A few years after launching the ZimaBoard single-board computer with an Intel Apollo Lake processor, IceWhale Technology is back with a new device called the ZimaBlade.

It’s… also a small computer with an Intel Apollo Lake processor. But this time the company is offering more connection options and positioning the ZimaBlade as a compact computer that can be used as a personal server, among other things. IceWhale has launched a Crowd Supply crowdfunding campaign for the ZimaBlade, with prices starting at $64 for an entry-level model.

The starting configuration features a ZimaBlade 3760 with a 6-watt, dual-core Intel Celeron N3350 processor based on Intel’s Apollo Lake architecture, but backers looking for a little more horsepower can pay $96 for a ZimaBlade 7700 model with a 10-watt Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core chip.

Each model is a compact board that measures 107 x 80mm (4.2″ x 3.1″), making the little computer larger than a Raspberry Pi Model B, but smaller than most desktop PCs.

This isn’t exactly a single-board computer, as it doesn’t have integrated memory. Instead there’s a single SODIMM slot for up to 16GB of DDR3L-RAM, which you’ll either need to pay extra for or supply yourself. But the ZimaBlade does have 32GB of eMMC storage soldered to the mainboard.

It also has a bunch of I/O options including:

  • 1 x mini DisplayPort (4K/60Hz)
  • 1 x board-to-board eDP interface
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 1 x USB Type-C (Display, data, and power support)
  • 1 x USB 3.0 Type-A
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A
  • 2 x SATA 3.0 interfaces for storage
  • 1 x PCI 2.0 x4 connector

The ZimaBlade comes with a 3-piece custom enclosure with a transparent top cover, and an aluminum-alloy bottom plate to aid in heat dissipation, since the system is designed for fanless operation.

While it’s a little disappointing to see a new computer in 2023 featuring Intel Apollo Lake processors that were first launched in 2016, those chips are still faster than the processors powering the latest Raspberry Pi models, and more versatile too – you should be able to run a wide range of operating systems on the ZimaBlade.

IceWhale pre-installed the Debian Linux-based CasaOS on the ZimaBlade for folks that want to use the system as a home server. But with an Intel x86_64 processor, you should be able to most other modern GNU/Linux distributions as well as Windows or other operating systems.

Just keep in mind that there doesn’t appear to be any built-in WiFi or Bluetooth support, so you’ll either need to run an Ethernet cable to the computer for a wired connection or supply your own wireless adapter.

In addition to the ZimaBlade 3760 and 7700 “basic kits,” IceWhale is offering a few more advanced bundles to backers of the Crowd Supply campaign, including:

  • $128 ZimaBlade 7700 Advanced Kit (with 16GB RAM, a 12V/3A power adapter, HDMI, USB, and SATA cables)
  • $144 ZimaBlade 7700 NAS Kit (with all of the above and SATA Y-cable and dual 3.5″ drive stand)
  • $392 ZimaBlade 12-core 48GB Cluster (with 3 sets of everything above except for a single dual 3.5″ drive stand)

IceWhale says it’s already begun production of a trial batch of ZimaBlade computers for testing and verification purposes. The plan is to begin mass production in October and start shipping units to backers in January, 2024.

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    1. There’s a connector in between the two SATA ports, I’m fairly sure you hook up the SATA Y-cable to that.

      1. Oh yes, you’re right. I thought I noticed the word “com” on the label for that connector. I found a higher res photo, and it says HDD_PWR1

  1. They call it the “blade” and it’s advertised as a “server” and all I/O is along 3 edges, yet they don’t seem to be offering anything to wire a bunch of them together in a row like a blade server. Not that I really know what you’d do with such a setup.

    1. They call it a blade because the PCIe slot is on the edge side of the board. Only if they sell enough of these will they produce a chassis and mainboard with multiple PCIe interconnects as the backplane to allow inter-processor communication among individual blades to form a cluster. So if you want your own server farm in your bedroom make sure to open your wallet and get a few thousands of these to make it happen.

  2. Older, slower, cheaper, power-efficient processors are well suited for some tasks and that’s fine. However, the ones that are rumored to be used in the ZimaBlade are so old they don’t meet the Windows 11 requirements so if a person wanted that OS as an option, it’s at their own risk.

    I like the decision to have a SODIMM slot but would wonder about the longevity of the soldered eMMC. I know keeping the cost low is at odds with features but an m.2 slot would have been better in my opinion.

    Also speaking of risk, transparency on what processors they plan to use or honesty that they could change before shipping would be necessary before I’d give any semi-serious consideration to a crowdfunding project.

    1. Well, you could just add an m2 adapter using that PCIe 2 x4 slot, but I suppose that the aesthetic and especially durability of a PCIe card slapped on the side of the board are probably a bit questionable.

      On the other hand a full functioning Type C port with power, video and data is nice to see on a similar device, I think.