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Advantech ARK-1122 Embedded Box PC

Tiny, rugged, versatile fanless embedded industrial Box PC brings full Windows computing power into spots and locations where nothing else will fit
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer; photography by Carol Cotton)

IPC stands for Industrial PC, a kind of device that brings computing power into all the numerous areas where it's needed, but where deploying a consumer-grade laptop or desktop simply don't do. Industrial PCs usually consist of a compact steel box with cooling fins to eliminate the need for a potentially troublesome fan, and with embedded industrial-grade systems circuitry inside. Though compact, most IPCs are fairly heavy and bulky. Not so Advantech's ARK-1122 embedded Box PC.

Introduced in April 2013, Advantech calls the ARK-1122 "palm-size" and that's not just marketing hype. This little Box PC measures just 5.3 x 3.7 inches and it's about 1.7 inches tall. So if a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone fits into a palm, then the ARK-1122 Box PC does, too, because it's actually not even as long as the Galaxy S4. That is tiny for an industrial-grade, industrial-strength PC.

Yet, despite its comparatively tiny size, the ARK-1122 is a full-function PC. It runs Windows Embedded Standard 7 (or also Windows 7 Pro) on a 1.86GHz Intel Atom N2800 dual-core processor, providing performance that not so long ago was only available through Intel's high-end mobile processors. And despite the small size, the ARK-1122 has full-size, industry-standard ports and jacks, and not the fragile mini and micro versions of them. It doesn't use much power either. The Atom N2800 processor has a Thermal Design Power rating of just 6.5 watts (compared to 15 to 45 watts for mobile Intel Core processors), and only 3.5 watts for the also available 1.6GHz Atom N2600 processor. That means no fan, a small power supply, and economical operation.

What all of this means is that embedded systems developers can deploy this little Box PC just about anywhere. Weight isn't much of an issue either as the ARK-1122 weighs just 1.44 pounds, less than the original iPad. For secure mounting Advantech offers a bracket that supports VESA, desk and DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm) rail mounts for easy installation.

So what is the ARK-1122 for? The application potential is almost endless. As if to illustrate that, Advantech actually offers three different versions of this little marvel. There's the ARK-1122C, targeted primarily at self-service applications. It uses the slightly less powerful Atom N2600 chip, but comes with four serial ports (including two that support RS232 as well as RS422 and RS485). There's the ARK-1122H targeted at digital signage applications. This one also has the N2600 chip, benefits from the platform's inherent ability to support two independent displays via VGA and HDMI, but offers mSATA as well as conventional 2.5-inch SATA hard disks for the high storage requirements in digital signage. Our review machine is the ARK-1122F that Advantech primarily designates as a data transmission gateway, with its dual gigabit LAN ports and dual PCIe slots (one half-size, one full-size) for WiFi and 3G modules.

The image below shows the top view and all four side views of the ARK-1122. The device consists of a steel chassis the system board is mounted on, and a large U-shaped heat spreader with fins machined from solid aluminum. The heat spreader is a thing of beauty, and meticulously machined. It conducts the heat away from the N2800 CPU via a postage-sized strip of heat-conducting material, and also dissipates additional heat through the device's metal frame. Note the clean and purposeful design and execution that facilitates easy integration as well as painless maintenance.

The device is precision-engineered and exudes quality, like a fine Swiss watch. Everything makes sense, down to the smallest detail. Advantech even uses identical small Philips head screws throughout the device. Anyone who's surviced an electronic device just to find seven different screw types and sizes knows how important that is.

In terms of functionality and connectivity, this little Box PC meets even advanced project requirements. Our review ARK-1122F was configured to offer the following external ports:

  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Serial RS232
  • 2 x RJ-45 gigabit LAN
  • 2 x Antenna WiFi
  • Antenna 3G WWAN
  • Power (12 Volt DC)
  • 15-pin VGA video
  • HDMI
  • Audio line-in and line-out
The ARK-1122 is designed to run off mSATA solid state storage via an internal mini PCIe slot. Our review unit ran Windows Embedded Standard 7 on a 16GB Advantech industrial grade SATA II 3Gbps SQF-SMSS4 mSATA Flash module. The picture below shows once more just how small this Advantech Box PC is.

The guts of the ARK-1122 are actually quite complex. There are two small circuit boards on top of each other, each with the type of connectivity and expansion and slots and connectors you'd find on a standard PC motherboard. So despite its very small size, the ARK-1122's guts are not hyper-integrated and concentrated into a sliver of a circuit board as is the case, for example, in the iPad; no, this is a real PC.

From a ruggedness standpoint, the enemy of embedded devices such as the ARK-1122 are usually temperatures extremes and shock/vibration. Since they are not carried around, the drop spec and IP rating (sealing against solids and liquids) that in part define the durability of mobile devices are essentially irrelevant. As a result, there's no IP number and no drop spec, but a wide operating temperature range (-4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as detailed shock and vibration test numbers.

To provide an idea of the relative performance of the ARK-1122, we ran our two standard benchmark suites, PassMark and CrystalMark. For comparison, we're also listing the results of other Intel Atom-based Advantech IPCs we have reviewed and benchmarked over the years.

Advantech Intel Atom-based ARK Box PC Benchmarks and Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Advantech Advantech Advantech Advantech
Model ARK-1122 ARK-DS520 ARK-6320 ARK-DS303
Model (click pic for review)
Year tested 2013 2012 2011 2010
Intel Atom processor N2800 N455 D510 N270
CPU Speed 1.86GHz 1.66GHz 1.66GHz 1.60GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 6.5 watts 6.5 watts 13 watts 2.5 watts
CPU Mark 546.1 248.7 509.9 252.6
2D Graphics Mark NA 71.3 171.5 158.7
Memory Mark 254.3 220.4 231.3 227.7
Disk Mark 948.2 445.9 393.9 459.4
3D Graphics Mark 57.0 169.1 95.6 77.3
Overall PassMark 389.7 226.3 293.8 232.6
CM ALU 11,474 6,296 10,829 5,409
CM FPU 9,003 4,033 9,272 4,671
CM MEM 8,757 6,033 6,527 4,223
CM HDD 25,739 7,827 8,576 8,221
CM GDI 1,271 2,302 2,370 2,158
CM D2D 370 2,936 3,899 2,230
CM OGL 8,016 5,183 709 684
Overall CrystalMark 64,630 34,610 42,182 27,596

Note that even within closely related processor brands and families, benchmark results often yield confusing numbers (especially in graphics) and it often feels like comparing apples and oranges. In our experience of benchmarking many hundreds of rugged mobile and industrial computing devices, however, we've found that the overall bottomline numbers generally provide a good measure of actual perceived performance.

With the above in mind, it's quite obvious that Atom device performance has been steadily increasing, and the Atom N2800-based ARK-1122 is a rather competent performer. One other thing we've found to be of great importance to the performance of these kinds of system is the type of storage used. Often, using the right type of solid state storage can make significantly more of a difference to overall performance than the processor.

Like many Advantech embedded products, the ARK-1122 includes SUSIAccess software, a remote management API that can be used to monitor, configure, and control terminals in a centralized, real-time maintenance system. Our review system also included Advantech's Booting Manager, EWF (Enhanced Write Filter) Manager, and a FBWF (File Based Write Manager) utility.

As is, the three available configurations of the ARK-1122 provide an economical, super-compact full Windows computing platform that can be used for digital signage projects with its dual graphics channels and large storage, factory and machine interface operations with its multiple legacy ports, or data transmission gateway with its dual LAN ports and dual PCIe expansion slots. ANd that's just the beginning of its potential. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Advantech ARK-1122 Embedded Box PC Specs:

Status Added 06/2013
Type Embedded Box IPC
CPU Type 1.86GHz Intel Atom N2800
Chipset Intel NM10
OS Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows 7 Professional, Windows XP Embedded
Memory Max 4GB DDR3 1066MHz in 1 204-pin SODIMM socket
Graphics Controller Integrated (640 MHz)
Watchdog Timer 255-level timer intervals, software setup
Graphics Interface VGA and HDMI (1920 x 1200 pixel) independent displays
LAN 2 x 10/100/1000 Mbps (Intel 82583V) LAN RJ45
Storage Full-size Mini PCIe slot for mSATA storage module
Housing Aluminum with optional DIN-rail, VESA and/or wall mounts
Vibration With mSATA: 3 Grms, IEC 60068-2-64, random, 5 ~ 500 Hz, 1 Oct./min, 1hr/axis.
Shock With mSATA: 30 Grms, IEC 60068-2-27, half sine, 11 ms duration.
Safety CB, UL, CCC, BSMI
Operating temperature With extended temp. mSATA: -4° to 140°F (-20° to °60C)
USB 4 x USB 2.0
Serial 1 x RS232 serial
Audio HD Audio Realtek ALC892 chipset, line-in + line-out jacks
Communication Optional via Mini PCIe with SIM card holder
Size 5.27 x 3.7 x 1.7 inches (134 x 94 x 43 mm)
Weight 1.44 pounds
Power 12VDC via adapter
Price Inquire
Webpage Advantech ARK-1122 page and intro press release
Datasheet Advantech ARK-1122

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