In the lab: Asus' Tinker Board SBC


— 5:27 PM on February 24, 2017

We wrote about Asus' Tinker Board single-board computer (SBC) for the first time a little over a month ago. The Tinker Board is the first entry from a tier-one PC component manufacturer into the market arguably established by the original Raspberry Pi in 2012. In the intervening time, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released several minor updates and two major revisions of its board to compete against a horde of upstart and Kickstart competitors.

On paper, the Tinker Board has substantial advantages over the current Raspberry Pi 3. The Tinker Board's quad-core Rockchip SoC is clocked 50% faster than the Broadcom unit inside the Pi, though the Pi's chip is a 64-bit-capable ARM Cortex-A53 number against the 32-bit Cortex-A17 in the Tinker. The Asus board's 2GB of memory is double that of the Pi, and the Tinker's box suggests that the memory runs in dual-channel mode. Asus says the Tinker Board is even ready to connect to 4K televisions and decode H.265 video, something the Pi 3 can't do. The Taiwanese terror is packing Gigabit Ethernet, a substantial upgrade over the mid-1990s 100-Mbit capability in the Pi.

Unlike the PC motherboard space, SBC customers usually demand that the hardware manufacturer provide a full operating system for the device. Single board computers aren't the usual fare at TR, and I want to make it clear that software support is where boards like the Tinker live or die. We're going to see exactly what Asus is delivering with the Tinker Board in that regard in our full review.

Getting this SBC has been something of an ordeal. We ordered our Tinker Board from Amazon. Since our device shipped, the Amazon product page was updated to indicate a March 13 release date, then disappeared entirely. Asus' US site has almost no information about the mighty mite, though the company's UK site has a more complete product page with OS image and some information about using the device's general purpose input-output pins. Now that it's in the TR labs, stay tuned for our in-depth take.

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