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Pine 64 previews RK3399 based HardRock64 SBC and SoEdge AI module

Feb 3, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 1889 views

Pine64 unveiled a smaller, cheaper ($35 and up) “HardRock64” variant of its RK3399-based RockPro64 SBC that omits the PCIe and USB Type-C. There’s also a SoEdge module in the works with a dual -A35 RK1808 equipped with a 3-TOPS NPU.

At last year’s FOSDEM 2020 event, Pine64 announced an ambitious roadmap of open-spec hardware products it hoped to ship in 2019. Some of those products never materialized, so this year the company decided to limit its announcements to products it feels confident will ship by Q2.

As reported by Tom’s Hardware in a story that points to Pine64’s blog announcement from FOSDEM, the products include the HardRock64 SBC –- a smaller, cheaper, and slightly stripped down Rockchip RK3399 SBC alternative to its earlier RockPro64. Another product due by May is a SoEdge module with an AI-enabled RK1808 SoC that will also be available in PCIe and USB add-on form factors. Pine64 also plans to ship its previously teased CUBE IP Camera. Farther below, we update you on the status of the other promised products.



HardRock64
(click image to enlarge)

Another reason for the more cautious approach to promising ship dates is the potential impact of the coronavirus epidemic on product shipments. Since Pine65 products are primarily made in China, the expected April and May ship dates listed below should be greeted with a degree of skepticism.

 
HardRock64

The HardRock64 board is expected to ship in April at $35 (1GB), $45 (2GB), and $55 (4GB) LPDDR4 RAM configurations. By comparison, the RockPro64 sells for $60 (2GB) or $80 (4GB).

The board will run all images — Armbian, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Slackware, DietPi, etc. — that run on the similar RockPro64 “with little or no tweaks (we checked),” says Pine64. The board will “probably” run images for the Pinebook Pro laptop “with a ‘simple’ device tree tweak.”



HardRock64 rear view (left) and RockPro64
(click images to enlarge)

The HardRock64 has the same RK3399 SoC found on the RockPro64 and many other SBC in our recent Linux hacker board catalog. The SoC has a pair of up to 2GHz Cortex-A72 cores, 4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores, and a high-end Mali-T864 GPU.

No dimensions were listed for the smaller HardRock64, but it appears to have a similar footprint and layout as its 85 x 56mm, RK3328-based Rock64, which itself is a close imitator of the Raspberry Pi. (The Tom’s Hardware story shows a comparison spec sheet between the HardRock64 and Raspberry Pi 4.) The RockPro64, meanwhile, is a larger board with the same 127 x 79mm dimensions as Pine64’s Allwinner H64-based Pine H64 Model B, one of the successfully shipped products from last year’s FOSDEM roadmap.

To reduce the size and cost, the RockPro64’s full-size PCIe x4 expansion slot has gone bye-bye. In addition, the USB Type-C port with DP support has been replaced with a second USB 3.0 host port.

Although not mentioned in the specs, the image shows the continuing presence of a GbE port, HDMI port, and a 40-pin GPIO connector. It’s unclear if the eDP, Parallel camera, and audio interfaces are still available.

Continuing features include SPI flash, an empty eMMC socket, a microSD slot, an IR receiver, and an RTC connector. Once again, there’s a digital video-out header, MIPI-DSI, and MIPI-CSI, although it’s unclear whether it still has dual CSI interfaces. The “2x USB 2.0” would now appear to refer to headers rather than the previous full-size ports.

A wireless module with WiFi-ac and Bluetooth 5.0 is listed, but it’s unclear if it’s standard or costs an extra $16 as it does on the RockPro64. Other features include a 5V DC jack and a fan header. Heatsink mounts are once again on board, and since “the board does run hot,” a heatsink is “pretty much mandatory,” says Pine64.

 
SoEdge

The SOEdge AI compute module will join Pine64’s Allwinner H64-based SoPine A64, which also drives the open source PinePhone. The module will be available on its own for powering a baseboard, as well as in USB and PCIe add-on modules.



SoEdge in USB (left) and PCIe form factors
(click images to enlarge)

Due in April or May for about $30, the SOEdge incorporates the Rockchip RK1808, which offers dual, 64-bit Cortex-A35 cores and the same 3-TOPS NPU as the RK3399Pro, an RK3399 variant found on the Radxa Rock Pi N10. The power-efficient RK1808 lacks 3D graphics, but there’s a 2D engine, as well as an ISP and support for HD encode and decode. The SoC has been used on the BeiQi RK1808 AIoT module and BeiQi CarrierBoard Kit from Seeed and Beiqicloud.

The SOEdge is equipped with 2GB DDR4 PC-2133 RAM, 16GB eMMC, and a Rockchip RK809-2 PMIC. There’s also a SoPine-standard 204-pin SODIMM connector.



SoPine Clusterboard unpopulated (left) and loaded with 4x SoEdge and 3x SoPine A64 modules
(click images to enlarge)

The SoEdge can be used interchangeably with the SoPine A64 on Pine64’s recently launched, $100 SoPine Clusterboard, a mini-ITX board with 7x SoPine slots, each with its own USB 2.0 port. Other SoPine Clusterboard features include an eMMC slot, GPIO, a GbE port with switch, and an RTC with dual AA battery holders. The board has a 5V jack with an ATX power supply header.

 
CUBE IP Camera and future plans

The CUBE IP Camera promised a year ago for a 2019 release was delayed due to issues with the Sony camera implementation. It appears that the camera is now scheduled for a 2Q release, although Pine64 will have more details, including changes from the originally announced design, on Feb. 15.



CUBE IP Camera (left) and Pinebook Pro
(click images to enlarge)

The CUBE was originally described as a $20, MIPI-CSI connected camera with an 8MP Sony iMX179 CMOS sensor and an m12 mount. The camera was expected to run Linux on a single-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner S3L SoC with 64MB or 128MB RAM, a WiFi/BT module, and a 10/100 Ethernet port with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support. Other features were to include USB, microSD, and 32-pin GPIO.

In addition to shipping the Pine H64 Model B SBC, Pine64 fulfilled its pledge to ship the Roshambo Retro-Gaming case for the Rock64, which now sells for $30 at CloudMedia. It also successfully launched the $199 Pinebook Pro laptop.

The promised PineTab tablet version of the Allwinner H64 based Pinebook Pro is listed as “coming soon” at AmeriDroid for $79.95. Pine64 now says that later this year it will “release the PineTab early adopter edition and make good on our promises to deliver the upgrade-kit for the original Pinebook.”

The promised Rock64 Rev3 variant of the RK3328-based, PoE-enabled Rock64 may have shipped to developers in small quantities. However, it’s listed as out-of-stock at AmeriDroid for $29.95, with “production estimation TBA.”


PinePhone

Pine64 made no mention of the Rock64 Rev3 in its new FOSDEM announcement, and noted that “we have yet to review PinePhone and PineTime status.” As countless Linux hackers have found out, phones are hard. Not surprisingly, then the PinePhone has taken longer to reach full production than Pine64 expected. However, a $150 PinePhone “Braveheart” developer edition went on sale in limited quantities and shipped on schedule last month.

Pine64 did not mention the PineTime smartwatch a year ago, but it was revealed in November. Despite several reports calling it a Linux smartwatch, it instead runs open source RTOSes such as FreeRTOS or Zephyr on a Nordic nRF52832.



PineTime (left) and Roshambo Retro-Gaming case
(click images to enlarge)

 
Further information

More information on the HardRock64 SBC and SoEdge module may be found in Pine64’s 1H 2020 roadmap announcement. The HardRock64 is due in April starting at about $35, and the SoEdge module will ship in April or May for about $30. More information should eventually appear at the Pine64 website.

 

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