Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Raspberry Pi 3B+ and 4
What were the biggest problems encountered?: ?: Lack of community support and technical and programming tutorials. The MaaXBoard has GPIO headers like a Raspberry Pi, but the functions for digital IO, PWM, and analog IO are currently not available. Out of the box the MaaXBoard comes with the Wayland desktop which does not include many of the expected amenities i.e. a working development IDE, an application to set the most elemental properties for the OS and interfaces.
The MaaxBoard hardware:
The MaaxBoard arrived in a plain cardboard box, with a power supply, a 16GB micro-SD card, and a HDMI cable. After programming the SD card the MaaxBoard booted without problems. I was able to connect to my systems Wi-Fi without, and soon had a text only SSH terminal session connected to my Windows 10 development system.
The MaaxBoard is faster than the raspberry pi 3’s, that I work with, but that is a subjective comparison and hard to quantify working with a text-based session over an SSH connection.
Wayland Desktop & Graphics:
The Wayland graphical interface, works, but feels unfinished and lacking in many of the standard capabilities like a user management application, python IDE (more on that later).
The provided demos included with the Debian image, are impressive, and highlight the graphical capabilities very well. The sound demo provided a sample of the boards audio abilities and was quite impressive. I have an USB drive where I store my music and audio book libraries. After connecting the USB drive and several hours of figuring out how to get it to show in the file manager, I was ready to listen to some tunes MP3 files. I was surprised to hear audio dropouts occurring when playing both music and audio books from the USB drive. Loading the MP3 file to the MaaXBoard’s SD card solved the dropout problem. My guess is that there must be a rather significant latency in the software interface that buffers and services the USB drive. This same drive works fine with my desktop Ubuntu system and the Raspberry pi’s that I’ve connected it to in the past.
Overall performance of the MaaxBoard’s Wayland interface was snappy and much faster than the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. I attributed much of this improvement in speed to the minimal capabilities of the current Wayland GUI and the high-end on-board memory as well as the quad processors.
After many hours of attempting to load a working IDE I finally was able to get Geany working. All other IDE environments failed with messages that the video display system was not compatible. The only thing I could figure was that something in the Wayland display drivers must be causing unexpected problems.
Installing Xfce to replace Wayland was simple and provided the missing applications I expected to find on any operating system today. I now had several Python IDE’s to choose from ( Geany, Thonny, IDLE). I can now use any the IDE applications without display problems.
However, the Xfce terminal application would not run. It flashes on screen for less than a second and then closes.
GPIO interfacing and I2C:
I wanted to do a road test of this board to interface to a RC airplane thrust measurement system. After discovering that none of the available Python 3 libraries work with the MaaXBoard and it’s Raspberry Pi Like GPIO header.
Unfortunately, I did not have the time necessary between cancer treatments to investigate the GPIO library incompatibilities.
My experiments with I2C interfaces went smoothly and I was able to design, build (3D print) and operate a pan and tilt system using an RPi servo hat and the onboard camera connection.
The I2C sensors I tried worked well with the board.
My suggestion would be to assign several developers the task of porting this board into the existing mountain of Python libraries to make it a truly competitive SBC in the imbedded controller niche.
The MaaxBoard is a Single-Board computer with impressive video and sound capabilities, As a competitor to the Raspberry Pi 3 or 4, it lacks basic applications and a polished GUI for the hobby or home inventor market. With these improvements it will be a real contender in the RPi type SBC market.
Depending on end use the price point in the $85 range is high compared to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ at $35 and the 4 at $60 to $70.
The heat sink on the CPU is definitely necessary (CPU runs very hot). I would suggest replacing it with a heat sink, fan combination.