Olimex A13-OLinuXino Could Become a Proper Raspberry Pi Alternative

Olimex recently announced they produced the first 10 prototypes of iMX233-OLinuXino Development Board, a low-end Linux development board that will cost 30 Euros, with specifications inferior to the Raspberry Pi. They have now announced their plan to design A13-OLinuxXino development board based on the new AllWinner A13 chipset, a strip down version of AllWinner A10 without HDMI nor SATA.

Thanks to the low cost of AllWinner A13 (5 USD for very large orders / 10 USD in smaller quantities), Olimex plans to sell the new A13-OLinuxXino board for the same price as the iMX233-OLinuXino but with a faster 1GHz Cortex A8 processor and 256 or 512 MB RAM. I assume their will be 2 versions as well, the MINI for 29,95 Euros and the MAXI version with 2 more USB 2.0 host ports and 10/100Mbit Ethernet for 44.95 Euros.

This board could be a very interesting alternative to the Raspberry Pi, as you would be able to run Ubuntu and Android 4.0 (if there is 512 MB RAM). Another advantage is that the AllWinner A13 comes in TQFP package which can be soldered by hand.

However there are some drawbacks with this board. The lack of HDMI output might be problematic for some people, especially if composite output is the only video output available, although an external TFT Touchscreen module should also be available. Although AllWinner A10 datasheet is available, there is no official documentation for AllWinner A13 (at least not yet). This situation is somewhat similar to the Broadcom BCM2835 used in Raspberry Pi, even though they eventually released a shortened version of datasheet to be able to configure peripherals. Finally, contrary to Freescale i.MX233, Allwinner A13 is not in industrial temperature range, which limits it use to 0-60 degree Celsius applications.

Olimex plans to release Android 4.0 and Debian Linux for the devkit. Development will start in May, and based in iMX233-OLinuXino development cycle, the first working prototypes could be available in June.

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9 Replies to “Olimex A13-OLinuXino Could Become a Proper Raspberry Pi Alternative”

  1. if i recall correctly the biggest issue with the A10->A13 are not just the chopping of HDMI but critically SATA gets the chop and i’m told the GPU is cut down as well (T.B.C.) .. i presume also they will be chopping out the NAND as well ? .. can only be a few bucks diff (incl connector and incremental labour cost).

    I can understand that (olimex) they been burned badly by the pi and now they appear to be thinking of a decent A10/A13 hardware spec (for the pi target home users) and they want to get as close to the pi pricepoint as possible.

    For me the SATA chopped is the biggest issue as i would be running it as a headless SSH CLI debian home server server (to replace my plug) but i think for the majority of people in the West buying this (like the pi) the lack of HDMI would be a huge issue as they would be the xmbc brigade (which youre gonna need to get the volume you want for the bulk pricing)

    Its more of a worry that these Olimex people seem to have an unprofessional side (from their comments on the Rhombus Tech A10 post list and as well in their press release you refer to above where they state “A13-OLinuXino will be more or less higher performance RPi-like TOY”).

    In the UK theres a famous case of a HUGE company “Ratners” refering to their products as “crap” in an interview .. they went out of business shortly after .. refering to your potential products as “TOYS” seems to me to be pretty silly.

    Back to the A10/A13 based products .. you can buy the mele A1000/2000 retail for US 60 or less in china in a nice retail package even including a sata drive caddy (which is easily hackable thanks to the Rhombus forum group’s efforts) … my understanding is that this is more or less the reference allwinner board you get so it would seem to be the way IMHO to go would be to do deal for a couple of thousand of these boards only (perhaps without the NAND) from mele (or mele’s oem) and i’m guessing you could potentially get the price down to around US40 for board only in a antistat wrap ? and be on the market within weeks

    Theres a lot of talk about getting A10 poducts up and running but IMHO by the time they get retail boards the Pi 2 will be out and dual core CPU/SATA/quad GPU and Allwinner may very well be pushing its latest dual core SOC

    … “time waits for noone” as they say


  2. @ mac me
    Yes, you are correct both HDMI and SATA have been removed in A13. I didn’t know about the GPU.

    Olimex is doing all sort of development boards for hobbyists and also some other services like PCB manufacturing. The R-Pi is probably unbeatable on a price/performance ratio for Linux devkit, but most of their devkits is for MCU, so they should be OK, unless people start to use the R-Pi even for low end projects (e.g. even replacing Arduino) which might be possible considering the low price point of the Raspberry Pi.

    I think many people will be disappointed with XBMC on R-Pi once they realize they might have to convert many of their videos to play them back. This could change if extra codecs can be enabled in the R-Pi.

    I really like the Mele A1000 features, price point and “hackability”. I suppose that’s why I bought one 🙂 If Rhombus Tech can get the BOM cost down to 15 USD (target for 100k order), then their A10 board would probably sell for less than 40 USD.

    I’m not quite sure why Rhombus Tech development seems relatively slow (no prototype yet after 4 months since they announced the project), but hopefully the A10 board will be available before R-Pi 2.

  3. IMO, the suggestion that Raspberry Pi was damaging to Olimex is mostly incorrect, since Olimex was not in the business of supplying Linux boards.

    It is possible to argue that since Rpi can be used for very simple hardware control, it eats into Olimex’s sale of microcontroller boards. However, that is offset by the fact that Rpi’s hardware interfaces are very restricted, so anyone requiring a non-trivial hardware interface would need to attach a microcontroller to the Rpi, and Olimex’s microcontroller boards are very competitive indeed.

    For example, combine the Rpi with the Olimexino-STM32 — http://www.olimex.com/dev/olimexino-stm32.html — which costs only 17 pounds in UK, and provides the power of ARM at the same time as header compatibility with Arduino shields. It’s hard to beat that combination, so I can’t really see Rpi as harming Olimex. Rpi is more of an opportunity for them than a danger. (But yes, calling other products “toys” is a very unprofessional move.)

    BeagleBone is far more likely to be harmed by Rpi than Olimex, since that’s a Linux board and their capes are not compatible with Arduino, the market leader in enthusiast hardware interfacing. They really have no answer to the Rpi price point at all, beyond pointing out that BB has vastly more interfacing potential than Rpi, which is true.

    I’m very interested to hear about Olimex’s plans to provide an A13-based Linux board as open hardware. Rpi has definitely opened up Pandora’s Box. Exciting times ahead. 🙂


  4. @Morgaine
    W.R.T. Olimex and Rpi … theres no ambiguity that their previous device was “designed” to be a low cost mass market “home” device like the pi .. and if you still had any doubt about this then their press release for the Allwinner SOC device proposed goes even further to conclude the point …

    Pre the Pi (and as an analogue to Olimex) i was watching a really interesting little fast single core $50 board for the home market from Genesi (of Efika fame) which was due to be launched Q3/4 last year … they pulled this VERY QUIETLY at the last minute (coincidence with pi?).

    A13 vs A10 … the lack of HDMI IMHO will be a killer for mass market (note not emerging market) and if youre buying a board for its low cost the vast majority of ppl are not gonna want to buy a far more expensive custom TFT to use as a display.

    in repect of beagle .. its an entirely different product/infrastructure and space IMHO and although it will no doubt be affected by the pi .. its a large step up currently in its abilities that the pi in the short term is unlikely to hurt much

    For most people buying these devices (and that includes the Rpi) they will buy to play, learn or run xmbc and the like as you say .. like you i think the Rpi is too underpowered (CPU wise) as at the end of the day its CPU lacked the grunt (although it has a FPU) to replace my rotting old hacked plug device running my squeezebox server/minidlna/VPN server etc (which i was very dissapointed about)

    If you think about the pi foundation .. it has one of 2 choices (a) continue to develop hardware itself .. (b) open up to other platforms as a “learning portal” .. it looks like they are going for (a) and as they have probably learned a hard lesson (in keeping to what they know) i suspect there will be a pi2 and then they will hand the entire testing and manufacturing process to RS and the like we may well see a dual core CPU Pi2 for a similar price before year end … i hope and without their fiasco in trying to manufacture. (i dont mean this in a hard way about the pi people they deserve a lot of credit for getting to where they are)

    I am surprised about is that we have seen nothing from India in this space … the small ARM board designers can knock out a top quality new board/drivers in a matter of weeks but strangely no efforts from them in this space .. in respect of the US SOC makers unless you are a BIGBOY you dont get a look in at low end pricing but i wonder if the Chinese government are restricting export of Allwinner etc. SOC’s or its incorporation in to non chinese designs to keep india and the like out of the market ?

    From my point of view the more competitors the better then we as consumers get a better deal ..

  5. @mac_me: I agree with everything you wrote except the part about Olimex.

    They didn’t create the OLinuXino before the Pi niche appeared and hence cannot have been impacted by it. Quite the opposite. They created the OLinuXino as a result of Raspberry Pi opening up the bottom end market niche, and now Olimex is trying to find a small niche of its own within this new segment by making their hardware totally open, which the Pi is not.

    They’re riding the Pi wave, reacting quickly and quite effectively, not being crushed by it.

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