Hardware

An $89 Raspberry Pi rival that runs full Windows 10 and Android

The UP Core is a single-board computer that seemingly offers better performance than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, at a price.

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The UP Core board.

Image: UP

A low-cost, pocket-sized computer released this year will run Android Marshmallow and the full version of Windows 10.

The UP Core is a single-board computer that will run a range of operating systems, including ubilinux (Debian), Ubuntu and Yocto, and seemingly offers better performance than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

However, that additional power comes at a cost. While the Pi 3 sells for $35, the UP Core is on sale from €69/$89.

The $89 computer has a quad-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, 1GB memory and 16GB eMMC storage. The computer is available with additional storage and up to 4GB of memory, but the 4GB model will cost €129 ($145).

Tests of the board that preceded the UP Core, known simply as the UP board, suggest the UP Core will outperform the Pi 3, which is based on a quad-core 1.2GHz ARM-based Broadcom processor.

The UP board was found to significantly outstrip the performance of the Pi, both in the JavaScript benchmark Octane, which gives an indication of web-browsing performance, and in how quickly it compiled a program.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide

The UP Core board's performance should be identical to the UP board, as it is based on the same system-on-a-chip, while being slightly smaller than its predecessor.

The UP Core is not as straightforward to use as a computer out of the box as the Pi 3. While the UP Core has a HDMI and 5V power supply port, it only includes a single USB 3.0 port. Those who want to add more peripherals can either do so via Bluetooth or by adding ports to the 2 x USB 2.0 header. The board also supports 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The UP Core joins the Asus Tinker board as one of a number of alternatives available to Pi users while they wait for a performance upgrade, as the Pi's co-creator Eben Upton has warned it is likely to be at least 2018 before a new Raspberry Pi board is released.

For hardware hackers, the UP Core is more expandable than the Raspberry Pi 3, with 100 pins available for hooking up additional boards and other custom hardware, compared with the 40-pin header available on the Pi. The UP Core's high-speed expansion connector includes pins for UART, SPI, 2 x USB HSIC, PCI-Express, GPIO, Intel Sensors Hub, SDIO and 5V Power.

The makers of the UP Core say there is also a growing ecosystem of third-party hardware and software that works well with the board, allowing it to be used for industrial automation, vending, digital signage, IoT, home automation and robotics.

However, as with other Pi rivals, the UP Core won't enjoy the range of software and community support that has grown up around the multi-million selling Pi since it launched five years ago. One review of the predecessor to the UP Core, the UP board, mentions the difficulty of getting software to work out of the box relative to the Pi. Buying a Pi also has the advantage of supporting the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity committed to furthering computer-science education.

The UP Core is fully funded on Kickstarter and expected to begin shipping to backers from August this year.

The organization that makes the UP Core also sells various cases and stackable expansions boards.

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Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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