With the advent of the Raspberry Pi (RBPi), the popularity of single board computers (SBCs) has risen rapidly over the last five years. The RBPi has easy software and a low price that has won it a vibrant community consisting of not only coding hobbyists, but also teachers and children, whose minds and hearts it has captured. This success of the RBPi has led to scores of other vendors pitching in with their SBCs. Among them, ASUS is the latest with its Tinker Board SBC, challenging the RBPi.
The Tinker Board from ASUS offers an SBC with somewhat higher premium hardware compared to that offered by the RBPi. According to ASUS, its Tinker Board tries to meet the demands of enthusiasts who are looking for better performance. Although their efforts are commendable and they have created a great piece of hardware, the real hurdle they have yet to overcome are the software and support.
If you are not careful with the Tinker board, at first glance you might mistake it for a more colorful RBPi. However, the tweaks exhibited by the Tinker Board design makes it feel more like a premium product. For instance, icons covering the board depict its various functions, such as they clearly differentiate between the display and the camera connectors.
Color-coding on the Tinker Board helps identify most of the pins on the general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header. For instance, the +5 V pins are all colored red, while the ground pins are black. Moreover, ASUS has maintained the same pin configuration for the GPIO as that followed by RBPi. Therefore, transferring your projects over to the Tinker Board is very easy. The Tinker Board comes with a stick-on heatsink. This is really helpful as, under load, its SOC runs far hotter than that of the RBPi does.
The Tinker Board sports a faster system-on-chip, the Rockchip RK3288, a quad-core running at a maximum frequency of 1.8 GHz. Not only is this faster than that of the RBPi3, the Tinker Board also has double the RAM. On the ASUS site, they have benchmarks to show the speed of the Tinker Board as far above its competitor, the RBPi. Comparatively, the site claims double the CPU power and GPU performance over that of the RBPi.
Apart from the faster chip and the extra RAM, ASUS has also added the Gigabit Ethernet connector in place of the 10/100 Ethernet of the RBPi. The Tinker Board also has an uprated sound chip and an upgradable Wi-Fi antenna. According to ASUS, the performance of the USB storage is superior and the operation of the SD card is faster. ASUS attributes this to the dedicated controller of the Gigabit Ethernet, which does not allow any reduction in LAN speed during USB data transfers. Comparatively, the RBPi has a USB-to-Ethernet bridge, which makes the two functions interdependent.
However, unlike the Tinker Board, the RBPi has a website full of useful information. The RBPi also has the NOOBS installer, which simplifies installation of a number of operating systems. Comparatively, the website of the Tinker Board has two images, one for the Debian-based Tinker OS, and another based on Android.