Tech giant Asus is taking on the Raspberry Pi with its own DIY-friendly single-board computer that’s said to offer 4K video playback and 24-bit audio support in exchange for a hefty £55 price tag.
Dubbed the “Asus 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board,” or (thankfully) the “Tinker Board” for short, the 8.5cm by 5.3cm computer features a quad-core Arm Cortex A17 CPU running at 1.8GHz, ARM Mali-T764 GPU, and 2GB of DDR3 memory. The most recent revision of the Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, sports a 64-bit Cortex A53 quad-core processor. The A17 in the Tinker Board only supports 32-bit instructions.
However, the Mali-T764 GPU inside the Tinker Board is more powerful than the Broadcom VideoCore IV inside the Pi 3. There’s hardware support for H.265 4K decoding instead of just 1080p, and Asus claims it pulls in almost double the benchmark score in Geekbench, which should equate to better 3D performance. Other niceties include gigabit Ethernet, support for SDIO 3.0, and swappable antennas for the built-in 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module.
Both single-board computers are almost exactly the same size, and at first glance it appears that the GPIO pins and mounting holes are in the same positions, suggesting the Tinker Board wants to be a drop-in replacement for the Raspberry Pi.
Despite the Tinker Board’s support for 4K video, it’s worth noting that while you can watch any 4K videos you’ve downloaded/created with H.264 or H.265 encoding (also known as High Efficiency Video Coding), Netflix streaming is still off the table. Currently, only Intel Kaby Lake and Windows 10-based PCs sport the necessary DRM-decoding hardware and software to stream 4K Netflix, leaving dedicated streamers like the Chromecast Ultra or Nvidia Shield the only other option.
Asus has released its own OS for the Tinker Board, which is based upon the same Debian distribution as the Raspberry Pi OS. It also claims to be working on support for the likes of Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and Kodi, but has offered no release date. A large part of the appeal of the Raspberry Pi is its software support and community, which is expected to grow further following the release of the PIXEL Linux desktop for x86 PCs. Asus, on the other hand, will be starting its community from scratch.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK