The Raspberry Pi gets some tough competition from the cubieboard
Published on 09-05-2012 11:19 AM by
Tonymacx86 might be focusing on CustoMacs but we know a lot of you are interested in playing with other hardware too and although we might not the right forum for Linux and Android hack projects, we couldn't resist doing a short news post about the cubieboard. You might be familiar with the Raspberry Pi which is still something of a hype due to its $25 headline price, well, the cubieboard isn't quite as cheap, but it has a lot more potent hardware at its heart.
Admittedly the $25 version of the Raspberry Pi isn't really all that interesting and you really have to opt for the $35 version – which by the way is also more widely available – due to the lack of an Ethernet port and a single USB port on the $25 model. But enough about the Raspberry Pi, let's take a look at the cubieboard, as although it ends up at a slightly more costly $49 price point, we're looking at vastly more potent hardware here.
The cubieboard sports a 1GHz Allwinner A10 SoC (System on a Chip) which is an ARM Cortex-A8 processor core with NEON, VFPv3, 512KB of L2 cache and a Mali400 GPU that sports OpenGL ES support. The Raspberry Pi in comparison sports a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which uses a much older ARM11 processor which is clocked 700MHz which features Broadcoms proprietary Videocore 4 GPU. The cubieboard also sports four times as much memory as the Raspberry Pi, as it comes with 1GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 480MHz. Let's not forget that that $49 also gets you 4GB of on-board NAND flash, sufficient for most operating systems suitable for the platform.
The connectivity options are also better on the cubieboard, as you get an HDMI port, an 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a SATA port (and a 5V SATA power connector), a memory card slot, a pair of audio jacks, an IR (unclear if its IrDA or consumer IR) transmitter/receiver, and a pair of pin-outs for various expansion options. So far the details are slim as to what some things are for, like the mini USB port and a button on the reverse side PCB just below the mini USB port.
The cubieboard is powered via a 5V/2A input, so the board can pull as much as 10W, whereas the $35 Raspberry Pi board is rated at a mere 3.5W, although we're fairly certain that the cubieboard won't draw that much unless you attach a SATA drive to it. Also unlike the Raspberry Pi, the Cubieboard sports a standard power input and doesn't have to be powered via the mini USB port, although this isn't really a major advantage or disadvantage as such. The form factor of the cubieboard appears to be similar to that of the Raspberry Pi, but in our opinion, the connector layout is more logical.
Our biggest concern about the cubieboard is the general lack of detailed information about both the hardware and the company behind the product. We'd hang on ordering one until there have been confirmed delivers, although as of right now it would appear that the order page isn't working either, so we'll see how it all works out. Regardless of this, it looks like an interesting and attractively priced piece of kit for those that are interested in building their own low powered Linux/Android gear, but want a bit more oomph from their hardware than what's on offer from the Raspberry Pi.