Asus has launched a RPi-like “Tinker Board” that runs Debian and Kodi on a quad-core 1.8GHz -A17 RK3288, and offers 2GB RAM, GbE, 4K video, and 40-pin GPIO.
The rumored Asus Tinker Board is finally for sale at Farnell in the UK, with a footprint, layout, and features that are very close to that of the Raspberry Pi, including the much copied 40-pin expansion connector and a Debian Linux image. The quad-core SoC and onboard wireless further reminds one of the Raspberry Pi 3.
There are some key differences, however. While most Raspberry Pi pseudo clones — pseudo because no one else but RPi Trading can get their hands on a Broadcom BCM283x SoC — tend to be cheaper than or priced about like the $35 RPi3, the Tinker Board costs 45.83 Pounds ($57) or 55 Pounds ($68) including VAT. In addition, while the Rockchip RK3288 is claimed to be almost twice as fast as the RPi 3’s Broadcom SoC, with a more powerful Mali T760 GPU, it’s 32-bit, as opposed to 64-bit, which will matter more in the coming years as more 64-bit applications come online.
Asus Tinker Board
(click images to enlarge)
Aside from the Farnell page, we found no Asus product page, let alone community site, and no promise of open hardware. Nevertheless, this is the closest a major PC manufacturer has come to launching a maker-style SBC, and it’s drawing considerable attention on that score. Asus’ Aaeon Europe subsidiary has its own community-backed, x86 based UP board, although the hardware design is not fully open.
The Asus Tinker Board has three key advantages over the RPi 3. First, there’s 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM rather than 1GB of LPDDR2. Second, there’s an HDMI 2.0 port, which together with the Mali-T760, is said to enable 4K video playback. Finally, there’s a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000Mbps) port rather than the RPi 3’s 10/100Mbps port, which shares bandwidth with the four USB 2.0 host ports.
All those advantages should add up to an impressive multimedia device for streaming video over the web using the supported Kodi media platform. Indeed, like other Rockchip SoCs, the Rockchip RK3288 is frequently used for media players.
Side views of the Tinker Board
Other SBCs that have tapped the quad-core, 1.8GHz Cortex-A17 SoC include the Firefly-RK3288 and Firefly-RK3288 Reload. These higher-end, media-oriented boards start at $129 and $159, respectively, but offer features not found on the Tinker Board such as SATA and onboard flash.
Specifications listed by Farnell for the Asus Tinker Board include:
- Processor — Rockchip RK3288 (4x Cortex-A17 @ 1.8GHz); Mali T760 GPU
- Memory — 2GB dual-channel LPDDR3 RAM; microSD slot with UHS-I support
- Media I/O:
- HDMI 2.0 with 4K support
- MIPI-DSI with HD support
- MIPI-CSI camera port
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Wireless — 802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR
- Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port via PCI
- Other I/O:
- 4x USB 2.0 ports
- Micro-USB port for power
- 40-pin expansion header with 28x GPIO pins
- Contact points for PWM and S/PDIF
- Power — 5V/2A power via micro-USB (power supply not included)
- Operating systems — Debian; Kodi
In addition to the RPi 3-like specs posted on Farnell above, a Jan. 20 Hexus.net report reproduces two Asus slides that reveal a bit more information. One slide, which includes a claim that the Tinker Board is “almost 2X faster” than the RPi 3, mentions a swappable antenna, and a RealTek HD audio codec that supports an up to 192K/24-bit sampling rate.
Another slide mentions a 3.37 x 2.125-inch (85.6 x 56mm) footprint, compared to 86 x 56mm for the RPi boards. It also lists RPi-like headers on the 40-pin connector aside from the GPIO. These include 2x SPI, 2x I2C, 4x UART, 2x PWM, 4x power, 8x ground, and PCM/I2S. There are no claims for RPi expansion board compatibility, however, either on the slides or the Farnell page. Hexus.net also says the board has a maximum consumption of 5W compared to about 3.7W on the RPi 3.
The Asus Tinker Board is available in the UK for 45.83 Pounds ($57) or 55 Pounds ($68) including VAT at Farnell. Shipping is free in the UK, while others are asked to contact an export coordinator for a shipping quote.