Hardware

Category page of all posts on the web site that are tagged as related to hardware including PC / embedded and more

Sipeed LicheeRV D1 RISC-V SBC Review

Sipeed LicheeRV RISC-V SBC Review

The support for open-source RISC-V hardware continues to improve across the board as more board manufacturers continue to adopt them and ship high quality boards powered by RISC-V. Today we’ll be looking at the Sipeed LicheeRV.

It’s honestly one of the most exciting single board computer products I’ve seen in a while. It’s basically the RISC-V version of a Pi Compute Module! These are small modules that are meant to be used with different docks / IO boards. They can be swapped between the different docks and will gain different capabilities based on what the dock has just like a dock for your laptop / other devices.

Not only that, this board is now officially supported by Ubuntu! Not only do you have an awesome form factor but you now have a very serious mainstream operating system that is supporting the board and architecture. I’ll also benchmark the device and tell you what to expect performance wise.

Let’s get started!

Orange Pi 3 LTS SBC Review

Orange Pi 3 LTS Single Board Computer Review

The Orange Pi 5 is on the horizon with my order scheduled to arrive around the end of the first week of December. I’ll definitely be covering it as soon as I can get my hands on it. So why would I cover anything to do with the Orange Pi 3 with the Orange Pi 5 launch being weeks away?

The Orange Pi 3 LTS is not a new board but it is an interesting board because it is a long term support variant expected to be produced and supported for much longer than the average board. It is already quite cheap at <~$50 or so at time of writing (which is a great price in this market to begin with) but I expect it to drop more into the $35-$40ish range once the Orange Pi 5 has been out for a little bit. Many Pi alternatives often have very short lifespans in terms of both production and support as most of you who have tried them over the years or more recently will know. Having these long term support assurances can give you a lot of confidence if you are considering boards for a product/project/use case that you expect to stay in place for a long time and want to know there will be secure working updated images available for it. Let's see what it can do!

Banana Pi P2 Zero SBC Review

Banana Pi P2 Zero SBC Review

The Banana Pi P2 Zero is a single board computer that has a quad-core processor as well as a 8GB eMMC and 512MB of RAM. It’s equivalent in power to roughly a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 or a Orange Pi Zero 2.

Today I’ll review the Banana Pi P2 Zero and examine the images available for the board, the build quality and included components as well as benchmark the I/O performance of the board. We’ll then compare it to the Orange Pi Zero 2 (one of my favorite SBC choices in this current market) and see what the advantages and disadvantages the Banana Pi setup has.

Let’s get started!

Hardkernel ODROID N2+ SBC Review

Hardkernel ODROID N2+ SBC Review

The ODROID N2+ is a single board computer available in 2GB and 4GB options. It has the Petitboot loader which easily supports booting from flash drives, SSDs, and other types of storage. It’s a very popular choice for emulation due to it’s powerful CPU and GPU. It also has overclocking capabilities!

Today I’m going to review the ODROID N2+ and examine the available image choices, benchmark the performance of the board, take a look at the capabilities and give some general recommendations about who would best benefit from using a board like this. Let’s get started!

Enable Raspbian Images to Boot on Libre Computers Boards

Enable Raspbian Images to Boot on Libre Computers Boards Guide

Libre Computers is a company making single board computers that are much more open-sourced than the Raspberry Pi (especially when it comes to hardware). They are offering a USB 2.0 model (the “Le Potato”) for $40 and a USB 3.0 model (the “Renegade”) for $50. Those are not theoretical MSRP prices that are impossible to find either. Those are the listed prices available today!

When I first covered these boards the Libre reddit account let me know about a utility they had available that could enable most Raspberry Pi images to boot on Libre Computers boards such as the “Le Potato” and “Renegade”. I tried out the tool and it worked great! In this guide I will show you where to get the tool and how to use it.

Let’s begin!

Radxa Rock Pi 4C Plus SSD Boot Guide

Radxa Rock Pi 4C Plus SSD Boot Guide

The Rock Pi 4C Plus is a bit different to boot with a SSD than it’s predecessors. It does not have a SPI flash (nor can you solder one onto the board) so to use the NVMe slot for our root filesystem we need to use a SD card as the boot loader.

In this guide I’ll walk you through the process to clone a working SD card installation to your NVMe drive and then use some tricks with the drive’s UUID identifiers and essentially pass the boot process off from the SD card and have the NVMe SSD take over.

Let’s get started!

Rock Pi 4C Plus w/ NVMe SBC Review

Radxa Rock Pi 4C Plus w/ NVMe Review

We continue to see a storage technology evolution take place with single board computers. NVMe slots are becoming more and more prevalent on newer models. This is great news for consumers as a M.2 NVMe SSD can actually be cheaper than a SD card (and is much cheaper GB per GB).

Today I’m taking a look at the Radxa Rock Pi 4C Plus single board computer. Previous iterations of this board have had NVMe slots but it has been moved to the top of the board on this model and can properly mount a 2230 NVMe SSD. The SSD I’m using today was only $12 for a 128GB capacity drive.

The board is quite powerful hardware-wise having 4GB of RAM and an hexa-core (6 cores) CPU configuration. We’ll be benchmarking what kind of performance we get using a configuration like this.

Let’s get started!

Pine64 SOQuartz CM4 Alternative Review

Pine64 SOQuartz CM4 Alternative Review

I recently reviewed the BIGTREETECH CB1 alternative to the Compute Module 4 and I was very surprised how well it worked with my existing I/O boards. Today we’re going to review my second one which is the Pine64 SOQuartz V1.1 module. This module features 2GB of RAM (with 4GB and 8GB options available). With twice as much RAM (or more) the hardware at least has the potential to outperform the CB1.

We will run the same benchmarking tool using the same SD card to get a direct I/O performance comparison between the CB1 and the SOQuartz. We’ll compare BIGTREETECH’s open-sourced kernel and image offerings to Pine64s and test the CM4 reference I/O board for compatibility. I was comfortable recommending the CB1 as an alternative to the CM4 (as long as running Raspbian isn’t necessary). Will the Pine64 SOQuartz get a similar recommendation?

Let’s find out!

MangoPi MQ Pro D1 Ubuntu (P)review

MangoPi MQ-Pro D1 w/ Ubuntu (P)review

Recently Ubuntu has received official preview images for some RISC-V boards. One of those boards is (indirectly) the MangoPi MQ Pro! RISC-V boards have been available for a while but the software support lags that of ARM substantially. It’s steadily catching up though with an official Ubuntu preview out as well as official OpenJDK support coming soon.

Today I wanted to review the MangoPi MQ Pro D1 (Revision 1.4) as well as look at the experience of the Ubuntu preview version on it acknowledging that this isn’t the final release of Ubuntu for RISC-V boards yet and is just a developer preview. My intent is to simply see what the experience is like and get an idea of what is already working and what isn’t ready yet.

Let’s get started!

BIGTREETECH CB1 (CM4 Alternative) w/ Pi4B Adapter Review

BIGTREETECH CB1 with Pi4B Adapter Review

I’ve recently been reviewing many different single board computers that are outside of the Raspberry Pi ecosystem due to the ongoing pricing and availability issues with the Pi. Today will be my first review of a product that is meant to be an alternative to the Compute Module 4! There are several different CM4 knockoffs/alternatives available and I’ve already also received a Pine64 SOQuartz which I’ll be reviewing in the near future.

Today we will be examining the BIGTREETECH CB1(revision 2.2) as well as the official Pi4B adapter (meant to be one choice of IO board for the device). These are generally meant to be used with 3D printers as BIGTREETECH’s catalog is largely geared toward 3D printing.

I will not be reviewing the device for that purpose today. I will be examining it as a more general-purpose CM4 alternative. We’ll look at the images available, try plugging it into some other I/O boards meant for the CM4 and seeing what works and what doesn’t, benchmarking the performance and try to reach a conclusion about what a board like this will work for and what it won’t.

Let’s begin!

Libre “Renegade” SSD Booting Guide

Libre Computers "Renegade" SSD Boot Guide

The “Renegade” by Libre Computers is a $50 single board computer. You actually get USB 3.0 with the “Renegade” which is going to make it even more worth it to use a SSD with than the “Le Potato”.

This method requires a sacrificial SD card to serve as the bootloader. After booting though it will use your SSD for the system’s root filesystem. We will then benchmark it to measure the improvement/gains.

In this guide I’ll walk you through the process. Let’s get started!

Libre Computers ROC-RK3328-CC “Renegade” SBC Review

Libre Computers "Renegade" ROC-RK3328-CC Firefly Review

Recently I reviewed the Libre Computers “Le Potato” and I really like it. Libre Computers offers very up to date images (and takes pride in it) and the build quality on the board was rock solid. I also like that it is actually widely available to order for only $40.

I’m very excited that today I received the “Renegade” ROC-RK3328-CC Firefly board from Libre Computers which is available for only $50. One very interesting feature this board has that the “Le Potato” doesn’t is a USB 3.0 port. Since I love writing USB booting guides for all my single board computers having a USB 3.0 port means that the “Renegade” has the potential to hit much higher I/O performance scores using USB 3.0.

Will the “Renegade” live up to the high expectations set by the “Le Potato”? Let’s find out!

DataVac ED500: Powerful Dust Remover

DataVac ED500 Dust Remover Review

In the past I’ve written about my rechargeable handheld dust removal tool I’ve used to clean dust from electronics. This has completely eliminated “canned air” from my life and paid for itself many times over not to mention the vastly reduced environmental impact.

After years of operation my OPOLAR dust removal tool is starting to have issues with the switch that turns on the blower. Since I was very happy having a powered dust removal tool and it had paid for itself previously I decided to try taking a step up this time and get a more powerful model.

I decided to try out the DataVac Electric Duster and oh boy is it powerful. It honestly feels like a cannon! Today I’ll cover how this compared to my previous tool and why these are so great. Let’s get started!

Banana Pi M2 Zero SBC Review

Banana Pi M2 Zero Review

The Banana Pi M2 Zero definitely has a very familiar form factor. It looks just like the Raspberry Pi Zero but is a much cheaper alternative in these market conditions. Would you actually want to buy and use it as a Pi alternative? The answer is maybe.

Today I’ll explain the strengths and weaknesses of the Banana Pi M2 Zero and explain who may be able to save a lot of money using a board like this (and who should stay away from it). There are definitely some things you should know about the board before buying one and we’ll be covering those in this review.

Let’s get started!

Libre “Le Potato” SSD Boot Guide

Libre "Le Potato" SSD Boot Guide

The “Le Potato” by Libre Computers is a $40 single board computer. That is incredibly cheap in 2022 as anyone who has tried to buy a Raspberry Pi recently can tell you. There aren’t a lot of guides out there for how to best utilize it though so today I’d like to publish a guide for it for one of the best upgrades you can do with any SBC: upgrade to SSD storage!

This method requires a sacrificial SD card to serve as the bootloader. After booting though it will use your SSD for the system’s root filesystem. We will then benchmark it to measure the improvement/gains.

Let’s begin!