The Raspberry Pi Becomes a Form Factor

Despite the cries for updated hardware, the Raspberry Pi foundation has been playing it cool. They’re committed to getting the most out of their engineering investment, and the current board design for the Raspi doesn’t support more than 512Mb of memory, anyway.

What you see above isn’t a Raspberry Pi, though. It’s the Carrier-one from SolidRun. All loaded out, it has a system-on-module with a quad core ARM Cortex-A9, 2GB of RAM, 1000 Mbps Ethernet, USB host ports, eSATA, and LVDS display connector, a real time clock, and everything else you get with a Raspberry Pi, header pins included. It’s all the awesomesauce of the newer ARM boards that will still work with all your Raspberry Pi hardware.

If you’re thinking this is a product announcement, though, think again. The folks at SolidRun are merely using this Raspberry Pi form factor board as a prototyping and development platform for their CuBox-i device, In its lowest configuration, the CuBox-i1 is still no slouch and would be more than able to keep up with the most demanding Raspberry Pi applications.

Still, though, a hugely powerful board with lots of I/O is something we’d all love, and if SolidRun gets enough complaints praise, it seems like they might be willing to release the Carrier-one as an actual product.

61 thoughts on “The Raspberry Pi Becomes a Form Factor

  1. It’s a shame, because the RPi is a terrible form factor, with connectors on 3 of 4 sides, many protruding parts requiring a complex shape for expansion boards, and poor physical support for those expansions with the header on one side only.

    1. Put a RasPi next to a BeagleBone Black and look at the component layout. Not going to throw with mud at the RPi guys but they could save some money by doing proper layout: less vias and less PCB surface.

    2. I simply refuse to buy one because of that stupid offset USB port. I could live with connectors on three sides, but that USB port annoys me to no end.

      1. Eactly how could it be annoying you SOOOOO much if you haven’t even bought one?
        Wow! you get really annoyed by the thought of things you have no intention of owning.

        1. I imagine the ability to get thoroughly annoyed by something before you own one would be great… implies your house is full of things that are well suited to you.

        2. I really wanted to buy one, but then the first batch came out and I saw that USB port over at a friend who was able to get one of those first 10k. They said something along the lines of “we sent out the wrong pcb files” but later decided to stick to it, if they would have changed it I would have bought one of the later batches, but they didn’t.

          1. Just think they could have actually sold one more unit if they had dropped everything and paid attention to what you said. How terrible it is that they had to lose out on a customer such as yourself.

          2. It’s a valid complaint. Whether it’s serious enough to warrant not buying the thing at all is an individual decision, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t cost them more sales than just the 1.

          3. Count me as 10+ sales lost. I loved the idea, but after fighting with case design for my project prototype I went with atom boards.

            Slightly larger, but much easier to plan around.

          4. Well if it makes you feel any better, there are problems with corruption of USB devices so you probably won’t want to use the USB port anyway.

      2. So you refuse to buy a board designed for people to learn/hack with, because it has a few (easily moddable) parts that you don’t like?

        I’m going to assume that you own and know how to use a soldering iron? Then you are really complaining about having to pay a few cents for a part you “don’t want”?

        HAD kinda seems like the wrong place to complain about something like this…

    3. I would really like to see an inexpensive mini-itx, Nano-itx, pico-itx. or even mobile-itx board. A $70 itx arm board that has a few SATA ports and a slot to add ram would be so handy and it is a standard at least the mini flavor is.

    4. Completely agree. The PI form factor is so badly designed that makes it impossible to fit it into a non custom enclosure. Misaligned connectors aside, when will they learn that connections to the outside should be on ONLY ONE side of the PCB?

  2. Cries for updated hardware? Why? just buy something that does what you want. BeagleBone or Olimex are great choices.

    The ones that are crying simply are unableto use google.

  3. The connectors should have all been on one side. It’s a nightmare trying to retro-fit a pi into any type of existing enclosure.

    1. They say the VW bus is not a great choice for interplanetary travel because it’s a nightmare trying to retrofit rocket engines into the existing engine compartment.

      1. It also uses your legs as a crumple zone.

        (seriously, the RPi form factor might be flawed, but people will keep dealing with it for years. Just like those oddly spaced Arduino connectors…)

  4. Price:

    The Raspberry Pi has been designed for low cost, and educational purposes. If you look at the other products on the market, their price is higher (if comparing just the board, not talking accessoiries here).

    Purposes:

    The Pi is fit for many purposes (disclaimer: we manufacture and customize Raspberry Pi kits as our sole order of business), but it may not be fit for yours. If so, get a different board.

    Applications:

    In our experience a lot of applications WILL run on the Raspberry, if some solid engineering on the software side has taken place – things which people tend to ignore, when enough processing power is available. Remember, no one needs more than 640 k of RAM – and the Pi has 512 MB!

    I have to agree about the connectors, though. You get used to them, but it would be nice having them on one side of the board.

    That being said, it may well be that the Raspberry Pi foundation will release a new model in a different form factor (connector layout, etc.) – thus breaking the “standard”

    1. From the FWIW dept, I don’t think they plan on changing things any time soon. One of the Pi people spoke at our hackerspace and said that compatibility is primary to them and they won’t be releasing a stream of faster/different boards.

      There has to be a rule somewhere about the less-than-ideal solution always being the one to win the market (Windows, Arduino, Pi)…

      In any event, there are a lot of cool 32-bit boards out there. It’d be neat if more software effort was directed their way so we all have plenty of choices.

    2. I honestly don’t think they’ll never change the RPi board. I think they’ve produced the board until it stops selling. And then they’ll sell out one of the manufactures or close their door. Then either sip Martinis into retirement or bring out a new board under a new name.

      1. The RPi foundation is nonprofit. Ethan, Liz, and the other principals may well get a salary, I don’t know, but nobody’s going to be sipping martinis from this thing.

    3. My thing is if you don’t like the location of the connectors, DESOLDER THEM and create your own (tiny) enclosure and mount the connectors you want to use on it. It’s not hard to do, and you can end up with any design you want.

  5. I would gladly buy one, if just for the LVDS connector. I’ve got far too many 10-odd” TFT panels kicking about that need using!

      1. I’m pretty sure people have gone all the way and completely laptopped a Raspi. Or Raspied a laptop. For the keyboard, perhaps sneak in a controller board from a USB keyboard, ideally one of the same form factor and key layout. Tho that’s all reconfigurable in Linux anyway. Run a short wire for Ethernet if you like, and maybe connect the expansion pins thru the parallel port, if there is one.

  6. the headline is very pretentious to say the least… But i think that any business thinking that the raspi layout is the next best thing since unsliced bread sould rethink their decision. connectors on 6! sides is not really a good idea. it restricts the casing format a lot.

  7. From the link: “Analog audio out (PWM based) ”

    Does that mean it’s only native audio capability is cheasy beeping sounds like an Arduino?

    1. Nope. The Raspberry Pi audio output is also PWM-based, and while it’s not exactly high-fidelity it’s definitely capable of more than beeps.

  8. Just a remark: i.MX6 does not have a 1000 Mbps Ethernet connection. Yes, it has Gigabit Ethernet interface but its bandwidth maxes out at USB 2 maximum so it is only 480 Mbps.

  9. As best as I can tell the RasPi was never intended to be a development board. You know; like a tool to develop projects that will use the processor that’s used by the development board. The RasPi was intended to be an inexpensive computer for enticing kids to create, and run software with, with that in mind it looks to be well suited for it’s intended purpose. Anything that attempts to do a lot on a small board is going to use every bit of board edge, wherever it’s available. I looked to refresh my memory the original beagle board use all 4 edges, as does this product. Yea it’s nice to have all the connectors at the rear, in the event that’s important purchase a conventional computer motherboard. To state the obvious one product can’t satisfy all prospective customers. In the Raspberry pi foundation tries to develop products to satisfy a market that rarely can be satisfied it could hurt the primary feature of it’s current products, low cost. All in my opinion of course.

    1. Eben Upton (of both Broadcom and Raspberry Pi) will tell you otherwise. Broadcom gave the Pi project an astounding deal on the SoC used on the Pis, so people in the embedded sector could see the power and versatility of the chip. Their blog reads like a kid saying “look at me, look at what I did!”. Not knocking them; I love my Pi and will soon be using it at work to prototype an access control system I’ll be building for the company to resell (even though I suspect we’ll ultimately settle on a BeagleBone Black or even a custom embedded board for production).

  10. If you do like the layout, you are free to layout your own version of it.

    IMHO you will learn more and be happier in the end designing your own embedded computer and porting the Linux kernel to it. I have done it 3 times now for work. Yes it takes time and work but in the end you will know it inside and out.

  11. The form factor may not be perfect, but name one that meets everyones needs.
    Its ok to have imperfections, as long as one can work around them reliably…

    Why do most people not care about your project?
    Because the volume of Pis that were produced will always make them cheaper than any marginal value gains you offer. Also, the Rasberry Pi folk know that people who make shield designs and cad libraries don’t like change for the sake of change. I’d rather have a cheap board I can give students than give publicity to yet another countless China knock off.

    The only thing about the Pi that annoys me is that stupid GPU codec license cost…
    Otherwise, I use them as a module now both at-home and at-work to replace shitty little proprietary boards no one makes anymore…. ;-)

  12. I like the CuBox-i device picture. Click the magnifying glass for an even smaller picture.

    Anyway, the pico-SAM9G45 is my choice.

  13. I’m throwing money at the screen but nothing is happening…

    A PI with a quad core SoC, 2GB memory and mini PCI-E? Sign me up! Too bad they aren’t selling them… Even with the PI’s crappy form factor, I’d buy this in a heartbeat.

    To all those complaining about the form factor: The PI isn’t made to be part of a final design, hell, it wasn’t even meant to be a dev board at all… If you want a specific form factor, have your own board with your own layout made, you’ll find that it won’t be anywhere near as cheap as the PI.

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