- A3 Octa-Core processor (handy for multimedia) S5P6818
- 1GB Ram
- 3.5mm audio jack
- 1GBPS Ethernet port
- MicroUSB for power
- 2 USB host ports and an additional two on the board connectors
- LCD interface
- Camera interface
- Debug UART
- TFT socket
- Built-in WIFI and antennae
You get to choose between Ubuntu, Armbian and an old (5.1) Android from Friendlyarm (why are people still using this – we’re up to version 7 now). Also though I’m pleased to see that Debian automatically resizes the SD on install – the Android installation does not – you have to do that “on your PC” and once again they make the assumption that we all have Linux PCs – which could not be further from the truth.
Android: I grabbed the Android file from their site, put it into an SD and banged that into a USB port adaptor on my Raspberry Pi to follow the (simple) procedure to resize Android. Before long I had a full Android 5.1 running complete with Bluetooth (to clarify – a Bluetooth keyboard worked perfectly, a Bluetooth mouse appeared to connect but no pointer movement). From what I’ve seen that’s more than we can currently expect from a Raspberry Pi because all the videos I’ve seen which say you CAN put Android on the Raspberry Pi, end quietly, usually along the lines of “videos are jittery right now”. That could all change in the future of course.
THEN I read about enabling developer mode and using a tool on a PC called ADB which allows for changing overscan and screen resolution WITHOUT rooting Android – I ran that and adjusted the screen size to get rid of the overscan – no problem. The result? With Kodi, a very nice setup for a media centre indeed– quite fast compared to other boards I’ve tried – and no jitter when watching video. The only issue being I’d started off with an 8GB SD card for testing – daft idea. So – I started again this time with a 64GB card. By the time I’d finished I had around 56GB left – that should keep me going for a while.
I tried running with the fan off but the heatsink gets just a tad too warm for comfort (as against “cool” with the fan on. There is a tiny amount of noise with the fan on so I’d recommend putting the unit on soft pads in a box somewhere. (Update, one of the two units I had, came with a 0.21 amp fan, the other with a much quieter 0.15amp fan – so I replaced the more powerful one (only a quid from China) and it now runs quietly.
I’ve been running this now checking out radio stations, watching TV stations and local videos – all without any issues. But check out my blog entry on the T3 for a surprise! https://tech.scargill.net/the-mighty-t3/
All in all, for media, up to now one of the better boards I’ve come across recently.
Debian: I then grabbed their Debian offering and installed that. After some updating (as it was ancient) I set up the WIFI. This was not trivial I have to say but the end result seems to be rock-solid WIFI – I’ve had 2 of these boards now running on and off for ages and they are just fine. I’ve had trouble with the WIFI with my ALEXA unit saying it is having trouble connecting – so I’ve had to yank the access point out of the wall a few times… throughout all of this – both units remain connected no problem at all. More than can be said for a lot of WIFI setups!! Using Debian these units run luke-warm with the fans on.
Recent updates have meant it is now possible to use the GPIO from the likes of Node-Red quite easily using these boards but I noted that there was a connector called the LVDS connector and no-where on the website does it tell you about this connector. I contacted FriendlyArm and they sent me schematics etc. In case you are messing around with GPIO and you want to make use of every last GPIO pin, you might find this interesting.