Single Board Computer Plays Nice with NVIDIA GPU

It’s about convenience when it comes to single board computers. The trade-off of raw compute power for size means the bulk of them end up being ARM based, but there are a few exceptions like the x86 based Udoo Ultra. The embedded Intel 405 GPU on the Udoo Ultra is better than most in the category, but that won’t begin to play much of anything outside of a browser window. Not satisfied with “standard” [Matteo] put together his build combining an Udoo x86 Ultra with a NVIDIA 1060 GPU. It seems ridiculous to have an expansion card almost three times longer than the entire computer its attached to, but since when did being ridiculous stop anyone in the pursuit of a few more polygons?

M.2 adapter board trim comparison
M.2 to PCIe adapter board (Top) Trimmed adapter board (Bottom)

Since the Udoo Ultra doesn’t feature a PCIe slot [Matteo] slotted in a M.2 to PCIe adapter board. There are two PCIe lines accessible by the Udoo Ultra’s M.2 port although trimming the adapter board was required in order to fit. The PCIe female slot was cut open to allow the 1060 GPU to slide in. All of the throughput of the 1060 GPU wouldn’t be utilized given the Udoo Ultra’s limitations anyway.

Windows 10 was the OS chosen for the machine so that all those NVIDIA drivers could be installed, and there’s also the added benefit of being able to sneak in a little Trackmania Turbo too. So to accompany the build, [Matteo] created a graphics comparison video to show the remarkable improvement over the embedded graphics chip. You can see the Time Spy benchmark results in the video below.

38 thoughts on “Single Board Computer Plays Nice with NVIDIA GPU

  1. Mini STX is a thing, tough to find the board outside a deskmini. But its a lot more expandable. Think Mini ITX in. 5.5×5.9 footprint. It also needs this kind of m.2 thingy for a video card, but you pick real processors, skylake/kabylake

    1. There are a few reasons ARM would be a problem. As much as I wish PCIe were more common on ARM, the SoC approach and the fact that PCIe is not a core technology in the same way as it is on x86 means it’s rarely available.
      The next issue are drivers and the lack of OSS drivers you could compile for ARM. That would also depend on the SBC’s linux distro either providing all the source needed to build the GPU driver into the kernel, or having solid KLM support to load the driver without having to recompile the kernel.
      There might be something out there, but the most popular SBCs don’t seem like good candidates.

  2. There are lots of older, but still fast, used graphics boards becoming available as computers are upgraded/replaced.

    There has to be some nice hacks we can do with the old video cards.

    1. The one nice thing about the 10 series cards is the low power usage. I have a 1080 and it blows my old setup with two 780s in SLI and uses less power than one card. Drop down to a 1060 and even less power. Really he could have used a 1050 and probably get the same performance.

  3. So I don’t fully understand the PCI express lanes, but if the card supports 16 and only 2 are supplied is there any advantage to the higher end card? Wouldn’t a cheaper card give the same performance?

      1. actually youd be surprised how little only having 2x lanes affects gaming performance, its not that big of an impact, my thinkpad P52s only has 2x lanes available on its TB3 connection but my 1070 eGPU only loses about 15-20% of what it would get in a desktop system, its more than capable of gaming at very nice settings even on the internal display

    1. Not only can the GPU itself do a LOT of crunching if you optimize the task, it also has a much faster RAM interface then what you’d find most x86 machines. The comms to it will be too slow to ever utilize it like the manufacturer intended, but then again this is not exactly a standard use case.

    1. It’s significantly more money though. I’d also wonder about driver support in their Linux distro for this product (though their Drive PX2 which is the same SoC is paired with external GPUs).

      1. Correction, the GPUs on the nVidia automotive based products connect via NVLink, not PCIe so they may not have a way for an external GPU to function on PCIe in any of their Tegra X2 products.

    1. Get *really good* at soldering then connect fine wires to the very bottom of the card’s edge connector contacts. Build an acrylic case (with plenty of vent holes) on a wooden base. A slot in the top of the base allows the card to sit just low enough to hide the soldered on wires while the wee little computer hides in the base.

  4. I like this.

    With those Time Spy results lower than a typical 1030 Time Spy result, I’d like to see a 1030 on it to see if the result lower by much and I’d like to see a 2080Ti on it, just because.

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