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$15 SBC features quad-core 64-bit Allwinner A64 SoC, Pi expansion

Dec 10, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 9,439 views

The $15 “Pine A64” SBC runs Linux or Android on a quad-core 64-bit Allwinner A64 SoC, and features dual expansion buses, one of which is Pi 2 compatible.

Roll over Raspberry Pi — there’s a new price/performance leader among hacker SBCs, and its name is Pine A64. Fremont, Calif. based startup Pine64 quickly blew past its Kickstarter funding this week, and is rising fast. Yet, there’s plenty of time to get the $15 early bird special for the base-level Pine A64 board, or $19 for the Pine A64+, which doubles the RAM and adds a few more interfaces. The prices stay the same throughout the campaign’s Jan. 23 wrap-up. Early birders benefit only by getting the board earlier, with shipments due from February to April.

Pine A64
(click image to enlarge)

The Pine64 runs Ubuntu Linux or Android on a quad-core, 64-bit Allwinner A64 SoC for tablets. At $5 a pop, the 1.2GHz, Cortex-A53 based A64 is even cheaper than the similar Allwinner H64 SoC that recently appeared in the Remix Mini mini-PC. The A64 is mated with a 500MHz, dual-core ARM Mali400-MP2 GPU.

Block diagrams for Allwinner A64 SoC (left) and Pine A64/A64+
(click images to enlarge)

According to Pine64, the Allwinner A64 runs at 11,040 MIPS, or 20-30 percent faster than similarly spec’d 32-bit SoCs. With the help of the A64 and Mali GPU, the Pine A64 can output [email protected] over its HDMI port.

So far, the lowest cost 64-bit open spec SBC we’ve seen to date is Qualcomm’s $75 DragonBoard 410c, based on the quad-core Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 410 SoC. Suddenly, the quad-core, Cortex-A7 based Raspberry Pi 2 ($35) and $9 to $24, single-core Cortex-A8 Chip don’t look quite so extraordinary. Neither does the single-core, ARM11-based Raspberry Pi Zero, which starts at $5, but really requires about $25 for a basic hacker-friendly configuration. Even the $15 Orange Pi PC with its 1.6GHz, quad-core Cortex-A7 is not quite as irresistible as it seemed when it launched in August.

The 127 x 79 x 21mm Pine A64 and Pine A64+ are identical except that the A64+ doubles the RAM to 1GB DDR3, making it “strongly” recommended for Android use. You can also buy a $29 version of the Plus with 2GB RAM.

Pine A64 without (left) and with the optional wireless module in green
(click images to enlarge)

The Plus model moves from 10/100 Ethernet to 10/100/1000Mbps, and adds a DSI video port in addition to the standard HDMI port. It also adds a touchpanel interface, as well as an optional 7-inch touchscreen. In addition, the Plus provides a CSI camera port with an optional 5-megapixel camera.

Standard features on both versions include dual USB 2.0 ports, and an audio jack with mic input. A microSD slot for up to 256GB is available (one FAQ entry says it actually tops out at 128GB), but the base prices do not include a storage card. The microSD slots are touted for being bootable, letting you quickly reflash the board if it bricks or just as quickly switch operating systems.

Pine A64 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Two I/O expansion headers are also provided. One 40-pin interface is called a Pi-2 connector, but there are no claims made here for Raspberry Pi compatibility. There’s also a 34-pin Euler interface. Together these provide the usual serial I/O, as well as SPDIF out, IR receiver, and speaker interfaces (see spec sheet below). In addition to the options listed above, there will be a variety of optional enclosures, keyboards, airmouse, IR remotes, and more available by the ship dates.

Pine A64 all plugged in (left), and with various add-on options
(click images to enlarge)

The Pine A64 supports a variety of ARM Linux distributions, including OpenWrt, but is optimized for Ubuntu and Android 5.1 “Lollipop.” It also supports the open source OpenHAB IoT stack.

Interestingly for a hacker board, the Pine A64 supports an extended -20 to 70°C temperature range. This, combined with the extensive expansion connectors, OpenHAB connection, and various comments in the videos and Kickstarter copy, suggest the Pine A64 is really aimed at high-end IoT devices as much as the media-centric applications you would expect for a 64-bit board.

The Pine A64 will be based on a combination of open source software and open spec hardware, will be supported with an online store. There are extensive FAQ notes on the Kickstarter page, and Pine64 co-founder TL Lim has sent us pin assignment charts for the expansion connectors (see charts below). Lim co-founded Cloud Media (formerly Syabas Technologies), which makes the Popcorn Hour and Open Hour Gecko media players.

Pi-2 (left) and Euler expansion header pin assignments
(click images to enlarge)

In the coming days, the company will provide “more information such as the Wifi/BT connector definition, LiPo battery port, RTC port, DSI port, CSI port and touch-panel port,” wrote Lim. “The Ethernet chip information and information on 64-bit tool chain and other utilities will also post soon, and certain schematics that don’t involve confidential info will also be released,” Lim adds

Specifications for the Pine A64 and A64+ include:

  • Processor — Allwinner A64 (4x Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.2GHz); ARM Mali400-MP2 GPU (2x @ 500MHz)
  • Memory — 512MB (standard) or 1GB ($19 Plus) or 2GB ($29 Plus) DDR3 RAM
  • Storage — Bootable microSD slot for up to 256GB; boot disk (FAT32 partition) up to 32GB
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 port with audio and CEC support for up to 3840 × 2160 @ 30fps
    • MIPI-DSI 4-lane interface with separate touch control (both on Plus only) for up to 1920 × 1200 @ 60fps
    • Optional 7-inch touchscreen via MIPI-DSI (Plus only); color active matrix; 1024 x 600; 24-chip LED backlight.
    • Hardware decode — H.265 [email protected] or H.264 [email protected]
    • Hardware encode — H.264 at [email protected] or [email protected]
    • OpenGL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG
  • Wireless — native expansion port for optional WiFi (802.11n) and Bluetooth 4.0 module
  • Networking — Fast or Gigabit (Plus) Ethernet ports
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 2.0 ports
    • Micro-USB port (for power)
    • CSI (Plus only) with optional Himax HM5065 5-megapixel, 2.7mm CMOS camera module for up to [email protected] video
    • Pi-2 GPIO (20×2) and Euler (17×2) expansion headers:
      • 3x UART
      • 2x I2C
      • 2x SPI
      • I2S
      • SPDIF out
      • IR receiver
      • Speaker
      • 3v3, 5V, and ground
  • Other features:
    • RTC with optional 3V Lithium coin battery or LiPo battery
    • Optional enclosures with 3D print files
    • Optional IR remote control, keyboard, airmouse, etc.
    • Security features including TrustZone, DRM, encrypt/decrypt, secure boot/JTAG/efUSE
  • Power — 5V via micro-USB; optional 2.0A (2000mA) power supply
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70°C
  • Dimensions — 127 x 79 x 21mm
  • Operating system — Android 5.1 or Ubuntu with Linux Kernel 3.10 available; Ubuntu Snappy and Lubuntu work fine; other ARM Linux distros also supported, as well as OpenHAB; Windows 10 possible in future

Pine64 was co-founded by the aforementioned TL Lim, as well as Johnson Jeng, co-founder and CEO of Juno Power and Juno Audio, and CEO of Amplify All, the latter two of which use the Pine A64 in their products. Advisors include Daniel Kottke, one of the first dozen Apple Computer employees. Other advisers include Kai Kreuzer, OpenHAB’s CEO, and Chris Loper, EVP at Zolt.

Further information

On Kickstarter, the Pine A64 SBC is available for $15, and the Pine A64+ goes for $19 (1GB RAM) or $29 (2GB). A $59 version gives you a 1GB A64+ with an 8GB microSD card preloaded with Android 5.1, as well as a power supply and an enclosure. An $89 package gives you the 1GB A64+ with a 64GB microSD loaded with Android, plus a WiFi/Bluetooth module, a power supply, an enclosure, and a 7-inch touch-panel.

Shipments range from February to April, depending on how early you jump in. More information may be found at the Pine A64 Kickstarter page and the Pine64 website.

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6 responses to “$15 SBC features quad-core 64-bit Allwinner A64 SoC, Pi expansion”

  1. seulater says:

    When will all these manuf. figure out we dont need another board, we need modules to plug into our own custom board. Loose all the connectors and replace them with headers.

    • Dal says:

      Yes you right, we need cheap OEM modules we can use on our boards.

    • Captain Quirk says:

      I think Congress should pass a law making it a felony to use the adjective “loose” when the person means the verb “lose”.

      Loose (“loos”); adjective; not tight

      Lose (“looz”); verb; to misplace; to get rid of

  2. sola says:

    OpenHAB support is a great deal for me, so this may very well be the heart of my home automation system. $15 is substantially cheaper than the Pi.

    Another contender is the Orange Pi ($15 too), although that is 32bit.

  3. killor says:


    I have one of Pine A64+ board with Android – 5.0 Lollipop

    work fine but I have that experience more…

    Also I have also made some wooden enclosures …( see on Amazon ANSI: B01BFBY87I or Ebay )

  4. Josef says:

    Im searching for 5 GHz WiFi module (not USB) for Pine A64.

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