Review & Quick Start Guide for Khadas Vim Pro Development Board with Ubuntu 16.04

Khadas Vim is the only Amlogic S905X development board I’m aware of. There are 4 or 5 versions of the board, but currently only two models are sold: Khadas Vim with 8GB flash and single band WiFi + BLE 4.0, and Khadas VIM Pro with 16GB flash, and dual band WiFi + BLE 4.2. SZWesion, the company behind the board, has sent Khadas Vim Pro for evaluation. Today, I’ll take a few pictures of the board and its accessories, and report my experience playing with Ubuntu 16.04.2 on the board. They’ve also released Android, LibreELEC, and dual boot Android/Ubuntu (for Vim Pro only) images, which you can find in the firmware resources page.

Khadas Vim Pro Unboxing and Photos

My parcel included Khadas package that looks like a book, an HDMI cable, and the same IR remote control sent with GeekBox, the first board made by the company, and powered by a Rockchip RK3368 processor.

You can indeed open the package like a book, and you’ll find the board and a USB to USB type C cable inside, as well as some basic specifications.

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You can verify you’ve got the right model on that back of the package which shows the memory and storage, in my case 2 GB + 16 GB.

The board comes with a neat acrylic case with openings for headers and ports. The top of the board features a 40-pin header, the Amlogic S905X processor (no heatsink), two RAM chips, the eMMC flash, the wireless module (AP6255), and most ports with two USB 2.0 ports, a USB type C port, HDMI 2.0a, and Fast Ethernet. There’s also a separate header close to the USB-C port giving access to Vin in case you don’t want to power your board through USB.

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There’s also 2-pin battery connector on the left of the board for the real-time clock (RTC). The bottom side of the board includes two more RAM chips, and the micro SD slot.

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Power, “function” and reset buttons can also be found on the side of the board, and there’s an IR receiver on the right of the 40-pin header.

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Ubuntu 16.04 on Khadas Vim (Pro)

While you can download the firmware on the “Firmware Resources” page, I recommend you check the Announcements & News section on the forums, as they normally include a changelog and some tips to configure your board. An Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image was released last month, but the company uploaded a Ubuntu 16.04.2 server image yesterday, so that’s the one I’m going to use today. A new Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image with better graphics support will be released sometimes next week.

My plan is to do the update in my Linux computer. The firmware is distributed through Mediafire, so you’ll have to download it through your web browser. I also downloaded  Vim_Uboot_170121.7z on the Firmware Resources pge since it’s needed for the SD card update method. Once we’ve got the firmware and U-boot binaries we can extract them with 7z.

Now insert the micro SD card inside your computer, find the device with lsblk, and check if it has more than one partition. Replace /dev/sdX with your own device.

If it has no partition or more than one, you’ll need to change the partition table using tools like fdisk, or gparted. The instructions provided on Khadas website are basically the same as I wrote in the post “How to Create a Bootable Recovery SD Card for Amlogic TV Boxes“.

Mount the partition, for example by removing and re-inserting the micro SD card into your computer, and copy two files needed for update:

Eject the micro SD card:

Now connect your board with the cables would want to use (e.g. Ethernet, HDMI, etc…), and possibly connect a USB to TTL debug board to access the serial console in case of errors. I also connect a USB hub with my RF dongles for the air mouse and a USB keyboard.

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The board comes pre-loaded with Android 6.0.1 with Linux 3.14, so you can connect the power first to make sure the board is working properly. Note that you’ll need to provide your own USB power supply. I used a 5V power supply, and not a fast charger found in some phones and starting at 12V. Now we can insert the micro SD card we’ve just prepared into the board, and boot into Upgrade Mode by keeping pressing on the power button (closest to the 40-pin header), pressing a short time on the reset button (closest to the USB port), and releasing the power button two or three seconds later. At this point, you should get a firmware upgrade interface on the HDMI display with a green progress bar, and once completed you’ll get a “Successful Android” logo.

This is what it looks like in the serial console during the update:

So I pressed Control-C in the serial console (if you have not set it up just reboot the board), and it failed to boot with the multiple error messages:

I contacted SZWesion about the issue, and they told me the SD card method did not work despite being documented on their website, and I had to use Amlogic USB Burning Tool in Windows instead. So I fired up a Windows 7 virtual machine, and I had no problem (for once) flashing the “update.img” file extract from Vim_Ubuntu-server-16.04_V170211.7z to the board.

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This time it works and the board booted properly. Here’s the complete boot log for reference.

Once the boot is complete, you’ll be presented with a boot prompt on the HDMI monitor and the serial console:

After login with root / khadas crendentials, we can check some of the system details:

As expected we have a quad core Cortex A53 processor, about 14GB storage available fromthe 16 GB eMMC flash, 1.7 GB free for Linux, a Linux 3.14 kernel, and Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS.

Normally, you don’t really want to login as root for all your tasks, so we’re being asked to create a new khadas user manually:

I would have expected this to be done by default in the image… I’ll keep using root in the rest of the instructions below.

The link status LED is on on my Ethernet switch, but let’s see if the network is up:

Again, I would have expected the network to start automatically, so we’d have to set that up ourselves as instructed in the release notes:

I could get an IP from my router:

Good. Now let’s check loaded modules and GPIO:

GPIOs are enabled, but we’d have to export the pin to use them, and I could not find specific documentation yet, except the GPIO pinout.

We can however control the LED on the board using one the states listed below

So we can want to turn off the red LED:

or make it blink depending on activity on the eMMC flash:

The Mali driver is loaded, but I’ve been told the drivers in the server image only works with non-X programs. I tried to install mesa-utils-extra for es2gears, and glmark-es2, but neither packages are available. That’s because several repositories are not enabled by default (e.g. multiverse and universe), but it’s easy to change:

Now I use install both packages:

But to test those we need grphics support. An easy way to enable support is to install a desktop environment such as Ubuntu MATE (2.4GB extra used on disk):

I could run both sample, but the message “LibEGL warning: DRI2: authentication failed” probably means we are using software rendering instead.

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This was expected as I’ve been old that the “current server built-in the Mali & DRM Linux driver, but the user-space binary driver is for non-X version(Desktop with Xorg should with X version)”, so next week, we may get an image with working 3D graphics acceleration. Note that for most applications it’s not that important to have OpenGL ES support, as most 3D desktop apps require OpenGL.

The release notes also mentions we can install Gnome mplayer to play some videos, so that’s what I did:

I played a Big Buck Bunny 1080p60 H.264 video from a SAMBA share, and then copy the video to the internal storage to try again. The results were the same: audio playing fine but the video is playing in slow motion, with a low frame rate (1 second video takes about 5 seconds to play). So if you plan on using the platform as a media player, you’d better install the LibreELEC image, while the platform is just not ready for applications like digital signage, where you may need text, photos and videos playing at the same time.

I also installed iozone3 in order to test the eMMC flash performance after updating /etc/apt/sources.list with more multiverse lines.


Read performance @ 121 MB/s is pretty good, and write performance is more limited at up to 36 MB/s. Random IO performance looks OK.

Khadas developers have made a working Ubuntu image, but as you can see from my experience, there’s still work to do to make it a “flash and play” Linux board… It’s quite possible the Android image works better, but then you have a lot of other choices with Amlogic S905X TV boxes. Both boards can be purchased on GearBest with Khadas Vim board with 8GB flash going for $49.99, and Khadas Vim Pro board, reviewed here, selling for $64.99. Note that the remote control and HDMI cable I received with the board are sold separately for respectively $4.59 and  $2.68.

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