Testing and comparing small-board computers

Pine A64+

The fourth board in this review is the brand new Pine A64+ (Figure 4) [5]. As its name indicates, this is an SBC with a 64 bit-ARM SoC. The project was started with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in $1.7 million instead of the $31,416 originally envisioned.

Figure 4: The manufacturer offers the Pine A64 in various performance categories. The prices differ accordingly between $15 and $29.

The initial funding requested (the digits for pi to four decimal places), quickly signalled to the friends of the Rasp Pi that the Pine is intended to be a competitor. The price for the most basic Pine A64 (not the A64+) is $15, which buys a board with a 64-bit quad-core mobile processor, a 1.2GHz ARMv8 Cortex-A53 Allwinner 64-bit processor, a dual-core Mali 400 MP2 GPU, and 512MB of DDR3 memory. The board comes with a 10/100Mbps Ethernet adapter, two USB 2.0 ports, and an HDMI 1.4 connection, which can be used to display videos at up to 4K resolution.

One step up from the most basic Pine model is the A64+ for $19. It has double the main memory at 1GB and features a Gigabit Ethernet port and three additional ports for camera, touch screen devices, and a Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) video display for features like a Camera Serial Interface (CSI) and Display Serial Interface (DSI). The Pine A64+ for $29 offers 2GB of RAM and integrated WiFi.

Delivery and other costs such as any applicable taxes and customs duties may be added to the price for each board. To get the A64+ to Germany, the total amounted to about $55, because the Pine A64 is not yet sold here. It is unclear when this little Pine will be coming to the shelves of European retailers.


You have numerous distributions from which to choose for each of the Rasp Pi models tested. In addition to the standard Raspbian, you can get general-purpose images for various iterations of Ubuntu. Other examples of available choices include Arch Linux, PiBang, RISC OS, and Gentoo. Media centers like Libre/OpenELEC, OSMC, and Xbian are also popular. Current kernels may support the distributions, but they are presently frozen for the RPi3 at 32-bit images. Aside from all of these, Windows 10 IoT and Chromium OS can be used with the RPi3.

The Hardkernel company, manufacturer of the Odroid-C2, offers an Ubuntu 16.04 image with Maté [6] for the desktop in a 64-bit version based on kernel 3.14. Additionally, it makes Android 5.1.1 [7] available. The community also offers Odrobian based on Debian 8 "jessie," and an Arch image. The OpenELEC fork LibreELEC [8] makes a good media center. Hardkernel is working together with the CPU manufacturer Amlogic and the very active Odroid Community to develop a 4.4 LTS kernel for the Amlogic S905 SoC on the C2. The first parts of the code are already flowing into the Linux Next branch for the official kernel [9].

The official Linux distributions used for Pine A64 are Xubuntu 16.04 and Debian 8 with Maté [10]. Android 5.1.1 and Remix OS 2.0 Beta are also suitable. Again, the kernel is version 3.14. It is not yet clear when the Allwinner A64 will cooperate with current kernels. Collaboration between the kernel developers and Allwinner, the CPU manufacturer, is probably not a realistic expectation.

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