For around $35, Raspberry Pi pretty decent Linux desktop computer. Actually, it is ‘okay,’ but just not good enough to give most users the acceptable web browsing experience or even get some work done regularly.
For affordable computing, there is no debate; Chromebooks are the most powerful ARM-based computers we have right now. However, that might soon change, if it hasn’t already. The type of flagship phones released these days comes with processing power that gives ultraportable laptops a run for their money.
Huawei, for one, has just released its smartphone SoC (System on a Chip) making a tiny little Linux computer. The $239 Huawei HiKey 960 board comes with an octa-core Kirin 960 chip with four high-end Cortex-A73 cores, and four low-power Cortex-A53 cores.
This HiKey 960 chip is the same chip you find on the Huawei Mate 9. Although it cannot be said to be on the same level as the Snapdragon 835, it is still a viable option in the choice for a high-end specs smartphone.
Huawei says they are working on making the board more compatible with various versions of Linux in the future, including Android. What makes the HiKey 960 the better high-end alternative to Raspberry Pi, is the big and faster RAM it comes with. If you have used phone innards for real computing work, then you must know of the frustrations caused by the small and typically slow RAM speeds.
The Huawei HiKey 960 comes with 3GB LPDDR4 RAM. It is not like this is the greatest RAM for phone innards, but it is certainly a step further towards realizing faster and bigger RAM within that space. It is certainly faster and bigger than what was available even just a year ago.
As for the graphics, the board packs enough GPU to give you 4K output, but its HDMI port only supports 1080p output. It also comes with 40-pin and 60-pin connectors allowing you to connect hardware like a camera. Perhaps even more impressive is the PCIe M.2 slot that can enable you to add a faster SSD to give you more storage space in addition to the 32GB onboard storage.
So who is the Huawei HiKey 960 board for?
The ideal user of this board is a developer working on software running on ARM, such as Android apps. Presently, most developers use x86 hardware and cross compile over to ARM. This board could help bridge the gap between developers and them testing their apps.