Testing the Outernet Dreamcatcher SDR

What do you get when you cross an ARM-based Linux PC and an RTL-SDR? Sounds like the start of a joke, but the answer is Outernet’s Dreamcatcher. It is a single PCB with an RTL-SDR software defined radio, an L-band LNA, and an Allwinner A13 processor with 512MB of RAM and a 1 GHz clock speed. The rtl-sdr site recently posted a good review of the $99 board.

We’ll let you read the review for yourself, but the conclusion was that despite some bugs, the board was no more expensive than pulling the parts together separately. On the other hand, if you uses, for example, a Raspberry Pi 3, you might expect more support and more performance.

Despite the L-band hardware, there is a bypass antenna jack that allows you to receive other frequencies. There’s also two SD slots, one to boot from and another for storage. Several pieces of software had trouble running on the somewhat sluggish CPU, although some software that is optimized for the particular processor used fared better. You can read the details in the review.

The board is interesting, although unless you have a special packaging problem, you are probably as well off to combine a Pi and a dongle, as we have seen so many times before. If you have more horsepower you can even make the Pi transmit, although we’d suggest some filtering if you were going to do that for real.

8 thoughts on “Testing the Outernet Dreamcatcher SDR

  1. Just curious – whats the benifit of this vs any ither ARM board (like a pi) + RTLSDR? dont get me wrong – i think integration is cool…but i can get a pi and RTLSDR for less than half of the price of this board. If there is a reason to shoot for this bad boy – ill happily pick one up…but im just not seeing it yet.

    1. It’s more than a Pi+RTLSDR. You also get a LNA, active antenna, standard headers for UART and JTAG, pushbuttons, LEDs, possibly a LiPo charger.

      I assembled an old-style Outernet receiver earlier this year. Spent a lot of time packing SMA pigtails, mounting plates, shields and heatsinks into a small weatherproof enclosure, and worrying whether the USB connectors would survive outdoor temperature swings. Wish I had known about this integrated alternative.

    1. Okay – this board is one of the COOLEST packages ive gotten in a long time. Maybe 10 minutes of setup and i’m already 7% in on downloading the first content package….FROM SPACE! By the way, if anyone was hesitant to try this because of the lack of software – the team just released their first image for this kit with Skylark. Burn, plug, and play. BUY THIS THING

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