Not too long ago I reviewed the Banana Pi R1, and even before that I reviewed the Banana Pi original. These boards keep coming out and they keep getting better. The new M2 is not out yet at the time of writing this but the Banana Pi website lists it as coming soon. There are a lot of interesting new features which may make you reconsider this as opposed to another device for one of your projects.
The M2 is made some changes in hardware since the previous version. The Processor has been upgraded from an A20 1.2GHz dual core to an A31s Arm quadcore. There is 1GB of DDR3 RAM shared with the GPU and a PowerVR SGX544MP2 video processor. This little board has quite a bit of power considering that it is directly competing with something like the Raspberry Pi B+ which has significantly lower specs.
The ports around the device include a 10/100/1000 ethernet port, 4x USB 2.0, IR Reciever, 3.5mm camcorder audio/video, LVDS/RGB Display, HDMI out, 5V-2A DC jack, USB OTG, camera interface, and of course the power and boot buttons. You may notice that since the previous version you no longer have a SATA port or SATA power out. This might mean a lot to you, or it might mean nothing. The lack of SATA was probably a decision in order to pack on some of the newer components but you will need to use USB to connect additional drives now.
The backside of the board is where some new features might surprise you. The Banana Pi M2 has an 802.11 b/g/n WiFi interface and antenna port directly on the board. This is honestly the best new feature to me since every single one of the projects I do with the Banana or Raspberry Pis involves WiFi somehow. The SD card slot has also been changed to a micro SDHC slot, which saves on the footprint of the board.
|CPU||A31S ARM Cortex-A7 quad-core,256 KB L1 cache 1 MB L2 cache|
|GPU||· PowerVR SGX544MP2· Comply withOpenGL ES 2.0, OpenCL 1.x, DX 9_3|
|Memory (SDRAM)||1GB DDR3 (shared with GPU)|
|Onboard Storage||TF card (Max. 64GB) / MMC card slot|
|Onboard Network||10/100/1000 Ethernet RJ45, WIFI onboard|
|Video Input||A CSI input connector allows for the connectionof a designed camera module|
|Video Outputs||HDMI, CVBS , LVDS/RGB|
|Audio Output||3.5 mm Jack and HDMI|
|Power Source||5 volt via MicroUSB(DC In Only)and/or MicroUSB (OTG)|
|USB 2.0 Ports||4 USB PORT|
|GPIO(2X20) pin||GPIO,UART,I2C bus,SPI bus with two chip selects,CAN bus,ADC,PWM,+3.3v,+5v,ground.|
|LED||Power Key & RJ45|
|OS||Android and Linux etc. OS|
|Product size||92 mm × 60mm|
|working temperature range||-15~75℃|
Software wise there isn’t much to go on yet aside from an Android 4.4 image but you can rest assured that the community and the company will be porting over the images for the M1 very soon. I haven’t tried any of the older images yet but the Android image I installed was fantastic.
For once I actually don’t have much to say about software for a device I am reviewing simply because there is only one image to use right now. The Android image that is available was fine once I switched it over to English but I have not been able to play with the GPIO pins or install anything like Phidgets to test out coding or connecting external hardware.
One that worth mentioning since my previous Banana Pi reviews is the community. Over time people are starting to learn about the Banana Pi and the community is growing. People have been visiting the forums and porting images like Debian, Fedora, Android, and OpenWRT to the Banana Pi. This is awesome because when I first explored this brand there was not much happening in the bpi world and because the name is so similar to Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi community has actually been shunning the development on these boards.
I think it is worth mentioning that not only can you go to the forums for support, but you can go check out projects and explore new operating systems that are compatible with your device.
Raspberry Pi Compatibility
The Banana Pi is as you would expect compatible to a certain degree with Raspberry Pi hardware. I connected the PiFace command and control board to this device just as I have with all the other Banana related boards I have received and I have to say it almost fits. It is on enough to actually use but I will have to wait until the Debian image is ported over for it to fully be tested.
Due to the slightly similar layout, you will not be able to use any of the Raspberry Pi cases. Although this board is inspired by the design of the Raspberry Pi B+ it is slightly different proportionately but totally different with ports and layout. This is sort of frustrating but I honestly don’t use cases with any of these devices, mostly because my daughter thinks they look like little cities.
Lastly if you plan on grabbing your SD card from your Raspberry Pi and popping it into the BPI, you will notice it wont boot. This is for a reason by design. The Banana Pi images are optimized for Arm V7, where the Raspberry Pi is optimized for Arm V6. This architecture change makes it impossible to just run the OS, but also justifies a total port to the new architecture.
I am actually excited about this board. I have had a lot of success with the original. Although there is only one image to choose from, the Banana Pi M2 is not quite ready yet and by the time it is launched in Feb, there will likely be more images available on the website. This device is going to make a really nice emulation machine and I might even try for the actual workstation goal, although with an Arm processor, it might be difficult to run all my tools.
This device will be worth looking into, it is actually quite the upgrade and running Android on it vs the original Banana Pi is such an upgrade.
Here are some shots of the Banana Pi, as well as a couple comparison shots with the Banana Pi and the Raspberry Pi.