Khadas VIM1S: Unbox, Set Up, and Review 

 June 21, 2024

By  Peter

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The Khadas VIM1S is a high-quality yet affordable single-board computer well suited to hobbyists’ needs. While it doesn’t have the power of its siblings, such as the Edge2, it strikes a fine balance between performance and price.

This article will introduce you to the unique aspects that make the VIM1S a noteworthy piece of hardware.

Unboxing the Khadas VIM1S

Upon receiving the Khadas VIM1S package, you’ll find a high-quality compact single-board computer (SBC) similar in size to a credit card. Considering its price, the board carries some impressive hardware under the hood: a quad-core Arm CPU and 2GB of RAM ensure respectable performance for its price point. Storage needs are well-catered by an onboard 16GB eMMC storage, but a Micro SD card slot is also available if expansion is required.

Regarding connectivity, the VIM1S includes a 10/100M Ethernet port for wired connections, although it’s not the faster Gigabit Ethernet that some may expect. It features Wi-Fi with IEEE 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n standards and Bluetooth 5.0 capability for wireless communications. The board sports an HDMI 2.1 port for visual output and supports 4K@60fps AV1, VP9, and H.265 decoding along with HDR video processing, making it a solid choice for media enthusiasts.

It’s worth highlighting the Amlogic S905Y4 SoC, equipped with a 2.0GHz Quad-Core Cortex-A35 CPU alongside an ARM Mali-G31 MP2 GPU that can go up to 850MHz for GPU-intensive tasks. Priced at around $65 in the official store, the Khadas VIM1S is an accessible, power-efficient, low-profile SBC choice.

Please note that no cooling solution is provided out-of-the-box, so if you plan to push the VIM1S to its limits, consider purchasing a heatsink for an additional $10 from the Khadas website to ensure optimal performance.

First Impressions

The Khadas VIM1S certainly makes a good first impression with its power-efficient design. It packs a punch with the Amlogic S905Y4 chip, which includes a 2.0GHz quad-core Cortex-A35 CPU and ARM Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. These specs signify that the VIM1S is compact and can handle moderately demanding tasks.

The 2GB LPDDR4 RAM ensures smooth multitasking and system operations. A Micro SD card slot is a great addition for further storage expansion, enhancing the board’s adaptability. Despite lacking USB 3.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet, the available 10/100M Ethernet connectivity, paired with 2 USB 2 ports and Wi-Fi, provides adequate options for basic GPIO access and peripheral connections.

What makes the VIM1S particularly appealing is its ecosystem and software support. The tiny SBC can run various operating systems, such as Ubuntu 22.04, Android 11, and Debian, allowing users to use the board for various applications. The 82.0 x 58.0 x 13 mm dimensions reinforce its credit-card size profile, making it a compelling option for projects where space is a premium.

Fortunately, the setup process is straightforward and quite enjoyable due to the OOWOW interface. This interface offers a user-friendly way to navigate initial configurations, further enhancing the VIM1S’s appeal to both seasoned tech enthusiasts and newcomers to single-board computing.

The Khadas VIM1S delivers an accessible, power-efficient single-board computer experience. With the upgraded SoC and the addition of new features, it’s evident that the successor of the VIM1 is poised to be a popular choice among those looking for a compact yet capable SBC that doesn’t break the bank.

Setting Up the Khadas VIM1S

Getting started with the Khadas VIM1S is seamless. The initial step involves connecting a keyboard and mouse with an HDMI display. Powering the board is as simple as plugging in a USB-C cable.

After the computer is powered up, the OOWOW BIOS-like interface takes center stage, guiding you through the rest of the setup sequence. This interface is designed to simplify the user experience, making it akin to setting up a standard desktop computer.

However, users should note that while the VIM1S features a pair of USB A ports, they are limited to USB 2.0 functionality, which might affect transfer speeds for certain peripherals. Cooling is another aspect; the board operates without a cooling system by default. If you are planning to run strenuous tasks on this machine, you should install a compatible heatsink from the Khadas website to enhance heat management. Overall, following the user-friendly procedures, similar to those on the VIM4 and Edge 2 models, ensures a smooth setup experience for the VIM1S.

The VIM1S can run various operating systems, which can be installed by the OOWOW firmware.

Power-efficient Design

The Khadas VIM1S maintains its principle of power-efficient operation within a credit-card-sized footprint, continuing the legacy of its pioneering predecessor, VIM1. Its popularity among OEM and Maker customers is built upon many years of market presence, offering an impressive mix of affordability and distinct compactness.

The SBC’s heart is the upgraded Amlogic S905Y4 SoC, which houses four Cortex-A35 CPUs clocked at 2.0GHz each and supports sophisticated AV1, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG HDR video processing for media applications. Customer feedback hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the VIM1S featuring a 40-pin GPIO for various applications, a hardware RTC for timekeeping, and a VIN port capable of accepting a 5V external power supply.

In response to evolving technology and market demands, the VIM1S now accommodates UHS-I SD cards, boasts AV1 video decoding, and comes equipped with a generous 32MB SPI Flash. All these enhancements converge to create an SBC that delivers performance and convenience.

Connecting the Khadas VIM1S with the 40-pin GPIO Interface

While the Khadas VIM1S might not be the first choice for intricate GPIO-based projects due to its comparative limitations with boards like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino Uno, it still offers a 40-pin 2.54mm GPIO header.

The integration of a 40-pin GPIO interface widens the scope of practical applications.

Khadas VIM1S, front.

The Amlogic S905Y4 SoC

At the core of the Khadas VIM1S is the Amlogic S905Y4 SoC, an efficient and performance-driven chipset boasting Cortex-A35 CPUs operating at 2.0GHz. The integrated GPU supports AV1, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG HDR protocols, underpinning the device’s prowess in video processing.

The SoC’s capability extends to multi-video decoding, managing up to 4x 1080P streams simultaneously at a refresh rate of 60fps, a feature seldom found at this price point. Along with the usual amenities, the SoC’s integration enhances the VIM1S with a hardware RTC and a Vin port catering to a dedicated power supply. Additionally, support for UHS-I SD cards, AV1 video decoding, and a 32MB SPI Flash are included.

Wi-Fi 5 Connectivity

The VIM1S employs the Ampak AP6256 module for wireless connections, ensuring adherence to Wi-Fi standards, including IEEE 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n. In addition to high-performance Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 integration extends its capabilities for wireless communications.

Khadas VIM1S, back.

Powering the Khadas VIM1S

The VIM1S draws power from a USB C 5V input, maintaining a straightforward setup.

The VIM1S does not include a power adapter and USB-C cable, so they must be purchased separately. A suitable option for the power supply would be a 5V external power supply connected via the VIN port on the VIM1S. The USB-C cable should be compatible with the VIM1S for power and data transfer purposes. A high-quality USB-C cable is recommended to ensure proper functionality and compatibility with the VIM1S.

Building upon many years of solid performance and reliability with its VIM1 series, the Khadas VIM1S captures what makes a single-board computer truly remarkable. With the infusion of the new Amlogic S905Y4 SoC, the VIM1S elevates its performance profile, making it well-suited for handling sophisticated HDR video processing, including HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG.

The 40-pin GPIO connector, the addition of a real-time clock, and Vin power port make this device an excellent contender of the Raspbery Pi. These features, coupled with a streamlined, slim RJ45 port for networking, broaden the scope of what can be accomplished with this small yet mightily capable unit. At around $65, it’s hard to overlook the value proposition offered here—especially when considering the complete package: onboard storage, RAM, and connectivity options like high-speed WLAN and Bluetooth 5.0. The VIM1S is a compelling choice for many tasks that suit various applications and users.

The Adequate RAM Size for Efficient Performance

In balancing performance versus cost, the Khadas VIM1S opts for a realistic, middle-ground approach with its 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM. While sufficient for handling tasks like streaming YouTube videos and word processing in LibreOffice, this RAM size sets a boundary on multitasking prowess. Users will find that while the device operates smoothly on singular tasks, the strain becomes evident as more programs are launched concurrently.

I was able to do basic tasks such as browsing the internet and watching YouTube videos relatively comfortably; however, I hit a limit when I tried to run the Kodi multimedia application.

My experiments with Kodi

I decided to experiment with the VIM1S computer by installing and running Kodi, a media application known for being demanding regarding resources. With only 2GB of RAM on the VIM1S, I knew I was pushing its limits. After installing Kodi, I found the performance was slow and barely usable. The VIM1S struggled to handle the application’s demands, resulting in a less-than-ideal user experience.

As part of this experiment, I wanted to try VIM1S with an external drive, as I was planning to test it with local video and audio files. So, I installed Ubuntu on an external SSD drive. Booting from the external drive was straightforward: Plug the drive into one of the USB ports and reboot.

Kodi on the VIM1S on regular Ubuntu works but stresses the hardware. Use CoreELEC instead.

After checking in with one of the engineers at Khadas, he pointed out that Kodi performs much better if used with an operating system that is optimized for the hardware (the Amlogic system on a chip) and for the task (running the Kodi multimedia application). This operating system is CoreELEC, and I installed it within minutes using the Khadas OOWOW firmware.

The difference in performance between Kodi on regular Ubuntu and the optimized CoreELEC operating systems is staggering. Kodi on CoreELEC is snappy, and video playback is nearly instant. The performance was so good that I did not bother using an external SDD for the media files. I just played a video from my file server using Wi-Fi.

Kodi on the optimized CoreELEC operating system is smooth and snappy on the Khadas VIM1S.

The main lesson from this experiment is that this $65 computer hides significant power. To take advantage of this power, you will need to do some research to find optimized software. Without the optimization, your experience will be average at best.

Next, I plan to try the same experiment on the more powerful Edge2 board to see if it can handle Kodi more effectively. It will be interesting to compare the performance of the two boards when running this resource-intensive application.

What will I use the VIM1S for?

I plan to use the VIM1S as a headless computer for command-line tasks, even though this device has significant video capabilities for its price. Command-line use fits well with most of my typical use cases. I currently use a Raspberry Pi 4 or 3 for these tasks, such as running Python services or hosting simple websites for my courses. The VIM1S would serve as an excellent server for services like Node-RED, all at a fraction of the cost compared to using a Raspberry Pi.

In addition to the potential use cases mentioned in the background info, the Khadas VIM1S can be utilized in various headless applications. Here are some additional potential use cases for the VIM1S in a headless role for you to consider:

  1. Home Automation: The VIM1S can be a central hub for controlling smart home devices such as lights, thermostats, and security cameras. With its GPIO pins, the VIM1S can be connected to sensors and actuators to automate various tasks around the home.
  2. Network Attached Storage (NAS): The VIM1S can be configured as a NAS server to store and share files over a local network. With its Ethernet port and USB connections, the VIM1S can be expanded with external storage drives to create a cost-effective NAS solution.
  3. Media Server: The VIM1S, with an optimized operating system like CoreELEC, can be used as a media server to stream music, movies, and other multimedia content to connected devices on the network. With its HDMI output, the VIM1S can also be connected to a TV or monitor for media consumption.
  4. IoT Gateway: The VIM1S can be an IoT gateway to connect and manage multiple IoT devices in a home or office environment. With its support for various communication protocols and GPIO pins, the VIM1S can facilitate communication between IoT devices and a central server.
  5. Remote Monitoring System: The VIM1S can be deployed as a remote monitoring system to monitor environmental conditions, security cameras, or other data from sensors in real-time. With its low power consumption and compact size, it is well-suited for continuous monitoring applications.

Overall, the Khadas VIM1S offers versatility and affordability for various headless applications, making it a valuable tool for DIY projects, automation, and IoT implementations.

Conclusion and call to action

In conclusion, the Khadas VIM1S is a power-efficient single-board computer. Its core is the Amlogic S905Y4 SoC and an ARM Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. Its credit card size allows users to integrate it easily into various projects without space constraints.

Despite its small stature, the Khadas VIM1S doesn’t skimp on connectivity. It offers Wi-Fi 5, ethernet connection, and basic GPIO access via the 40-pin GPIO. The board also includes a 16MB SPI flash memory (which the Raspberry Pi doesn’t have), catering to developers’ needs for flash memory.

The RAM size is adequate for many applications, and including a login screen right out of the box allows for quick setup and use. Its power-efficient design makes it a popular choice among enthusiasts looking for performance without the power draw.

If you’re interested in a robust, pocket-sized single-board computer, the Khadas VIM1S might be the right choice.


Khadas, VIM1S

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