OlinuXino in the flesh. 5.25" at it's widest. Five and a quarter floppies have nothing on this board... (via Cabe)
Within the last couple years development boards have been spreading like wildfire. It seems that every other week there is a new one being released over the internet. Just a quick look at Sparkfun's website and one will find that there is a whole list of boards to choose from. These include Arduino, ARM, Beagle boards, MSP's, PIC, Raspberry Pi's, Maple boards, and many many more. So, does another development board being brought into the mix have any chance of success? Well let’s take a look Olimex's A13- OlinuXino and find out how it can fare against its competition.
Starting with the processing, the comes equipped with a Cortex A8 processor and 3D Mali400 GPU. Compared to other board's processors this is fairly average and runs at a speed of 1 GHz. This is more powerful than the Raspberry Pi, but it still is no showstopper. Moving on, it features 512 MB of RAM along with an SD card connector for additional storage. As with many other popular boards, the Linux image may be saved and booted from this SD card input. Nevertheless, the basic board does not come equipped with any additional memory, although it does have pins for easily connecting to user supplied flash memory. They do offer a Wi-Fi version of the board for an additional price. In this version users can expect all the basic's features along with a Wi-Fi module and 4GB of NAND flash memory.
(Left) the media side of the board, showing off microSD, 5 push button switches, and VGA out. (Right) USB and power side. (via Cabe)
Where the OlinuXino presents an advantage compared to others is with its large array of input/output connectivity options. The board boasts 68/74 general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins which are configured as follows: 17 for NAND flash memory, 22 for connecting LCD's, 24 GPIO with 8 that can be used for interrupts, 3xI2C setups, 2xUART setups, and 5 system pins (+5V, +3.3V, GND, RESET, NMI). With all this available GPIO any user will be ready for some serious embedded design.
Although the OlinuXino has some nice key features for specific tasks such as the UEXT connector for Zibees and the 22 pins dedicated for LCDs, I still believe Olimex is going to face some troubles making it as a prominent board. Boards such as the Raspberry Pi and Beagle Bone have a major advantage. It does not have to do with their processor or board architecture; it has more to do with their enormous community of supporters. Personally, as a hobbyist, I do not know my way around all the nooks and crannies of any specific board. As much as I would love to, time is a key factor when developing. Therefore, when it comes time to work on a new project, tutorials and examples are one of the key factors in deciding which board I may be using. Furthermore, how well one can work in Linux and whether or not the board is configured for Linux use is another key feature many people may consider. However, for the enthusiasts out there who love to explore different development boards this may be a nice one to check out. For its capabilities the price is not bad (45 Euros), and the additional LCD is rather cheap (also 45 Euros for basic 7 inch). Nevertheless, unless this specifically met the needs of my project or design, this would be a board sitting on the back burner for me.
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