Asus Tinker Board

Picked up apparently before the official launch, my Tinker Board came in today  (The Amazon listing disappeared shortly after my order shipped)  So far it has all the markings of an unlaunched product:  unoptimized software, the only website supporting it is the UK Asus site, etc etc.  That said, the packaging was very professional, the board itself seems very well constructed and solid (I did see what appeared to be residual flux around some of the solder pads, a bit sloppy there)

The board is well labelled, it fits the Raspberry Pi form factor perfectly, I installed it into one of my cheaper plastic case, everything lines up, including the camera connectors.  The micro-SD socket is a push-push style one like the Raspberry Pi 2, much more reassuring than the push-pull found on the Pi 3.  I haven’t done an in-depth look at the GPIO, however at first glance all of the power and ground lines are in the same places, the signal lines I looked at were all located in the same places.  It may well be a pin and signal compatible interface to the Pi.

It may be purely imagination, but I find the metal case on the RK3288 to be strangely reassuring, and have been pleased so far with its temperatures, it has stayed below 55 C using the “Tinker OS” Debian image found on the UK site.  I expect to see an Arch Linux Arm image in the near future, they have distros targeting the same SoC on other Asus hardware (Chromebit/book devices)

Rockchip RK808-B – Power management unit with Real-time Clock

RTL8211E – Realtek 10/100/1000 Ethernet PHY

ALC4040 – Realtek Audio codec

GL852G – Genesys Logic USB 2.0 Hub  The SoC has 2 USB 2.0 Hosts available, apparently only one makes it off the board.

SEC619 K4E8E32 4EBEGCF   – 2 of these, obviously 2x 1 GB RAM.  Not sure if it’s in dual-channel or not, but the board reportedly has some pretty impressive benchmarks and the SoC supports it.

Thoughts on above:

I can’t find any information concerning the Realtek audio codec.  Haven’t hooked up headphones either so no idea if it works at the moment.  2 GB of RAM (or GiB if you enjoy completely arbitrary standard making) is a welcome improvement over the Raspberry Pi family, which is constrained to 1 GB due to the VideoCore hardware.

The use of the USB hub is disappointing, however it makes sense when there are only two USB 2.0 Hosts available, but I’m not certain I know where the other USB host is used yet (I haven’t dug into the Linux to see where it’s putting everything, for all I know it could be the interface to the wifi). Then the USB ports could be 2-way hubs, or a port could have been marked as a dedicated high speed.  As it stands, this board will experience the same sort of bandwidth limitations the Raspberry Pi does with regard to mass storage, but at least networking over Ethernet should be nice and fast, the SoC has an onboard Ethernet MAC so no ethernet over USB like on the Pi.  Another note, the SD(IO) version is 3.0, so high-end SD cards should be able to be utilized fully, another bonus over most other SBC’s.

I am going to look into the power management unit and see if it’s been fully utilized, at the very least I was able to properly shut the hardware down from the OS, there wasn’t any strange behavior or remaining lights on after the fact.  I would love to see one of these boards properly sleep/wake/Wake-On-Lan/etc.

 

OS wise there is a long and steep uphill from the current image.  No graphical package manager, no apps to be honest, the video player referenced on the product page isn’t installed either.  No 2D acceleration of the user interface, so very sluggish responding to redraws/etc.  I’m honestly betting on Arch making a better distro faster than Asus themselves.

 

The TL:DR?  The hardware looks good, the form factor is flawlessly reproduced to take advantage of the Pi cases/peripherals, and it looks like the GPIO connector may be compatible as well.  The on-board gigabit MAC is a huge networking boost over the Pi, the power management and real-time clock tackle a couple of the louder complaints about the Pi, and it has 2 GB of RAM, the SoC supports more.  Downside?  It was $59 when I managed to apparently cheat the system and buy it on Amazon.  If you need the horsepower and the improved system features like the power management, this should do the trick.