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Advantech DS-062

Ultra-thin digital signage player platform comes with processors ranging from fanless Intel Atom N2600 all the way to quad-core 3rd gen Intel Core i7
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Digital signage players are essentially specialized computers that display customized information in a variety of settings and locations. That includes locations where there's little room for the player, and sometimes it's desirable to mount the player on the back of a display without adding to the size and bulk of the installation. That's especially the case with the latest ultra-thin displays where it makes no sense to pay extra for a low profile solution just to have that low profile compromised with a bulky player. As a result, there is an increasing number of compact and super-compact digital signage players on the market, and a compelling example is the DS-060 Series Ultra-Slim Digital Signage Platform from Advantech. How compact is it? The image below says it all.

In terms of dimensional specs, the DS-060 Series has a footprint of 7.1. x 7.5 inches, and it's just three quarters of an inch thick. That's smaller than the first-gen Apple TV. It's light, too, weighing in at 1.9 pounds. That's not much more than a consumer tablet, even though the DS-060 is an industrial-grade platform with very solid aluminum/steel construction.

Despite its amazingly small size and weight, the DS-060 is a robust professional platform. It can drive two displays simultaneously. It has four USB ports. There are separate microphone and line-out audio ports. There's an RJ45 gigabit LAN jack.

The DS-060 Series, which was first introduced by Advantech in September 2013, actually includes five separate models. The differentiation is primarily in the processor department where customers have their choice of distinctly different performance, power and features characteristics.

  • DS-060 — if an application requires maximum processing power, the DS-060 model comes with a 45-watt Intel 3rd generation Core i7 quad-core processor with 6MB of smart cache, and brimming with Intel Advanced Technologies (such as vPro, Identity Protection and AES new instructions, VT-x, etc.).

  • DS-061 — if an application requires all of Intel's high-end features, but the primary emphasis is on low power, the DS-061 fits the bill with a dual-core 17-watt ultra-low power 3rd generation Core i7-3517UE processor. Note that both the DS-060 and DS-061 benefit from a number of graphics technologies included in those two processors' Intel HD Graphics 4000.

  • DS-062 — if cost is an issue, but a customer still wants to take advantage of subset of full Core processor technology, the DS-062 offers a cost-efficient solution with its Celeron B810E CPU. Do not confuse new Celeron chips with older and much less capable generations. Today's Celerons are essentially basic versions of Core i3 processors, and capable of very good performance.

  • DS-063 — if even a Celeron-based unit is overkill for an application, the DS-063 comes with a dual-core Intel Atom D2550. Intel created this chip for low-end desktop applications. It's competent enough, but though it's a good step down from even the Celeron version, its 10 watt thermal design power means it needs a fan, just like the much higher -power members of the DS-060 platform.

  • DS-065 — if silent, fanless operation is desired, the dual-core Intel Atom N2600-based version fits the bill. The N2600's minuscule 3.5 watt thermal design power makes the DS-065 the clear choice for applications with modest graphics requirements. And do note that the N2600 is one of the best overall Atom processors, as evidenced by its widespread use in mobile tablets and devices.
The table below shows the relevant performance and feature specs of the five different DS-060 Series versions:

Advantech DS-060 Series (see detailed Intel CPU comparison)
DS-060 DS-061 DS-062 DS-063 DS-065
Processor i7-3615QE i7-3517UE Celeron B810E Atom D2550 Atom N2600
OS WES7E 64-bit WES7E 64-bit WES7E 64-bit WES7E 32-bit WES7E 32-bit
TDP 45 watts 17 watts 35 watts 10 watts 3.5 watts
Cores/threads 4/8 2/4 2/2 2/4 2/4
Clock speed/turbo 2.3GHz/3.30GHz 1.7GHz/2.80GHz 1.6GHz/NA 1.86GHz/NA 1.60GHz/NA
PCH chipset QM77 Express QM77 Express QM77 Express NM10 NM10
Graphics HD Graphics 4000 HD Graphics 4000 HD Graphics Integrated Integrated
RAM type/Max RAM DDR3/DDR3L 1600MHz/8GB DDR3/DDR3L 1600MHz/8GB DDR3 1333MHz/8GB DDR3 1066MHz/4GB DDR3 1066MHz/2GB
Cooling Fan Fan Fan Fan Fanless
Graphics out VGA + DP VGA + DP VGA + DP VGA + HDMI VGA + HDMI
USB 2.0 2 2 2 4 4
USB 3.0 2 2 2 none none

Apart from the very significant performance differential between a basic Atom processor and a high-end quad-core i7, there are a couple of other differences worth considering. First, if USB 3.0 is required, the Atom-based versions are out. Second, and this may or may not make a difference, but the two Atom-based units have VGA and HDMI ports, whereas the three higher-end versions have VGA and DisplayPort. Advantech offers DisplayPort-to-HDMI converters, and, unlike HDMI, DisplayPort can connect, via adapter, to devices other than just DVI.

Also note that the three higher-end models come with the 64-bit version of Windows Embedded Standard 7, whereas the Atom-based models use the 32-bit version. That also may or may not make a difference, depending on the application. Further note that Atom units max out at 2GB and 4GB of RAM, whereas the higher-end units support up to 8GB.

For mass storage, the DS-060 platform uses an internal SATA II hard disk or solid state disk with a maximum height of 7mm. Our review unit came with a 250GB Seagate Momentus Thin (see datasheet). Installing or replacing an HD or SSD is very simple—you simply undo four screws, take the top cover off, and insert or replace the disk.

Specs and benchmarks Advantech
Model DS-062
Processor Type: Intel Intel Celeron
Processor Model 3 B810E
CPU Speed 1.60GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 35 watts
CPU Mark 1,100
2D Graphics Mark 220
Memory Mark 450
Disk Mark 753
3D Graphics Mark 164
Overall PassMark 579
CM ALU 17,624
CM FPU 15,277
CM MEM 20,467
CM HDD 11,199
CM GDI 7,254
CM D2D 1,595
CM OGL 2,731
Overall CrystalMark 76,147

The motherboard itself, essentially an embedded single board computer, measures 8.0 x 5.7 inches and includes the CF Card Type II slot. All I/O connectors are edge-mounted directly on the board, and all other expansion card slots are also directly on the board.

Accessing the sole memory slot and the unit's mini PCIe compartment is equally simple; each sits under a small metal door held in place with a single screw. Overall, the DC-060 platform is among the easiest to service, simplest to access electronic device we've seen in a long while.

Advantech doesn't generally like it when we show the inside of their carefully designed and crafted devices, and so we'll just describe it. Unlike many of Advantech's systems, the DS-060 platform is not based on a standard embedded motherboard (like a mini-ITX, or COM Express). Instead, it's a very clean square board specially designed for the platform, with a cut-out to accommodate the fan and heat exchanger.

Thermal management is up to the usual high Advantech standards, with copper pipes conducting the heat away from the processor and chipset. It's a thing of beauty.

This board is also highly optimized and specialized. Unlike general purpose motherboards that usually have numerous connectors for all sorts of extra functionality, the one in the DS-060 Series has nothing that's not needed and connected. The I/O along the front and back of the device is what you get. With the exception of the WiFi, WWAN, TV tuner, etc.) that can be added via the mini PCIe slot.

The table above shows the results of our usual benchmark suites for the DS-062. It would have been interesting to test all five versions, but units are in high demand, and we were lucky to get the one that made it to our lab. Based on our overall benchmarking experience, we estimate that the N2600-based unit might be about 30% slower overall, whereas the Core i7 versions might be two to three times faster. The type of disk used will also have a large impact.

Ruggedness and utilities

Like many of Advantech's systems, the DS-060 platform supports the company's iManager, SUSIAccess, and embedded software APIs. iManager is preloaded and handles resource management, auto-protection and system restore, and also security enhancements. SUSIAccess is a suite of application program interfaces for the direct monitoring and control of digital I/O, CPU speed, watchdog timers, smart fans and access hardware. System integrators can use it to centralize the monitoring and managing of digital signage players deployed in the field, which means that the DS-060 Series not only supports rich media for dynamic content processing, but also offers remote or centralized management of both content as well as hardware and software.

Unlike consumer-grade, off-the-shelf media players, the Advantech DS-060 Series is expected to run 24/7 all the time, with minimal maintenance requirements. That's why it is not only solidly built, but also comes with special BIOS settings for digital signage applications, such as system Wake-on-LAN and Power-On-after-Power-Failure settings. There is also an embedded watchdog timer that allows for near 100% uptime, and there are additional functions that help the system recover from fatal errors or system crashes.

The system also includes a number of special Advantech utilities:

  • The Advantech Booting Manager lets developers turn off a variety of Windows-specific logos and screens. So instead of booting up like a standard PC, a digital signage may simply boot directly into its custom software, without any Windows logo, logins, sounds, and so on.

  • The Enhanced Write Filter, or EWF, is a security feature that lets you write-protect a run-time image by redirecting write operations to another storage location, thus preventing any damage that might be caused by an unexpected power failure, vibration or even a virus attack.

  • FBWF, the "File Based Write Filter," lets embedded systems developers quickly prototype and integrate file-based write filters. FBWF is used to provide the appearance of read and write access to write-sensitive or read-only storage and makes read and write access transparent to applications. What FBWF does is write to a cache instead of media that is not supposed to be altered or written on. As such, FBWF acts a bit like EWF, but it's more powerful and there are more features.

Bottom line

The Advantech DS-060 Series Digital Signage Platform is remarkable in several regards. First, few would expect an industrial-grade signage system to be so light and compact. Smaller than a first-gen Apple TV, it can be mounted virtually anywhere, and it's an ideal companion to today's ultra-thin large-size displays. Second, this same small form factor can accommodate processors ranging from a modest, fanless Intel Atom N2600, all the way up to a high-end quad-core Intel Core i7. That means customers can pick the exact right player for a job, and save money in the process. Third, it comes with a wealth of Advantech APIs and utilities that make deployment, management and system security easy. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, October 2013

Advantech DS-062 specs:

Status Added 10/2013
Type Ultra-slim digital signage platform
CPU Type Mobile Intel Celeron B810E
Chipset Intel QM77 Express
OS Windows Embedded Standard 7, XP Pro, Windows 7 Pro, Windows 8 Pro (32- and 64-bit, depending on model and version)
API support iManager, SUSIAccess and Embedded Software APIs
Memory Max 8GB DDR3 or DDR3L 1333/1600MHz via 1 slot
Graphics Controller Intel HD Graphics
VRAM Unknown
Video-out 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x VGA (both max 1920 x 1080)
Dual display Yes (DisplayPort and VGA)
LAN Yes, (Intel 82579LM)
Expansion: PCI 1 x MiniPCIe
USB 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
Serial 1 x RS232
Audio Yes
Watchdog Timer Yes, 1 (System reset, programmable 1 ~ 255 sec/min)
Size 180 mm x 190 x 19 mm (7.1" x 7.5 x 0.75")
Weight 1.9 lbs (870 grams)
Operating Temp. With HD: 32° to 104°F, with SSD: 32° to 122°F
Price According to Advantech Online store, a DS-061 (Core i7-3517UE, 4GB, 500GB HD) is under US$1,200
Web page DS-060 Series page
Datasheet DS-060 Series spec sheet

Advantech Corporation
13 Whatney
Irvine, CA 92618
Toll Free: 1-800-866-6008
Ph: 949-420-2500
Fax: 949-420-2501

Advantech Co. Ltd.
No.1, Alley 20, Lane 26, Rueiguang Road
Neihu District, Taipei Taiwan 114, R.O.C.
Tel: 886-2-2792-7818
Fax: 886-2-2794-7301