Comparison of ARM-based TV sticks, tablets, chromebooks running Linux

Having a tough time figuring out which Android TV stick or tablet to pick up if what you really want to do is run Linux on it? Me too.

Fortunately CNX-Software reports Ian Morrison decided to test more than half a dozen different ARM-powered devices running Ubuntu 12.04 or Ubuntu 12.10 and he’s shared the results. Unfortunately they’re not entirely conclusive.

Linux on ARM

Credit: Ian Morrison and CNX-Software (Click to see larger image)

That’s partly because some of the devices were running Ubuntu 12.04 while others ran Ubuntu 12.10. And some had Ubuntu installed natively while others were running it in chroot.

More importantly, each different processor has different features. So while an ARM Cortex-A9 CPU is generally faster than a Cortex-A8 chip, a device with a Freescale i.MX6 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor doesn’t always outperform one with a Rockchip RK3066 dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 chip.

That said, Morrison ran a series of benchmarks from the Phoronix Test Suite on the following devices, generally ranked in order of performance  from lowest to highest:

  • MK802 Plus TV stick with Allwinner A10 ARM Cortex-A8 processor
  • MK803 TV stick with Amlogic AM8726-M3 ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • Zealz GK802 TV stick with Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor
  • UG802 TV stick with Rockchip RK3066 ARM Cortex-A9 dual core processor
  • PQ Labs iStick A200 TV stick with Rockchip RK3066
  • Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 tablet with NVIDIA Tegra 2 ARM Cortex-A9 dual core processor
  • Hardkernel ODroid-U2 dev board with Samsung Exynos 4412 ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor
  • Samsung Chromebook with Samsung Exynos 5250 ARM Cortex-A15 dual-core CPU

All told, none of these devices will run Ubuntu as well as a machine with the latest AMD or Intel processors. But the scores for the Samsung Chromebook are pretty decent for a $249 device.

You can find more details in Morrison’s summary, at CNX-Software (where I grabbed the image above), at the Phoronix test suite benchmark site, and in Morrison’s post on Google+.

  • Nicholas Tarnowsky

    nice breakdown Brad

  • Joshua

    We need Gigabit Ethernet on these… I want to see a 3D toroid of cheap ARM machines..How about Ethernet over USB 3.0… errrr… https://asc.llnl.gov/computing_resources/bluegenel/configuration.html (I’m somewhat joking, of course)

    • toronado455

      Do these all use USB 2.0 bus for Ethernet and that’s why no gigabit?

      • Joshua

        Not all of them use USB 2.0, but yes, this is a factor.

        Other factors (off the top of my head, not a comprehensive list):

        – The added cost of USB 3.0 Gigabit dongles makes for tougher economics of scale. That is, if I want to build my IT infrastructure out of consumer grade ARM devices, the added cost of adding gigabit ethernet is prohibitive.

        – The Chromebook’s (only one with USB 3.0) single USB 3.0 port limits its feasibility as an ARM-based IT infrastructure device. Adding a gigabit dongle to that port would be fine, I suppose. However, when it comes time to add storage (via USB 3.0 hub) of any meaningful size (>=500GB), that one port becomes a bottleneck. This is especially true when that storage is SSD (more throughput).

        Devices such as the Pogoplug E02 and E02G better lend themselves to the model I describe. However, the TV stick folks are missing out on a large market for NAS replacement by not including SATA, USB 3.0 and Gigabit in their equation. It’s really only a matter of time until USB 3.0 lands on these. However, my guess is they’re going to play the same let’s-hub-it game. As in, we’ll offer only one USB 3.0 port.

        Of note is the following project, which seeks to build an HPC (high performance computer) from the platform inside of the Samsung ChromeBook. http://www.montblanc-project.eu/press-corner/news/mont-blanc-project-selects-samsung-exynos-5-processor-1

        If you’re wondering, I’m in no way affiliated with that HPC project.

        At present, I’m interested in the aging WD MyBook Live platform, which is actually PowerPC based. While not ARM, the platform has a low power draw and lots of performance optimization at the chip level (both CPU and Ethernet Controller). ref: http://www.apm.com/products/embedded/singlecore460/apm82181/

        Alright. :) I’ll stop ranting now.

        -Joshua

  • Rivers Silverman

    Good chart. I like that they threw and i7 in there too. The i7 just demolished almost everything.

    • toronado455

      And it’s an older (1st gen) i7 too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.huddleston Greg Huddleston

    (as I continually ask…) X11 acceleration? None of the Mali ones have it and the iMX6 is supposed to be ‘getting it soon’…

    • Jml

      The i.mx6 GPU is the Vivatane GC2000 which DOES have X11 HW acceleration. ARM is being really bullheaded about Linux and they are going to pay for it!!!!

  • km

    I’m waiting for one that can act as a standard Ubuntu MythTV frontend. Would any of these do?