ZimaBlade Review: A Game-Changing SBC for Cloud Storage, Emulation, and Much More

The Breakdown

The ZimaBlade is a marked improvement over its predecessor, the ZimaBoard. It addresses previous limitations with a sleeker design, enhanced power, and affordability at just $64 for the base kit. Featuring an advanced Intel J3455 CPU, it outperforms competitors like the Raspberry Pi 4. With 16GB RAM support, 32GB eMMC storage, and versatile connectivity options, it offers excellent value for its price.

Performance


8.0

Connectivity


9.0

Setup Process and Ease of Use


9.5

Versatility


8.0

DIY Potential


9.5

Accessory Options


8.0

Overall Value


9.0

Pros
Affordable. Feature-packed. Extremely versatile. Expandable and can meet most DIY needs. Great value for money.

Cons
Doesn’t come with proper documentation. Has only one USB Type-A external port.

I was thoroughly impressed with ZimaBoard. However, it had some issues. For example, the board had soldered memory. And the highest available config could only offer 8GB of RAM. Also, ZimaBoard had no USB-C port, which I believe is a must-have for 2023. Well, IceWhale took notes. Meet the ZimaBlade!

With this release, IceWhale didn’t only bring out something that looks sleeker than the Zimaboard, but also an SBC that’s both powerful and affordable. The base kit of the ZimaBlade is just $64. In comparison, the base ZimaBoard has a price tag of $119.90.

But just because the new SBC is more affordable than the ZimaBoard, it doesn’t mean the ZimaBlade isn’t powerful. As a matter of fact, it’s more capable than ZimaBoard. And ZimaBoard already packs more power than most SBCs in the market.

To compare, depending on the model you pick, the ZimaBoard comes with Intel N3350 or N3450. On the other hand, the high-spec version of ZimaBlade features Intel J3455, which I believe is one generation ahead of the CPU ZimaBoard came with.

But the real question is, how good is the ZimaBlade? Let’s put it to the test!

What’s In the Box?

The base ZimaBlade kit comes with the SBC, USB Type-C Cable, and a SATA cable. It features the dual-core Intel N3350, which is also found in the ZimaBoard. And it’s current pricing on Crowd Supply is $64. If you don’t want to purchase the RAM separately, you can grab the 3760 Early Bird kit. It comes with an 8GB DDR3L stick. The Early Bird kit is priced at $72.

Box Content Base Kit

But the one that I have with me is the ZimaBlade 7700, which comes with the Intel J3455. On Crowd Supply, this version goes for $96, and the accessories are the same as the base kit.

Besides these two, you can grab the ZimaBlade 7700 Advanced kit. This kit will come with 16GB of DDR3L RAM, 12V / 3 A power adapter, 4K 60Hz DP to HDMI cable, and other accessories included with the previous kits. And it goes for $128.

ZimaBlade NAS Kit

There are ZimaBlade NAS and 12-Core Cluster Kits available too. Here, the NAS kit comes with the accessories of the Advanced kit but with a dual 3.5-inch storage drive stand and a special SATA Y-cable. And with the 12-Core 48GB cluster, you get 3 ZimaBlade Advanced kits. The pricing for these two is $144 and $392, respectively.

Get the ZimaBlade NAS and other kits from Crowd Supply

Visit ZimaBlade’s official website for more information on the NAS and other kits

Specifications of ZimaBlade

CPU Intel N3350 Dual Core with a Turbo Speed of 2.4GHz (TDP 6W)

or

Intel J3455 with a Turbo Speed of 2.2GHz (TDP 10W)

RAM SODIMM Slot, compatible with up to 16GB DDR3L at 1600Mhz
Storage 32GB eMMC
Display Mini-DisplayPort 1.2 4K@60Hz x 1

Type-C 4K@60Hz x 1

Networking Gigabit Ethernet port
Ports One PCIe 2.0 4 Lane

One USB 3.0 Type-C

One USB 3.0 Type

Two Internal USB 2.0

Two SATA 6.0 Gb/s

Dimensions 107 x 80 x 23mm

ZimaBlade Benchmark Results

If you’re going for performance, you are likely to get the ZimaBlade 7700, which is the model I have with me. The Intel J3455 CPU on this SBC can offer quite a punch. Compared to the Raspberry Pi 4, the ZimaBlade 7700 takes the lead in almost all the benchmarks. Check out the benchmark results in the picture attached below.

ZimaBlade vs Raspberry Pi 4 benchmarks

Setting Up Your ZimaBlade

Irrespective of the chosen kit, you won’t face any issues with setting up the ZimaBlade. You only need to connect it to a power source through the USB-C port and hook it up to a monitor or your router/PC with the ethernet port.

CasaOS Local ZimaBlade

If you use the DisplayPort to connect the ZimaBlade to a monitor, you’ll be greeted with a Linux SSH terminal. On the other hand, the Ethernet port connection will get you a beautiful Web UI after you put casaos.local on your browser. On that note, you can access the Terminal on the Web UI, which makes it extremely versatile.

Terminal on CasaOS local

That said, you’re not stuck with CasaOS. Like the ZimaBoard, the ZimaBlade can run Windows, other distros of Linux, OpenWrt, pfSense, and Android. So, if you’re not happy with what CasaOS has to bring to the table, you can easily switch to your preferred OS.

App Store on CasaOS

The app store in CasaOS offers a good number of easy-to-install apps. For example, you can find MineOS on the app store, which lets you easily get a Minecraft server up and running on the ZimaBlade. There’s also Plex, enabling you to quickly set up your local Plex server for streaming.

CasaOS app store

The Versatility of ZimaBlade

With such an amazing set of hardware, the ZimaBlade calls for some amazing DIY projects. To illustrate, you can get the NAS kit and build yourself the ultimate cloud storage that ensures maximum privacy. In addition, with the apps from the built-in app store, you can build a Home Assistant, DNS servers, database, BitTorrent appliance, and many more.

Gizchina News of the week

Home Server ZimaBlade

What’s more interesting is that the ZimaBlade has what it takes to become a full-fledged retro emulator. You can easily get other distros of Linux installed and emulate the classic games on the SBC. But, of course, don’t expect to get gaming PC-like performance out of the board. After all, it comes with a low-power CPU.

ZImaBlade Retro gaming setup

On that note, it’s also possible to get some Windows games up and running on the ZimaBlade. But, again, you won’t get modern AAA titles running on the board. And if you do want to use it as a gaming setup, I would recommend hooking up a GPU with the board. Something such as the GeForce GT 1030 Low Profile would perfectly pair with this SBC. Besides, it can be a perfect device for cloud gaming.

Maximizing ZimaBlade’s Potential with Accessories

IceWhale officially sells a good range of accessories that you can use to get the most out of the ZimaBlade. Let me give you a rundown on some of the accessories that I have with me:

PCIe to NVMe & NGFF SSD Adapter

Planning to build a home server or hosting setup? In that case, you would want to prioritize speed. Well, on the official store of IceWhale, you’ll find the PCIe to NVMe & NGFF SSD adapter. With it, you can expand the storage of ZimaBlade with super-fast NVMe SSDs.

PCIe to NVMe & NGFF SSD Adapter

PCIe to 4-Port 2.5G Ethernet Adapter with Intel I225 Chipset

Needless to say, the I225 chipset is one of the most reliable ethernet chipsets out there. And with this expansion card, you can get quad 2.5Gbe ethernet ports on the ZimaBlade.

4-Port 2.5G Ethernet Adapter for ZimaBlade

PCIe to 5 Port SATA II Adapter

The ZimaBlade already comes with two built-in SATA ports. A home cloud server or NAS demands more drives. Well, that’s exactly where this expansion card comes into play. It features the trusty JMB585 chipset, which can deliver 1700MB/s.

5 Port SATA II Adapter

PCIe to 4-Channel USB Adapter

On the ZimaBlade, you get only one USB 3.0 Type-A port. And if you plan to use the board for emulating games, you’ll need a lot more. That’s where this expansion card steps in. It gives you 4 USB 3.0 ports with an interface speed of up to 5Gbps.

4-Channel USB Adapter

PCIe to 10G Ethernet Adapter with AQC107 Chipset

Have a large number of file data transfer needs? In that case, you would want to pick up this expansion card for your ZimaBlade. It ramps up to 10 Gigabit speed.

10G Ethernet Adapter

Closing Remarks om ZimaBlade

As someone who has tested the ZimaBoard 832, I can safely say that the ZimaBlade is an upgrade, especially when you consider the ZimaBlade 7770. But if you already have the ZimaBoard 832, there’s no need to upgrade. For these two SBCs, the performance is pretty much comparable.

However, there’s no denying that the ZimaBlade offers more value, especially at the price point it is on Crowd Supply.

Get the ZimaBlade NAS and other kits from Crowd Supply

Visit ZimaBlade’s official website for more information on the NAS and other kits

 

Via: gizchina.com

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