With the Raspberry Pi 4 at least a year away, Asus' £55 board offers a stopgap for those looking for more power.
The Raspberry Pi has a new rival, the more powerful but slightly pricier Asus Tinker Board.
The Asus Tinker Board has a faster processor and more memory than the Raspberry Pi 3, but sells for £55 ($68), considerably more than the £33 or $35 Pi 3.
Asus' board 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.
One online benchmark claims the Tinker Board is almost two times faster than the Pi 3 in Geekbench, with Asus' offering racking up a score of 3925 compared to the Pi's 2092, as well as being faster when reading from and writing to storage.
While the Pi 3's processor is based on a 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.
Asus' offering provides an alternative to Pi users while they wait for a performance upgrade, as the Pi's co-creator Eben Upton has warned it will likely be at least 2018 before a new Raspberry Pi board is released. He also cautioned against expecting the Pi 3 to get a memory bump in the near future.
The Tinker Board also outstrips the Pi's specs by supporting 4k video, Gigabit Ethernet and 192kHz/24-bit audio.
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. The Tinker Board also packs four USB 2.0 ports.
Much as is possible with the Pi 3, the Tinker Board can be used as a PC replacement or a media center, with Asus' board supporting a custom version of the Linux-based Debian operating system and the open-source media center software Kodi. However, it won't run Raspbian, the Raspberry Pi's official, Debian-based OS.
Asus is also touting the machine as a board for makers, with the Tinker Board also packing a 40-pin header with 28 general-purpose input output (GPIO) pins. These GPIO pins allow the board to control a range of hardware, and in the Pi have allowed the board to be used in modding projects ranging from robots to book scanners. Another consideration for makers is battery drain, and the Tinker Board's max power consumption is five watts.
Today the Pi has a range of competitors, which replicate the board's design but either at a higher spec or at a lower price.
However, as with other Pi rivals, the Tinker Board won't enjoy the range of software and community support that has grown up around the Pi since it launched almost five years ago. Buying a Pi also has the advantage of supporting the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity committed to furthering computer science education.
The Tinker Board is currently out of stock but is expected to be available from CPC from January 30th.
Read more about the Raspberry Pi
- Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide
- 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
- New Raspberry Pi board: Compute Module 3 means you'll see Pi in more products
- 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)