Asus' Tinker Board: Can it rival Raspberry Pi?

asustinkerboard1
Credit: Ian Paul

How much power can you pack into one tiny little computer? 

Asus set out to answer that question, and has released its own credit card sized computer with some pretty impressive specs -- and the talk around town is that it could be a Raspberry Pi competitor. So how does it best the Raspberry Pi, and where does it fall short?

In IT Blogwatch, we take a closer look.

So what is going on? Jon Martindale has the background:

Asus is looking to take a bite out of the Raspberry Pi...industry with an ultra-small form-factor system of its own. Called the Tinker Board, it’s...capable of handling 4K video and 24-bit audio, suggesting that it could make a very affordable HTPC in the right hands.

Sounds interesting. What are some of the details? Ian Paul has that info:

The 4K video support -- including H.265 decoding...is thanks to the Mali-T764 GPU lurking inside its quad-core, 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288 SoC...In addition to 4K, the board also supports 192kHz/24-bit audio. The PC comes with 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, four USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI out, microSD port, gigabit ethernet, and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi...the Tinker Board packs a 40-pin internal header with 28 GPIO pins, CSI port for the camera, and DSI port.

And how does all that stack up against the Raspberry Pi? Matthew Humphries has the breakdown:

For comparison, the Raspberry Pi 3 runs a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A53, 1GB RAM, and HDMI 1.3...the Tinker Board should easily outperform the Pi.

So what need does the Tinker Board fill? James Walker is in the know:

The higher-performance hardware reflects Asus' intentions with the Tinker. With a faster processor and more RAM...it [is] ideal for powering home theatre systems or streaming setups. The board is currently powered by a new Linux OS from Asus but Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Kodi options are said to be on the way.
...
According to Asus, the Tinker...[adds] to the options available to hardware hackers and do-it-yourself builders. With the performance bar raised...Asus hopes to allow people to expand on what's possible with a credit-card sized computer.

What about the drawbacks of the Tinker Board? Where does it fall short of the Raspberry Pi? Mark Walton starts us off:

Despite the Tinker Board's support for 4K video...while you can watch any 4K videos you've downloaded/created...Netflix streaming is still off the table...[It doesn't] sport the necessary DRM-decoding hardware and software to stream 4K Netflix, leaving dedicated streamers like the Chromecast Ultra or Nvidia Shield the only other option.

Any other downsides? Also, how much does it cost? Nick Heath fills us in:

The Asus Tinker Board...sells for £55 ($68), considerably more than the £33 or $35 Pi 3...also...as with other Pi rivals, the Tinker Board won't enjoy the range of software and community support that has grown up around the Pi...Buying a Pi also has the advantage of supporting the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity committed to furthering computer science education.
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