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Pine64 unveils RK3566-powered SBC and reveals an upcoming RISC-V board

Feb 16, 2021 — by Eric Brown 4,868 views

Pine64 has posted specs for a Quartz64 SBC that runs Linux on Rockchip’s new NPU-equipped, quad -A55 RK3566 with up to 8GB RAM. There are also plans for an under $15 SBC showcasing the RISC-V based Allwinner XuanTie C906.

As we noted in our recent report on Geniatech’s RK3568 and RK3566 Development Boards, Pine64 has been working on a community backed, Rockchip RK3566 driven Quartz64 SBC. In a February blog update on various Pine64 products, the company has posted images and full specs on the 133 x 80mm Quartz64 model-A SBC, as well as specs for an upcoming, Raspberry Pi-like model-B (see farther below).

Quartz64 model-A
(click image to enlarge)

Pine64 also announced it is working on a RISC-V development board that runs Linux on the Alibaba backed, open source Allwinner XuanTie C906 SoC. The single-core, 1GHz RISC-V SoC will be paired with a more MCU-like, RISC-V derived Buffalo BL602, a 32-bit WiFi/Bluetooth SoC that is in the process of being open sourced. (All RISC-V processors are based on the open source RISC-V architecture, but chipmakers are not required to open source the resulting silicon.)

The unnamed C906-based SBC will offer Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0, and will sell for under $15. As noted in our XuanTie C906 report linked to above, Sipeed is also working on a C906-based board, which it aims to sell for $12.50.

Rockchip RK3566 block diagram (left) and early version of PinePhone keyboard and case
(click images to enlarge)

In other Pine64 update news, which we read about on Liliputing, the company plans to create its own LoRaWAN modules for all its products and will launch a Linux-powered LoRaWAN basestation. There are also more details and images on an upcoming keyboard and case for the Linux-driven, open source PinePhone, which runs on an Allwinner A64. The accessory will include a battery, charging PCB, and a USB Type-C port.


Quartz64 model-A

The Quartz64 model-A is an open-spec SBC based roughly on the design of the RK3399 based RockPro64, but with Rockchip’s new quad-core, Cortex-A55 RK3566. Although Geniatech clocks the RK3566 on its RK3566 Development Board at up to 2.0GHz, Pine64 lists the Quartz64 at 1.8GHz.

Like Rockchip’s RK3568, the RK3566 is equipped with a Mali-G52 EE GPU and a 0.8-TOPS NPU. The SoCs implement a multiplexing design that poses limits on how many PCIe, USB 3.0, SATA, and QSGMII interfaces can be used at the same time.

The RK3566 is similar to the non pin-compatible RK3568. However, it is limited to dual independent displays, a single GbE port, and PCIe 2.1 instead of the RK3568’s triple displays, dual GbE, PCIe 3.0 x2, and PCIe 2.1. The RK3568 also adds ECC RAM support and a bit more I/O, including 3x CAN FD. For more details on the RK3566 and RK3568, see our Geniatech dev board report.

Pine64 posted some generic preliminary benchmarks between the Quartz64 and the Cortex-A72 based Raspberry Pi 4 and found the RPi 4 to be only slightly faster. The Quartz64, which is 15-25 percent slower than the RockPro64, will “eventually supersede” the Allwinner A64 powered Pine A64 and RK3328-based Rock64, says Pine64.

Pine64 plans to use the Quartz64 model-A as a development platform for its next generation phones, tablets, and laptops. The board should be able to support the emerging open source Panfrost GPU driver, says the company.

Quartz64 specs including model-A vs. model-B comparison

The Quartz64 model-A backs up the RK3566 with 2GB to 8GB LPDDR4 along with SPI flash, a microSD slot, and optional eMMC. The native SATA 3.0 interface cannot be used when you use the single USB 3.0 host port. There are also 3x USB 2.0 host ports and 20-pin GPIO.

Quartz64 model-A portside views
(click images to enlarge)

The SBC includes a GbE port and optional WiFi/BT. Media features include eDP at up to 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz plus MIPI-DSI with touch support. There is also an E-Ink interface with an optional 10-inch display and a 4-lane MIPI-CSI interface for 8-megapixel imaging.

Other features include a PCIe 2.1 x2 slot, which Pine64 calls “4x PCIe” in the announcement. You also get an RTC and full-board battery charging.

The 12V/5A input can power up to 2.5-inch HDDs or SSDs. Presumably, the second drive would operate via the PCIe slot. No temperature range was listed, but Pine64 says that “under load, without a heatsink, it rarely spiked above 60°C.”

The Quartz64 model-B will have a Raspberry Pi-sized, 85 x 56 x 18.8mm footprint and a generally reduced feature set. Yet, the model-B offers more consumer-friendly features including a 40-pin GPIO instead of 20-pin, an M.2 slot instead of PCIe, and standard, rather than optional WiFi/BT.

Quartz64 model-B PCB layout
(click images to enlarge)

The Quartz64 model-B lacks the eDP interface of the model-A. The DSI interface is only 2-lane and limited to 1080p, and the CSI interface drops to 2-lane with 5MP. (It is unclear if E-Ink is supported.) Also missing is the touch-panel support and battery connector, and it appears there will be 2x USB 2.0 host ports instead of three.

Preliminary specifications listed for the Quartz64 model-A include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3566 (4x Cortex-A55 @ up to 1.8GHz); Mali-G52 GPU; 0.8-TOPS NPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB to 8GB LPDDR4
    • 128Mb SPI boot flash, expandable to 16MB
    • Optional 16GB to 128GB eMMC
    • MicroSD slot (bootable) up to 256GB
    • Native SATA III interface multiplexed with USB 3.0
  • Networking:
    • GbE port (Realtek RTL8211)
    • Optional 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with Bluetooth 5.0
  • Media I/O:
    • eDP 1.3 (4-lane, 2.7Gbps) up to 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) up to 1440p
    • SPI-based touch-panel port with optional 7-inch touchscreen
    • E-Ink interface with optional 10-inch E-Ink display
    • MIPI-CSI (4-lane) up to 8MP
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • 3x USB 2.0 host ports
    • 20-pin GPIO
    • UART, SPI, I2C (possibly part of GPIO)
  • Expansion — PCIe x2 open-ended slot
  • Other features — RTC with battery connector; enclosure 3D files
  • Power — 12V/3A DC input jack; Lithium battery connector with temp sensor
  • Dimensions — 133 x 80 x 19mm
  • Operating system — Android 11; Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Arch), BSD

Further information

A few early Quartz64 model-A units have shipped to developers. No pricing or availability information was provided for either the model-A or later model-B. More information, including details on the RISC-V board and PinePhone keyboard, may be found in Pine64’s February update blog announcement. More technical details on the Quartz64 may be found in the Quartz64 wiki.


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