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Firefly hacker SBC reloads with sandwich style design

Mar 14, 2016 — by Eric Brown 4,122 views

Firefly’s sandwich-style “Reload” version of its quad-core Firefly-RK3288 hacker SBC adds SATA, more HDMI, camera, and USB ports, and more expansion I/O.

The Cortex-A17 has seen fairly high adoption in Android media player such as the Tronsmart Orion R28 via Rockchip’s quad-core, 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288 SoC. T-Chip Technology’s Firefly single board computer spinoff has once again tapped the RK3288 for its open-spec Firefly-RK3288 Reload board, running Linux or Android on the same RK3288 with Mali T764 GPU as its earlier Firefly-RK3288 SBC. This time, however, it’s a sandwich-style carrier/COM product that adds SATA storage, more expansion pins, and more USB, HDMI, and camera ports.

Firefly-RK3288 Reload with integrated COM (left) and COM on its own
(click images to enlarge)

The Firefly-RK3288 Reload’s 82 x 60mm computer-on-module, which mates with the carrier via a 314-pin MXM connector, does not appear to be listed for sale apart from the Reload carrier/COM combo. The Reload sells for $189, compared to $160 for the Firefly-RK3288 or $260 for the Firefly-RK3288 Plus, which doubles the memory to 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB flash. Firefly also has a $70 Firefly FirePrime board, which instead uses a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Rockchip RK3128. Like the Reload, the FirePrime is a sandwich-style SBC, but its COM is smaller than that of the Reload, and uses a different interface connector.

The multimedia friendly Firefly-RK3288 Reload and its Mali T764 GPU support 4K video decoding via H.264 (10-bit) and H.265 codecs, as well as 1080P encoding via H.264, VP8, and MVC. The RK3288 is backed up with 2GB of dual-channel DDR3 RAM.


The Reload provides 16GB of eMMC storage and a microSD slot, as well as a new SATA 2.0 slot for 2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs by way of a USB adapter. The Reload adds a third USB host port compared to the original, and also provides a micro-USB OTG port.

Two more views of the Firefly-RK3288 Reload
(click images to enlarge)

The Reload adds a second HDMI port — an HDMI 1.4 interface that’s rated for 1080p displays — along with the pre-existing, 4K-ready HDMI 2.0 port, enabling dual simultaneous displays. There’s also a third port devoted to HDMI input, featuring PIP and video recording functions, as well as the earlier MIPI, eDP, and dual LVDS interfaces.

A second DVP camera interface for a front-facing 5-megapixel camera joins the earlier 13-megapixel ready MIPI-CSI. Analog, SPDIF, and I2S audio interfaces are available along with the audio-ready HDMI ports.

Firefly-RK3288 Reload detail view
(click image to enlarge)

As before, you get a Gigabit Ethernet port, an IR receiver, and a wireless module with dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 BLE. Compared to the original Firefly-RK3288, the Reload adds 100 expansion pins, with a 184-pin connector that offers everything from MIPI to up to 45x GPIO interfaces.

The Firefly-RK3288 Reload appears to be a fully open source, open spec board, with schematics provided for the COM as well as the carrier. A community site in Chinese and English offers Android 5.1 and Ubuntu 14.04, as well as an implementation that dual boots the two. Additional supported software includes a Fireasy app for wireless input control, including mouse and gamepad support, as well as a WeChat app.

Although not mentioned by Firefly, the Reload carrier board could potentially be paired (reloaded?) with alternative COM versions in the future. Additionally, the Reload’s COM — known as a “core-board” — would appear to be usable as an OEM component, when paired with an application-specific carrier board. Pricing for the COM on its own is not currently listed on Firefly’s website, however.

Firefly-RK3288 Reload COM (left) and carrier with COM
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Firefly-RK3288 Reload include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3288 (4x Cortex-A17 cores @ 1.8GHz); Mali-T760 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 2GB DDR3 RAM
    • 16GB eMMC flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • SATA 2.0 slot
  • Display:
  • Camera:
    • MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP)
    • DVP (up to 5MP)
  • Audio:
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
    • SPDIF output
    • Mic input
    • I2S audio I/O
    • 2x HDMI (see Display above)
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac (Broadcom AP6335)
    • Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE (Broadcom AP6335)
    • IR receiver module with self-defined IR remote
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 3x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 with OTG
    • Serial console debug
    • 184-pin expansion header (MIPI, 2x LVDS, eDP, PWM, SPI, UART, ADC, I2C, I2S, GPIO)
  • Other features — Power, reset, recover buttons
  • Power — 12V, 1.5A (via DC jack)
  • Weight — 176 g
  • Dimensions — 178 x 117mm (82 x 60mm for integrated COM)
  • Operating system — Android 5.1; Ubuntu 14.04

Further information

The Firefly-RK3288 Reload is available for $189 via Alibaba, although it’s out of stock until Mar. 30. It’s also sold via Firefly’s T-FireFly Electronics Technology Inc. unit in the U.S. More information may be found at the Firefly Firefly-RK3288 Reload product page.

(advertise here)

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One response to “Firefly hacker SBC reloads with sandwich style design”

  1. Tom Cubie says:

    They just copy radxa rock2 :)

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