Innovation

New Raspberry Pi challenger promises 7x the speed at 2x the price, with Android 9 Pie, USB 3.0, 4K video

The Odroid-N2 single-board computer should be one of the fastest sub-$100 computers available.

The new Odroid-N2 single-board computer was revealed today, with specs that promise to make it one of the fastest sub-$100 computers available.

The long-awaited replacement to last year's cancelled Odroid-N1 is built around a system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed for high-end Android TV appliances, the Amlogic S922X.

The ace up the $63 board's sleeve is its performance, courtesy of four 1.8GHz Arm Cortex A73-based processors and two 1.9GHz Arm Cortex A53-based processors, with the SoC able to switch tasks between processors to save energy.

These newer Arm Cortex A73 processors promise better sustained performance, as they are able to run at their 1.8GHz top speed for longer periods without being throttled to reduce temperatures when under heavy load, thanks to being manufactured using a 12nm process technology.

In tests, the board's makers Hardkernel show the CPU running about 7x faster than a Raspberry Pi 3 across several benchmarks, although they don't specify whether it's a Model B or the slightly faster Model B+. It should also outperform recently announced boards based on the Rockchip RK3399 chipset, such as the Rock Pi 4.

odroidn2test.png
Image: Hardkernel


The A73's ARMv8 architecture also supports hardware-accelerated crypto extensions.

As with most single-board computers, the Odroid N2 is a board for developers working on software and hardware projects, but has a wide range of potential uses, including as a media center, file server or even as an everyday computer.

The Odroid-N2 trumps the specs of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, using far faster DDR4 memory clocked at 1320MHz and offering up to 4GB RAM, four times that of the Pi's flagship board.

Graphics and display wise, the 846MHz Mali-G52 GPU promises better 2D and 3D performance, and is designed for smooth playback of 4K video, specifically 60FPS of H.265-encoded footage, as well as supporting various HDR video formats.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The inside story of the $35 computer

There's also four USB 3.0 ports, compared to USB 2.0 on the Pi 3 B+, and true Gigabit Ethernet, compared to a max throughput of about 300Mbps on the Pi 3 B+. One downside for the Odroid-N2 relative to the Pi 3 B+, however, is the lack of wireless connectivity.

For storage, you can add up to 128GB eMMC Flash via a module connector, alongside the Odroid's microSD card slot. The Odroid can also boot from on-board SPI memory instead of uSD memory or eMMC cards and a real-time clock allows it to wake up at a set time.

The board offers a 40-pin header for hooking it up to other electronic hardware, with various improvements over earlier Odroid boards, including a faster SPI bus interface with a maximum frequency of more than 150MHz.

The Odroid-N2 runs the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS operating system, which will be officially supported until January 2023, with Hardkernel saying it has a hardware-accelerated video decoder ready for the Odroid-N2 that can play 4K H.265-encoded video at 60FPS.

Android 9 Pie is also ready to run on the board, and Hardkernel says it will release a full source code BSP and pre-built image soon.

Unlike many single-board computer makers, Hardkernel has a good reputation for providing stable operating system images for its boards. The company says it is continuing to work on a 64-bit Android system with Vulkan capable GPU driver, as well as a Linux Wayland driver for Ubuntu 18.04. There is no X11 GPU driver due to Arm no longer supporting the X11 Window System on the type of GPUs used on the Odroid, although Hardkernel says it hopes the Panfrost open-source driver can be ported to the board "soon".

As usual, however, the Raspberry Pi remains the easiest board for novice users to get started with, due to the strength of its community, the wealth of user guides and tutorials, and broad suite of supported operating systems and software.

The Odroid-N2 is also around double the price of the flagship Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, costing $63 for 2GB version and $79 for the 4GB model. It will go on sale from late March and ship from early April, with no plans to accept pre-orders.

odroidn2board.jpg

The Odroid-N2.

Image: Hardkernel

Odroid-N2 Specs

Form Factor Dimensions: 90mm x 90mm x 17mm
Heatsink Dimensions: 100mm x 91mm x 24mm
Weight: 190g including heatsink
Processor CPU: Amlogic S922X Processor (12nm) Quad-core Cortex-A73(1.8Ghz) and Dual-core Cortex-A53(1.9Ghz). ARMv8-A architecture with Neon and Crypto extensions
GPU: Mali-G52 GPU with 6 x Execution Engines (846Mhz)
Memory 2GB or 4GB DDR4 with 32-bit bus width
Data rate: 2640 MT/s (PC4-21333 grade) 1.2Volt low power design
Storage 1 x eMMC connector (8G, 16G, 32G, 64G and 128G are available)
1 x microSD slot (DS/HS modes up to UHS-I SDR104)
Networking 1 x GbE LAN ports (RJ45, supports 10/100/1000 Mbps) - Realtek RTL8211F (Ethernet transceiver) - LED indicators (Green: 100mbps, Amber: 1000mbps connection)
Optional WiFi USB adapters
Video 1 x HDMI 2.1 (up to 4K@60Hz with HDR, CEC, EDID)
1 x Composite video (3.5mm jack)
Audio 1 x Stereo Audio line-out (3.5mm jack)
1 x HDMI digital output
1 x Optional SPDIF optical output
External I/O 4 x USB 3.0 Host ports (shares one single root hub)
1 x USB 2.0 OTG port for Host or Device mode. (No power input)
1 x Debug serial console (UART)
1 x Peripheral Expansion Header (40-pin, 2.54mm pitch) -
2 x DC 5V, 2 x DC 3.3V, 1 x DC 1.8V, 8 x GND - 1 x SPI - 1 x UART - 2 x I2C - 25 x GPIO (Max) - 2 x ADC input (10bit, 1.8V Max) - All 3.3V I/O signal level except for ADC input at max 1.8Volt.
Other features On board RTC(Real Time Clock), IC to keep date and time
8MiB SPI Flash for future BIOS implementation
IR receiver for remote controller
Built with a large passive heatsink System
LEDS Indicators: - Red (PWR) - Solid light when DC power is connected - Blue (ALIVE) - Flashing like heartbeat while Kernel is running.
Active Cooling Fan Connector (5V 2-pin) - Optional 60x60mm Active Cooling Fan - Connector (2-pin, 1.25mm pitch)
Power 1 x DC jack : outer (negative) diameter 5.5mm, inner(positive) diameter 2.1mm
DC 7.5V ~ 20V (up to 25W) - DC 12V/2A power adaptor is recommended
Power consumption: - IDLE : ≃ 1.9W (Performance governor) - CPU Stress : ≃ 5.5W - Power-off : ≃ 0.2W

Read more about single-board computers

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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