ASUS Tinker Board
CoNCLusIoN A souped-up tiny computer that could do with more support.
Single-board computers are a hobbyist’s delight, especially when there is amazing support in the form of open-source software, and an active community of likeminded users to share findings and help one another. In the case of the Raspberry Pi (and its subsequent models), that translated to a diverse range of third-party operating systems and programming tools, either for specific use cases or continued experimentation. The latter activity typically saw enterprising DIY enthusiasts overclocking the Pi’s CPU (and microSD card reader) to eke out further performance gains. The ASUS Tinker Board, with its souped-up specs and identical form factor, is seemingly designed to cater to the needs of these power users.
For one, the Rockchip RK3288 is a 28nm ARM-based SoC consisting of a 1.8GHz quad-core Cortex-A17 CPU and a 600MHz quad-core Mali-T760 GPU, which is meant to outclass the Pi 3 Model B’s 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and 400MHz dual-core VideoCore IV GPU. The 2GB dual-channel LPDDR3 memory on the Tinker Board is also twice that of the Pi 3 Model B, while the SD 3.0 interface allows for faster read and write speeds on a UHS-I microSD card.
What remains the same are the GPIO pinout and port placements, which was likely a conscious decision on ASUS’ part to ensure that the Tinker Board fits neatly into existing Pi cases and enclosures, allowing easy access to the four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI port, Gigabit LAN port, and 3.5mm audio jack. The inclusion of wireless-N, while convenient, is simply not as blazingly fast as the dedicated Gigabit LAN connection.
We recommend that the included heatsink be applied on the SoC right out of the box, as the board can get pretty warm during heavy load. Of the two official OSes available to Tinker Board owners, the Debian-based TinkerOS is a great starting point, though be prepared to sudo and aptget your way to popular Linux apps and software. The rather sparse LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) comes pre-installed with Chromium browser, which handled multitab browsing and HD video streaming well enough. We tested emulation packages like DOSBox, Mednafen, and ScummVM, all of which can be tweaked further to run games with smoother frame rates. The included media player does 4K UHD video playback, just as ASUS promised.
The Android 6.0 OS, on the other hand, was a little more limiting in that there are no Google Play services, but the familiar interface should prove adequate for most. Apps are installed via an APK installer, but you’ll find that most Play-dependent apps, such as YouTube and the Play Store itself, will outright refuse to run. Our attempts to install the Google Play Services Framework were unsuccessful.
The GpIo pins are color coded, while the board itself is littered with easyto-understand icons.