V was an update to the i225-V not just in logic, but also with lower power consumption. Both moving the NICs to have more direct cooling and away from the SSD and memory is a good choice.
Next, let us discuss the new expansion options in the chassis.
Starting the x86 Pi Ecosystem of Expansion
The CWWK folks have realized they have a platform that they can expand and get more use cases for. We have seen some attempts at this previously, but there is a small H-board that comes from the WiFi slot and offers a second, lower-speed M.2 slot for storage in the chassis.
The Topton one had a similar board but with a smaller connection between the long sides of what we call the “H-board.”
With our unit, we got an early expansion board with more features. Namely, this board has a M.2 slot but also a mSATA slot and a SATA port.
One can use the set of four onboard switches to determine which of these ports is active.
The initial unit CWWK sent was rough. Here is the back of the new H-board.
Here is the updated unit that arrived in an envelope just before this review went live. We can see, for example, that the new board has tape on the back to prevent shorts.
Here is the other side of the newer board.
That was not the only expansion board. There was another one in this envelope for the M.2 2280 slot. The board had a M.2 2280 board with a number of pins. The pins are connected to a larger 4x M.2 SSD board.
We saw the chip on there and did not know what it was.
The best we could find is that it is a TBUF0308 from Silicon Innovation.
Here is the back side of the assembly.
Here is another angle.
We are not going to go into this one too much in this review. It works, but cooling is a significant challenge. This will likely be its own piece later.
Next, let us get to the performance.