Hardware

Raspberry Pi rival: Android friendly, 4K-capable Asus Tinker Board gets upgrade

The new Asus Tinker Board S is broadly similar in spec to the original board, but adds 16GB of eMMC storage, which Asus promises will boost performance.


Asus has souped up its Raspberry Pi rival, the Asus Tinker Board, adding on-board storage it says will make the board even faster.

The new Asus Tinker Board S is broadly similar in spec to the original, but adds 16GB of eMMC storage, which Asus promises will boost performance when reading and writing files over the SD card storage on the original board.

The Tinker Board is both more powerful and more expensive than the Raspberry Pi 3, using a faster processor and offering more memory but costing $79.99, considerably more than the £33 or $35 Pi 3.

As with the original Tinker Board, the S has a quad-core 1.8GHz Rockchip processor, compared to the quad-core 1.2GHz Broadcom processor in the Raspberry Pi 3. The computer also has 2GB of memory, double that of the Pi 3, and uses the faster DDR3 RAM. The original Tinker Board was benchmarked as being almost twice fast as the Pi 3 in Geekbench, and ASUS claims improved CPU, GPU and memory performance over competitors like the Pi.

SEE: Hardware spotlight: The Raspberry Pi

Alongside the addition of onboard storage, Asus highlights various minor new features in the S: HDMI-CEC support to allow a single remote control to be used with both the Tinker Board S and a TV. For hardware hackers, the S bolsters its 40-pin header with 28 general-purpose input output (GPIO) pins with an an power-on pin and enhanced I2S pin with Slave mode, as well as an improved software API. Other changes are low-voltage input detection to avoid power issues and audio jack plug-in detection.

The Tinker Board also beats the Pi's on specs by supporting 4k video, Gigabit Ethernet and 192kHz/24-bit audio.

While the Pi 3's processor is based on a newer, 64-bit architecture, compared to the 32-bit based architecture in the Tinker Board, the Tinker Board's ARM Cortex A17-based chipset has been shown to outperform the Pi 3's ARM Cortex A53-based chipset in certain tests.

Similar to the Pi 3, the Asus board also can handle 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi but adds support for swappable antennas. However while the Pi 3 supports Bluetooth 4.1, the Tinker Board offers Bluetooth 4.0. Like the Pi 3, the Tinker Board also has four USB 2.0 ports.

The Asus Tinker Board S is the latest in a long line of more powerful alternatives to the Raspberry Pi, which is not due an upgrade to the Pi 4 before 2019.

As ever, if you're looking for a low-cost computer that is easy to get started with, then the Raspberry Pi 3 is probably the best choice, due to the Pi's extensive range of operating systems, software, projects and community support.

That said the Tinker Board is better than many competitors in terms of the range of operating systems it supports, including Android 6.0, Kodi-based media-center operating systems and the Chromium OS-based Flint OS. It also has its own Debian 9-based Tinker OS, although its initial release was criticized as being far more bare bones in terms of bundled software than the Pi's official Raspbian OS.

One note of caution, despite many Pi clones now being faster on paper, sometimes the spec sheet doesn't tell the entire story, due to bottlenecks elsewhere in the system.

Revealed at this year's CES event in Las Vegas, the Tinker Board will be available in Q1 of this year for $79.99.

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The Asus Tinker Board S.

Image: ASUS

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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