Pine64 has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years for its inexpensive Linux laptops and smartphones. But the company got its start producing ARM-powered single-board computers (SBCs) that bear a more than passing resemblance to the Raspberry Pi.
Now the company has unveiled its first new SBC in a year — the upcoming HardROCK64 is a compact computer with a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0, and a starting price of $35.
It’s expected to hit the streets in April.
If those specs seem familiar, that’s because the HardROCK64 is a lot like Pine64’s existing RockPro64, which sells for $60 and up. But the new model is cheaper thanks to a few omissions.
It doesn’t have a USB-C port or PCIe connectors.
But it is a pretty versatile little device with two USB 3.0 ports. two USB 2.0 ports, an eMMC socket and microSD card reader, digital video output, CSI and DSI connectors, an IR receiver, and GPIO pins as well as headers for an optional fan.
The HardROCK64 will be available in three configurations:
- 1GB RAM for around $35
- 2GB RAM for around $45
- 4GB of RAM for around $55
It’s probably not a coincidence that those are the same prices Raspberry Pi charges for its Raspberry Pi 4 with the same amounts of memory.
Pine64 says the HardROCK64 should support most software that can run on the ROCKPro64 or similar devices like the PineBook Pro Linux laptop.
The company is also working on a few other new products for the first half of 2020, including:
- A $30 SOEdge AI module with a Rockchip RK1808 ARM Cortex-A35 dual-core processor with a 3.0 TOPS neural processing unit, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage is coming in April or May.
- Work is picking up again on the CUBE IP Camera that was announced last year.
- There are now official hard and soft cases for the PinePhone.
Ugly name of product. But 4G ram and fast procesor sound good.
Question is power. Redacion please write any benchmark. How many hour can working on one powerbank (for example 4 Ah)
RK3399 is a hex-core SOC with 2 x A72 and 4 x A53. RPi4b is a quad-core SOC with 4 x A72.
RK3399 has on-chip 2 x USB 3.0 ports. RPi4b has one PCIe lane to a hub with 2 x USB 3.0 ports.
I wish that Pine had spent more money to differentiate the board rather than compete with RPi4b on price.
The RockPi was concerned about speed-to-market, and secondly the price. Compared to the RiPi4, the software is pretty rough and basically no support provided.
The best of these “fourth-gen” SBC seems to come from Odroid. At least the drivers are a bit more polished and they even have Android working properly.
I have 20+ rPi 3B+ in my lab, and 2 librecomputer renegades, a pinebook pro, and have been evaluating alternatives to the rPi recently because there isn’t really any support for them.
You’re stuck on kernel 4.19, and have to use a microsd card rather than something reliable. I don’t know how other SBCs from Pine64 are supported beyond my pinebook pro but I feel like it is far easier to work with Manjaro Arm on an rk3399 than a raspberian install start this point.
I’ve decided to not continue our research using rPis because the commercial use licensing is strange (what constitutes commercial use if you’re not selling products?), there’s no emmc storage option, and there’s very peculiar serial port issues with them making data logging from sensor systems difficult to troubleshoot at times.
This new board fits in as a dropin replacement, and doesn’t need hdmi dongles. Manjaro on the rk3399 is amazing, and I can use fully modern python libraries on it.
The RockPi 4 (RK3399) was the first released fourth-gen SBC, and it comes a very distant third place overall. There’s about 5-10 different SBC’s with the same SoC and they all suffer from terrible software/drivers with no hope coming.
The Raspberry Pi 4 (BCM2711) was the last released fourth-gen SBC, and it achieves an embarrassing second place overall. It was a sloppy and lazy attempt at best, and it’s really upto the community to do the heavy lifting.
The Odroid N2 (S922X) was the second released fourth-gen SBC, and it does what it promises and set out to do. You can tell the company cares about the product in terms of hardware and software, it really shows. They’re more expensive than the other two, but taken in context of long-term use, it actually offers much higher value than the others.
You can also get Single-Board-Computers that come with Intel Atom x86 SoC’s, or some Core-M chipset, or even a laptop level Core i7-U chipset. There’s even a Ryzen 1 Embedded APU that you can get in a SBC form-factor. They’re even better than the ARM SBC’s but there’s generally a steep price difference, and I don’t think they offer as good as a value.
….If you want the best of both worlds; value and software-competence, the best strategy is to buy something like a Used Intel NUC (or salvage laptop). It’ll run software from Windows 10 to OSX, Linux Distro, Android, or even something barebones like BSD.
How’s the Android support on the Rock Pi 4 though? I saw it has pretty up to date Android images including Android TV. I’m mainly interested in the Rock Pi 4 because it seems to be the most powerful SBC in the RPi 3 form factor that supports Android.
I typed a lot, but found this video which sums up my thoughts perfectly:
If you plan on using Android +90% of the time, I would look elsewhere (like a dedicated Android TV Box).
If you plan on using Android less, and using the Single-Board-Computer for other purposes like coding/development then I would still ask to stay away from all RK3399 (or any RockChip based) SBC. And look at alternative SBCs, maybe even get two distinct devices instead of a “do it all”.
Even the folks at Odroid (company) were going to beat Radxa (company) to the market and release a SBC with the RK3399. Eventually Odroid cancelled that project. The real reason was the drivers and kernel for it were a mess, and the company at Odroid has their own developers (small team) and a reputation for providing high-quality SBC with good software. So either they would have to reverse-engineer it, and write up their own drivers and kernel, which would take months and lots of money. They chose to not hurt their reputation, they didn’t release the product, unlike Radxa and a couple other companies. And remember software can get better, but it HUGELY depends on the state of the initial release. If you release a crappy software, it’s going to take a long time for the community to make decent updates, and before you know it your product is obsolete or out-competed.
The Raspberry Pi 4 has a similar issue. The SoC is not too bad, but the software is quite flimsy. I know at least the folks at RPF tried, so its still a lot better than most RK3399 SBC’s, and the Pi has a huge community who are left to pick up the slack. However, they will improve things, it just takes time.
I would actually recommend the Odroid N2 instead. It costs more. Has a smaller community. But the thing is solid. The software was good on release, so its only getting better. And since the XU4 and now the N2, they’re picking up more community members (I think they’re second only to Raspberry Pi, but a distant second).
I did consider the N2 but I have a special custom case for the Raspberry Pi 3 that I really want to reuse for the project I’m working on, which is why an Android TV Box won’t suit my needs either. Plus most of them I’ve been told aren’t powerful enough or their GPU’s lack OpenGL ES 3.2 support.
Aside from the Rock Pi 4, which I heard gets really hot because of the RK3399 and isn’t a good idea to use without a heatsink (which I can’t), I’ve always been looking at other boards in that form factor like the ASUS Tinker Board which has an older RK3288 and I can use a heatsink with too. What are your thoughts on that board? Surely that one is more mature by now and has had better support from ASUS during its lifetime?
The ASUS board had a lot of hype on release: finally, a proper OEM getting into the market. Whilst the first board was good for its price, the newest version isn’t great. And the community has found out that ASUS isn’t really serious about Single-Board Computers. So I don’t recommend it.
When it comes to Single-Board Computers; there are x86 boards (much more versatile) and there are ARM Cortex boards (much more cheaper). That’s the first thing you need to decide.
If you’re still okay with the ARM-platform, I would still recommend an Odroid N2.
You should sell your special case, which will help your budget, there’s no rational reason to keep yourself/project at a disadvantage or downgrade just because of the shell. Or at the minimum, think of jumping on the Raspberry Pi 4 platform early on.
PS: Android TV Boxes are better than Single-Board PCs when it comes to simply running AndroidOS. That was the whole point of me recommending them. And in the case of the 2015 Nvidia Shield TV, it’s more powerful than any of the ARM SBC’s including the Odroid N2.
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