Orange Pi Zero single-board computer ships
The developer board includes a quad-core ARM processor and Wi-Fi, reveals
A new Raspberry Pi competitor called Orange Pi Zero has been launched. It can be used to make electronics or robots, or it can fill in as a file or media server.
Such developer boards are also used to create and test industrial devices.
The computer is a competitor to the minuscule Raspberry Pi Zero, a stripped down version. However, the Orange Pi Zero has better hardware with a faster processor and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Don’t expect it to deliver booming performance or be a full-fledged PC replacement. If you’re looking for a powerful board computer, consider buying the Raspberry Pi 3.
The Orange Pi Zero has a quad-core Allwinner ARM Cortex-A7 processor, which in recent years has been used to power low-end and mid-range smartphones and tablets.
It also uses ARM’s Mali 400 MP2 graphics processor, which is capable of processing high-definition video. Shenzhen Xunlong, the developer of the board, claims it can handle H.265 4K video, but the board isn’t built for that. The Orange Pi Zero also doesn’t have a display out port. The tiny computer includes an SD card slot and 256MB of memory. A model with 512MB of memory ships. In addition, it includes 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and ethernet networking capabilities. It also has expansion slots and pins to attach other boards and a USB 2.0 host port.
The unparalleled success of the Raspberry Pi has created a sea of competitors, many of which have appeared on the market from the industrious technologists of China. The latest of these companies is Shenzhen Xunlong Software, which has created what it claims is an ‘open source’ Raspberry Pi-like single-board computer (SBC) dubbed the Orange Pi Review.
Like Lemaker’s Banana Pi, the Orange Pi Review is exactly what the name suggests: a riff on the Raspberry Pi theme, but using a more readily available system-on-chip (SoC) processor compared with the restricted-supply Broadcom BCM2835/2836. That SoC. in this instance, is the H3, a quad-core 1.6CHz Cortex-A7 part featuring an integrated Mali-400MP2 graphics processor and a shared 1GB of DDR3 memory.
Like most low-cost Chinese SBCs, the Orange Pi Review attempts to differentiate itself from its inspiration through the inclusion of additional features: 8GB of on-board eMMC flash storage is included as standard on the model reviewed, as is a SATA 2.0 port – complete with 5V power supply pins – for storage beyond the micro-SD card slot. Meanwhile, a Realtek RTL8189ETV offers integrated 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support through a bundled dipole antenna, and there’s even an on-board microphone and an infrared receiver.
The features it does share with the Raspberry Pi are typically tweaked: the four USB ports are fully standards-compliant USB 2 connectors with no power limitations, while the wired Ethernet port offers a Gigabit connection (more on that later), and a power switch too. A 40-pin header replicates the pin-out of the Raspberry Pi’s CPIO, and using Raspbian – one of the available operating systems, along with Lubuntu, Debian and Android- it’s possible to use Raspberry Pi and Pi+ accessories, albeit with some mounting difficulties thanks to the board’s different shape.Initially, the Orange PI Review looked promising; booting from Raspbian installed to a 64GB micro-SD card (not supplied), I ran a SysBench CPU test that showed the All Winner H3 outperforming the already impressive Broadcom BCM2836 of the Raspberry Pi 2 – a total execution time of 72.76 seconds beat the Pi 2’s 74.48 seconds, as did its single-threaded 95th percentile time of 22.27ms compared to 29.65ms. For CPU-laden tasks, the Orange PI Review is ahead.
Network performance too, was a great improvement over that of the Raspberry Pi 2. Connected to a Gigabit network through the on-board RJ45 port and transferring an uncompressible file via netcat, the Orange Pi Review managed a throughput of 677.2Mb/sec – below what you would expect from a true Gigabit connection, but far in excess of the 89.72Mb/sec the Pi 2’s 10/100 port can manage. The bandwidth limit appears, as in many cheap SBC designs, to be a hard limit; the network port is heavily CPU-limited, and during data transfer, you can expect to see one of the four cores sitting at around 70 per cent load.
Slightly boosted CPU performance and a massive improvement in network throughput look good for using the Orange Pi Review as a network server, but there’s one area in which the design doesn’t improve over its inspiration: power draw. Where the Raspberry Pi 2 draws around 0.37A under CPU-only load, dropping to 0.19 A at idle, the Orange Pi Review recorded a far higher 0.65A under CPU-only load and 0.44A at idle. Sure, for mains-powered applications it’s a lightweight device – but anyone hoping to run it on battery power should take note.It’s clear that the Orange Pi Review is designed for home theatre use, where it works well. HDMI CEC is supported, while the infrared receiver can – with a little fiddling and hacking – be used for remote controls if your HDMI display doesn’t pass CEC data back down the line. Running Android, video is accelerated and smooth while the wireless connection makes it easy to install in areas where wired networking isn’t available. Unlike the Raspberry Pi, though, there’s no Kodi (XBMC) image available.
One major selling point of the Orange Pi Review over the Raspberry Pi is its claim to be open source and, sure enough, free membership of the official website at www.orangepi.org allows you to download schematics and mechanical drawings that would, in theory, allow you to produce your own ones. Source code is also provided for certain All Winner-themed portions of the firmware.As with many Chinese Pi-alikes, getting your hands on an Orange Pi Review is – at present – a question of importing. As the Orange Pi Plus Review, while the Orange Pi Mini 2 – lacking SATA. Both prices exclude VAT, but in both cases you may be charged VAT and a handling fee upon receipt.