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Open spec Linux/Android SBCs tap high-end Allwinner and Rockchip SoCs

Feb 7, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 2356 views

Pine64 has launched a “Pine H64” SBC for $26 to $45 featuring Allwinner’s H6 SoC, mini-PCIe, and USB 3.0. It also unveiled a Rockchip RK3399 based “RockPro64” SBC that will sell for $59 to $79 with PCIe, USB 3.0, and a USB Type-C based DisplayPort.

Pine64 announced two open-spec, Linux and Android-ready boards with the same 127 x 79 x 19mm footprint and 40-pin connector as its popular, Allwinner A64 based Pine A64 . Due to their more advanced processors and interfaces, such as PCIe and USB 3.0, the now available, Allwinner’s H6 based Pine H64 and the Rockchip RK3399 based RockPro64, due to launch Mar. 15, are priced much higher than the Pine A64.



Pine H64 (left) and RockPro64
(click images to enlarge)

The Pine H64 sells for $26 (1GB LPDDR3 RAM), $36 (2GB), and $45 (3GB), while the RockPro64 will sell for somewhere between $59 to $65 for the 2GB LPDDR3 version, and $79 for the 4GB version. In August, Pine64 will follow up with a $99 Rockpro64-AI model that includes the RK3399Pro, a version of the RK3399 with a Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU) for AI applications.

Both boards support some of the Pine A64’s add-ons, dongles, accessories, and POTs add-ons. (Pine64 promises to follow-up with compatibility details.) As before, the “Pi2” 40-pin connector offers no promise of compatibility with Raspberry Pi add-ons.

No details were offered on the promised Linux and Android support. Considering these are both new processors for the project, optimized firmware could take a while. Pine64 did note, however, that Allwinner was set to release a BSP with Linux kernel 4.9 for the H6. “This means that while we all wait for mainline we will have a relatively new kernel to work on,” says the company.

The Pine A64 was recently replaced with a Pine A64-LTS model that adds a 5-year longevity guarantee, microSD bootability, 128Mb SPI boot flash, and a socket for optional, up to 128GB eMMC. The LTS version also switches to an almost identical Allwinner R18 SoC.

 
Pine H64

Despite the fact that the Pine H64 is available — and promised to be open source — the specs are a bit minimalist, and there’s still no wiki. The shopping page states: “Pine H64 still in early stage development cycle, the current board is only suitable for developer and early adopter. “



Pine H64 angle views
(click images to enlarge)

Like the Pine A64, the Pine H64 runs Linux or Android on a quad-core, Cortex-A53 Allwinner SoC. However, like Shenzhen Xunlong’s $20 Orange Pi One Plus, the Pine H64 features the new, video-enhanced Allwinner H6.

The H6 SoC has a higher-end Mali-T720 GPU than the Mali-400 on the Allwinner A64, and it enables 10-bit HDR video, promising richer colors and higher brightness. The Allwinner H6 provides 4K @ 60fps video decoding and 4K @ 30fps encoding. No clock rate was listed, but some have claimed the SoC can achieve 1.8GHz, up from 1.2GHz on the A64.

To help exploit all that computing firepower, the Pine H64 offers more RAM, at 1GB to 3GB, compared to only 1GB on the Orange Pi One Plus. Another new and notable feature is the 128Mb of SPI flash, which “will allow it to boot off of a USB 3.0/2.0 HDD or SSD in addition to bootable micro SD cards and eMMC modules,” says Pine64.



Pine H64
(click image to enlarge)

Like the Orange Pi One Plus, you get an HDMI 2.0a port to keep up with the SoC’s video resolution. Unlike that SBC, you also get a mini-PCIe slot, which is available in addition to a separate “Wifi/BT Module Header – SDIO 3.0 and UART.” The Pine A64’s $10 WiFi/BT 4.0 module works on the Pine H64, as does the $15 Pine64 Stereo Audio DAC POT Board.

Unlike the more affordable Orange Pi One Plus, you get a USB 3.0 port, in addition to dual USB 2.0 ports. You also get a 3.5mm audio jack, a power jack, and a real-time clock.

Specifications listed for the Pine H64 include:

  • Processor — Allwinner H6 (4x Cortex-A53); ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES3 and DirectX 11
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB, 2GB, or 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
    • 128Mb bootable SPI flash
    • eMMC interface
    • MicroSD slot (bootable)
  • Wireless – “Wifi/BT Module Header – SDIO 3.0 and UART” (compatible with Pine A64’s WiFi/BT 4.0 module)
  • Networking — 10/100/1000Mbit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI 2.0a port with [email protected]
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • 3.5mm stereo earphone/mic jack
    • UART, SPI, I2C
  • Expansion:
    • Euler GPIO bus
    • 40-pin (2×20) “Pi2” GPIO header
    • Mini-PCIe slot with storage and wireless support
  • Other features — IR receiver; RTC
  • Power — 5V/3A type H 3.5OD/1.35ID DC jack
  • Dimensions — 127 x 79 x 19mm
  • Operating system — Android and Linux

 
RockPro64

The RockPro64, which follows last summer‘s quad -A53, Rockchip RK3328 based Rock64 SBC, is one of a growing number of open-spec boards that support the Rockchip RK3399, a more powerful, hexa-core competitor to the Allwinner H6. The RK3399 features two Cortex-A72 cores, typically clocked at up to 2.0GHz, as well as four Cortex-A53 cores, which have been clocked to as high as 1.5GHz. There’s also a high-end Mali-T864 GPU. (See our recent Odroid-N1 report for details on the RK3399 and other recent RK3399 boards.)



RockPro64 with optional wireless module
(click image to enlarge)

We’ll circle back for more complete coverage when the RockPro64 goes on sale Mar. 15. In the meantime, highlights include the up to 4GB of RAM, and the USB 3.0 and USB Type-C based port with DisplayPort support. Most unusual of all is the full-size PCIe x4 expansion slot, which should give you some additional options you wouldn’t find with the Pine H64’s mini-PCIe slot. (Pine64 mentions USB 3.1 and NVMe.)

Like most of the RK3399 boards except for the dual SATA Odroid-N1, there’s a host of media connections. You can run dual 4K displays with the HDMI port (presumably 2.0) and the DP available over the Type-C port. There’s also an LCD-focused eDP connector and a MIPi-DSI link with touch and backlight support. The MIPI-DSI link supports Pine A64 LCD and camera options.

The RockPro64 is further equipped with 2x MIPI-CSI and Parallel CSI for cameras. A headphone/mic jack is driven by an ES8316 codec.

Other features include 128Mb of multi-boot SPI flash plus eMMC and microSD storage expansion. There’s an GbE port, as well as a SDIO socket for an optional WiFi module. In addition, you’ll find dual USB 2.0 ports, IR, a 40-pin GPIO, heatsink mounting holes, and power, reset, and recovery buttons.

 
Further information

The Pine H64 is now available for $26 (1GB LPDDR3 RAM), $36 (2GB), and $45 (3GB). Starting Mar. 15, the RockPro64 will sell for somewhere between $59 to $65 for the 2GB LPDDR3 version, and $79 for the 4GB version. In August, Pine64 will follow up with a $99 Rockpro64-AI model. More information may be found in Pine64’s Pine H64 and RockPro64 announcement.
 

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