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The ASUS Tinker Board is a compelling upgrade from a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (jeffgeerling.com)
441 points by geerlingguy 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 228 comments

Some more cheap SBCs from my bookmarks:

- BananaPi (Allwinner, MediaTek): http://www.banana-pi.org/

- Le Potato (Amlogic) and Renegate (Rockchip): https://libre.computer/

- NanoPi (Samsung, Allwinner) : http://www.friendlyarm.com/index.php?route=product/category&...

- OLinuXino (open hardware, Allwinner A20, A64, etc, iMX, Ralink): https://www.olimex.com/Products/OLinuXino/

- Odroid (Amlogic, Samsung): http://www.hardkernel.com/main/main.php

- OrangePi (Allwinner): http://www.orangepi.org/

- Pine64 (Allwinner) and Rock64 (Rockchip): https://www.pine64.org/

I might recommend https://www.board-db.org/ -- up to date parametric search for single board computers with prices and links to buy.

I am not affiliated with the site, but use it regularly. Sometimes, it allows to find really obscure boards which fit a niche application.

I have both Raspberry Pi's and a few of the cheap "clones". So some takeaways:

The good: they're definitely cheaper, I paid about a third of the raspberry Pi 2 price for a comparable Orange Pi. Other models seem to have similar aggressive pricing.

The bad: Armbian distros are a mixed bag, I had the impression some of them were put together by developers who didn't even have the particular board on hand. I spent a good three hours just getting WiFi to work (not being familiar with linux didn't help either though) , while putting up with an invisible cursor editing config files. Setting up a raspberry pi zero W in comparison was 5 minutes. Also I found out later that the pin header was 180 degrees rotated compared to the Raspberry, which made it not compatible with standard hats.

In retrospect I did learn a lot, and the Orange Pi has been running without issue for 2 years now. But Raspberry's have my definite preference.

It would be cool if one of the big distros head a test suite for SBCs. The knowledge that the pi is well rested and supported is probably the biggest thing holding me with them. Well, and I think they're a really great organization which has driven a lot of innovation. But knowing that I might spend three hours screwing around with WiFi definitely keeps me from even trying out competitors.

There are also a few interesting options in the ~$100 price range.

One example is the new WandPi 8M. It's based on the NXP i.MX8M and has a few key advantages (particularly, true gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0). I've ordered one myself, but I'm not sure exactly when they're supposed to start shipping.

There's also the x86 based UP boards. They're based on newer Intel Atom SoCs, so my guess is that the out-of-the-box Linux support would be fairly decent.

The NXP chips have the other only open source GPU drivers, with the first being the RPi. If you want to do multi-media and need USB3, this is probably what you want.

The upboards are interesting, some have an FPGA, and some NN processing soon courtesy of Movidious.

The Pine64/Rock64 and Orange Pi are as cheap or cheaper than the RPi, and some Allwinner/Rockchip boards have binary GPU drivers, but really YMMV.

When shopping for SBCs, I find archlinuxarm's supported devices list very useful.


For ARMv8 specifically: https://archlinuxarm.org/platforms/armv8

I've recently been converting most of my home pi's to arch linux, as I use Arch as my daily driver. Add cockpit on top and it becomes a very modern generic platform.


How much cpu/ram does this take up on a pi? I imagine it's a nice interface to have.

Don’t forget the Espressobin: http://espressobin.net/

Have an EspressoBin sitting in my box of misc electronics parts. I wanted to run pfSense on it but last time I checked the Marvell CPU in it isn’t the same as the one in the Netgate SG-3100 that pfSense is exclusively compatible with ( https://store.netgate.com/Search.aspx?m ). Ended up getting a Ubiquiti UniFi switch + gateway to compliment the AC Pro AP that I already had and it works great — one management interface for all my home networking gear, VPN just works, wireless roaming + backups + 802.1x + rsyslog + emails of events + comprehensive monitoring and DPI make it a pretty nice home setup, especially with pi-hole running DNS.

That is an exceptionally good looking board at that price.

It's quite nice. Doesn't run pfSense yet, but apparently that's being worked on. There's a version of Arch that runs wonderfully on it though. I bought it a few days ago after reading this[1] guide to try to replace my pfSense router (stupid AES-NI...).


I was just investigating which distro would provide a smooth experience with espressobin. Looks like I need to give Arch a try.

I've been working with the Onion Omega 2+ recently and enjoying it.


I was one of the Onion Kickstarter backers and got one of the first ones. It was seriously a disaster for the first year.

Zero support, even in the forums (which are still such a JS mess they don't work on my iPhone). For a lot of users, the microSD slot didn't work. For many others, wifi was a nightmare.

It's gotten significantly better over the months, but it's still not ready for primetime. The good news is that the Onion folks are still actively working on it, and many of the issues have been addressed via firmware updates. But it's still flakey as hell. I've never been able to get its native GUI to work; even the new one released last week.

On one hand, the base unit is only $5. On the other... you get what you pay for.

I had to dig this deep to get any specs:


And even then, it doesn't even tell me the very basics, such as what SoC does it use.

When it's this bad, it's automatic discard.

Any of those x86? or is that mutually exclusive with "cheap"?

$20 https://www.ebay.com/itm/Lenovo-04W1431-ThinkPad-X220-i3-231...

$30 https://www.ebay.com/itm/Lenovo-ThinkPad-X220-Motherboard-FR...

~4-10x Raspberry pee 3 speed, SATA, pcie, 1Gbit ethernet, battery backup. Can get them as low as $10 with one USB port broken (either mechanical or fried).

This is an interesting option. Is it possible run that bare motherboard attached to a compatible power supply and nothing else? I don't see heat sinks on the first link, or RAM, or storage on either.

1GB ddr3 sodimms are pretty much free/garbage(friends, IT at work) due to being outdated and too small for anything, or $4 on ebay including shipping if you cant be bothered to ask around.

Those were just first random links from ebay, you can get better deals if you search harder, for example EU $15 http://allegro.pl/org-sprawna-plyta-glowna-lenovo-x220-core-... whole lower case +wifi +bt +cooling, one usb mechanically broken (out of 3 sockets, 9 more usb available if you solder directly to motherboard in strategic places like camera/mpcie/fingerprint/expresscard/dock connectors). Thinkpads can boot from SD card just like raspberry pee. You boot without keyboard by shorting one pin on keyboard/dock/debug connector.

did I mention full schematic? http://plan9.stanleylieber.com/hardware/thinkpad/x220/x220.s...

mostly open source firmware is also available https://www.coreboot.org/Board:lenovo/x220

Thank you for your reply. I made some off-topic comment a couple of months ago on HN about the lack of inexpensive, full x86 compatible SBCs. This gets close to the mark, especially if I can run the bare motherboard or something close to it.

As an aside, the schematics really take me back to a moment in the late 1980s. Radio Shack sold Tandys and TRS-80s at one point, and I remember an especially thick series of binders full of the system schematics for one (or some) of the computers they sold. I was too young with no money of my own then to buy them, and now I really wish I knew what that was so I could find it on eBay. Little did I know that was the end of an era, and not something I'd see the likes of again until today.

UP seem to have a range of x86 boards for comparable prices: https://up-shop.org/4-up-boards

Depends on how cheap, the Minnowboard starts at $150


There seem to be better-performing x86 Windows Mini PCs available for less. Come in a proper case and with a power supply.

If you need GPIO, I see some mini or smaller ITX mobos available[1], though I don't know how painful it is to get working...

1: http://www.mini-box.com/Jetway-JNF9D-2550

Also https://www.lattepanda.com, around the same price.

I haven't used one, but some of the low-end Liva machines[1] seem viable. Or Compute Sticks of various flavors (depending on what you wanted to do with them - no GPIO on either)

1: http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_LIVA_SPEC.a...

x86 is mutually exclusive with 'well designed'. Arm slightly less so, especially v8, although GPUs are all still 'secret sauce' (except newer nvidia I read). I'd really like to switch everything from x86 to arm sooner than later.

Would you elaborate on that? I've encountered a lot of ARM (and other archs) around, while, on the contrary, x86 seems to have a pretty decent base (excluding some horribile chinese-designed tablets).

I guess they're talking about the SoC/ISA rather than the board designed around it. x86 is generally considered a rather clunky/bad ISA and often sniped by — I don't think the term is really good but can't really find a better one — ISA pedants.

The rock pro 64 will hopefully come out by May 1 from pine64 with faster dual A72 cores + quad A53 cores. Their shipping is slow.

Firefly have a range of devices (Rockchip): http://www.t-firefly.com/

For something called the "Tinker Board" you'd expect there to be lots of documentation, and for the RK3288, it does not disappoint:

Datasheet: http://opensource.rock-chips.com/images/4/4e/Rockchip_RK3288...

Technical Reference Manual: http://rockchip.fr/RK3288%20TRM/

This is on par with what TI offers for its OMAP series, and a great deal better than anything Broadcom has ever released for its RPi SoCs.

I remember around a decade or so ago, Rockchip was one of the main producers of PMP SoCs, mainly the RK26xx and RK27xx series (Actions was the other popular one), and there was a community around firmware-modding those PMPs, including, appropriately enough, porting RockBox to run on them. It's interesting to see them "growing up" in the market.

4k60p too!

I'm working on a simply Yocto image that will autoplay a music video. It will serve as a nice test camera source for the medical device recorders I develop.


I still got to work out some kernel panics, but when it's done, I can just dd an image to an SD card. It beats the $10,000 medical camera I currently use :)

I am currently using a Yocto image for Raspberry Pi for 1080p60.


What camera do you use with the Tinker?

Tinker only does 4k30, I need 4k60. I'm currently using a RaspPi for 1080p60, but I am configuring the ROCK64 now.

Also, in case you misunderstood, I'm not using a camera with these devices, I am using these devices as a camera. I plug the HDMI out directly into my capture device to test capture/rendering/encoding/etc. Previously, I had to use a real camera and point it at a move to get some nice motion and color. Now, I just power on my RaspPi and use the HDMI out. Our assembly line now also uses them to burn in our devices.

I think you mean to say you are using these devices to simulate a camera?

OP is probably talking about something like this:


I think the main issues with all of these rasbi alternatives is the software. As ... quirky ... as the rasbi is, the software support and optimisation is excellent. There are several speed comparisons on youtube where the rasbi beats a lot of the competition through sheer software optimisation. Honestly, without complete Upstream Kernel support and Open Sourcing of all necessary drivers, none of these Boards is really useful.

Allwinner based boards have mainline kernel support for most features, they're one of a handful of vendors that has mainline support (primarily due to community efforts). I personally like the OrangePi boards due to price & reliability, easy to set and forget without worrying about mSD corruption.

http://linux-sunxi.org/Main_Page is pretty useful for a list of boards and info.

That hasn't been my experience during the design our last product. Allwinner was the vendor we had to pass on because their then-best-offering (H5) had poor mainline support and fragile, crappy code in the kernel dump. We decided to go with the slightly more expensive RPi 3B precisely because it had both usable mainline support and the handful of patches in the RaspberryPi Foundation's kernel were much better written and maintained.

We use H3 based boards, but the H5 seems to be fairly mature. I know its been under heavy development wrt mainline kernel support for the last year, might want to take a peek at the status matrix: https://linux-sunxi.org/Linux_mainlining_effort#Status_Matri...

H3 was already quite old back when we looked. The support offered by Allwinner for old chips (like the H3) back then was basically "If you're buying a ton, sure we'll support!", which was very off-putting.

H5's mainline support is still lacking in key areas. I2C, I2S, and cpufreq are deal-breakers for our product. Of course, combined with the fact that it will soon be out of support for a not-huge-buyer like us, it is out-of-question.

The status of their latest offering, the H6, in that matrix shows how bleak it was when we were looking at H5 for our board design. It was when the latest release of Linux was 4.4. You can see how few H5 features were supported with 4.4, almost exactly like how few are supported on the H6 today.

Sure, none of these chips are new, and the older models (which are easily & cheaply accessible) have mainline support. I wouldn't expect jack from Allwinner besides their crummy kernel 3.4 branch, but that is the beauty in mainline support, you aren't limited to what Allwinner supports!

> Sure, none of these chips are new, and the older models (which are easily & cheaply accessible...

The then-older chips were not available with the future volume we needed, unless we increased our volumes a few times. We had little choice but to build on their newer chips for the volume bracket we fell into. Perhaps the situation has changed in two years.

> I wouldn't expect jack from Allwinner besides their crummy kernel 3.4 branch, but that is the beauty in mainline support, you aren't limited to what Allwinner supports!

You can see how that is off-putting, especially when other vendors (e.g., the Raspberry Pi Foundation) themselves support the latest LTS (and non-LTS) kernel with maintained patches, and upstream their patches. And their code is not utter garbage. New RPis have a much easier time getting mainlined precisely because of these reasons.

I'd have thought they'd still be better than the chip in the Pi, which last I checked wasn't available at all to anyone but the Pi Foundation (and the proprietary bootloader license didn't allow you to run it on anything non-Pi anyway).

It might be better in principle — though shitty code is only so much different from unmodifiable code — but it turned out to be the best compromise available in practice. The boards put out by the Foundation were cheap and good enough for our purpose. Of course we'd have liked to go with our own boards. We actually designed and commissioned a small batch of builds using the H5. But then we saw the software provided by Allwinner. It was so fragile, it wouldn't even boot correctly a second time. Looking at the code itself revealed it to be a nightmare. And at that time (over a period of three months) there was no software freedom to be had since the only software that would even boot at all was the shitty dump. We'd have had to wait a year or two for the code to get usable or clean, and by that time both Allwinner would have moved on from the H5 (as we were told) and our product would have been too late to market.

The licensing and supply for the RasPi were pretty off-putting to us. Sure, we aren't making a custom board, but I don't want to be held captive to a single supplier that can stop producing boards at any time, whether that is due to a lack of chips or a lack of desire.

We were afraid of that too. But Allwinner wasn't willing to give us any guarantees they'd even continue to make the H5 two years later. Nor was the H5 backwards compatible with either of its predecessors H3 and A64, giving us more reason to worry about the future.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation (and Broadcom, in contract partnership), on the other hand, had a proven track record of both continuing to manufacture RPis 1 and 2 and to maintain backwards compatibility when putting out new RPi SoCs and boards.

Perhaps the situation with Allwinner has changed now. Perhaps they're willing to support their products for longer for smaller clients. We'd have to look into that again. But, of course, without mainline support anytime soon (and the quality of their past code doesn't help a bit) it's very hard for us to actually build a good product with it.

Not for any of the GPUs. If all you want is a terminal, you can pretty much buy anything..

You can run Gnome just fine, hardware accelerated video decoding/encoding works, HDMI with a few features is mainline, the only thing left is the Mali GPU, which is a fairly simple GPU as far as that kind of hardware goes, as compared to AMD or Nvidia GPUs.

On that note, there has been a fair bit of activity on Lima as of late, which is a big change from a few years ago: https://github.com/yuq/linux-lima/tree/lima-4.16-rc5/drivers...

Isn't Lima for 200 and 400 series. Tinkerboard needs has a 700 which already has kernel support but will need Panfrost for open source userspace.

Lima is for 200 and 400 series, which were what we were discussing earlier in this thread.

how mature is Panfrost? I have a board with Mali T720 (Allwinner H6) and I cannot get any GPU support currently.

Does libhybris work with Allwinner SBCs?

i.e. using ARM's proprietary driver for Mali from Android.

(FOSS drivers might be in development but pragmatically I'd choose something that works)

Not useable yet. It has shaders and can draw triangles but no textures or FBOs.

What makes Allwinner based boards less likely to have mSD corruption over others?

The orangePi boards don't use microSD, they have built in eMMC storage. Far more reliable.

On my 5 years old cubieboard server I experienced NAND corruption more often then not when power outage occurs. Never had this kind of problems since I switched to SD cards.

In my experience SD cards are much slower but more reliable and easier to manage (backups and such).

There's no real inherent reliability difference between SD and eMMC, it's all down to the individual controller implementation. Though some SD slots are quite flaky, i.e. the original RasPi models.

The eMMC that orangePi uses seems to be more reliable than the average SD card. Of course there are good SD cards out there and bad eMMC.

nice, thank you

Long story short most other boards are not really cheaper if take into assumption that your time is not free.

Unless you enjoy hours of wtfs googling and trying to figure out why does this thing does not do what you want it to, then you are spending a few hours to save a few bucks. You can judge how rational that is based on your hourly rate. Just because RPi is popular it's way more likely that somebody has already solved given problem for you.

So the only argument would be that other boards are more powerful. Does that really matter in 99% of use cases though?

All I really want is a pi with networking that isn't forced through a USB 2.0 channel. I'm genuinely surprised that this is still an issue, even with their most recent hardware.

There's the olimex fully open source computers that have everything documented and don't need binary blobs to run.


The Armbian community provides a distribution that is not only optimized for almost each and every ARM based SBC board out there, but they provide a build environment that allows you to individually tweak and tinker your own image.


Software can be fixed by a large enough number of developers and users. Where the Raspberry Pi wins is community. I've got so many other boards but none of them work quite as well as the Pi.

Where the Raspberry Pi wins is community.

From what I've observed, the community feels almost like a walled garden in terms of mentality: if you're doing what everyone else is doing, it's great. If you try to go beyond that, don't be surprised if you encounter hostility or discouragement.

By "go beyond that", I mean simple things like trying to find the electrical specifications of the GPIO pins. The comments here are worth reading, for example: http://tansi.info/rp/interfacing5v.html

Mainline kernel support is a big big issue, and it can't always be fixed by the community. There are a number of well supported Allwinner boards out there at very competitive prices though, we use them in production due to their price, lack of mSD corruption issues, and bandwidth (all the USB/Ethernet ports are directly wired on the OrangePi PC+, no bottlenecking like on the Raspi).

What type of optimization you specifically refer to, and which benchmarks? Changes to the ARM CPUs across producers are minor, and the packages are also practically the same (the distributions are few).

> without complete Upstream Kernel support and Open Sourcing of all necessary drivers, none of these Boards is really useful.

it's not clear if you refer to SBCs in general, or Pi alternatives. nonetheless, essentially all of them have Linux support (at least, Armbian support); of course, having upstream support would make them more usable, but this is different from "useful".

I have to say, having tried both the RPi and Tinker Board, the Tinker Board's GPU driver is far better. Yes, it's proprietary, but unfortunately the RPi driver is simply not reliable enough to run something like WebGL in Chromium. It's slow and glitchy. The Tinker Board runs WebGL like a dream by comparison.

This is my take away also. I have all the rpi models, a few beaglebones, banana pi, and odroid.

If there is something specific you are trying to do, you'll want an SBC that is geared towards that purpose (sata, adc, etc). If you just want an SBC as a general computer, rpi is your best bet.

The Rockchip RK3288 SoC used in this particular board is used in some chromebooks and uses ARMv7 on a 32-bit processor which I think may indicate decent kernel support

There are plenty of boards that are much more powerful than the RPi and have comparable price (ODROID-C2 comes to mind). But the devil is in wether or not they run the mainline Linux kernel.

I have several ODROID-C2 that I have replaced with RPis because of the poor hardware support (Amlogic kernel was way late at the time, may still is).

Stick to mainline.

I think the devil is in availability. I'm in the bottom of the world. Over here the only almost reliably available is the raspy.

I got my odroid c2 running with the rc kernel for a while now. There were some problems at first, but it now runs my home automation and DHCP server without a hitch. I'm running archlinuxarm btw but I will soon try voidlinux as well on it

(I tried kodi as well and it kinda could play h256 in software, but I now stick to my raspberry pi as a media center)

You’ve gotta mean hardware. There is no way that arm chip could do h265 at any useful speed. The amlogic in the c2 can do hardware h265 (not hdr) and it works with Kodi. I use one this way and have been overall pleased with it though especially since I didn’t buy the board for this in the first place. It was a repurpose. I would only get something with 10 bit these days if media is the primary concern.

Nope I meant software I don't think h265 hardware decoding is in mainline yet (could be wrong thought)

And yes I explicity tested software decoding and my 720p sample played without noticeable delay/framedrop and 1080p was uhm kinda running.

The C2 is unfortunately difficult to find much documentation on. Things like kernel configuration etc for mainline releases are sorely lacking

I'm going to try building the latest 4.17 RC later today to see if I can't get it to boot. But I didn't get very far a few months ago

Whether or not ever more powerful Raspberry Pi computers is a good thing depends on why you are using them.

If you're wanting to put it to some practical application then probably more power is better.

If, like me, it's a hobby, and you enjoy the idea of tiny machines, and the challenge of pushing a computer to do things a resource constrained environment, then tiny and powerful machines like RPi that can run full Linux distros are no more interesting than any other computer. There's nothing particularly interesting about loading and running Linux.

So for the hobbyist wanting to be challenged, tiny machines/CPUs like the esp8266 and esp32 are where the fun is really at.

It's a strange inversion because for 40 years I've always found that the most interesting computer is one that is more powerful than anything else - not so now when pursuing that old school feel.

> So for the hobbyist wanting to be challenged, tiny machines/CPUs like the esp8266 and esp32 are where the fun is really at.

While I agree with you, ESP32 is over 1000 times more powerful than C64 and has more RAM than unexpanded Amiga 500. (Can't wait when my ESP32 arrives in mail soon. :-))

Doom for ESP32 (running from RAM connected over SPI of all things...!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb_JFDa0AIo

True, although I'm not saying that the mentioned chips have the power of 1970's CPU's, only that their unique capabilities/configurations make them more interesting and fun to play with than a Raspberry Pi for example (for my purposes, which is fun).

For example the esp32 only has 520 KiB SRAM - that imposes constraints.

re: your earlier comment about lightweight embedded crypto libs, https://github.com/GaloisInc/gec is an example


I am with you on that one, the ESP32 is my favorite tiny machine.

Just like you said we did wonders back in the Atari, Amiga, MS-DOS days.

Thanks for the video.

Our IoT service uses the RPi2. We will move to the RPi3 when our stock runs out.

In our B2B application, the Pi's are just headless data collectors and all C code and data normally runs in RAM with the SSD card only written to as a backup if the device loses Internet connectivity (rare). The SSD card's system partition is configured as read only and we have had no problems with data corruption.

I think many people are trying to use these small computers for things that were not intended. The RPi's are cheap, well supported, and more than powerful enough for the price. If you need more power, spend more on some of the other options or step up to a full computer.

what kind of projects does the Raspberry Pi shine in which a 35-50$ phone cant do ? let's say this one - https://www.aliexpress.com/item/3000mAh-Homtom-HT16-5-0-inch...) running Android 6.0 in a 1GB RAM package. You have access to battery, GPS, wifi, USB, acclerometer and a display out of the box (which you typically pay extra for on rpi). And obviously... Android.

P.S. remember Android 6.0 has COSU mode to set your device in a single-purpose single-app mode (https://developer.android.com/work/cosu.html) just like the rpi3. Which has the pleasant side-effect that you can manage a ton of these devices using a central enterprise-grade management system.

In addition, you can build custom hardware that interfaces with Android in a standard way (the AOA protocol) - https://source.android.com/devices/accessories/custom. Which makes doing a hardware startup prototyping easier on the android platform than rpi.

Is the rpi (or the Asus Tinker Board) merely a consequence of what was possible at a particular price point some time back ?

- RPi isn't Chinese, as in, I'm not locked in (by default) into a Chinese stock OS with god-knows-what spyware installed.

- It runs Linux as a first-party-sanctioned OS. Great ecosystem for tinkering. Not locked in to the whims of the manufacturer OS updates.

- GPIO pins.

- No built-in screen (which I guess draws less power).

- HDMI, USB and Ethernet ports.

RPi is British, our GCHQ is well known for never illegally spying on anyone. /s

>"Prior to this [2012], the Raspberry Pi was made in China; some models are now also made in Japan." (https://www.zdnet.com/article/14-million-raspberry-pis-sold-...) //

Now made primarily in UK.

Any Android phone can be rooted and flashed to Lineage os atleast.

For other points, I have mentioned in other comments.

Yes but that's not first party, voids the warranty (messing with bootloaders, yuck), in my experience has tons of problems with propietary drivers, is still Android (which is an awful OS/ecosystem for anything that isn't a phone), eventually stops being updated (as many of my not-so-old phones can attest)...

RPi and Android phones might overlap for some applications but I see them as very distinct devices.

> Any Android phone can be rooted and flashed to Lineage os atleast.

If your manufacturer hasn't decided to lock the bootloader, that is.

Regarding the first question of your post: two things. one: no gpio pins on the phone. two: short model production cycles. Sure, there is a certain fluctuation on the SBC landscape, but the models lifetime and availability is usually much longer than with phones.

Why would model production cycles impact you in the Android world. My current app runs seamlessly on nearly 200 hundred different models (in India).

The application dev ecosystem and abstractions are very different in the Android world. Accessing the GPS is completely independent of underlying hardware and is already something we run happily on a daily basis.

On gpio - curious. What applications would you use it for ? Generally they are useful for attaching peripherals like GPS modules, wifi,etc....And I grant there might be some modules that you might need. But isn't the phone solving the 99 percentile use case without need for gpio?

GPS or Wifi could easily be attached via USB, you don't need GPIO for that. The huge benefit of GPIO ports are all those things that DON'T have standard ports like USB: sensors (temp/humidity/air, radar, …) or controlling lights (e.g. LED strips) or other basic electronics that you wire to your SBC.

Really the GPIO pins are what makes SBCs so great for me... a smartphone is just a closed-off portable computer with very limited built-in sensors.

No more than a phone solves the 99 percentile use case better than a small PC does.

I have a custom-built fluid handler built from a Rpi and a $20 3.5" touchscreen, a $6 Arduino relay board and some additional hardware. I need the GPIO to run pumps and valves and additional I/O. Could it be done on a phone? Yes, with additional hardware and more effort. The lower cost of the phone would be eaten up in the first hour it took me longer than on the Pi.

I've recommended to many people contemplating complex Arduino projects that they move to the Pi instead. Often, by the time you purchase multiple Arduino "shields" to do a task, you're well past the price of a Raspberry Pi that has all the needed I/O: networking, audio output, storage and more built in.

Hell, I'm involved in a high-speed signal processing project where I use an Arduino M0 for the speed but I still needed to do some of the behavior in analog circuits because the Cortex M0 still wasn't fast enough to process everything digitally. I would have preferred to use a Pi but I don't trust the reliability (industrial application), and I need guaranteed real-time behavior.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that many hobbyist RPi projects could be done just as well on a phone: I noticed that quite some time ago. But hardware is less and less the limiting factor these days. Learning curves can be expensive. I tend to build things in small volumes, so any price savings from using a cheap phone or tablet is often meaningless in comparison to how long it will take me to get up to speed on a new platform.

Well a RPi gives you a standard Linux with proper init system, tools like docker, proper headless support using SSH and so on. From a software point a RPi runs exactly the same stuff as any other Linux server out there. An Android phone on the other hand is a pretty quirky system for anything that's not a purpose built UI application

As someone who's been obsessing over SBCs recently, your comment really got me thinking. Many of the additions/changes I want to make to my Raspberry Pis is to make them more like a smartphone (microphone, camera, GPS, touchscreen, battery). And as an iOS user, I'm considering buying an Android phone just to play around with because it's so cheap and capable for odd projects.

That said, some easy things that come to mind regarding the usefulness of the Raspberry Pi and other SBCs:

1. GPIO pins for connecting external sensors/modules/peripherals

2. More "personal computer"-style ports than a phone (standard USB, ethernet, HDMI ports) which are good for things like small file servers, retro game consoles, or light desktop use (to name a few things)

Also wired Ethernet. Running a server over WiFi is flaky, especially on a phone optimized for low power usage. The Pi's wired networking is lackluster, but it's still more stable than WiFi.

And adding on to GPIO, the Pi has easy to use SPI and i2c busses. That opens up a huge range of sensors and other things like displays that work with easy to understand code. For a lot of use cases it's better to think of the RasPi as a very beefed up Arduino, not a barebones PC (or phone).

Hi, I'm looking to understand the sensors bit.

Beyond the fact that the most common sensors/peripherals are built in...I can find a lot of USB sensors that work with Android. In general you can also drop down to NDK (c code) on Android if you want.

So I'm still curious on which sensors would not work with a Android phone that people would want to.

Let's see... USB sensors add unneeded complexity AND power requirements.

How would you stick an Android phone plus a whole octopus of usb peripherals inside a nice neat box? It would be at least shoe box size.

If you need a board that will run 24/7 and control some process, remember Android goes into power management to save battery, and you need to fight it to operate continously. Might not even be possible any more with newer Androids that restrict wake locks.

RPi reliability isn't as good as it could be, at least not without cooling, but I would trust it for long time operation any time over a $30 phone that had to include a screen and a battery in that price and thus has made a lot more compromises.

Literally tens of thousands of them. Sensors are not interchangeable, if you have requirements on precision/accuracy for your project then it dictates what you have to use. And often enough the on board in a phone sensors aren't reliable (e.g. temperature sensor on a phone is useless for measuring ambient temperature) or not precise enough. Or other things like driving a stepper motor using an SPI-based driver, controlling a character display or interfacing with an external DAC/ADC.

It's important to note that I'm talking good old electronics projects, not things like single-use kiosk devices. Like I said earlier, the RasPi is similar to the Arduino in that it's suited to "edge" tasks - interfacing a computer / network with the physical world through sensors and actuators.

Some of this stuff is possible on an Android device, but more complex because they aren't designed for it. Meanwhile this is what the Raspberry Pi was always intended for and is much simpler. There are cases where an old phone might work better, but there are many where it won't work at all or would be a lot of extra work.

USB sensors are more expensive and need an USB hub (which raises the price, what's the point then?).

Not to mention most sensors (humidity or CO2 for example, or even just a simple potentiometer) are not USB (and for a good reason, I don't want/need USB chips and connectors in each one of my sensors).

Example applications I use Pi for: automated irrigation, custom digital musical instruments.

> Also wired Ethernet.

This got me curious: I tried to plug ethernet cable to a phone via USB adapter, and to my surprise, it worked!

Simply got a prompt to configure ethernet IP settings.

Disabled wifi and mobile data, web browsing via ethernet connection worked fine.

I'm aware, but it's not a very clean solution. Now you need a USB-OTG cable with charging and a USB ethernet adapter.

Also in my experience (which was admittedly limited since it didn't work well) it was very crashy, with the connection going down after a few hours. Probably a quirk of my specific tablet or ethernet adapter but still it's a potential problem.

How do you charge the phone and use ethernet at the same time?

You can get USB-OTG cables that split off so you can plug in a charger, but I think (not sure) that it's not universally supported to use USB-OTG and charge at the same time.

I made this comment in another reply.

>On gpio - curious. What applications would you use it for ? Generally they are useful for attaching peripherals like GPS modules, wifi,etc....And I grant there might be some modules that you might need. But isn't the phone solving the 99 percentile use case without need for gpio?

External ports like USB, HDMI,etc are easily done. In fact, there are zillions more accessories for the Android world than the RPI world. And cheaper too. https://youtu.be/n1BBX6hEo8E

> External ports like USB, HDMI,etc are easily done.

I agree that it's easily done, but can you do 2-4 USB ports and HDMI at the same time for a gaming console, or USB + ethernet for a file server? I genuinely don't know, but knowing what I know about iPhone accessories (admittedly also not a ton) I don't think you can. At the very least it adds to the cost and removes some convenience.

Some GPIO sensors I've played with are: IR receiver, RGB LED, waterproof temperature sensors, combination temperature/humidity sensors. You can connect many of these at once, and solder the connections for a more permanent tiny appliance. This link lists lots of interesting/useful sensors and components: https://tutorials-raspberrypi.com/raspberry-pi-sensors-overv...

Anything where you don't want a touch screen or want a matte screen (or are there now matte touch screen already) or don't want/care about Android?

E.g. turning it into a handheld emulator with RetroPie and a nice custom (3D printed or otherwise) case [0].

Yes, GDP XD (which uses Android) exists but it's a custom built product and not a phone and you take it or leave it (unlike the customization you get from Raspberry Pi).

[0] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux9lXBexw0o

The Pi has HDMI and can play full HD.

Wow, they're down to $50 now? I remember seeing these and thinking they looked cool, but hard to justify at (iirc) $80.

The ODroid-C2 is also mentioned; those look nice. That company also sells raw EMMC modules as an alternative option to microSD cards, which seems like it could be useful. Does anyone know if those EMMC modules are less likely to spuriously corrupt themselves? I haven't run them for any length of time, but it looks like an ODroid with EMMC would be on a similar price point.

I own an ODROID-XU3. Haven’t used it for a while now but back when I did — including using it as desktop computer for several months — I did not have any data corruption issues with the eMMC module. Meanwhile with Raspberry Pi I’ve had several instances of data corruption with different SD cards.

The eMMC for me is worth the price. Too many corrupt SD cards.

I've only ever had corruption issues on Raspi's, versus with the OrangePi's we have in production at customers sites, I have yet to see any mSD card issues. We do screen our Evo+ mSD cards pretty aggressively for issues though!

One nice thing about Allwinner based SBCs is the strong development community that mainlines support for their chips in short order. Few other chip vendors have mainline support, which makes their boards abandonware in short order.

This is a common theme in these SBC threads, but I've also had a pretty good experience with microSD cards in the Pi—one time I had corruption after unplugging the Pi.

Two things that are immensely helpful if you want a stable experience with the Pi:

    1. A good power supply.
    2. A good microSD card.
Most cheap power supplies (like those you get free with a phone) don't supply 2A or more consistently, which the newer Pis need to run stable.

And as far as microSD cards go, [I wrote an article on that last week](https://www.jeffgeerling.com/blog/2018/raspberry-pi-microsd-... there's a huge gulf between the best and worst cards, even from name-brand manufacturers.

Indeed, I've had nothing but good experiences with Samsung EVO and SanDisk Ultra cards.

BTW, your link seems to end up on your front page, rather than the card comparison article.

Oops, it gets cut off if I paste the whole thing. Here’s a [text link](https://www.jeffgeerling.com/blog/2018/raspberry-pi-microsd-...) instead.

Sounds like someone needs to build a power supply with a tiny conditioner/battery to help ensure consistent power.

I can't imagine how I'm so lucky. I've used RPis since the very first version and in all these years, dozens of PIs and thousands of hours, I've never had a single corrupt SD card.

Same here. I've used pretty much every version, and have quite a few running 24/7 around my house for multiple years.

Not a single issue with storage.

any interest in selling your XU3? I'd be happy to take it off your hands

The Tinkerboard was introduced about a year ago for $60.

I've been looking at the new Rockchip RK3399 based devboards. Of note is the $99 Rock960[1]. The major draws for me are the DisplayPort support, so I can use it with my iPad 3/4 display controller board, M.2 PCIe 4-lane, eMMC, 802.11ac. Firefly makes a similar one as well. [2]

1. https://www.96boards.org/product/rock960/

2. http://shop.t-firefly.com/goods.php?id=45

Hi, Jagger

Founder of Vamrs, ROCK960 manufacturer here, iPad 3/4 display is eDP interface and you can drive with RK3399 directly, you don't need DP and controller board. ROCK960 doesn't export eDP due to the small size, ROCK960 EE version has eDP exported.

I wonder what wifi chipset it has. Supports 802.11ac which I need. I should investigate this board, see if it allows monitor mode (low level wifi packet access). The RasPiB+ supports 802.11ac but the Broadcom based wifi doesn't allow monitor mode.

"The wifi/bt module used on ROCK960s is AP6356s from AMPAK Technology." https://www.96boards.org/documentation/consumer/rock960/hard...

"AMPAK combines Broadcom Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips in single modules." https://wikidevi.com/wiki/AMPAK

Broadcom + Linux is a very mixed bag. Would require more investigation.

The Raspberry Pi uses Broadcom WiFi and Bluetooth chips too. You need to install the linux-firmware package though.

The RK3399 based SBCs are very interesting. Not only are they not complete jokes in terms of performance but they also have PCIe which can be used for SATA.

Tinkerboard has amazingly performant GPU. Peak performance is 81.6GFlops, comparable to mid-range desktop GPUs from 2007 (e.g. GeForce 8400 GS had 67 GFlops, GeForce 8600 GT had 114 GFlops). It also supports 4k HDMI output resolution.

RPi is more compatible i.e. the software stack supports OpenGL.

But for cases where it’s OK to code against GLES, Mali-T764 is awesome. I once used NanoVG to build a very nice looking rich GUI, with alpha transparency, animated state transitions, etc. Moreover, it consumes practically no CPU time, because everything is hardware accelerated.

You mean Mali and not Mail? If so, boooo proprietary GL stacks. It seems like everyone wants to continue to follow PowerVR's lead, which is extremely unfortunate.

Yes, it’s Mali. Thanks for the correction.

Yeah, pretty much all of them are proprietary.

If the Mali-T764’s support GLES and provides the correct libraries you can compile an embedded version of QT5 which runs directly on GLES [cf 0, for an RPi example]. Though the NanoVG seems more fun!

Edit: grammar 0: https://wiki.qt.io/RaspberryPi2EGLFS

Right, I have evaluated QT. There were reasons why I decided not use it in that project.

1. Licensing. Their commercial license was prohibitively expensive for the project. And their open source license was too limited for our purposes.

2. I wanted the software to work on top of bare Linux kernel, i.e. no desktop managers, no compositors, no mouse pointer. Also I needed to render different stuff to 2 displays at the same time, QT can’t do that.

The GUI wasn’t too complex, just a handful of screens on a 7” 800x480 DSI touch screen, plus simple 2D vector graphics on an external 4k HDMI display. That is why I was able to use lower-level stack without spending too much time on it. I only used C++ for DRM/KMS and NanoVG, everything higher level is in C#, running on .NET Core.

BTW, the most time-consuming part was on-screen keyboard for the “Connect to WiFi” screen, and soft keyboards are only available in commercial QT.

does it require codes to unlock native x264 processing, like the RBP does (or did, back when I used it)?

Also, does it have hardware support for HEVC? My poor RBP 2 can't handle HEVC at all.

In my experience with the Pi, H.264 is baked-in, but you need a license key for MPEG-2 (a necessity if you're dealing with ATSC footage) or VC-1.

Unfortunately I don’t know. The product I was working on doesn’t need video playback.

"Once an SBC approaches $100 or so, there are other options (like a used Intel core i5 desktop) which offer 10-100x the performance and infinite expansion options"

Anyone knows what kind of board he means? I have been searching and it seems that the next step from the pi would be something like the Intel NUC, which is quite a lot more than $100 when considering a full, minimum system build.

Edit: totally missed the "used" in that sentence, which totally changes things. Thanks for the tips though!


Starting from about $121 shipped you can get an 8GB, 4 core Xeon E5620 (HP DL380 G6) with 10-100x the performance of a Pi. Probably better performance/W value in the used desktop sector (which labgopher doesn't focus on, unfortunately).

"Used Core i5" is not buying a NUC. At least, I don't think there's a huge aftermarket of NUCs at this point. I don't think they sell in the volume that leads to large aftermarkets, like your average Dell business machine.

A five year old OptiPlex SFF PC though is available for around $100 or so, and capable of much more than any single-board PC.

> A five year old OptiPlex SFF PC

This is more what I'm talking about; I needed a faster option with much more RAM and a proper SATA SSD for one project. I bought a used Lenovo ThinkCentre for about $80, put in a small SSD I had on hand, upgraded the RAM to 8 GB for $20 (one 4GB stick on eBay), and had an i5 with about 100x better overall performance than a Pi 3 B+ (and maybe 10x more power consumption, so not a bad tradeoff). All-in $100 for me, though if you didn't have an SSD you can pick one up for $35-45 if you just need 32 or 64 GB.

Basically, once you hit the $100 threshold, you have to really ask if an SBC is the right solution—unless you really, really need the small footprint. And if you need I/O for project stuff, an Arduino or similar project board is only a few bucks more and connects via USB.

How do you interface with arduino? serial?

CDC/ACM, so straight bytestream serial over USB.

Searching on ebay for "used Intel core i5 desktop" yields a bunch of cheap options: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/desktop-computers-core-i5

The keyword is used. I bought a pallet of circa 2008 enterprise desktops for ~$30/unit a couple of years ago. Most lacked storage, which killed resale value.

I don't know. I think I take the Hackaday view that the software and community is way more important than the hardware in this field, and Raspberry Pi has it all.

It completely depends on what you want to do with it. If it involves a some quirky sensors etc then certainly. If the IO is simple and the workload is more traditional server style, then the Raspberry isn't particularity interesting.

Unfortunately this is not aarch64. There is something to be said for having a single instruction set, makes package building and distribution simpler.

First thing I checked, I've been looking for a small and cheap aarch64 board for hacking around. Do you know of one?

I guess as long as they won't ship more than a couple GB of RAM they won't bother with it.

Pine64 are pretty good for CPU and RAM, but you will be loosing out on the great support things like Raspberry Pi SBCs have

Edit: forgot to mention Pine64 starts at like 15 usd for 512Mb Ram or 19 usd for 1GB and like 29USd for 2Gb also from 19 usd up they have gigabit(can be hard to max out due to various issues IIRC, check forum), and the high end version is still cheaper than a RPi3 IIRC

Anecdote warning: As the happy owner of quite a few RPi, I had a really poor experience with the Rock64 (I know, it's not technically a Pine64). Multiple SD cards, mulitple power supplies and I can't get it to run for more than 5 minutes at a time without locking up. Doesn't appear to be a thermal issue as far as I can tell. Of course I probably just got a bad board, unfortunately after multiple emails I can't get a response from their customer service. I'm ready to just throw it in the trash. Really disppointed because I really just wanted an RPi with usb 3.0 and gigaibit ethernet, it seemed perfect.

edit: tried both armbian and android

On my Pine64 I use Dietpi from http://dietpi.com/ and it just works, it even has a setup gui where you can install to USB Drive and it will have bootloader on SD Card IIRC

I've got a Rock64 on order, I'll be interested to see what my experience is with it.

Also of note:

Tinkerboard has b/g/n 2.4Ghz wifi. Pi 3B+ also has 802.11ac 5Ghz wifi.

Tinkerboard has a superior sound chip, supporting 24-bit, 192kHz audio. Pi 3B+ has a totally garbage mono only analog sound (and presumably fine HDMI digital sound).

It's stereo. And it's not that bad these days either.

Would 802.11n be better than 802.11ac with a lot of constraints on the networking bandwidth?

For me, the 5ghz is really important. I work on products that only use the 5ghz (because of interference and crowding @ 2.4 ghz). Also, I am not en expert, but the chipset now used on the RPi will have an easier path to FCC approval?

"This has allowed us to certify the entire board as a radio module under FCC rules, which in turn will significantly reduce the cost of conformance testing Raspberry Pi-based products."

I think the Rpi is one of the few SBCs that have 5ghz support on the board.

RPi is garbage hardware propped up by overcompensated OS support. Sooner or later you regret putting the effort in because it's just mediocre at everything.

Even though you're gray (modded down), there's significant issues with the RPi. Here's some.

1. Boot is still a mystery. It boots from the GPU with "magic registers", then passes to the CPU...?

2. There's no specs available for the GPIOs. 5v tolerant? SPI max speed? Pullups/downs? Nada..

3. DRM baked in. RasPi foundation cheaped out on the MPEG2 decoder, and you need to pay $5 to enable hardware decoding.

4. Needs mystery black box kernel blobs.

5. No power management. No low voltage detection. Hope and pray method

6. Everything is on the USB. Bandwidth ends up sucking. They could have did ethernet on SPI.

1. boot is a mystery with all commercial SoCs? Show me one that doesn't have an untouchable binary blob in onboard memory.

3. MPEG2 decoding can be done with software just fine?

4. Again, show me one without driver blobs. This is mostly the fault of the chip makers and not the RPi foundation.

5. Power management is a kernel feature?

6. agree

There's nothing mysterious about the Allwinner boot process at least. While there's an on-chip boot ROM that can't be modified, it just loads a chunk of code into SRAM from the boot device and jumps to it at the highest privilege level supported by the hardware. It's not uncommon for everything after the boot ROM to be 100% open source code. That simply isn't possible on the Pi, which is why Debian doesn't support it out the box.

Also, the lack of power management on the Pi is mostly a hardware limitation. The hardware simply doesn't support any kind of software-controlled shutdown or suspend.

How is a blob not mysterious. The fact that it doesn't use some exotic gpu-based bootstrap is irrelevant. A black box is a black box. Also I'd argue it is uncommon for everything the kernel uses to be open source, I don't know of one where all the drivers are open source (without losing functionality).

The Allwinner BROM is about 32KB, almost completely reverse-engineered at least for the earlier chips, and in any case the only thing it does during a normal boot is to load a chunk of code from a fixed location on the SD card to a fixed location in SRAM and immediately jump to it. It's nothing the Raspberry Pi boot process, where even the initial boot ROM has FAT filesystem support and it loads a proprietary blob which runs continually on the "GPU" co-processor with full access to RAM handling various important runtime functionality.

You should have rephrased that differently; there are many drawbacks in the RPi, but putting them behind a "garbage hardware" definition just takes out credibility from your post giving one more reason to RPi fanboys to vote you down.

I looked at the Tinkerboard when it was released but it is limited to USB 2.0. The Rock64 is a better option with the same SOC as the Tinkerboard but USB 3.0 ports and decent Linux support.

Even more interesting Odroid is releasing a new board the N1 based on the Rockchip 3399 SOC that has 2 A72 + 4 A53 processors. It also has 2 SATA ports, USB 3.0 and 2 Gigabit lan ports. And Odroid software support is significantly better than most other vendors except the Pi.

Their previous C2 board based on the Amlogic 905 was a great buy at $45 and plays 4k content without missing a beat while my kabylake desktop on Linux seems to struggle.

> The Rock64 is a better option with the same SOC as the Tinkerboard but USB 3.0 ports and decent Linux support.

I've had a rough time with the Rock64, personally. Also I like to mention that you cannot power the Rock64 over MicroUSB like you can an RPi, which is really annoying to me.

The thing that gets me most of all with the SBCs is that I need to go out and buy another power supply. I know - they aren't really that expensive, but I just don't want to do it. I already have so many 5V USB power supplies that I don't even know what to do with them all. I doubt I am the only one.

I like that the Pi Zero seems to be perfectly stable with any old phone charger I've used, and they seem to range from 800mA to 1mA. I have a couple iPad chargers that go up to 2.1A, so I'd be really happy if I could find a multicore SBC that was good to go with one of those.

This website has useful information about the Tinker board and links to some alternative software distributions:


It would really compete against the RPi if it was on the same price category.

Being 15 dollars more expensive breaks the whole purpose of having a descent, small and cheap computer/board as the RPi has been all this time.

I'd pay $10 extra just for the Gigabit functionality. 100Mbps is unacceptable for any sort of media/file server applications and 230Mbps is only 1/4 of my Internet connection.

At that price you should get an Odroid C2. A53 is a better core and C2 also offers 2GB of RAM and a rather large heat sink to avoid thermal throttling. It’s a no brainer IMO.

I'm currently prototyping a product using the Raspberry Pi + GPIO. I've often wondered - if the thing makes it to market - how I would substitute the Rpi in mass production (1000+). The SD card is a big point of failure for many Rpi users for example. So storage is probably something I would change.

Does anyone have experience with a mass produced product that used the Rpi in prototypes?

I know element14 is offering Raspberry Pi customization for mass production.

The compute module has eMMC instead of an SD card, and there should be a few products based around that to look at.

For clarification (for those who may not know) the compute module is the version of the Raspberry Pi intended for commercialized use.

See: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/compute-module-3/

I've looked at the compute module. It is positioned as the way to go for mass production - but the price point seems higher than the Rpi as you still need a base board for it to function.

Yeah, if you don't have a custom PCB otherwise it's probably not the best fit.

Has anyone got any experience with this one?


I'm thinking about buying two of them and using them as a NAS with offsite mirroring for critical data/important documents.

If you are building NAS for critical data just get a proper NAS board.

If you don’t want to go for an embedded X86 then this one is a good option it comes with ECC memory and decent enough crypto acceleration for full encryption.


Or use S3 or equivalent. Who will know how how to take care of your personal NAS when you're dead?

The tinkerboard, being backed by a big name like Asus, seems to at least have as good a distribution network as the RPi has built up.

Many of the alternative boards, for all their improvements over he RPi, are virtually impossible to get hold of beyond directly importing from the OEM.

That said, i already have an RPI3B sitting around that i have yet to do anything with.

I actually won a Tinker Board recently and was disappointed to find out that, unlike the Raspberry Pi, it has no composite port.

I guess that's something to be expected, it's probably not a very used feature, but I really enjoy being able to play old video games on a CRT, as they were meant to be played.

After days of looking around, I purchased the Pi 3 B+ for one simple reason: cost. The price of the other boards like the Tinker or BeagleBoard Black is almost twice the price of the Pi here in Australia.

Say, how well are the various hardware features supported on this tinker board? For example, I've had trouble with enabling I2C on an Orange Pi and there's precious little documentation about this niche-ish use.

Since the reason for using these boards is ease of development, as in not doing a custom kernel, how well the SOC specific bits work is pretty important.

Note: while externally these boards are all similar (same expansion connector etc), internally they use different SoCs and different kernels and configuration utilities. And this sometimes bites.

I was using a Raspberry Pi 2 as my home webserver for a long time but I recently switched to a Tinker Board and was really pleased with the process.

Same form factor was very convenient since I could use my old case and hats. ASUS ported WiringPi as well, so all my Rpi scripts worked without modification. And finally, a dedicated Ethernet controller means I get way better speeds than my old Pi 2 could even dream about.

If you care about Ethernet speeds the decision is pretty much a no-brainer.

This article compares the tinkerboard with the raspi3+, which bums the ethernet wprformancw by a degree of magnitude.

Is anyone running mainline Debian, with the linux-image-armmp kernel package, on the Tinker Board yet? If so, what hardware is supported and what is not?

I'm surprised nobody mentioned CHIP from https://getchip.com/ - when they where available I paid 10 euros for each including shipping.

It came with WiFi, bluetooth, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of flash, plenty of GPIO

Nobody mentions them anymore because that platform sadly is gone. https://bbs.nextthing.co/t/chip-pro-officially-dead/20285

Maybe someone can help: is it possible to build an SBC can boot Linux and has just a CPU, gig ethernet and gobs of RAM (at least 8gb)?

Don't need display port, GPU, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPIO pins, etc - just a CPU + lots of RAM + an ethernet port to get stuff in/out.

Are you asking if it's possible, or asking for advice on a practical way to get it done?

If its at all possible, and if so, has someone built such an SBC?

Alternatively, is there a practical way to attach external DDRAM to an existing 64-bit SBC, perhaps using the GPIO pins?

I have zero electronics knowledge so forgive my questions if they are stupid.

It's definitely possible. Has someone built exactly that? I don't know; there are hundreds of variants of single-board computers, and I'm only familiar with a few. It's not something that you'd build by buying a couple of parts and soldering them to a breadboard.

As for attaching memory, GPIO probably gives you a transfer rate on the order of a few MB/s. There are various things like SPI-connected SRAM chips, but those don't provide a lot of memory (think KB, not GB).

DDRAM requires too much speed to do something through the GPIO or USB... What you could do is use the Tinkerboard S, boot off of a microSD card and use the integrated eMMC storage as a big 16gb swap partition... or just partition the eMMC into an 8gb boot and 8gb swap to give you 10gb usable.

I use one on my TV.

HW acceleration (its USP) only works with TinkerOS and it is buggy as hell :/

Is there a reason why everybody just HAS to stick to the RPi's when the BeagleBone Black/Green/Blue/etc. are:

1) Far more open (you can get documentation and chip supply to build your own BeagleBone)

2) No more expensive

3) Mainline Debian

1) Is actually more expensive than RPi 3s; and

2) Hasn't been updated in a while; thus

3) Lower RAM;

4) Lower perf;

> 1) Is actually more expensive than RPi 3s; and

The RPi people quote this incessantly casually leaving out the fact that the BeagleBone already includes 4GB eMMC (a uSD card is at least $5)

> 3) Lower RAM; > 4) Lower perf;

Less RAM but FASTER RAM. RPi3 is DDR2 vs BeagleBone Black's DDR3.

So, between the eMMC being much faster than uSD and the faster RAM (and the Ethernet on the BBB is way faster), I suspect that the BeagleBone Black probably performs better for most workloads.

In addition, people just blithely skip past the whole closed nature of the Broadcom SoC. If you are serious about creating a product ever shipping in real quantities, that's a killer.

It disappoints me greatly that people never seem to have a genuinely good answer for this when I ask.

> The RPi people quote this incessantly casually leaving out the fact that the BeagleBone already includes 4GB eMMC (a uSD card is at least $5)

> Less RAM but FASTER RAM. RPi3 is DDR2 vs BeagleBone Black's DDR3.

Most people buying don't notice such things. Also, the BBB is at-least $10 more expensive.

> In addition, people just blithely skip past the whole closed nature of the Broadcom SoC. If you are serious about creating a product ever shipping in real quantities, that's a killer.

For people with principles in favour of Free & Open computing (like me) who are buying for personal use, perhaps. Unfortunately for this argument, most people don't care about that. In fact, I'm currently supporting a product shipping with the RPi 3B in quantities large enough to qualify as "real quantities".

> In fact, I'm currently supporting a product shipping with the RPi 3B in quantities large enough to qualify as "real quantities".

How did you get pricing and volume from Broadcom? I'm genuinely interested as that stopped a project I was working on completely cold.

We simply couldn't get them to care about 1K-2K parts.

We don't talk to Broadcom. As you note, they simply do not care if you're not very big fish. Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a big enough fish, and they do care, so we talk to them instead.

RPI has mainline kernel support for all its components, pretty much every other ARM devices has at least a closed source GPU driver, meaning you are going to be stuck on some old kernel forever eventually.

RPI3 was still "blob"-bed as of about a year ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13396625

Have they finally succeeded in pulling all the blob out yet?

the blobs are firmware and booting related, they dont hinder the ability to actually use a new kernel.

My Beagle Bone Black gets no use at all. I find its only redeeming quality the little deterministic helper cores, but in practice I'd rather use an FPGA/CPLD.

For everything else, memory size, network speed, and flash speed trumps everything. For me ODROID XU4 is the best, followed by ODROID C2. The thinker board looks like a contender but I was disappointed by the comparison to RPi3 whose strengths (community) and weaknesses (everything else) are long well understood.

Seeed studio's beaglebone green wireless is the real sweet spot for me. Right around $50. Wifi and bluetooth working OTB. I have no need for HDMI, or Ethernet, so giving these up is a win win for me.

I am with you as a fanboy of the beaglebone's ecosystem, given the fact that its now over a decade old processor, there are mountains of technical reference manuals if you really want to get low level with an RTOS, or just write your own kernel drivers. There are plenty of solid tutorials on Adafruit, as well as from Derek Molloy, and probably others I'm not even aware of. There is a nice ecosystem of shields, capes, or whatever the trademarkable noun we're supposed to use is. The hardware has gone through a boat load of permutations, to provide many things to many users, whether thats different variants of the standard credit card size board, or the pocket beagle, which is as spartan as it gets.

But as an observer of previous economic trends, as they relate to competing technologies, I have to say it makes perfect sense that Raspberry Pi is the market leader. If people wanted higher quality music, they wouldn't have adopted the cassette tape, or the CD, or the mp3. If people wanted higher quality video, they wouldn't have adopted VHS. The masses have so far always valued convenience over quality when it comes to gearlust.

But just like all entrenched players, someone out there will likely pull the rug out from raspberry pi, just when they think they've finally captured the market. My bet is on all of the Armbian boards, mostly Allwinner, but not exclusively. The BananaPi, OrangePi, NanoPi, etc are all pretty much at feature parity or better with raspberry pies they are clones of. They also have a pretty vibrant ecosystem with Armbian, which has great ncurses menus for just about everything that needs to be setup as an enduser. Besides the marketing push, I don't see a single thing Raspberry Pi does better than the Armbian/chinese clone ecosystem.

Well, they are more expensive, though by just a little. The low price really seems to be the deciding factor for most people. I’m likewise baffled by the lack of popularity of some of these other boards. Thr RPi is honestly getting quite long in the tooth and just $10-15 more can get you a way better board.

Couple of years ago we were looking for an board to run embedded Linux. Anything relying on an SD card was a no go for us. Talking to a few friends with a bunch of experience with SD cards in industrial settings say they purchase high end ones from specific vendors. Otherwise it's just a question when it will fail. Industrial grade SD cards cost more than the $10-15 needed to get an SBC with eMMC.

Bit of warning about the Beaglebone Black. The power controller doesn't have proper brownout detection.

> Thr RPi is honestly getting quite long in the tooth and just $10-15 more can get you a way better board.

Are you talking about the original RPi? Most people are buying the latest version, which right now is the 3B+ which were released about a month ago.

As open as they are, they still aren't fully open. For me, that means there really isn't any point to them.

I'd take a 486 DX4 SoC with no better than VGA output if it was entirely open.

It depends on what you mean by "fully open" (i.e. you want the mask set and design files too...?), but if you're just looking for a PC-on-a-chip, there's this:


The site looks old but according to this, it's still in production:


Actually that's pretty much exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Thanks.

Intel could have put a low-end GPU on a version of Quark.

This is fantastic. I'm running two Pi 3 Bs with two O-Droids in a docker swarm cluster. The O-Droids feel a bit experimental.


I was disappointed to see that the folks at Raspberry are not interested in upping the specs by much. For my workloads I wanted to get more RAM on each node as my processors were not working all that hard.

I've bought ASUS products with confidence for years and I'm glad they have an offering in this space.

Has anyone of you seen such fan-less board with PCI express slot? I'd like to use it in a mining rig.

Some might arrive later this year https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=5614

Their website is confusing on this part, does this support Windows IoT Core as the OS?

> 22. What OS does the tinker board support?

> Currently Debian is the only available OS for tinker board. [0]

[0] Tinkerboard FAQ (PDF): http://dlcdnet.asus.com/pub/ASUS/mb/Linux/Tinker_Board_2GB/F...

I don't see any mention of Win10Iot on Asus' site, and I don't see any mention of the Tinker Board on Microsoft's Win10Iot site (although they do say that the listed hardware isn't an exhaustive list).

With that network speed it looks as if mounting a remote / is a good option.

Does the Tinker board have a pinhole camera module like the Raspberry Pi?

What is the cheapest RPi kit containing everything needed to get started?

If you are willing to splurge a little bit (in the context of rpi) this is absolutely the best case I’ve used for them.


I found the kits on pishop.us to be nice and priced well. For example, the PiZero W kit includes a case, Pi Zero W board, case with camera cable, and 2.5A usb power supply for $20+shipping.

Are you able to use the GPU with OMXplayer (do the drivers work) ?

No. Omxplayer is specific to the VideoCore GPU -- it only works on the Raspberry Pi.

While searching for it on Amazon, I noticed I have misspelled it as 'Thinker Board' :-D

Can it network boot ?

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