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There’s no shortage of cheap, Linux-friendly single-board computers on the market with ARM processors these days. But you know what there may be even more of? Cheap Android TV boxes with similar hardware.

So developer Michael Burmeister-Brown decided to repurpose one to create an incredibly cheap Linux computer. Meet the Inovato Quadra, a compact computer with an Allwinner H6 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, Armbian Linux software, and a starting price of just $29.

The Quadro is basically what you get when you take a T95 Mini Android TV box (available for around $20 – $40 at AliExpress and Amazon) and replace the Android software with a lightweight Linux distribution based on Debian 11 and featuring the XFCE desktop environment.

With just 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage (plus a microSD card reader), the Inovato Quadro isn’t exactly a high-performance computer. But it should be able to handle the same sorts of workloads you might expect to run on a Raspberry Pi 3 or similar device.

While you won’t get the 40-pin GPIO header or some other features that make Raspberry Pi devices developer and hacker-friendly hardware, you do get a heat sink and enclosure. Those are typically sold separately when you buy Raspberry Pi devices.

Inovato is offering two versions of the little computer. There’s a Quadra with WiFi 4 and no Bluetooth support, and a Quadra Plus that comes with WiFi 5, Bluetooth 4.2, and a 4-port USB hub. Here’s a run-down of key specs for both models:

Inovato QuadraInovato Quadra Plus
ProcessorAllwinner H6
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores @ 1.7 GHz
RAM2GB
Storage16GB eMMC
microSD card reader
Ports1 x HDMI
1 x USB 3.0 Type-A
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x 10/100Mbps Ethernet
1 x microSD card reader
1 x HDMI
1 x USB 3.0 Type-A
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x 10/100Mbps Ethernet
1 x microSD card reader
4-port USB Hub included
WirelessWiFi 4 (2.4 GHz)
Bluetooth not included (dongle can be used though)
WiFi 5 (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Power supply5V/2A
Dimensions92 x 92 x 22mm
3.6″ x 2.6″ x 0.9″

You can find additional documentation at the Inovato website… including the option to forego paying for new hardware at all. If you already have a supported Android TV box like a T95 Mini or H96 Max, you can install the Quadra firmware directly on your existing device.

via CNX Software

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13 Comments

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  1. Is there anything more frustrating than pushing a button and then sitting there waiting for the thing to happen? I had one of these t95 boxes and it didn’t even cope with being a media player

  2. There are better alternatives out there.
    For years now, I have $30 TV boxes with the amlogic S905X3 cpu. Comes with a remote etc…

    1. Well, good news you can still buy other linked android boxes and just flash their firmware for less than what they are charging after taking shipping costs into account.

  3. why sd card, why not normal usb A host and normal usb flash drive?

    second question why not expanding pci slot or other for aceleration card. someone need cpu/gpu/tensor/better sound etc.
    I need fpga and accelerating my big matrix numbers
    every is different

    1. They didn’t design the hardware. They simply took tv-box chips, flashed linux, and put it in a case.

      1. I’m pretty sure these are off the shelf TV boxes that were completely assembled when they bought them in to flash them.

  4. While I am on the fence whether or not I order from them, they’ve done an excellent job at highlighting that I can run Armbian on these Android TV boxes, and honestly I might go that approach in place of spinning up a VM in my homelab when I want something to tinker with before going into production.

    1. Vm are great for certain things. But i have often found vm testing can only take you so fare before you need real world hardware for actual performance testing.

  5. Despite the low-end SOC, this thing has a lot going for it compared to the Raspberry Pi 3/4.

    It has a case, and comes with a power supply. Also, it uses a 5V/2a power supply, while the Raspberry Pi 3/4 require a 5V/3a power supply, which aren’t as cheap (and I don’t have a spare laying around, while I have dozens of 2a USB adapters kicking around).

    Having said that, it has an enormous disadvantage of having far less community support.

    Cost/timeframe of shipping is an objection for me. They want $15 to ship to Canada, with a timeframe of up to 4 weeks. Hard pass.

    That’s $54 total for the Plus model. I can find better options on Amazon, with free shipping, and have it in 2 days.

      1. Pine64dotcom has:
        Rock64 4Gb/2Gb in stock for $44.95/34.95 (need 5v/3a) + shipping
        Pine A64-LTS 2Gb in stock for $39.00 (need 5v/2a) + shipping

        These all have Quad A53 Cores; they do not ship with eMMc but can be ordered additionally, & the Rock64 does not have WiFi/BT (it will require a dongle) — but these boards have a quite a bit of ‘community support.’