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Cluster-focused SBC features octa-core RK3588

Mar 11, 2022 — by Eric Brown 2,245 views

Mixtile’s stackable, $160-and-up “Blade 3” Pico-ITX SBC runs Android with a Linux container on an RK3588. Specs include up to 32GB LPDDR4 and 256GB eMMC plus 2x 2.5GbE, 8K-ready HDMI 2.1, 2x Type-C with DP, 40-pin GPIO, mini-PCIe, and a U.2 link with SATA III and PCIe Gen3 x4.

Mixtile’s Mixtile Blade 3, which is on pre-order for $160 to $259, features Rockchip’s octa-core -A76 and -A55 RK3588 SoC. The Pico-ITX board can be used as a standalone SBC, but it is primarily designed to link up to other stacked Blade 3 boards in a cluster configuration via its PCIe Gen3 x4 edge connector. The result is a “high-performance computing” platform “with a low carbon footprint,” says Mixtile.



Mixtile Blade 3, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Four stacked Blade 3 boards create a cluster with network speed of up to 20Gbps and memory bandwidth of up to 136GB/s, claims Mixtile. Users can even create clusters of up to 75 Blade 3 SBCs with a combined 600 CPU cores and 630GHz compute power packed into in a standard 2U, 19-inch chassis.

We have never heard of Shenzhen, China based Mixtile, although the CNXSoft post that alerted us to the Blade 3 pointed to an Allwinner A31 based LOFT-Q module and dev kit the site covered back in 2015. Since then, Mixtile has produced several Arm-based products, including most recently an Edge 2 SBC based on a quad -A55 RK3568 based Core 3568 module, which we plan to cover soon.



Blade 3 in clusters of 4x stacked SBCs (left) and 2U implementation with up to 75 SBCs
(click images to enlarge)

The Rockchip RK3588 is still in the sampling stage, so we would concur with CNXSoft’s skepticism whether Mixtile will be able to ship products in the claimed April time frame. The RK3588 has so far been announced on Radxa’s Rock 5 Model B SBC, which is expected to begin shipping in small quantities in Q2 of this year. The SoC will also appear in the coming months on the Firefly ITX-3588J Mini-ITX board and an unnamed, feature-rich Banana Pi dev kit based on a Banana Pi RK3588 Core module.

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The 8nm-fabricated RK3588 has 4x up to 2.4GHz Cortex-A76 and 4x up to 1.8GHz -A55 cores. There is also a powerful, quad-core Mali G610MC4 GPU and a 6-TOPS NPU (up from 3 TOPs on Rockchip’s RK3399Pro and RK1808). The RK3588 delivers about 3x time faster performance than the RK3399 using Geekbench 4 CPU benchmarks and delivers even faster GPU performance.

Aside from its clustering capability, the Blade 3 is also unusual in that it runs Linux in a container within Android 11. This hybrid Android/Linux distribution, called Mixtile OS, also runs on Mixtile’s RK3568-based Edge 2 board. When CNXSoft asked why not just offer a standalone Linux image, Mixtile responded that “driver support for Android 12 is better, so they just run a Linux container inside Android to make software development easier.”



Two Blade 3 SBCs linked via U.2/PCIe connector (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The PCie Gen3 x4 interface is deployed via a U.2 edge connector that also includes SATA III and I2C signals. The connector also does quadruple duty as a 12VDC SATA input. Since we saw no other power input, we are unclear on how this would work if the connector was being used for cluster applications or single-board expansion.

If the connector is being used for a cluster link, you can turn to the mini-PCIe slot with PCie Gen2 and USB 2.0 signals for general expansion. Storage needs are handled via the up to 256GB eMMC and microSD slot. There are also 2x Type-C ports, which support DP 1.4, although they are limited to 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen1 speeds.



Blade 3 detail views
(click image to enlarge)

The board’s HDMI 2.1 port supports up to [email protected] video while the HDMI 2.0 output goes to [email protected] There is also a MIPI-DSI slot, although Mixtile appears to have incorrectly identifies this on the detail view as CSI.

Mixtile says the board supports H.264/H.265 video encoding at up to [email protected] Assuming there is no CSI slot, video input would presumably be coming from a PCIe Gen3 connected camera or video capture add-on.

Specifications listed for the Mixtile Blade 3 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3588 (4x Cortex-A72 @ up to 2.4GHz; 4x Cortex-A55 at up to 1.8GHz); Mali G610MC4 GPU; 6-TOPS NPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • Up to 32GB LPDDR4 and up to 256GB with standard SKUs:
      • 4GB/32GB ($160)
      • 8GB/64GB ($195)
      • 16GB/128GB ($259)
    • MicroSD 3.0 slot
    • SATA SSD available via U.2 PCIe Gen3 connector
  • Networking
    • 2x 2.5GbE ports (Realtek RTL8125B) with link aggregation support
    • Wireless available via mini-PCIe slot (see expansion)
  • Media I/O
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C ports with DP 1.4a support
    • 40-pin GPIO header with DIO, I2C, USB 2.0, TTL UART, SPI, I2S
  • Expansion:
    • U.2 edge connector with PCIe Gen3 x4, SATA 3.0, 12VDC input
    • Mini-PCIe slot (PCie Gen2 and USB 2.0)
  • Power — 12VDC SATA power in via U.2
  • Dimensions — 100 x 72mm (Pico-ITX)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 80°C
  • Operating system — Preloaded Mixtile OS (Android 12 with Linux container)

 
Further information

The Mixtile Blade 3 is available for pre-order through Mar. 31 with shipments starting in April. Prices are as follows: 4GB RAM/32GB eMMC ($160); 8GB/64GB ($195); 16GB/128GB ($259). More information may be found on Mixtile’s shopping page and product page. A few more details on Mixtile OS may be found in this wiki for the Mixtile Edge 2 SBC.
 

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One response to “Cluster-focused SBC features octa-core RK3588”

  1. Phil Endecott says:

    The block diagram shows one of the HDMIs as “RX” and the other as “TX”, which would explain the video encoding claim.

    I’m curious to know how the PCIe connectivity works from the software point of view, i.e. are the blades distinct computers with some sort of networking over that interface? It would be more exciting if they were tightly coupled as a single computer with lots of cores.

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