Tadpole Pulsar: Hardware 

General Dynamics Tadpole Pulsar thin client

Initially I wondered about buying one of these. In some of the literature it is described as a 'zero client'. Zero clients usually have an architecture that is based on a dedicated chipset that implement a protocol such as PCoIP and, as such, cannot be repurposed. However I did notice that the Pulsar used Intel's Atom processor and so hoped that it would turn out to be more flexible on that front.

The press release announcing the Tadpole Pulsar is dated June 2010.


Intel Atom 330
1GB (max ?)
   Max resolution
     One Monitor
     Two Monitors

2560 x 1600 32-bit colour
1920 x 1200 32-bit colour

4 x USB2.0
Coax 5.5mm/2.5mm
19V 3.42A
H x W x D (mm)45 x 215 x 155

It's not obvious to me what operating system the system firmware is built on.

Unlike all other thin clients this one is fitted with a fan. However I must admit that I can't hear it above the various other computer fans that are whirring away here unless I get within about 6" of it - but I haven't tried listening for it in the middle of the night with everything else switched off.

I haven't taken the heatsink off so I don't know what chip is supporting the Atom CPU. However the lspci command returns nVidia MCP79.

Power Supply

The unit runs from an external 19V supply with 5.5mm/2.5mm coax plug. Mine came without any power supply but I was able to use a 19V/3.4A supply from a laptop.


The Pulsar has an Atom 330 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz. This is a dual-core processor with Hyperthreading so the kernel sees 4 CPUs.

cpu family:6
model name:Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU 330 @ 1.60GHz


00:00.0 Host bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Host Bridge (rev b1)
00:00.1 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1)
00:03.0 ISA bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 LPC Bridge (rev b2)
00:03.1 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1)
00:03.2 SMBus: nVidia Corporation MCP79 SMBus (rev b1)
00:03.3 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1)
00:03.5 Co-processor: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Co-processor (rev b1)
00:04.0 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 OHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev b1)
00:04.1 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 EHCI USB 2.0 Controller (rev b1)
00:06.0 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 OHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev b1)
00:06.1 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 EHCI USB 2.0 Controller (rev b1)
00:08.0 Audio device: nVidia Corporation MCP79 High Definition Audio (rev b1)
00:09.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Bridge (rev b1)
00:0b.0 SATA controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 AHCI Controller (rev b1)
00:10.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Express Bridge (rev b1)
00:15.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Express Bridge (rev b1)
00:16.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Express Bridge (rev b1)
02:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation ION VGA (rev b1)
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation NetLink BCM57780 Gigabit Ethernet PCIe (rev 01)
04:00.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR928X Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) (rev 01)

Expansion Inside the General Dynamics Tadpole Pulsar

Flash: The Pulsar has a 512MB Flash DOM that plugs into a SATA interface on the motherboard. Having removed that, a second socket labelled SATA2 was revealed. The flash plugs into a data + power socket. The SATA2 socket is just the data connection - there is no adjacent socket that provides a standard power connection. However on the other edge of the board is a small four-pin socket labelled SATA POWER.

RAM: The RAM is a DDR3-1066 SODIMM. Whilst a 1GB part is fitted, the BIOS reported that only 512MB of RAM is fitted - something that confused me for a while. George Kourtis pointed me at a setting in the BIOS under Chipset/Southbridge Configuration/iGPU Frame Buffer Size. This can be set to: 32MB/64MB/128MB/256MB/512MB and in my case was set to 512MB. That's where the memory was going. Setting it to 64MB resulted in the my having a reported 960MB of System Memory.
The fitted RAM is a pqi part - MFCBR302PA0104 DDR3-1066S The only other DDR3 RAM I have are some 2GB parts and neither of them worked.

Wireless: There is a wireless card plugged into a mini pci-e socket. It's an AzureWave AW-NE772. (It uses an Atheros chipset).

Card Reader: There is an ISO-7816-3 smart card reader with double sided connector

Bluetooth: There are a couple of small sockets (covered with cellophane) that are labelled BLUE TOOTH CONN. I have no idea what sort of interface they present.

As always, clicking on the photograph of the board will bring up a larger version.

Additional Photos

SATA connectors.Tadpole Pulsar Sata connectors

Tadpole pulsar SATA and bluetooth connectors Sata power socket and sockets for a bluetooth module. In the lower half of the photo is the wireless module fitted to the mPCIe connector.

Tadpole Pulsar SATA power connections Detail for the SATA power connector. I measure +5V on the two pins furthest from the side panel. The other two are ground connections.

RAM Support

Linux's start-up log shows that the integrated Northbridge/Southbridge (which includes the memory controller) is an nVidia MCP79 which I think is also known as the first generation nVidia ION. Google could not find me any proper technical information on this chip. However it did manage to find me a single document that gives us an idea of what the chipset is capable of. This was a Dell training document for service technicians working on the Alienware M17x. I found this document tucked away on a US Service company's website, and one page of it has a description of the chipset's "features and benefits".

Under the "memory" section it lists:

  1. Supports DDR2; 533 MT/sec. (266 MHz), 667 MT/sec. (333 MHz), and 800 MT/sec. (400 MHz)
  2. Supports DDR3; 1333 MT/sec (667 MHz) and 1066 MT/s (533MHz)
  3. Up to two SODIMMs per channel for a maximum of four SODIMM support
  4. 36-bit addressing with up to 16 GB using four 4 GB dual rank SODIMMs
  5. Supports synchronous and pseudosynchronous operation with FSB
  6. Supports unbuffered non-ECC DIMMs
  7. Supports X16 and X8 memory devices
  8. Supports serial presence detect (SPD) scheme for DIMM detection and configuration

This seems to say that the chipset supports up to 4GB SODIMMs. It supports x16 and x8 devices, and 'dual rank'. (Is that the '2' of 2Rx16 devices?).

RAM Modules

In September 2017 I revisited the issue of RAM and the fact that the 2GB SODIMMs I tried back in 2014 didn't work.

The unit came fitted with a 1GB DDR3 from PQI - part number MFCBR302PA0104. A Google search on this part number comes up with a single hit - this page! ...so not much help there....

Looking at the PQI part I could see that the memory chips used were Hynix parts - H5TQ1G83AFP - which, according to their datasheet, are 1.5V parts. So it looks like the SODIMMs don't have to be 'L' parts (which run from 1.35V).

This time I decided to try to various 1GB DDR3 memory parts I had to hand. The following worked:

  • Samsung M71B28744DH1-CF8 1GB 2Rx16 PC3-8500S-07-00-A0
  • Elpida EBJ10UE8BDS0-AE-F 1GB 1Rx8 PC3-8500S-7-10-B1
  • Hynix HMT112S6TFR8C-G7 NO AA-C 1GB 1Rx8 PC3-8500S-7-10-B1

The following didn't work:

  • Samsung M471B2873FHS-CH9 1GB 1Rx8 PC3-10600S-09-10-ZZZ
  • Adata HY73I1A08 DDR3 1333(9) 1GX8 SO-DIMM
  • Anonymous HP part removed from a t5740

So from this we can deduce the SO-DIMM has to be an DDR3-1066 (PC3-8500) part.

Luckily I had just (by accident) purchased a couple of 2GB PC3-8500 parts on eBay and these worked. They are Hynix 2GB 2Rx8 PC3-8500S-7-10-F2 parts (part # HMT125S6TFR8C-G7 N0 AA).


Any comments? email me. Added July 2014    Last update January 2021