ODROID-U2 is latest barebones board begging to be used

odroid-u2

Oh hey, another barebones dev board. Well, that’s what we said to ourselves when we first saw this picture, but the way this is presented is like crack for geeks. It starts with this tiny board, which has a footprint smaller than a credit card. But once you start looking at the add-ons you’ll want to watch out or you’ll cover yourself in drool.

The name of the game here is speed. It’s running a quad-core Cortex-A9 chip with a Mali-400 graphics accelerator. There is no on-board storage, but the microSD slot is meant to be used for OS and storage. A faster option is to use a NAND add-on board offered in 8, 16, and 64 gig capacities ($25-$79). There is a micro type-D HDMI connector and the device is powered by a cellphone charger. It ships with a big heat sink that acts as a case for the board.

After the break you can see it booting Android and immediately loading into XBMC. The menu looks mighty snappy, making us think this is a great alternative to using Raspberry Pi as a media center. But you’ll pay for the faster speed and ability to run Android. The rig they’re showing off, plus the add-ons, comes out to about $132. There are also questions to be answered as to which video formats are supported through hardware decoding.

[via Reddit and Engadget]

Comments

  1. Mojo says:

    If the hardware decoding support is there then I think it seems quite good value. You could easily spend more than this on an out-of-the-box retail effort and get a lot less. But I am not going to get my hopes up too high, I’ve been hurt before (Yes RaspberryPi, I’m talking about you).

    • Justin says:

      I’ll see your RasPi and raise you a Beaglebone xM rev C for hardware decoding support.

    • As someone who is very close to the XBMC team (we’ve hired a few of them) i can tell you it doesnt have hardware acceleration support. it uses the Exynos4412, and right now the only working hardware decoder under XBMC right now for android is the Amlogic M family.

      • Jason says:

        You’re relationship to the XBMC team doesn’t seem very solid… otherwise you’d know that XBMC for Android (beta) has support for NEON capable devices… and yes, exynos processors support NEON… and while they’re working on improving hardware decoding for said devices a quad-core exynos is more than sufficient for decoding (via software) 1080p video with NO problems! I only wish they had these on Amazon lol

  2. Chris says:

    Looks really neat. Kind of like a little Tie Fighter when installed on the heat sink. Hoepfully that is not a real credit card in the picture. Doh…

  3. Mike says:

    I’ve got a X2 that is pretty awesome. With a 10″ LVDS display makes a awesome project display.

  4. Mike says:

    s/X2/X/

  5. Dra says:

    From the little bit I could stomach before I had to turn off the video due to that truly unforgivably horrible song choice….it looks interesting.

  6. The Moogle says:

    LMAO!!! They gave away the credit card info in the one photo :D

  7. rasz says:

    >menu looks mighty snappy

    not really, video in the background shutters = it runs under Android = most likely no OpenMAX

    CPU is good, same as in some Samsung phones and tablets (Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1) but soft will suck like always. I smell Allwinter like code bullshit “lets push all our proprietary crap into android code and not support standards”.

  8. Isaac says:

    And yet still no sata/usb3 for a decent bandwidth storage, which is what I really want from one of these arm boards. Surely they must be out there for cheap as there are plenty of decent speed NAS boxes.

  9. Galane says:

    The Pi doesn’t have a 16 bit DAC, right? Does this one? Why waste the effort on making a media player with a SBC that doesn’t at least have CD quality audio output capability?

    • Vicary says:

      The sound quality is the most concern when I am working on the Pi.

    • rasz says:

      Why would you be concerned about sound quality if you dont even own an amp with digital input? Its 2012, sound is transmitted thru HDMI.

      • Mr Foo says:

        *ahem*

        Amplifiers amplify analogue signals*
        Digital to analogue converters convert digital signals to analogue ones.

        If you’ve got a digital input on your amp, your amplifier has an internal DAC. Internal DACs, especially those on “home cinema” type rigs, are generally not very good (although usually a bit better, at least, than the DACs that SoCs have onboard).

        If you want to come on all audiophile and start poking fun at people wrt the quality of their hifi gear, it’s generally best not to let on that your own is all “integrated”. As such, you might want to reconsider your post, and pont out that “proper” audio quality is only guaranteed by having a separate DAC feeding a good quality preamp feeding twin mono amplifiers. Mind you, I’d probably steer clear of recommending a $20K DAC for a Raspberry Pi.

        No, I don’t have a separate DAC. But then I still listen to vinyl as well as digital sources, and although my (1970s) speakers are worth more than the average home cima setup *including screen*, I never bought into all that “monster cable” crap. And my ears, like yours, probably aren’t good enough to be able to *actually* tell the difference, even if my house was set up 100% for audio fidelity.

        Nifty boards, those. I’m really, really, really tempted.

        Foo

        * you can use them for amplifying digital signals as well, but it’s not overly useful to do so in most cases.

    • TheCageybee says:

      It uses a MAX98090 audio codec. 8-96kHz sample rate. Should be 16 bit but can’t find reference to it in quick look at data sheet.

  10. Philip says:

    Well then, now my Ouya looks outdated…

  11. hardcorefs says:

    Yep… but like everything else the specs are bullshit……
    if you take a look at the chips:
    LAN9730
    “The internal device controller is USB 2.0-compliant and the HSIC interface is HSIC USB Electrical Specification Revision 1.0-compliant”

    So it is not really USB2.0 speeds….., it is just some shitty implementation that can ‘connect’ to USB2.0 , but bottleneck at the 1.0

    • Mr Foo says:

      You’re conflating USB 1.1 (low speed only) with HSIC 1.0 (which is part of the USB 2.0 spec).

      (snippage mine) :

      “HSIC (High-Speed Inter-Chip) is an industry standard for USB chip-to-chip interconnect .. using 240 MHz DDR signaling … HSIC interface is always operated at high speed, 480 Mbps.”

  12. h_2_o says:

    i love the wired ethernet on it and the expandability of the product, however 7 weeks out for shipping, $30 for shipping to me for it is just crazy. Hopefully those will change soon.

    on a side note does anyone know if it is a real ethernet controller on there or are they doing like so many android dev boards are doing and stacking on top of the usb controller so you end up getting horrible throughput. if that is the case i will not be getting one ever.

  13. xorpunk says:

    GOOD: Lots of text based throughout and a GPU good for complex 2D games and physics. It’s potentially a best solution for Android test app dev and testing(depends on price)

    BAD: Even with a bare metal v7 DSP code base it’s a bloated solution for anything outside end-user marketing stuff..

  14. Daniel says:

    Why no big buck bunny demo?

  15. qwerty says:

    “But you’ll pay for the faster speed and ability to run Android.”

    I would pay for sure to have a faster speed, but then why should I slow it down using a non native operating system like Android? If a board supports full fledged Linux distros as this one does, putting Android on it would be a pointless waste of resources.

    • xorpunk says:

      you do know android is ARM linux repo, don’t you?

      I wonder how annoyed ARM designers and engineers get when the arc is compared to x86 in terms of speed, and the subject of encoding/decoding comes up?

      Watching ARM trying to stick to their efficient philosophy is like watching a lot of fat people trying to stay afloat on a tree branch next to a sinking cruise ship with no life rafts. Just put higher clocks and more GPU cores on it and quit trying to be intelligent..

      • qwerty says:

        Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Point is: Android forces every app, including those written through the NDK, to run within a Java virtual machine that makes them much slower compared to their native counterparts.
        If all you have is Android then it’s fine, but putting Android on boards that support native Linux would be a waste of resources.
        Java was put into Android because Google engineers needed a security layer between user space apps and the radio+hardware layer on cellphones. It has no function on embedded boards other than killing performance.

        • xorpunk says:

          Actually after 2.3.1(?) dalvic builds are optional and there is a c++ sdk..

          There is actually no data to suggest c++ is anything but less stable as well. Real solutions are even likely to be less efficient without proper coding, which considering most devs these days don’t know how compilers work, let alone how to properly test software, is definite.

          • qwerty says:

            The C++ sdk is the ndk I was referring to. It’s called Native Development Kit, but it is not. You can certainly write a C++ app, but you’re forced to link to the Java framework and the system will always run your software within a virtual machine, which will severely impact its performance making the C++ development pointless.

            This is the reason we will never get on Android all those fast games or realtime high quality audio apps they have on iOS. On iOS you can write truly native software on Android you can’t.

  16. holden says:

    looks like its time to upgrade my robots from arduino.

  17. bitchyengine says:

    @holden
    You’ll never make it in the embedded world at that rate.

    Embedded software development is all about maximizing the size of your p3n0r by shaving microseconds from your program loops. Usually accomplished by increasing development time by 6 months or $100,000 worth of NRE salary.

    Why would you do this? So you can reduce the BoM by $50 on a product that will see production volumes in the 100s.

  18. Gravis says:

    it looks cool but it needs a giant heatsink. :(((
    i’ll stick with my pandaboard.

  19. Just a note – Samsung has a long history of VERY poor reference source for development boards, and Hardkernel’s is some of the worst.

    The ODROID-X also has a 4412, and their BSP is still for Android 4.0 (ICS) – Despite the fact that 4412-based handsets have had Android 4.1 for two months. ODROID-X has Jellybean (4.1) test images – but there is no source, *not even kernel source in compliance with the GPL*, for Jellybean.

    Dev/reference boards are supposed to be AHEAD of handsets and tablets in terms of software support as they don’t have to worry about carrier testing or wireless certification issues. However, dev boards for Samsung SoCs are consistently *way* behind anything that ships on handsets, and the reference source is fragile, poorly written, and in general crappy.

    There’s a reason all of the current Exynos4 CyanogenMod maintainers have decided not to take on any new Samsung devices and we’re all damn close to selling our current devices.

    Seriously – get a PandaBoard instead. On paper the specs aren’t as good, but the software support for that device is vastly superior and the end result is that it will likely perform better for most use cases. Yes, the reference source for Samsung SoCs is THAT bad.

  20. xorpunk says:

    It’s funny how simple polling and branching on a MC is made to look like rocket science in these comments. Most MCs have delay instructions too…

  21. Ian Tester says:

    It *does* have on-board storage in the form of eMMC modules – the black rectangle in between the stack of USB+Ethernet connectors and the microSD card slot. Available in 8, 16, or 64 GB (no 32 GB?) sizes, they say it’s twice as fast as a class 10 SD card.

  22. I was thinking of buying one but it just seem like a bad investment because of Samsung and their inability to release important things. With the basic stuff, you are looking at 153.00 USA Dollars. The Quad core seems good in paper but if it offers no Acceleration then whats the freaking of it. I have a shitty MK802 and it can play 1080 MKV with no problems at all. I figure the MALI in it and the Allwinner A10 would do bad but the thing actually has a dedicated decoder for video. So 1080P is no problem and it costs 40 bucks. However, I would like something with 4 cores as it would make the android experience much better than how it is on the MK. Netflix and Comcast apps don’t work very good. Well, netflix works good but somtimes freezes.

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