Orange Pi i96 96Boards IoT Edition WiFi & Bluetooth Development Board Finally Launched for $8.80

Orange Pi i96 board was first unveiled at Linaro Connect US 2016 in September of that year, as one of the first boards compliant with 96Boards IoT Edition specification, and expected to sell for just $9.99. The good news is that the board is now finally available for $8.80 plus shipping on Aliexpress ($12.19 in total in my case)

Orange Pi i96 specifications:

  • SoC – RDA Micro 8810PL ARM Cortex A5 processor @ up to 1.0 GHz with 2Gbit (256 MB) on-chip LPDDR2 RAM, 4Gbit (512 MB) on-chip SLC NAND flash , 256KB L2 cache, and Vivante GC860 3D GPU
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11 b/g/n + Bluetooth 2.1/EDR module (RDA5991)
  • Camera – MIPI CSI-2 connector for camera sensor up to 5MP
  • Video – 1080p30 H.264 encoding
  • USB – 1x USB host port, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Expansion – 40-pin GPIO header with SPI, I2C, GPIOs, etc…
  • Debugging – 3x pin UART for serial console
  • Misc – 8 selection jumpers, power button, power LED, boot selection header
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port; optional support for battery power
  • Dimensions – 60 x 30 mm as per 96Boards IoT Edition specification
  • Certifications – CE and FCC based on the silkscreen

The hardware is a cost-down version of Orange Pi 2G-IoT board without 2G / GSM support, no display interface, no heaphone jack, and a smaller PCB (60×30 mm vs 68×42 mm). The company claims the board supports Android 4.4, Ubuntu, and Debian, and we already have Android SDK with Linux and u-boot source code. Note that the board is not listed on 96Boards IE page yet, and I’d like to remind readers that while 96Boards specifications target both hardware and software, many companies do not comply with the software part of the specifications, and having a 96Boards compliant board does not mean Linaro engineers themselves are working on it. RDA Micro 8810PL processor on development boards is also pretty new, so you can’t expect everything to mostly work out of the box, like you would on Allwinner H3 boards, and for example booting Linux from NAND (Android is OK), and controlling GPIOs may still be an issue at this stage.

Nevertheless, the price, features, and dimensions of this Linux board could make it an alternative to ESP32 boards such as Wemo LoLin32 for some IoT projects, especially where the RAM and storage might be tight. The board could also be interesting for connected camera applications.

Thanks to theguyuk for the tip.

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31 Replies to “Orange Pi i96 96Boards IoT Edition WiFi & Bluetooth Development Board Finally Launched for $8.80”

  1. Hehe, on Aliexpress 5 items sold, 45 in stock. Compared with the usual production runs of thousands that’s quite interesting 😉

  2. I’m wondering… What can be the use case for a Bluetooth 2.1/EDR device these days with all these 4.X/BLE devices laying around? Only Pairing/Direct connection, no simple BLE scannning… mmm
    I think it’s like its old brother board with 2G connectivity… 😀

  3. @Emmanuel
    Maybe Bluetooth is just a byproduct of RTL8189FTV being replaced with RDA5991 in the meantime (8189 could be seen on the Linaro slides back then when this board was publicly announced). A simple software compatibility issue ‘solved’ by choosing the chip that is known to work somehow on OPi-2G-IoT already so OS images are interchangeable?

    I hope Xunlong releases schematics timely as usual (and hopefully even before this board will be officially announced). With BT ignored and a small buildroot/Yocto/LEDE image at this price some use cases come to my mind…

  4. If these sell in high enough numbers I wonder if we might see a Rdamicro A7 RDA8850E42P based board or any of the Spreadtrum low cost SoC used, SC6825 1.2GHz Dual-core A5, SC6815 1.2GHz Cortex-A7.

  5. BTW: Just to save those who want to dig into developing with RDA Micro 8810PL some time:

    Armbian won’t support these boards (and there are no Armbian images for those even if Xunlong lists something called Armbian for the 2G-IoT) but we consider them ‘community supported configuration’ and some development efforts seem to concentrate in the forum. See also the end of the above thread and @parrotgeek1’s announcement to be able to rebase from the Android 3.10.$something kernel to mainline 3.10.106 — unfortunately 3.10 LTS goes EOL rather soon:

  6. Taking out the not-so useful 2G and dropping the price to be price/ performance superior to the $4-5 ESP USB modules makes a lot of sense, especially with a tweaked version of Android running in onboard memory, without need for an $4-20 SD card.

    But what is the point of Video – 1080p30 H.264 encoding power ( presumably HW accelerated?) without any video AV or HDMI connectors on board, or maybe cheap HDMI/AV shields?

    Xunlong did a good job of rebranding the 2G-IoT but missed on bigger potential, again …

    RDA is not a bad processor, and is being used in some low end $35 Android smartphones, as theguyuk pointed out in the 2G-IoT review article. Unluckily it only does 2G.

    I hope to see a 3G-4G SIM slot on a RDA+ processor board, plus video interfaces on a cheap expansion board, much like the $2 one for the Zero (but with the deal breaker XR819 wifi chip.)

    Android running is a big deal here. With upgrade to 512MB RAM and some SD card added, this could be a decent 720p-1080p media player and all else.

    3G-4G dongles are now in heavy use in Asia as mobile data sources with WiFi APs (OpenWrt) sharing data and video with neighboring devices.

    Adding a 3-4G SIM slot is thus an innovative way of entering the low end, mass market ” Android Box” market, with IoT embedded too.

    BT2 is good enough for those extremely cheap, $2-3, and popular VR- game pad-remote controllers that run well on Android and iOS, maybe Ubuntu too. Another great feature missing from current Android Boxes, now in search of new markets after the Kodi addons crackdown.

    1. @willmore

      I talked about video outputs which are way more in demand 🙂

      In any case the capabilities are much more than cam inputs need.

      Plus, why can’t we just use USB cams whose capabilities are now very similar and standardized, instead of spending resources on much more expensive CSI/other custom interfaces? Physical range USB cams provide are large, another big negative against dedicated cam interfaces.

      A waste.

  7. @Athar

    The CSI interface was already on the chip because it is a cell phone processor. Adding that FPC connector for it costs about a dime. Nothing stops you from using a USB cam with it, just ignore the CSI connector.

    CSI can do 720P/1080P. USB can’t without compressing the video.

    1. @Jon Smirl

      Good insight from you, as always 😉

      Can you elaborate on the USB cam compression
      need? Why should CSI be better?

  8. 1080P == 1920 x 1080 (pixels) * 24b (color) = 50Mb/frame * 30FPS == 1,490Mb/s
    USB 2.0 throughput is only about 400Mb/s

    720 = 1280 x 720 * 24 * 30 = 663Mb/s
    It is too fast for the USB 2.0 connection.

    So USB cameras compress it using either h.264 or MPEG. USB cameras also can do two streams. This allows the compressed video from the USB webcam to be sent out over the network without decompressing it. And simultaneously you get get something like an 800×600 uncompressed preview for local display.

    With CSI the 1080P uncompressed video goes straight into CPU memory. Just copy it into a video buffer for display (you may need a color space conversion). That same video is also fed into the h.264 encoding hardware. Output from that hardware goes out over the internet.

    So a USB camera chip is just a small CPU with a CSI interface and compression hardware. It is essentially the same circuitry that is inside the main SOC but with a USB wire stuck in the middle.

    So actually CSI cameras are cheaper to build and they give full resolution preview. They are cheaper because it is almost free to add the CSI interface and h264 hardware to the SOC. You might think they are more but that is because are looking at retail prices, not wholesale. You also may not be comparing the same thing. 1080P USB webcams with H.264 support are about $15 wholesale.

    This is the datasheet for a common h.264 USB camera chip
    It can do 1080P and h.264, bare chip is 25RMB.

    1. @Jon Smirl

      Thanks, really informative.

      Can USB cams do more than two streams? What is the principle here?

      Any idea how much 720p and 480/576p USB cams with h264 go for?

  9. Logitech C920 is a very common 1080P camera with h.264 support and multiple streams. It is around $60 retail.

    There are a lot of different cameras on the market using the Sonix chips. The trouble is that no one puts that fact into the description of their product so it is very hard to identify one. These camera run as low as $25. You basically just have to start buying h.264 webcam and plug them in to see what their USB ID is.

    I believe this OEM camera is Sonix based, but you need to verify.
    $16 is a good price for one with lens, IR cut, and IR leds.

  10. USB cameras are usually limited to two streams. One compressed and one uncompressed.

    Security cameras are different. For example Grain might make 1080P, VGA, QVGA from same input. The high resolution stream is for the recorder. The low res streams are for mobile or those displays which put up 20 camera feeds at once. In general you can not get an uncompressed stream from a security camera.

  11. I see this as a wireless version of the Friendly NanoPi NEO. Both are small, inexpensive headless linux IOT devices. Friendly does a good job with Linux support. We’ll see if Orange Pi matches up in that regard.

  12. @Athar
    PS eye is an uncompressed VGA resolution camera.

    640 x 480 * 24 * 30 = 221Mb/s
    So that works on USB 2 without compression.

    It’s $6 because that is what it is worth.

    1. @Jon Smirl

      Appreciate your detailed response 🙂

      Any links to good USB- sec- CSI cams and video compression/ HW acceleration and processing tutorials?

      This notion of security cams with uncompressed streams gives me new ideas- sec cams seem more expensive than USB cams, but with less capabilities.

      Also, USB cams + CPU= CSI cams, roughly, with range issue. So using cheap cat5 extenders between USB cams and a server could be a good solution, better than WiFi streaming from USB cams to server, saving power and local CPU costs.

  13. @theguyuk
    As mentioned in other comments, they had a really low quantity of the board compared to what they normally offered previously. I wonder why that is, and if they plan to make more.

  14. @Athar

    Search for POE security cams. They are made by millions and are quite cheap. As low as $20 with case, lens, plugs, software — ready to plug in and use.

    Search for an ONVIF app to see their video.

  15. Does anybody have a link to a complete rda8810 datasheet? It seems that just the first 9-page part (out of ~126 pages) is provided by the chip producer. I wonder how do OrangePi guys expect to sell the development kit while the main part is remained unknown!

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