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Mini-PC doubles as open-spec, octa-core hacker SBC

Nov 20, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 3,549 views

Geekbuying’s $109, open-spec “GeekBox” mini-PC includes a removable SBC that runs Android and Ubuntu on an octa-core RK3368, and can plug into a carrier.

Here’s something new and different. Online tech retail site Geekbuying has launched a self-branded GeekBox media player mini-PC that features a removable, open source, open-spec single board computer. The GeekBox SBC, which includes a number of ports and dual WiFi-ac antennas, can then plug into an optional, $30 GeekBox Landingship carrier board with a MXM3 golden finger connector. The similarly open-spec Landingship contributes additional ports to turn the GeekBox board into a fully featured hacker SBC.

GeekBox (left) and opened to reveal removable SBC
(click images to enlarge)

Making the GeekBox doubly cool is that it dual boots Android and Ubuntu on the octa-core, 64-bit Rockchip RK3368 SoC. When we first encountered the RK3368 in a shipping product — the Tronsmart Orion R68 media player mini-PC — back in June, there were relatively few details on the SoC, but Rockchip has now posted an RK3368 product page.

GeekBox board plugging into GeekBox Landingship carrier board

The 28nm fabricated RK3388 combines eight ARMv8 Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 1.5GHz. The SoC includes a top-of-the-line PowerVR 6110 GPU, supporting OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenCL 1.2, and DirectX 9.3. The RK3368 also supports the HDMI 2.0 standard, as well as 4Kx2K H2.64 and H.265 video @ 60fps.

GeekBox (left) and package contents, except for optional Landingship or display
(click images to enlarge)

The 90 x 69 x 21mm GeekBox, which is pretty much the GeekBox board with a case, is equipped with 2GB LPDDR3 RAM, 16GB Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash, and an SD slot. There’s also a gigabit Ethernet port, and 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1, with dual antennas. Interfaces include an HDMI 2.0 port, dual USB host ports (presumably 2.0), a micro-USB OTG port, and a serial debug interface. There’s also an eDP connector that hooks up to an optional, 7.9-inch, 2048 x 1536 capacitive touchscreen that sells for $68.

Front and back detail views of GeekBox board
(click images to enlarge)

When you remove the GeekBox board and plug it into the GeekBox Landingship carrier, you add a SATA slot, a third USB host port, and a 60-pin GPIO expansion connector. The Landingship also greatly expands the multimedia potential with S/PDIF and analog audio ports, dual mic inputs, a MIPI-CSI camera interface, and a MIPI-DSI display connector.

GeekBox Landingship (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

The pre-installed, dual-boot Android 5.1 and Ubuntu Linux distributions can be hot-switched, and they come with a pre-installed version of the Kodi media player application. The GeekBox also supports Rockchip’s Android-based Light Biz OS, which is said to make Android work more like a desktop operating system, complete with multitasking windows.

GeekBox display connection (left) and appearance
(click images to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the GeekBox, both in the media player chassis version, and with the SBC combined with the GeekBox Landingship, include:
  • Processor — Rockchip RK3368 (8x Cortex-A53 cores @ up to 1.5GHz); PowerVR 6110 GPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB LPDDR3-1600 RAM
    • 16GB Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash
    • SD (TF) slot
    • SATA slot for 2.5-inch drive (only on Landingship)
  • Display/multimedia:
    • HDMI 2.0 port
    • eDP interface
    • Optional 7.9-inch, 2048 x 1536 capacitive touchscreen (via eDP) with Retina display
    • MIPI-DSI connector (Landingship)
    • MIPI-CSI, 20-pin, 1.27mm camera interface (Landingship)
    • Audio headphone jack (Landingship)
    • Audio S/PDIF port (Landingship)
    • 2x mic inputs (Landingship)
    • Video support — [email protected] decoding, 10-bit HEVC and AVS+ codec support; H.264 up to 4K 30Hz; HD MPEG1/2/4, H.265, 4K-HD, HD AVC/VC-1, RM/RMVB, Xvid/DivX3/4/5/6, RealVideo8/9/10
    • Audio support — MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG, AC3, DDP, TrueHD, DTS, DTS, HD, FLAC, APE
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO @ 867Mbps (Broadcom AP6354 module)
    • Bluetooth 4.1 (AP6354)
    • 2x antennas
    • IR with remote (IR receiver also on Landingship)
    • Optional 5dB WiFi booster antenna ($9.69)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB OTG port
    • Third USB host port (Landingship)
    • UART (3x pins) for debug
    • Fan and RTC headers
    • 60-pin GPIO (Landingship)
  • Expansion:
    • 314-finger MXM3 card edge connector on GeekBox board
    • MXM3 socket on Landingship board
  • Other features – Reboot, update, power keys; LEDs on SBC and Landingship; RTC battery (Landingship); “2 x 2” user buttons and buzzer (Landingship); optional cooling fan
  • Power — 5V @ 2A DC with AC or DC adapter, charging cable; 5V DC in with over-voltage protection (Landingship)
  • Operating temperature — maximum of 56.3℃ without heat sink
  • Dimensions:
    • GeekBox:
      • Board — 82 x 56mm
      • Enclosure — 90 x 69 x 21mm
    • Landingship — 116 x 86 x 13mm
  • Operating system — Android 5.1 and Ubuntu Linux dual-boot with pre-installed Kodi; can also run Rockchip’s Android-based Light Biz OS

Further information

The GeekBox is available for $110, discounted from a $214.80 retail price, or $140 when you include the optional $30 GeekBox Landingship carrier board. The optional 7.9-inch display costs $68. More information may be found at Geekbuying’s dedicated GeekBox site as well as the GeekBox product page and GeekBox promotional page.

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3 responses to “Mini-PC doubles as open-spec, octa-core hacker SBC”

  1. sola says:

    There are a lot of nice things in this but I don’t think it will be very popular at $210. The introductory price looks OK though.

    The PowerVR GPU seems like a weakness, traditionally it has nonexistent Linux (non-Android) driver support. It would be nice to know about the status of 2D/3D acceleration and the level of Xorg support under Linux. Also, does the pre-installed Kodi support hw-accelerated, stutterless playback for ALL of the listed formats?

    For $210, I would expect a more powerful ARM processor too. The A53 is the weakest 64bit Cortex core. A quad-A72 + quad-A53 would actually be appealing even at that price.

    • Robert says:

      Yeah, using a PowerVR kernel blob makes it essentially undebuggable.

    • CFWhitman says:

      Yes, right now I pay a lot of attention to community support and availability of open source drivers. These things can be more important than hardware specs. The Raspberry Pi devices and i.MX6 based hardware is what I have gotten that’s lasted for more than a few months with decent support. I’d love to see some ARM or MIPS hardware with a well supported open source graphics driver, but the better reverse engineered drivers are the closest we seem to be able to come at the moment.

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