Will the new UpBoard be a true Raspberry Pi killer? What is this new board like and how does it help the Maker?
Find out in this review.
My kickstarter package was fairly basic with just an HDMI cable and UpBoard. I was fairly impressed with the “getting started” page, and as I found out later it was trivial to get going.
What do you get
The Up Board claims to be a 100% Raspberry Pi compatible electrically and physically.
You get and RTC with battery and MIPI CSI, (which isn’t pin for pin compatible with Pi).
What don’t you get
There are a number of things that you don’t get compared to the recent Raspverry Pi 3. For example there is no onboard WiFi or Bluetooth. You also don’t have analog audio in/out.
When it comes to the physical size, it is exactly the same size as the Pi. However, there are a few elements that make it hard to fit into a Pi case.
Booting and install the OS was very trivial. I tried UbiLinux, which is UpBoard’s custom Debian 8 Jessie distribution, and includes important kernel changes. I also tried Windows 10. Windows IoT isn’t available yet, and Android is not yet at beta.
Download the UbiLinux ISO image and burn it to a USB flash drive.
Since this is targeted to be a Maker board, the first thing to test out is the GPIO header.
So what about CPU and graphics performance? I tried out Geeks3D GPUtest, which gave the expected low performance results. Bear in mind that this is only a $99 SBC, and not a games machine. However, it should be fast enough to run most of the MAME arcade ROMs.
I uploaded the results into open openbenchmarking.org, so you can check out and compare the results there. I’ll be doing this for all my SBC reviews and you can search for “MickMake” to see all of them.
Installing Windows was also straightforward, once I managed to get the installer image loaded up correctly. First download the Windows ISO installer.
If you intend to use Windows, then make sure that you follow the UpBoard community suggestion of:
- Use Rufus to write the image.
- Partition scheme and target system type: MBR partition scheme for UEFI
- File system: FAT32 (default)
- Cluster Size: 4096 (Default)
- New Volume Label: Doesn’t matter
- Quick Format
- Create bootable disk using ISO image: Use the downloaded ISO image.Once you have Windows installed make sure you also download the additional drivers and install those.
For testing, I used GFXBench.
The CPU did get very hot under load, and since I didn’t have a heat sink fan, had to improvise.
The strengths of the UpBoard lies in it’s 100% compatibility with the GPIO header and the Intel Atom CPU. Both these together make the UpBoard a formidable foe to the old Raspberry Pi and we will be seeing a lot more of them appear in the future. Since the Intel Atom is essentially a desktop/notebook CPU it has the incredible advantage of a slew of software that can be used on it. Much more than is available for ARM cpus.
There are several negatives: 1. No analog audio in/out. 2. Not quite 100% physically compatible with the Pi. 3. Raised heatsink may cause issues with certain Pi hats. 4. No onboard WiFi/BLE. Since the CPU is a plain old common x86 based CPU, points 1 and 4 can easily be solved with a USB adaptor. Don’t forget you have three additional USB ports over the Pi!