Another tiny, low-cost computer has emerged to challenge the Raspberry Pi, this time promising better performance for a lower price.
The Libre Computer Project's 'Le Potato' is the second board in a month to offer 4K video playback at 60FPS on a $25 board.
Like the recent Rock64 board, Le Potato's video capabilities go beyond the $35 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and its 1080 video playback, with Le Potato supporting 4K60 video playback and HDR10, via HDMI 2.0.
Le Potato's quad-core, ARM Cortex A53-based Amlogic S905X system-on-a-chip has cores clocked at 1.5GHz and, according to Libre Computer, is "50 percent faster" than the quad-core, 1.2GHz, A53-based Broadcom chip in the Pi 3.
The Le Potato board will run Android 'Nougat' 7.1, and Libre Computer claims it has better general performance in Android than the Pi 3, listing a GeekBench multi-core benchmark score of 1902 for Le Potato versus 1302 for the Pi 3.
While the $25 Le Potato board has 1GB memory, the computer is available with double the RAM of the Pi 3, with the 2GB version selling for $39, $35 for early backers. A $65 version of the computer will include an active-cooling case with a heatsink.
However the board lacks the built-in support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth found on the Raspberry Pi 3, and is missing the Pi's DSI and CSI interfaces. Le Potato also only supports 100Mbps Ethernet, the same as the Pi 3, although performance should benefit from Ethernet not sharing a bus with USB, as is the case on the Pi.
Out of the box, Le Potato will support a range of operating systems: including Android 7.1 and 6.0, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Linux 4.9 and Debian 9 with Linux 4.9. The board will have mainline Linux kernel 4.9 LTS support. Within a few months of launch, a working version of the Raspberry Pi's official OS Raspbian will be released, alongside RetroArch, LibreELEC and Debian 8. Libre Computer says that Le Potato will also have basic upstream support in Linux kernel 4.13.
Libre Computer claims Le Potato is also faster than the Asus Tinkerboard and the Pine A64+. However, Le Potato's specs look less favorable compared to the forthcoming Rock64 board, which as well as having 4K60 video playback, offers a single USB 3.0 port and Gigabit Ethernet for $25, and is available from the end of this month.
Like the Pi 3, Le Potato has a 40-pin header for adding hardware to the board, with the board's similar size allowing it to fit Pi 3 cases.
Even though the Pi's hardware is gradually being outclassed by competitors, the attraction of the Pi was never owning the fastest board around. A key selling point for the Pi is its accessibility to new users and ease of use out of the box relative to rival boards, due to the extensive range of software, projects and community support that have grown up around the multi-million selling board since it launched five years ago. The Pi also has a reputation for remaining useable years after purchase, thanks to its ongoing support. That legacy support was recently given a boost by the development of open-source drivers for the Pi's VideoCore GPU.
Le Potato has currently raised about $14,500 towards its $25,000 goal on Kickstarter, and Libre Computer says it will make the boards available directly via retail if it misses its target. The computer is expected to be available to Kickstarter backers from August and to the wider public from October.
- CPU: Quad-core, ARM Cortex A53-based Amlogic S905X SoC with cores clocked at 1.5GHz
- Memory: 1/2GB
- GPU: Mali-450
- Display: HDMI 2.0
- Ports: 4 USB 2.0 Type A
- Network: RJ45 100Mb Fast Ethernet
- Other: CVBS, Infrared Receiver, S/PDIF Header UART Header, I2S + ADC Header, 40 Pin Header for PWM, I2C, I2S, SPI, GPIO, eMMC Daughter Board Connector
- Storage: MicroSD Card Slot with UHS Support
- 3D video: OpenGL ES 2.0
- Video codecs: Hardware decoding for VP9 P2 4K60, H.265 MP10@L5.1 4K60, H.264 HP@L5.1 4K30, JPEG/MJPEG. Hardware encoding for H.264 1080P60 and JPEG/MJPEG
Read more about the Raspberry Pi
- Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide
- GCHQ builds monster Raspberry Pi cloud with OctaPi formation (ZDNet)
- Raspberry Pi 3: The inside story from the new $35 computer's creator
- Raspberry Pi in 2017: New boards, new OSes and more
- Choosing a Raspberry Pi OS? Here's the definitive list
- Raspberry Pi rival delivers a 4K Android computer for just $25
- Raspberry Pi and Docker: Tiny $35 computer gets major new release of HypriotOS (ZDNet)
- Turn any hard drive into networked storage with Raspberry Pi (CNET)
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.