Most would say the original Raspberry Pi got the single-board computer craze (SBC) going. Since then, the Raspberry Pi got three major hardware revisions, and the market at large has come up with similar devices in countless flavors, including Orange and Banana. According to Hexus, Asus decided to throw its prodigious engineering muscle into the SBC ring with the cheerfully-named Tinker Board, which one-ups the Raspberry Pi 3 with significant connectivity advantages, double the memory, and higher clock speeds.
The Tinker board is powered by a Rockchip RK3288 SoC based on an ARM Cortex-A17 design and running at 1.8 GHz. The Tinker's heart lacks the 64-bit support found in the Pi 3's Broadcom BCM2837 Cortex-A53 chip, but the performance figures Hexus got a hold of show a 3,925-to-2,092 score advantage in GeekBench. Some of that performance difference might be from the 2GB of dual-channel LPDDR3 memory in the Tinker board, versus the Pi's 1GB of DDR2 at 450Mhz. Asus' board includes 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Storage options appear to be limited to microSD cards, just like the Pi.
Those interested in an SBC for a home-brewed media playback machine will like the Tinker's 4K playback support over the HDMI port, via its SoC's Mali-T764 GPU. Asus says its audio solution is superior to the Pi's, with support for 24-bit samples at rates up to 192 kHz. We'll have to wait for third-party testing to hear if the Tinker's analog audio output is an improvement over the Pi's poor singing.
The Tinker Board has the same 3.4" x 2.2" (8.5 cm x 5.6 cm) dimensions as the full-size Raspberry Pis. The 40-pin GPIO header is in the same physical location, but the pinout is unique. We were unable to find official power consumption specifications, but we expect that buyers will need to provide more juice than they would for a Pi 3. In any case, software support is generally more important than hardware in ARM-based SBCs. Asus says the Tinker will support Debian Linux and that the device will be able to run the Kodi media software.
The Tinker Board is available now from several European resellers, though prices are not consistent. We reached out to Asus for a US release date, and we're told to expect the Tinker Board to hit US shores on January 30. The device appears to be selling for £46 before VAT in England, or about $57. As a comparison, the Pi 3 goes for £33 plus VAT in England and $35 in the US.