What, not ANOTHER board from FriendlyArm? And yes, you’d be right to wonder why I’m doing a bunch of articles on them right now – well, it just so happens I got a box of stuff all at once so I thought I’d get them all out of the way at once.
So – why another board? If you’ve read my various blogs you will know that regardless of what operating system these SBC board from various places are supposed to come with, I usually end up putting these boards onto Debian or more decently command-line Ubuntu and running my script on them.
The only exception were a couple of earlier boards from these guys which ended up as media centres – Kodi etc. The T3 boards. Well, they’re good but compared to a good phone, most of these Android installations are either low resolution, slow speed or both. Indeed on a daily basis I end up apologising to the wife as the Android crawls along. I like to blame old versions of Android but ultimately most of these SBC boards are not as fast as a good phone. I often say in conversation – if only they’d use the chips used in phones…
And so it was that I opened up the K2 board from FriendlyArm and the big claim is 4K video. I had to give it a go, didn’t I, so I downloaded the Android setup from their site.
Now this board has a number of special features. Firstly it has an infra-red input and they supply an infra-red handset – so no messing around – it just “works”. Another feature which I don’t think any of the other boards manage – this board is size-compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 – and that means – yes, you can use any of the millions of Raspberry Pi cases out there – and there are some beauties!!! Nice.
Even then I wasn’t that optimistic about Android – after all I already have a media centre running and it takes some setting up – did I really want to go through all that again?
Ok, well I’ll cut a long story short.. YES, ABSOLUTELY. This is lovely. So the board has 2GB RAM which is more than any Raspberry Pi has ever had or apparently ever will. It has a standard microSD and I JUST happen to have a 64GB microSD which will give BAGS of room for movies.
And so I guess you’d expect me to rant on for ages about various features? Well, I’m not. It works and works extremely well. I’ve tried YouTube and Chrome searching for high quality movies and everything I throw at the board runs flat out – maximum settings I can see on Youtube are 1080p and the quality is excellent – my monitor isn’t high enough res for true 4K but watching the smooth videos I have no doubt the claim pans out. The remote works a treat. The only thing that is missing is a 3.5mm jack which would have been good as my HD computer monitor doesn’t have a loudspeaker attached!!
I say it is fast – it is but if you REALLY want to go to town there’s an eMMC connector on the board… personally I’m happy with the SD.
You can look up the specs online on the link above, but in short, an Amlogic S905 with a Mali graphics processor, 2GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, WIFI, BLUETOOTH, audio via HDMI or Bluetooth, Oh, my headphones – hang on… testing…RIGHT – that sorts the audio – the Bluetooth works a treat with my little GEAR4 speakers – no problem.
I’m running this with the heatsink attached – which also has a fan but a fan is always a daft idea in a media centre… and… yes, I think you can likely get away without needing the fan… the fins are cool enough to touch continuously. Right – I’m off to find a nice box for this.
Oh and it has a proper power connector but I just plugged in the microUSB connector and that’s working a treat.
Update August 2017: After months of using this board as a media centre - it has performed flawlessly. I have two of this and have just installed the Official Ununtu release for it. "the script" installs flawlessly on this board - however I have to say, right now, the supplied WIRINGPI which comes with the Ubuntu release - is bust... "sudo gpio i2cd" was obviously never tested as it gripes about this board not being a NEO2 !!! Not good. I reported the problem and the answer was that it should be removed - WiringPi not yet supported on the K2 - that's not good!!!!