Hardware

Raspberry Pi challenger? Huawei's turbo-charged HiKey 960 runs Android but at a hefty price

Huawei's new HiKey 960 single-board computer has an octo-core processor and supports the latest version of Android.

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HiKey has double the number of CPU cores and about twice the peak clock speed of the Pi.

Image: Linaro

If you're after an Android PC, and don't mind forking out the cash, then the Huawei HiKey 960 might be the board you've been looking for.

The tiny single-board computer packs the same octa-core chipset found in the Huawei Mate 9 smartphone, whose performance lags only slightly behind the Google Pixel XL in tests.

Running the latest in ARM-based hardware, the HiKey is a very different board to the Pi, but for those who are interested, here's how they compare. HiKey has double the number of CPU cores and about twice the peak clock speed of the Pi, as well as triple the Pi's 1GB memory. While the HiKey's Mali-G71 GPU can output 4K graphics, the board has a HDMI 1.2a port, which can output a maximum of 1,080p.

The board runs the base Android Open Source Project (AOSP) variant of the OS, including the latest Nougat (7.1) release, provided you're comfortable loading Android onto the device yourself.

The very different nature of Huawei's board to the $35 Pi is also reflected in the HiKey's $239 retail price, almost seven times that of the Pi.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide

Another factor distinguishing the two boards is that the HiKey 960 is aimed at a different market to the Pi. The Pi is something of a jack of all trades, able to run as a everyday desktop PC at a pinch, but primarily a pocket-sized toolkit for hardware and software hackers, running a range of Linux-based OSes and even a cutdown version of Windows.

Meanwhile, the HiKey 960 is designed as an Android-powered PC, primarily aimed at those developing software for the OS.

"We expect that developers will be excited to get access to the latest ARM CPU and GPU technology, as well as new features such as a PCIe M.2 card interface for additional high-performance storage or wireless cards, all running using the latest AOSP builds," said Benjamin Wang, deputy general manager of Huawei Wireless Terminal Chipset Business Unit.

Beyond mobile developers, Linaro, an engineering group supported by a range of ARM-based chip designers, says the board will also appeal to those looking to experiment with making products for markets like digital signage, point of sale, robotics and others outside the traditional mobile AOSP space.

Linaro says the board will also continue to support the latest builds of Android, as well as other Linux-based OSes that have been ported to its ARM-based architecture.

"Linaro and Huawei are also working on the Linux 4.9 based Android Common kernel and maintaining support for the Kirin 960 SoC in the mainline kernel.org tree, allowing for the availability of multiple Linux distributions for this board in the future," the group said in a statement.

Available now through Archermind ( Alpha-Star) and LeMaker (Lenovator), the HiKey 960 development board is expected to be available through local distribution in the US, EU and Japan in early May.

Huawei's HiKey 960 specs

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Image: Huawei

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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