Asus Enters Single Board Computer Market with Tinker Board

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2017 - 12:53 AM |
Tagged: asus, tinker board, Rockchip, rk3288, cortex a17, Raspberry Pi, sbc, 4k, kodi, xbmc

Asus is jumping into the single board computer market with its 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board. With a physical layout matching the latest Raspberry Pi 3, the Tinker Board offers up faster hardware including support for 4K H.264 video decode.

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The single board PC offers up the following I/O options:

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x Micro SD (UHS-1)
  • 1 x Micro USB (for power)
  • 1 x Audio (192 Hz / 24 bit)
  • 40 pin header (28 pin GPIO)
  • 1 x CSI (camera)
  • 1 x DSI (display)
  • PWM and S/PDIF solder points

Asus has opted to use a 32-bit ARM processor to power the device rather than the 64-bit SoC found in the Raspberry Pi 3. Specifally, Asus is using the Rockchip RK3288 which features four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores clocked at 1.8 GHz and a Mali-T764 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and wireless radios for 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Compared to the Raspberry Pi, the Asus Tinker Board has twice the RAM and allegedly twice the processing power with GeekBench score of 3,925 versus the Pi’s 2,092. The Mali-T764 GPU is capable of 4K H.264 (and 10-bit H.265) video decoding which makes it better than the Pi which can only do 1080p in hardware. The cores are clocked faster on the Tinker Board but obviously do not support 64-bit instructions. The increase of system memory is perhaps the biggest boon for those looking to use it for a cheap desktop or media streamer. And for those using analog audio, Asus has included its own audio solution that is, at least on paper, much better than the Pi's.

The Asus SBC reportedly uses up to 5 watts of power with an average power usage of 2.25 watts when playing back a 1080p video with a HDMI display attached.

The Tinker Board at launch is compatible with Debian OS and Kodi media playback software.
The physical layout matches that of the Pi meaning it should be compatible with cases and is potentially a drop in replacement for products powered by a Pi so long as it can supply enough power.

It is currently available from British retailer Farnell for ‎£45.83 ($56.91) or ‎£55 ($68.30) with VAT. It does not appear to be avaiable on this side of the pond quite yet but you can import it if you want to get your hands on it.

More competition in the single board PC space is a good thing, but I do wonder how successful the Asus Tinker Board will be. It is faster, but it is also nearly twice as expensive as the Pi. A lot is going to depend on how well it is received by the software and modding communities and how well Asus supports that Rockchip processor with various Linux distributions and applications at launch and over time. The Pi’s VideoCore IV GPU is closed source and getting information from Broadcom is a pain, but at least it is a known quantity at this point and the boards using it (like the Pi) have the market share and community support to get things working with it. I am also curious how well the audio solution works and whether or not the Gigabit Ethernet port can actually hit gigabit speeds.

What are your thoughts on the Asus Tinker Board?

 
Source: Farnell

January 29, 2017 | 01:48 AM - Posted by Michael Rand (not verified)

Is the audio based on their onboard PC motherboard audio?

January 29, 2017 | 05:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The documentation is lacking on the rockchip sock, on other boards with this sock issue's persist with proper 23.976 fps playback. Otherwise it might be a nice board.

January 29, 2017 | 08:03 AM - Posted by Mike S. (not verified)

I think the jump to 2GB of RAM is significant. A casual user might be able to run this as a plain old desktop with a browser. Who needs a Chromebook? And as a little web server, 1GB of RAM is fine if you're running a small service but 2GB is better if you're running something memory-intensive. (256 MB of RAM is plenty if you're running a web service written in C or C++, but almost nobody does that.)

But there are two marks against it.

1. The Raspberry Pi 3 has builtin wifi. You would need to spend an extra $10-$20 to get a USB wifi dongle for this.

2. Almost all Raspberry Pi models are still supported with the latest Linux kernels for their hardware. I keep reading that a lot of the Raspberry Pi clones get a release image and then the vendor stops caring, and some of the essential device drivers are never merged into the mainstream Linux kernel.

The latter is a huge problem. If I buy this thing, I want to be able to install the latest version of Ubuntu Linux or Fedora Linux on it in five years and still use it. I don't want to be stuck with whatever Linux or Android it has today and hope none of the security fixes it will never get are important.

January 29, 2017 | 08:04 AM - Posted by Mike S. (not verified)

I'm wrong - it does have wifi. Awesome!

January 29, 2017 | 08:26 AM - Posted by Michael Rand (not verified)

Would this be powerful enough to run a Minecraft server on just for myself?

January 29, 2017 | 08:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So marginally better specs than pi 3 for pretty much twice the price with literally no development ATM

The pi 4 should be out in new couple months with already better software support.

January 29, 2017 | 08:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For a 4K Kodi device, this is perfect.

January 29, 2017 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Mike S. (not verified)

Is it? Even though the hardware supports 4k, that alone isn't always enough. I ripped my (non UHD) Blu Rays to MKV files, average bitrate around 28mbps. I couldn't get them to play without frame drops even on an Nvidia Shield from local USB storage.

I returned the Shield. I'm in the process of re-encoding my whole library with a quality drop and a switch from Dolby whatever to AAC audio to see if the Pi can handle that. As it is, I won't trust 4k streaming on any hardware this side of a decent PC unless I see it in action first hand. I'm still mad about the Shield, and that was months ago.

January 30, 2017 | 01:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I can stream Blu-ray 1:1 MKVs just fine with zero dropped frames, but I only use wired ethernet, not USB or WiFi.

February 7, 2017 | 11:18 PM - Posted by lexluthermiester (not verified)

You returned an Nvidia Shield because it wouldn't play your high-bitrate MKV's without frame drop? You really didn't understand the purpose of the Shield before buying it did you?

January 29, 2017 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ask Odroid how it feels to be so much more powerful than the Rpi without any proper support or community behind. There are 344 similar boards available, and all of them are just like "junk" because of the lack of support. Mali drivers are the worse.

January 29, 2017 | 11:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When these rockchip systems start using the ARM A73(Artemis) CPU along with the ARM Mali(Bifrost) micro-arch based GPU/graphics then they will be able to really manage some great CPU and GPU(compute/graphics) power at a very low power usage metric.

That gigabit Ethernet on this current offering will be great for some rendering workloads with maybe 4 or more of these ASUS SKUs in a networked configuration. The Mali-T764 GPU on this ASUS system is much more powerful than the graphics on the Pi.

Really I'd like to see a system built on newer A73 that is the 64-bit successor to the Cortex A17 and the Mali/Bifrost GPU micro-arch represents a move away from instruction level parallelism(Midgard) to a thread level parallelism(Bifrost) execution model with the Bifrost supporting a New scalar, clause-based ISA and New quad-based arithmetic units. The Mali/Bifrost GPU micro-arch can be scaled to 32 shader cores. So maybe there will be some offerings that can offer a mini desktop level of performance and easily run some more demanding graphics workloads.(1)

(1)

"The Bifrost GPU architecture
and the ARM Mali-G71 GPU"

http://www.hotchips.org/wp-content/uploads/hc_archives/hc28/HC28.22-Mond...

January 29, 2017 | 03:05 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

>2017
>No **obligatory** DisplayPort
NOP.

February 7, 2017 | 11:13 PM - Posted by lexluthermiester (not verified)

To be fair, most people are still using HDMI. So DP is not as important.

January 30, 2017 | 12:52 PM - Posted by LES BORDELON (not verified)

Odroid C2 works perfectly hooked to my pioneer appradio2 (sph-da100) running 6.0 Android and their is updates monthly with 7.0 available.

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