While the Raspberry Pi, in its numerous incarnations, has become a runaway success since the original model launched back in 2012, that hasn't stopped others from wanting to carve out a slice of the maker board market for themselves. The competition won't just be limited to ARM-based systems, with potential rivals such as UDOO preparing to unleash its x86 Arduino-compatible boards upon the market.
However, if the combination of Android and an ARM-based maker board is more to your liking, then you may want to keep an eye out for a new unit thanks to a collaborative effort between Huawei, Google, ARM, ArcherMind, and LeMaker.
Priced at $239, the company's HiKey 960 may be a fair bit more expensive than a Raspberry Pi, but packs a punch on par with some of the most recent smartphones and tablets. This is attributable to the inclusion of the HiSilicon Kirin 960 on the board, which is the same CPU found in Huawei's Mate 9, P10, and P10 Plus smartphones.
In terms of specifications, the HiKey 960 includes:
- Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core CPU
(4 x ARM Cortex-A73 @ 2.4GHz + 4 x ARM Cortex-A53 1.8GHz cores)
- Mali-G71 MP8 GPU
- 32GB UFS 2.0 onboard flash storage
- PCIe m.2 + microSD card slots
- 3GB LPDDR4 RAM
- HDMI 1.2a
- 1 x USB 2.0 Type-C OTG port, 2 x USB 3.0 Type-A ports
- 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi @ 2.4 + 5GHz with onboard antennae
- Bluetooth 4.1
The HiKey 960 was meant to target those undertaking Android software and driver development, but there's nothing stopping interested makers from leveraging the board as the basis for their latest smart creations. However, those wanting to use the full power of the Mali-G71 GPU for 4K video, will be limited by the available bandwidth afforded by the onboard HDMI 1.2a interface, limiting output to 1080p. Huawei's board will also eventually support a number of Linux distributions but the board, for the time being, can run Android 7.1 using instructions available at the Android website.
While it has been reported that Huawei will start shipping its board in the US, EU, and Japan in early May, it appears that it is already on sale at Amazon under the LeMaker brand.