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RK3399 based 96Boards SBC starts at $99

Sep 12, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 980 views

Vamrs has begun shipping the “Rock960” — the first 96Boards SBC based on the hexa-core Rockchip RK3399. The community-backed SBC sells for $99 (2GB/16GB) or $139 (4GB/32GB).

Shortly before Shenzhen-based Vamrs Limited launched a Rockchip RK3399 Sapphire SBC in Nov. 2017, the company announced a similarly open-spec Rock960 SBC that uses the same Rockchip RK3399 SoC, but instead adopts the smaller, 85 x 55mm 96Boards CE form factor. The Rock960 was showcased in March along with other AI-enabled boards as part of Linaro’s 96Boards.ai initiative announcement.

Now, after four hardware revisions, the Rock960 is shipping several months late for $99 (2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC) or $139 (4GB/32GB). The price can’t match some low-cost RK3399 contenders like the $75 NanoPi M4, but it’s still quite competitive, and if you want a 96Boards SBC with Rockchip’s popular hexa-core SoC, it’s the only game in town.



Rock960, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

In March, Vamrs said the 96Boards CE compatible Rock960 would use a new AI-enhanced Rockchip RK3399Pro version of the RK3399, which would also be tapped by a RockPro96 Enterprise Edition version. However, the Rock960 is shipping with the original RK3399 model with dual Cortex-A72 and quad Cortex-A53 cores. There’s also a Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with support for H.264 10bit and VP9 4K video. The larger, 96Boards EE compatible Rock960 Enterprise Edition “Ficus” board is missing in action.

The Rock960 supports Android 7.1 AOSP, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, LibreELEC, Lakka, and FlintOS, and the 96Rocks community website also mentions Yocto and Armbian support. Schematics and other hardware files are already posted.

One of the challenges in bringing the Rock960 to market was that the 96Boards spec for M.2 expansion “is not a good position to mount NVMe SSD,” says Vamrs. To enable NVMe, the company now offers an optional, $10 M.2 Extend board. Vamrs has posted benchmarks that it says demonstrates there is no impact on NVMe performance.



Rock960 metal case with transparent top (left) and M.2 Extend option for NVMe support
(click images to enlarge)

Another option is for a $29.90 metal case that is said to add additional heatsink properties in addition to the standard heatsink. The metal case, which has options for an opaque, transparent, or semi-transparent top, is free for the first 500 buyers. Otherwise you get a standard acrylic case.

Not much else has changed since March except that the Bluetooth radio integrated with the WiFi-ac module has advanced to BT 4.2. As usual with 96Boards CE SBCs, there’s no Ethernet port. You also get the standard 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed 96Boards expansion connectors. You can populate these with a growing list of third-party 96Boards expansion Mezzanine boards.



Rock960 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The Rock960 is equipped with an HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort (via a USB Type-C port), both with [email protected] video. MIPI-DSI display and MIPI-CSI camera connections are also available along with USB 3.0 and 2.0 host ports and a microSD slot.

Specifications listed for the Rock960 SBC include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 cores @ up to 1.8GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 cores at up to 1.4GHz); Mali-T860 MP4 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 2GB or 4GB LPDDR3 (1866MHz) RAM
    • 16GB or 32GB eMMC 5.1 flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • M.2 M-key (4x PCIe 2.1) slot with optional M2 Extend board for NVMe SSD
  • Wireless — 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO (2.4GHz/5GHz) with Bluetooth 4.2; antenna connectors
  • Display/camera:
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • USB 3.0 Type-C OTG port with DisplayPort support
    • USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin, low-speed 96Boards header (+1.8V, +5V, DC power, GND, 2x UART, 2I2C, SPI, I2S, 12x GPIO)
    • 60 pin high-speed header (4L-MIPI DSI, 2x I2C, SPI (48M), USB 2.0, 2L+4L MIPI CSI)
  • Other features — 6x LEDs (incl. 4x user); heatsink; acrylic case; optional metal case
  • Power — 8-18V input with 12V, 2A DC jack and adapter; RK808-D PMIC; reset and recovery buttons
  • Dimensions — 85 x 55mm; 96Boards CE
  • Operating system — Android 7.1 AOSP, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, LibreELEC, Lakka, FlintOS

 
Further information

The Rock960 is available for $99 (2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC) or $139 (4GB/32GB). More information may be found on Vamrs’ Rock960 shopping page and 96rocks community website, as well as the Rock960 96Boards page. The SBC is also available at the same prices at Seeed, and with pricing that is $30 higher at Amazon.

 

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