ODROID Boards Offer High-End Raspberry Pi Alternatives

odroid_feat

There’s no question that the Raspberry Pi is everyone’s favorite ARM development board right now: it’s cheap, silent, and exceptionally power efficient. The Raspberry Pi makes an excellent choice for low-energy applications like personal servers, routers, firewalls, environmental monitoring setups, etc, etc.

But the Raspberry Pi has one big downside, it’s a fairly slow machine. With only 512 MB of RAM (if you have one of the newer builds) and a 700 MHz ARM, it certainly isn’t doing a lot of heavy lifting. Its dedicated GPU makes it possible to do things like playback HD video, but in terms of raw computational power, the Raspberry Pi is definitely lacking.

Luckily there are a few small profile boards out there with considerable horsepower that won’t break the bank. They might not be $35, but they still deliver a serious value in terms of performance to cost.

One of the latest entries in the field are the new ODROID boards, which deliver high-end performance with the cutting edge quad-core Samsung Exynos processor.

ODROID-U

The base model ODROID is known as the ODROID-U, and features the same processor as the very popular Samsung Galaxy S3 phone:

  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 4412 Cortex-A9 Quad Core @ 1.4Ghz
  • RAM: 1GB LP-DDR2
  • GPU: Mali-400 Quad Core 400MHz
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
  • Micro-SD
  • Dimensions : 48 x 52 mm

ODROID-U/U2

The ODROID-U retails for $69, putting it not far off cost wise from some of the competition. The ODROID-U is set to begin shipping on January 16th, 2013.

ODROID-U2

The updated version of the ODROID-U, the U2 edition slightly bumps up the specs across the board while keeping the same basic features and physical dimensions:

  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 4412 Prime Cortex-A9 Quad Core @ 1.7Ghz
  • RAM: 2 GB LP-DDR2
  • GPU: Mali-400 Quad Core 440MHz
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
  • Micro-SD
  • Dimensions: 48 x 52 mm

It’s worth noting that the Exynos 4412 Prime processor is not the same as the base Exynos 4412. The Prime version of the chip is the same as used in the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

The ODROID-U2 comes in at only $89, which isn’t much of a difference considering the performance upgrade. The U2 edition is probably the better deal between the two, and will likely become the more popular option. It will also be releasing sooner than the cheaper version, on December 21st, 2012.

ODROID-X2

ODROID-X2

If you’re looking for a bit more flexibility you may be interested in the top of the line ODROID-X2. While it retains the same basic hardware specifications of the ODROID-U2, it offers some nice expansion options:

  • CPU: Samsung Exynos 4412 Prime Cortex-A9 Quad Core @ 1.7Ghz
  • RAM: 2 GB LP-DDR2
  • GPU: Mali-400 Quad Core 440MHz
  • 6 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
  • Full Size SD
  • Dimensions: 90 x 94 mm

The full size SD support, expanded USB connectivity, and built-in heatsink may make the X2 version the best choice if you’re looking to turn the ODROID board into some kind of lightweight desktop or media center setup.

But priced at $135, the X2 may seem like a questionable bargain. Are 4 extra USB ports and the ability to use full size SD cards really worth the extra ~$50?

Early adopters might have no choice though, seeing as the X2 releases before all the other versions on December 10th, 2012.

Compatibility and Licensing

All of the ODROID boards are listed as being compatible with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and Ubuntu 12.10, though only Android is currently listed as available and even then only by purchasing an SD card with it pre-installed. No mention is made of how one would actually put Ubuntu  (or any other ARM Linux distro) on these devices, and the chances of stock ARM Ubuntu booting on these boards seems exceedingly remote.

Full source (along with hardware documentation and schematics) are slated to be released once the hardware starts shipping out, which has led to some concerns in the community over possible licensing issues. While it would be nice to see source available up front, there is technically no requirement to release GPL source until you’ve actually started distributing your modified binaries, and of course Android is licensed under Apache 2.0 which doesn’t require source release at all.

Hopefully questions regarding the licensing situation, for hardware and software, will be resolved in the near future. Until then, those who are serious about free and open source software/hardware may want to hold off on their purchase.

Source | ODROID Blog


Tom Nardi

Tom is a Network Engineer with focus on GNU/Linux and open source software. He is a frequent submitter to "2600", and maintains a personal site of his projects and areas of research at: www.digifail.com .

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  • http://profiles.google.com/deanhowell2 Dean Howell

    I love all of these. Currently, the only thing keeping me from pulling the trigger on one of these small ARM boards is gigabit…

  • ahmed

    these are very capable boards with powerful CPUs and plenty of ram but unless there is support for Hardware acceleration , i guess we still to have to wait..

    • Charlie Whitman

      I wondered about that too. If there is a general purpose accelerated Linux driver for the Mali 400 GPU, I’m not aware of it. I have an A10 based device that will boot into Linux, but without acceleration for its Mali 400 GPU.

  • fmo

    Very nice but I’d rather wait for ARM15 based models that will support virtualization

  • niagr

    why wouldn’t it run stock ARM ubuntu?

    • CameronN

      Drivers. The drivers need to be there before the system boots.

      • niagr

        won’t the ARM version of Ubuntu already have the drivers? These look like pretty common components..

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  • CameronN

    Arch Linux ARM supports the former OBOARD-X, hopefully this one will get some love. http://archlinuxarm.org/platforms/armv7/odroid-x

  • andrew

    I’m using a Pandaboard and suffering from two problems.

    One of them is no hardware acceleration of graphic card. So the board is even not able to playback youtube video, while the board specification say it can cope with 1080 video. I know that this problem is caused by lack of driver in operation system. But I still hope the board hardware community can provide a useful operation system that can squeeze all potentials of board out.

    The other problem is lack of SATA port for hard disk. Trust me, the SD card is the bottleneck of this board. An operation system booted from SD card is too lag to be acceptable. You will be always waiting for response from computer before the monitor. I really need several SATA ports so we can connect my hard disks to the board, and then the board can be used as a NAS or something else.

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