The Pine 64

Pine 64Just a quicky this morning as I’m busy working on a LED for the thermostat control (thanks to some help from the author – I’m quite excited)  as well as bench-testing some NanoPi 64 and M3 units.

So what you see here is the Pine 64 – which, like the FriendlyArm NanoPi64 uses a quad-core 64-bit CPU. This particular board has 1GB RAM (max 2GB)and is missing the Bluetooth/WIFI module ( the pins on the right side).

I’m having trouble with this one – that is, seeing the point of it.  As the photo depicts it is BIG – chopped up you could easily fit three Orange Pi Zeros into the same space and at least 2 M3 boards (the ones behind).

So to be fair, it DOES have a beta (if you like using beta software) Android 7 available – I’ve installed it, it works but is not stunningly fast – no-where near as fast as a typical mobile phone for example) – and not too many board manufacturers can claim that (this release of Android won’t even start up on the NanoPi A64). So if a modern Android is your thing then, well, I guess you’ll find the board useful. There is also a WiringOP for it (GPIO) but I understand that is somewhat incomplete.

If Android is not your thing and you want to do some control stuff, I cannot think of any good reason to go for this rather than something like the much cheaper Orange Pi Zero or perhaps the M1 or M2.

Well, I said it would be a quicky. Oh and the chip gets hot – it needs a heatsink and there are no mounting holes around the processor to fit one.

So – the board with 1GB RAM is only $19 – that’s good right?  But then if you want the Bluetooth and WIFI that comes WITH several other boards, that’s another $10. Add shipping to the UK and you are now looking at $40. With the current atrocious conversion rate you could buy a Raspberry Pi 3 for that. Go for the 2GB version and you’ll looking at $50+

I’m thinking at the roughly $50 price range – perhaps the Odroid C2 wipes the floor with this? What do you think?

So – what did I miss? Why would one want one of these? Someone enlighten me… there have to be some plus points?

Right –back to fitting a LED to my thermometer gauge.

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10 thoughts on “The Pine 64

  1. I got one of these in the KickStarter. The size is hilarious. I don't think anyone realised how big it was going to be. I also love the fact that the whole board is warped, it's so thin 😉

    But much worse is that they are 100% reliant on the "community" for all of the OS work. They seem to think that community = "find some poor schmucks to do the software for free".

    So there is a smattering of various unofficial Linux ports, all built on the work of one individual, plus a couple of barely usable Android ports. Meanwhile they keep bringing out new hardware products.

    Compare this to the superb OS work done by the C.H.I.P. guys.

    My new rule for buying/backing boards is mainline kernel support and dedicated software employees or forget about it. Which makes the list very short indeed.

    1. Hi Connor - I think this is the case with most of them. Take someone with good SMT PCB design skills, get the manufacturer's notes, put out a board and hope for the best.... the claims of most are ridiculous - all the features yet in most cases, many of the features are completely un-usable except to a tiny number of people able to go in and doctor the operating system - case in point, GPIO, VERY few of the boards out there are able to make use of the GPIO with I2c, PCI, PWM etc... indeed the Raspberry Pi is one of VERY few that has this and even THAT relies on community support.

      Of course it depends what you want out of these things - but I do think there should be some law against misleading advertising when it comes to facilities. One could advertise that modern computers contain artificial intelligence - well, they would if you could write the software - similarly to claim "Raspberry Pi compatible" - when the only thing that is compatible is the connector, featuring pins you have no easy way to access - is completely wrong. With several of these boards I have tried all sorts of ways to turn pins on and off and get I2c, PWM etc working - no software is provided and no examples are provided... so effectively the GPIO may as well not be there.

      Still - that's what blogs like this and comments such as yours are all about - putting the record straight.

    2. It doesn't change much but only all the Linux stuff has been done by community. Their official Android images (not the one Pete tested) were provided by Allwinner (which isn't an advantage if you look behind the scenes -- Allwinner still ships with brain-dead thermal settings which leads to killed CPU cores pretty fast instead of throttling).

      After one year of Pine64 availability situation with mainline kernel is still not perfect (missing PMIC support which means using kernel 4.9 or 4.10 you're limited to 816 or maybe 864 MHz CPU clockspeed) but at least you can build Debian or Ubuntu images yourself (utilizing Armbian's build system). With kernel 4.9 in headless mode USB and network performance is quite nice but due to the low count of USB ports I would prefer H5 over A64 for such use cases.

      Funnily currently H5 is already better supported than A64 with mainline kernel due to H5 being just a H3 with the same Cortex-A53 CPU cores as A64. So the only H5 device available now (OPi PC 2) currently runs better with mainline kernel than with Allwinner's legacy kernel (that's why I question that 'dedicated software employees' help in all cases -- here it's quite the opposite)

  2. The SanDisk SD card you're using is known for pretty low random I/O and that's the reason Android feels sluggish (google for 'fsync android' to get the idea). In Pine64 forum people reported that Android was close to unusable when they used SD cards they thought were quality cards (Kingston, PNY, SanDisk, all 'class 10') but unfortunately most of the 'class 10' cards are slow as hell when it's about random I/O performance. As soon as they replaced their SD cards with Samsung EVO + (recommended over there) it was a difference like night and day.

    Regarding interchanging OS images for different A64 devices I thought again and since A64 is accompanied by AXP803 power management unit which has A) to be set up correctly since this IC provides various chips with different voltages and B) the various A64 based boards use different voltages maybe this is the main reason why they fail to boot on different devices.

    Anyway as already explained I consider A64 being pretty boring in the meantime (was different one year ago when we started supporting Pine64) especially since none of the available boards is priced competitively. If I would want a slow quad-core Allwinner Cortex-A53 again then clearly Orange Pi PC 2 would be the device of choice since device+shipping remain below EU VAT redemption treshold (€23) so you end up with half the price compared to A64 devices where you would've to add customs + VAT (at least here).

    BTW: This is not a general recommendation since software support for OPi PC 2, especially the one from the manufacturer, isn't that great ATM. Funnily a hardware vendor now spending more money on (internally developed) software seems to be responsible for worse software results compared to before where all the relevant stuff has been done by community. I tried to explain it over there: http://www.orangepi.org/orangepibbsen/forum.php?mod=redirect&goto=findpost&ptid=2221&pid=17371

    1. I generally use Sandisk Ultra and EVO - the EVO+ were more expensive - but as you've clearly messed around with these more than I have - I'll go off and get a couple of EVO+ to play with.. Yes, I saw the difference in speed on other boards when I used the onboard EMMC - makes a VERY noticeable difference but of course many boards won't do EMMC...

      But before I go off using up my play money... I'm having issues finding smalled EVO+ - even the 16GB seem more expensive than the 32GB.

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Samsung-Memory-MicroSDHC-UHS-I-Adapter/dp/B00WIMBZGQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484822496&sr=8-2&keywords=evo%2B+32gb

      So - any recommendations for cheapest EVO+ - anything 8GB upwards will do.

      1. Please be aware of https://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/954-sd-card-performance/?p=23359 (no idea whether this is genuine Samsung or a 'good' counterfeit card -- without more people reporting it's hard to tell).

        I would buy, test with the iozone commands from the thread's 1st post and if you're not satisfied sending the cards back. But one of the problems is that Samsung (as nearly every other SD card vendor out there) doesn't talk about random I/O performance. It's always just sequential speed in specs (nice if you use SD cards in cameras or video recorders, almost meaningless when we're talking about Android or a 'Desktop Linux').

      2. Unfortunately EVO and EVO+ =>32GB have better performance then the smaller ones (I'm not sure about 16GB).
        In Poland EVO+ are cheaper then EVO (this changes for =>128GB)

  3. Hi Pete,

    I was one of the early bird supporters of the Pine 64 kickstarter campaign and at the time it made much more sense than it does now as this was before the Raspberry Pi 3 and before some of the more recent "insert fruit name of your choice here" SBCs that have appeared recently.

    I found the Pine 64 to be a pretty quick Linux box and it looks funky in the plywood case that I bought for it. I'm not using it right now so that probably says something...but I will find a use for it as it's no slouch. I went for the "plus" version with the extra RAM.

  4. ...I will concede though - the Pine A64 is mahooooosive in comparison with the NanoPi and OrangePi boards I've played with since. I think the A64 was my first non-Raspberry SBC so I was pretty excited at the time. I've dabbled a lot more since so am older and wiser.

    I was less impressed with my LattePanda which just runs hot and slow - and I had to hand build a Heath Robinson heatsink/fan arrangement just to feel confident running the thing with the people behind the Kickstarter campaign seemingly nonchalant about the whole lack of cooling provision issue.

  5. The PCB of pine64 is so big, I prefer Odroid C2. actually an ODroid C2 is running happily on my desk, working as a home server. The only problem I met in C2 is the boot partition often got file corruption in emmc. I didn't try to use sd card in C2

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