Meet Pine A64, the $15 super computer

When Raspberry Pi was first introduced back in 2012, it set the tech world ablaze. Everyone from die-hard coding fanatics to school teachers embraced the budget microcomputer, which quickly matured into one of Britain’s fastest-selling computer brands.

The most recent contender in the single-board computer arena, Pine A64 feels like the Raspberry Pi’s faster, better-looking cousin from overseas. Armed with an impressive spec sheet and a ridiculously low price tag, this pocket-sized circuit board wants to be the new sheriff in town. Judging by the first look, the badge is very much his for the taking.

How it compares

Labelled as a 64-bit supercomputer, Pine A64 is powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 CPU, running at 1.2GHz. Raspberry’s closest high-performance challenger – Raspberry Pi 2 Model B – runs on 4 Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 900 MHz.

Between the two, Pine A64 not only boasts superior clock speed but also employs more advanced architecture. As a result, it’s able to consume less power on average, while delivering a better overall performance. The microcomputer uses the Allwinner A64 SoC (System on a Chip), not dissimilar to the ones found in various tablets in the $80-$100 price range.

Regarding graphics, Pine A64 utilises a dual-core MALI-400 MP2 GPU, running at 500MHz. Translated into English, its graphics potential is somewhat higher than that of the original Xbox. What that also means is that Pine A64 is very capable of effortlessly playing 4k high-definition videos. Raspberry Pi’s maximum resolution, on the other hand? 1920×1200.

But perhaps the most discerning feature of Pine A64 is the fact that it is – as its name boldly foreshadows – a 64-bit computer, which is a big deal. All Raspberry Pi models run on 32-bit processors, therefore lacking the ability to process any 64-bit software.

With Pine, electronics enthusiasts, high schoolers and DYI hackers have the power to create a larger variety of more powerful applications, compared to what most other boards on the market have to offer. It’s safe to say that 64-bit programming will only keep growing in popularity. To that end, Pine A64 presents itself as the obvious choice for those wishing to stay ahead of the curve.

What can I do with it?

As Pine A64 is an open source platform, there’s a wide range of operating systems it can support, including Android, Ubuntu or openHab for software automation. With an addition of mouse and keyboard, the circuit board can be transformed into a fully-operational Android 5.1 computer, that can run Chrome, Microsoft Word, Excel and more.

The board can execute pretty much all Android apps available. With an additional touchscreen module, it can be turned into a bonafide arcade machine, with access to hundreds of thousands of Android games currently on the store. Pine A64 is also a prospective media player: plug it into a TV and watch your favourite shows on Youtube, or even Netflix.

Of course, just like with any of its competitors, the actual capabilities of Pine A64 heavily depend on its user’s imagination. Raspberry Pi was used as an effective and affordable tool to get people excited about coding. With built-in support for 64-bit software, the amount of DIY projects one can create with a single-board computer is now greater than ever.

Features and specs

Pine A64 currently comes in three flagship versions. The basic model, priced at 15$ a pop, comes with the 1.2Ghz board and 512MB SDRAM, 10/100Mbps Ethernet Port, 3.5 MM Audio/Mic Output, 4K HDMI, and 2 USB ports.

The 19$ version, dubbed Pine A64+, features an additional 512MB SDRAM (1GB total) and includes touch panel, camera, and LCD Port accessibility. For additional 10 bucks, you can ramp up your circuit board’s memory to a total of 2GB SDRAM.

It’s important to note that none of the three models come furnished with either WiFi or Bluetooth – instead, the developer will offer a list of relevant modules on its online store, which you can buy and add on to the circuit board per your specific needs. You’ll also need to purchase a separate power supply as well as a microSD card (preferably pre-loaded with the OS) to boot up.

The Pine A64 project is currently featured on Kickstarter and has raised about $750k in pledge money so far. Their initial goal was set at a measly $31k.

Editor’s note: The Kickstarter campaign is over, to find out more about how the microcomputer is doing now, check out their website.


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