Banana Pi M3 vs. the LeMaker HiKey

Considerable Power

I used Sysbench to test CPU performance (Listing 1). The tests considered the performance with one, four, and eight cores. See Table 2 for a summary of the results.

Listing 1

Testing CPU Performance

$ sysbench --num-threads=1 --cpu-max-prime=10000 --test=cpu run
$ sysbench --num-threads=4 --cpu-max-prime=10000 --test=cpu run
$ sysbench --num-threads=8 --cpu-max-prime=10000 --test=cpu run

Table 2

Benchmark Results


1 Thread

4 Threads

8 Threads

Raspberry Pi 3

182 seconds

45 seconds

Banana Pi M3

159 seconds

40 seconds

21 seconds

LeMaker HiKey

12 seconds

3 seconds

2 seconds

The performance of the HiKey is impressive. This computer gives you an idea of what hobby computers with 64-bit processors can do when outfitted with suitable software. One drawback is that power consumption rises alongside higher levels of computing performance. The HiKey requires a bit more than 1.7A with 12V when the WiFi is activated.

The Banana Pi M3 also edges past the RPi3. Even so, a familiar pattern arises for the power and voltage measurements. As soon as eight threads were running during testing, power consumption spiked to 1.1A and then fell back. Then the consumption fluctuated.

To keep an eye on CPU frequency, I used the command from the first line of Listing 2. The frequency rose briefly to 1.8GHz and then jumped to between 1.2 and 1.6GHz. I eliminated the power supply as the cause and simultaneously observed the core temperature of the processor (Listing 2, second line), which rose to around 75C (167F). After improvising a process for cooling the processor, I saw temperatures decrease to a maximum of 61C (142F) and the CPU frequency stabilize at 1.8GHz.

Listing 2

Watching CPU Frequency

$ sudo watch -n1 "cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/cpu_cur_freq"
$ sudo watch -n1 "cat /sys/classes/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp"

The question remains as to why the CPU stays constant at just 1.8GHz when the processor has a clock rate of up to 2GHz. These tests also confirmed this (Listing 3, first line). My attempts to overclock the Banana Pi did not work (last line). With the available core, I found that it does not operate at a clock rate of greater than 1.8GHz.

Listing 3

Checking the Clock Rate

$ cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_available_frequencies
2016000 1800000 1608000 1200000 1128000 1008000 912000 864000 720000 600000 480000
$ echo "2016000" > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_max_freq

Both computers are leisurely about establishing Internet access. According to measurements made using iperf, the Banana Pi M3 was able to achieve 633Mbps one time when connected via cable and a listless 2.37Mbps with a wireless connection. The LeMaker HiKey, which only has WiFi capabilities, was still able to achieve a 37.3Mbps data throughput rate. By way of comparison, the RPi3 achieves a solid 45Mbps.


The LeMaker HiKey is the only convincing alternative to the RPi3. The HiKey surpasses RPi3 performance even with just four of its eight processors operating. Neither of the test computers is cheap. The Banana Pi M3 costs around EUR90 ($120, £80). With a price tag of about EUR120 ($160, £100), the LeMaker HiKey barely counts as an inexpensive hobby computer.

The Author

Alexander Merz writes about the maker scene for He also tests and programs small computers. Occasionally, he even gets out his soldering iron to work on a home project.

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