ASUS Tinker Board Getting Started Guide

Tinker Board Getting Started Guide
Tinker Board Getting Started Guide

My wife got me a Tinker Board several years ago as a gift and I always meant to cover it on the site but got busy and forgot about it. Due to the ongoing Raspberry Pi shortage and high prices I’ve been reexamining boards from other manufacturers and found that the Tinker Board is widely available for something like ~$76. There are several more powerful versions available as well such as the Tinker Board 2S model.

Today I will correct the injustice done to the Tinker Board and cover how to get a Tinker Board all set up with the latest image and updates. Let’s get started!

Hardware Used

ASUS Tinker Board
ASUS Tinker Board

This is the original version of the Tinker Board. It contains a 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU, a 600MHz Mali-T764 GPU and 2GB DDR3 RAM. Less than half the cost of the new version (on Amazon) and still quite capable.

Links: Amazon.com*, AliExpress.com* (S version)

ASUS Tinker Board 2S
ASUS Tinker Board 2S

This is the fully loaded and newest version version of the board containing a 16GB eMMC as well as 4 GB of RAM. It’s a 6-Core 2.0 GHz Rockchip RK3399 single board computer. Also has Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities.

Links: Amazon.com*, AliExpress.com*

Getting Tinker Board Images

First head to the official ASUS Tinker Board images download site.

Now select your model of Tinker Board from the downloads page:

Tinker Board Downloads Page
Tinker Board Downloads Page

Now a quick note here. I’m on the original Tinker Board and you can see that despite that the top image choice for me is the “Tinker Board S R2.0 Debian 10 V3.0.11”.

That is because that image is actually fine to use on the original Tinker Board and I actually recommend it. It’s at least Debian Buster which is much, much newer than the older Tinker Board original images they have on there.

Android images are also available. I highly recommend that no matter what came with your Tinker Board or what is installed on it now that you reimage it with the latest available versions. You will have a smoother time this way.

Click “Download” once you’ve found the image that you want.

Alternative Image (Armbian)

If you need a newer kernel definitely try using the Armbian Tinker Board image.

This will get you all the way up to kernel 5.15.y at time of writing. That is much newer than anything the official Tinker Board images have.

Writing the Image

The download that you got in the previous section will be zipped. Unzip that file and inside you will have a file you can write to a SD card.

For this guide I chose the Debian Buster image which came as Tinker_Board-Debian-Buster-v3.0.11-20211026.zip.

After unzipping this file inside the archive I had Tinker_Board-Debian-Buster-v3.0.11-20211026.img. This is the file you are going to write to your SD card.

To write the image to the SD card you can use any number of available utilities. A common choice that is available on all platforms is Etcher.

Writing to eMMC (S and 2S models only)

If you have a Tinker Board model that has a built-in eMMC storage drive you can actually plug the Tinker Board right into your PC and image the eMMC with Etcher exactly like you would a SD card.

When you connect the Tinker Board S / 2S to your computer via USB cable the eMMC will show up as a regular drive that you can image the exact same way as the previous section.

You can also see the official Tinker Board documentation specific to writing the OS image to the eMMC here.

First Startup / Initial Login

Now that imaging is complete we’re ready to do the Tinker Board’s first boot. Insert the SD card if applicable and power on the device.

You can either connect a TV/monitor via HDMI or you can do it headlessly if the Tinker Board is going to be connected via an Ethernet cable as we can SSH into the device that way.

The credentials for initial login are:

User: linaro
Password: linaro

If you are using a monitor you can log in that way or if you are using SSH you would use a command like ssh linaro@192.168.X.X and log in with those credentials.

You should change your password now for the linaro user for security purposes. You can change it with:

passwd

Initial Configuration

The Tinker Board has a tool for configuration that is very similar to raspi-config if you have ever used a Raspberry Pi.

On the Tinker Board the command is:

sudo tinker-config

This will bring up the following menu:

tinker-config Configuration Menu
tinker-config Configuration Menu

This will let you do the essential configuration for the board.

WiFi Configuration

The WiFi configuration is not available in tinker-config for whatever reason (at least on the original Tinker Board). Here is how we can configure it:

Via CLI

sudo su root
nmcli r wifi
nmcli dev wifi

This will do a wireless scan via CLI and show you the available points. You should see your WiFi access point. We can connect to it with:

nmcli dev wifi connect wifi_name password "wifi_password"

Via GUI

Click the “Start menu”-ish button in the bottom left of the screen to pull up the menu. Choose the “Preferences” section and then choose “Advanced Network Configuration”:

Tinker Board - Menu
Tinker Board – Menu

This will bring up the Network Manager GUI. Click the + button at the bottom of the screen and choose “WiFi” for the network type. Now simply type in your SSID.

Now switch to the “Wi-Fi Security” tab and choose your security type (WEP/WPA/etc.) from the dropdown menu. Enter your password.

Now simply click “Save”. I did not fill out any other fields when I did my initial configuration other than the SSID and the WiFi security type and password. It immediately connected and even powering the board off and on it will reconnect to your network.

Conclusion

Congratulations, you’ve now configured the Tinker Board! It’s pretty much ready for whatever use case you have for it.

The official kernels are still a little bit older than I’d like. Keep in mind that you can install other distros on the Tinkerboard such as Armbian.

For anyone who is reading this that doesn’t have a Tinker Board and is wondering if it is an easy board to use I would say yes it definitely is. The price has fallen a lot especially on the early models and they’re a pretty attractive choice right now!

Other Resources

Definitely check out my Orange Pi Zero 2 review if you are looking for widely available inexpensive boards

You may want to benchmark your storage on the Tinker Board using my SBC storage benchmark to verify performance

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Max
Max
1 month ago

BTW, I am also thinking about M1 with 8Gb. It’s still cheaper than CM4 + base board with M.2, and is supposed to be much faster, and also has nice enclosure (although not for the rack mounting)

Max
Max
1 month ago
Reply to  jamesachambers

Hi James,

I appreciate that your opinion is backed by the facts, but I have to say that I don’t fully agree with you here.
And TL;DR I don’t know what’s the actual cause of the current situation with RPIs, i.e. if the RPI Foundation is completely honest.
I can however see that it’s not only Raspberry who suffers from these effects. Situation with MacBook availability and lead times clearly shows that even Apple can’t dictate their terms, let alone Raspberry. Heck, I can see these issues even with my bike components, like cassette or chain 🙂

What I have to say in their defence is that as a corporation they prioritize profit, and if over the course of their existence they’ve diversified DIY maker scene with corporations, it totally make sense. Even if their hardware is mediocre, it is typically we tested, supported by the means of software and have predictable lifecycle.

I haven’t looked at what exact projects are using RPIs under the hood, but I would suppose that not all of them are going to disclose that.
Raspberry might have multi-year contracts with them, and I think it’s logical for them to show they’re reliable partners and fulfil these contracts.
B2B is much easier and rewarding for corpos than B2C.

I appreciate that Raspberry really invests in the software and it’s maintenance. Heck, I remember the days when I bought the Odroid C2 (around 2015 I suppose). It was a real pain in the ass, as the hardware was much better than Raspberry, but the software support was not on par: it was stuck on Linux kernel 3.x if I remember correctly, GPU acceleration didn’t work, and HardKernel was not (and probably still isn’t) doing much about their OS distros. They probably shipped some outdated Ubuntu desktop version with extra drivers and software installed. No updates, no Lite version. Armbian was nonexistent back in the day. So overall the hardware was awesome (I still run Home Assistant on it), but it took quite few years to build the software support. And it was a community effort, not HardKernel.

I am sorry, I don’t know current situation with RPI stock in US, but if you look at rpilocator, you’ll see there are CM modules in Europe. And if you’ll subscribe to RSS feed, you’ll see that the regular versions appear there as well. I’ve backed the Turing PI 2 on kickstarter, and was able to buy myself CM modules for it for a MSRP in Europe. Prices may differ across the countries, I need to pay for a shipping or extra tax, but I still purchase them from RPI official resellers. It means that even though Raspberry prioritises B2B over B2C, they still give some to regular makers.

Again, I don’t know how it works under the hood, maybe they are an evil corpo 🙂
I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, the hardware is mediocre, but at least here in EU it’s possible to purchase it for MSRP, and be happy with good software support and community.

And it doesn’t change the fact that I also want to buy Odroid M1 for more “high end” stuff, because based on current situation with software support, Odroid is an awesome choice at that price range.

Max
Max
1 month ago
Reply to  jamesachambers

I don’t know if their devices are diverted from B2B channel, TBH. Maybe these are the people who take advantage of B2C (like scraping the websites and purchasing them, or even working at these stores and simply stealing the stock). Or actually B2B. I would be surprised if there’s a huge demand for non-CM versions in B2B.
What I think is that Raspberry simply doesn’t produce enough of customer-oriented non-CM modules.
I’m subscribed to rpilocator RSS, and saw the appearing here and there over the course of the last few months, including North America (USA & Canada).
But you gotta be quick 🙂 Honestly, I’m very surprised that BerryBase stock lasts for so long. Once I got the notification, I immediately purchased it. And there was 1pc per person limit (but it’s possible to buy one piece of each model).
From consumer perspective, of course I am pissed off about this situation.
However, to be fair I don’t expect them to regulate the market.
Probably they should’ve been better at communicating that, but not preventing unauthorised sellers to sell their products at inflated prices.
I see that from the perspective of my home country Belarus (where I don’t live anymore). There were no official resellers for RPI (and Apple, for instance). But niether RPI nor Apple tried to regulate the prices, and they were both enormous.
Does it hurt the brand? I don’t know. Raspberry is one of the friendliest ecosystems for beginners. And they invest a lot in that.
Will people wait or will they move onto something else? I don’t know.
But it’s probably not the best choice for more advanced users. And I am happy that there is broad selection of other SBCs right now, with at least good community support.
But honestly, most of these other companies don’t invest in ecosystem and support. They tend to develop numerous boards every year and quickly discontinue the previous ones. That’s why I think it’s easier for them with the current supply chain issues. They just discontinue & produce the next model on different SoC or something else. Some of them are not even properly testing the boards, so many of them have minor to major bugs that can’t be fixed by software.
Oh, and don’t get me started about accessories. It’s literally impossible to find accessories for these other boards. You can easily find tons of enclosures, full sized heatsinks etc. for Raspberry, but I had to pay $10 for a cheap piece of plastic that is Odroid C2’s official enclosure, because that’s the only one.

Of course I don’t like that RPI has outdated hardware, but it’s a handful of hardware designs (pretty much like Apple), and they’re using the same strategy as Apple recently: produce numerous flavours of the same board.
I’m neither Raspberry nor Apple fanboy, but I am happy that their boards are well supported.
Are they innovative? No, not anymore. RTC? No. Normal PWM fan? No. Heck, I wish they’d add eMMC on their SBCs or replace SD card with eMMC. Odroid did that in 2015, and in a clever way. They made it pluggable using similar connector as RPI CM4s, but much smaller. As currently very powerful RPI4 with 8Gb of RAM is very misbalanced with such a slow storage. Yeah, I know, external SSD. But then small credit card-sized board becomes a monster with USB hub + power supply and an external M.2 or SATA SSD.
Odroid M1 is much bigger, but much more powerful. I like it, I don’t need to spend time & money for all of these (RTC, special fan, better storage).
But I still appreciate how much Raspberry contributes to the community in terms of software, support and community.
And I’ll wait once this time semiconductor issue over and see what their plan is. Whether they learn their lessons or no. And what their next hardware will look like.

Max
Max
1 month ago
Reply to  jamesachambers

Awesome conversation.
And thank you for your articles, James!
Can’t wait to read yours on Odroid.

We’ll probably disagree on market regulation, but that’s okay 😉
I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They have contracts with businesses, and they are fulfilling them. I hope that’s the cause of RPI shortage for individual customers.
Thinking out loud, they are a part of supply chain (and they are not only an end product, but a component for business products), the same as smaller SMDs are components to them. If those SMDs were distributed to AliExpress first, and only then to Raspberry, then we’d have even worse situation. And chip/component makers are also trying to fulfil their existing contracts first, including contracts with Raspberry. Maybe Raspberry did bad volume prediction, maybe something else. Who knows? 🙂 That’s my opinion.
And maybe those products that other companies made with embedded RPI are not selling well, and these CMs are just lying in warehouses. And just maybe they’re going to be disassembled, just like washing machines are purchased and disassembled by car makers. It would be very interesting to track the lifecycle of RPI from SMD/chip makers until the end products and their demand/use cases.

Anyways, have a nice day, James!

Max
Max
1 month ago
Reply to  jamesachambers

Thank you, James.
Yes, we agree on most of the aspects on this issue, sorry for not making that clear. All in all I have an excuse that English is not my native language 😉
I am all for a debate, especially when sides have some hood arguments and evidence. Unfortunately I have just my thoughts and assumptions in this particular case.
Anyways, just read an update from rpilocator (few hours after after it was posted) that regular RPI4Bs were in stock in US. Well, not anymore.

Have a great evening, sir!

Max
Max
1 month ago

What about the HardKernel boards, especially their new M1. Very capable and in stock

Max
Max
1 month ago
Reply to  jamesachambers

Awesome! Even though I’m from EU, I know that Ameridroid have them for US market.
Might be worth checking and cancelling Amazon order 😀