The Udoo Neo (www.udoo.org) arrived in my postbag today. Described as “The Ultimate Single Board Mini-PC for Android and Linux” – the Neo is the top end of the range and the full version is $64.90 plus tax/shipping etc. So £45 – probably £60 by the time you’re done – twice the price of the Pi.
At that price, it would have to be good to compete with the Raspberry Pi2.
Well, for starters it has wireless and Bluetooth 4 built-in, so there’s, what, a tenner added to the Pi2 cost if you need this (Pi3 has this built in at the same price) and you don’t have to consider compatibility. It has 1Gig Ram just like the Pi2. Unlike the Pi it can handle a 12v supply and it has an integrated graphics controller which no doubt will help if you want to make yet another media box. There is an analog camera input, microSD of course and microHDMI output. I prefer the full-size version but if space is at a premium… there is, of course, the added cost of buying an HDMI adaptor if you don’t have one handy.
The board has both USB and OTG versions, Ethernet port, 3 uarts, 8 PWM outputs, SPI, I2c and a battery connector. A total of 32 IO pins and handles Android Lollipop and Linux Udoobuntu !! Sadly I did not see any sign of an official Debian and that’s a shame as all Linuxes are NOT the same and many who have tinkered with the Pi might want to go down that route – myself included. There is an unofficial Debian here http://www.udoo.org/armbian-by-igor-pecovnik-i-e-debian-jessie-for-udoo-neo/ but it has no graphical interface and the WIFI drivers don’t work (a year later it has not been developed - Dec 2016). I’d love to compare these boards to a Raspberry Pi including IO etc on Node-Red but I’ve yet to find one fully documented and supported sufficiently to do this with the possible exception of the FriendlyArm boards.
The Udoo has a boatload of peripherals and already built in (full version) are gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer and 3 LEDs (one dedicated, 2 user – 3 colours in total) (and I’m thinking together with a camera… quadcoptor….) I like the fact that it has dedicated battery and i2c connectors.
One neat feature, easy to implement but most others don’t is that when you open up the box, all the features and where everything is, has been printed inside the inside of the box.
The GPIO pins are NOT 5v compatible.
The board is powered by a 1Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 and an ARM Cortex-M4 I/O real time co-processor which can run up to 200Mhz.
No infra-red which is a shame given the graphics processor, you may recall the Radxa rock has an infra-red input but I guess this would be easy enough to add on.
They have an active forum http://www.udoo.org/forum but I was a little disappointed when I checked out the documentation online only to find that the UDOObuntu and Boot process docs are “coming soon” – this will, of course, impact on my ability to comment on the board!
However, with the package came an 8GB microSD with Udoobuntoo on it! I inserted the disk and realised I had no power adaptor. Thankfully one of the two microUSB sockets accepted power and soon I was on my way. But – there’s a reason I like the Pi2 – it has 3 USB sockets – this one has ONE!! Arghhh. Add to the cost of all of this a small USB hub – well, as a minimum you need keyboard and mouse. I wondered it by any chance the board would work remotely. I pulled out Advanced IP Scanner and… nothing – certainly no sign of any unit sounding anything like Udoo or Neo. That was a disappointment. Another disappointment was lack of 3.5” jack for speakers… I managed to get my Bluetooth headset going – not without a few error messages but I did get a beep out of them.
I stuck a mouse in the thing and had a quick look around – there’s an Arduino (1.65) development environment in there and it looks like there are quite a few examples – but until I can actually talk to the board properly… – PLEA TO MANUFACTURERS – will you PLEASE put a minimum of 2 USB sockets on these boards – we don’t all have spare hubs lying around!
Armed with a desktop and mouse I went to the audio controls to make sure my headset was working – Sadly it came up with the ALSA MIXER which complained that it was not setup properly. “An error occurred loading or saving config”.
Eventually, I discovered that the network connection was 192.168.103 – which said DELL for reasons beyond me. I tried WinSCP and VNC again. SCP came up but I didn’t know the password.
THEN I noticed on the side of the box, an instruction – just type “udooneo.local” – that wasn’t going to work or it would have shown up on my router. I tried - nothing – but I thought – why not give the IP address a shot. Bingo. “Your UDOO Neo will be available in your Network. You can now use it using SSH Remote Terminal, VNC Remote Desktop or trough Web Control Panel.” The problem is I STILL didn’t know the password. Attempts to click on the links associated with VNC and SSH brought back “404 not found” errors. Clearly, this is still in its early stages. On the one hand, they want you to use this in headless mode – and I’m all for that – but maybe putting the password on this page or on the box might’ve been good!
So off I went to the website – and LO AND BEHOLD – the password. Within seconds I was using TightVNC to remote into the board. Just as well this worked because when I was looking at the unit directly I noticed an American keyboard setup and no matter where I looked I could not actually see how to change the keyboard language setting! As Pi users know, this is the first thing you do in setup. Armed with the password I tried WinSCP and that worked too.
When I get a chance I’ll try some of the Arduino examples to make sure they actually work with this board – at the very least that would make it very useful for robotics.
So for now, it’s a nicely put-together board with lots of features – but like all similar boards – software support will be absolutely crucial! However, compared to the nightmare I had with the original Orange Pi PC this, up to now has been fun.
Update: I’ve now had some clarification, sound is only available on HDMI – which I found a bit disappointing. They are working on the Alsa mixer issue.
Update July 2016: It looks like not a lot has changed, there is a BETA of a Debian release (Wheezy which is out of date) - the Armbian release still looks like it has no WIFI, the Android release is version 5 and only an ALPHA - after all this time they don't seem to have a fully fledged operating system for the Neo yet! I went to grab the latest release of their official operating system - and the ZIP file is broken.
Meanwhile, I did the usual apt-get update and apt-get upgrade to bring the originally supplied Ubuntu operating system up to the latest version as on the original there were disappearing icons rendering it fairly useless. After 20 minutes of updating followed by a reboot - the wallpaper no longer corrupts - but I note when moving the file manager window - the screen refresh is AWFULLY slow. Worse - although the hardwired Internet worked and the unit could see the WIFI routers in here, it would not connect to them. Not impressed.
Update December 2016: Looking at their website - there now appear to be a number of operating systek options for this board including Android 6 - now, bear in mind VERY few other similar board offer Android 6 (the Raspberry Pi doesn't though there are some unofficial offerings in various states of repair) - this could be the saviour for this board.
It would seem they are bringing out an X86 Udoo - time will tell.