First Look

Hummingboard: Giving Raspberry Pi a run for less money

You think the Raspberry Pi is cool? Check out the Hummingboard!

Credit: Solid Run

I was pretty excited to receive aHummingboard-i2-310D from Solid Run last week. This product has had a lot of buzz for two main reasons: First, the various Hummingboard models are more powerful than their Raspberry Pi equivalents and second, despite offering more power and expandability, they are more or less similarly priced.

The Hummingboard-i2-310D I received has ...

  • A dual-core i.MX6 Dual Lite Soc ("System on a Chip") clocked at 1.2GHz
  • 1GB of 64-bit 800Mbps RAM
  • A GC880 graphics processing unit (GPU) supporting OpenGL ES 1.2 and 2.0
  • HDMI 1080p output with 3D support
  • A 10/100 Ethernet port
  • A Micro SD portA coax SPDIF audio out
  • A PMW analog audio output
  • MIPI CSI 2.0 camera interface
  • A GPIO header (UART, 8 GPIO, SPI with 2 CS, I2C)

All of that for the grand price of $74.99! Here's a summary of all of the Hummingboard versions:

Hummingboard versions Solid Run

Hummingboard versions

A power supply and 4GB micro SD card pre-loaded with Android 4.4 are available as options priced at $10 each.

For the keyboard and mouse I used a Rapoo E2700 keyboard and trackpad which provides a wireless dongle the Hummingboard immediately recognized.

I didn’t have a spare monitor with an HDMI interface so I first tried to run the Hummingboard-i2-310D with a Bytec HDMI to VGA adapter I purchased at Fry’s for $29.99. It sort of worked but every five to ten seconds the display (an old Mitsubishi Diamondpoint M55LCD which I’ve had forever) would flicker, go blank, then return to normal. This problem seems to have been a compatibility issue between the "bad"monitor but other monitors appear to work fine.

So, with one of the working monitors I tested the Android system and, wow! Way cool. That said, some apps force screen rotation even though I had disabled “Auto-rotate screen” in the Android Settings app.

The other major operating system offered by Solid Run is the beta version of Debian “Jessie” (I discussed this version in my last post: “Better Know an OS: Debian GNU/Linux”).

Solid Run also claims that Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, openSUSE, Arch Linux, PCLinuxOS, CentOS, Mageia, Slackware Linux and FreeBSD can also be run but the company provides only minimal documentation for these choices. This points out perhaps the only major problem with Solid Run’s products; i.e. weak documentation.

Be that as it may; to run Debian “Jessie” you download the .img file for the operating system and, using the Win32 Disk Imager for Windows, create an installation on a micro SD, insert it in the micro SD  card slot, press the reset button, and whooosh! Debian is up and running. The performance of Debian on the Hummingboard-i2 is impressive. It’s fast, responsive, and sleek … which was pretty much my experience with both the Android and Debian OSes I tested.

Hummingboard block diagram Solid Run

Hummingboard block diagram

So, bottom line: If you’re looking for a platform for an embedded or evaluation system. the Hummingboard family provides amazingly effective, high-performance, low-cost solutions. The Hummingboard-i2-310D gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10