Banana Pi BPI-W2 is a Features-Packed Realtek RTD1296 Development Board

I’ve reviewed several Realtek RTD1295 platforms with Zidoo X9S and Eweat R9 Plus, and I was generally impressed by the storage, Ethernet, and WiFi performance. 4K video playback was good too, as long you don’t have any 4K H.264 videos at 30 fps or more. Most devices would also run Android and OpenWrt side-by-side bringing the best of both operating for respectively apps & multimedia, and server functions. HDMI input – with PVR, time-shifting and PiP functions – was also a bonus, However so far, nobody cared to design a maker board powered by RTD1295 processor. Since then we’ve learned Realtek was working on RTD1296 processor with even more Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and SATA interfaces, and SinoVoIP has now designed a board based on the SoC called Banana Pi BPI-W2.

Banana Pi BPI-W2 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1296 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4 RAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (option for 16, 32 or 64GB, 2x SATA 3.0 interfaces, 1x M.2 slot,  micro SD slot up to 256GB
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output up to 4K @ 60 Hz, HDMI 2.0 input (1080p60 max video recording resolution), mini DP output
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, mini DP (TBC), 3.5mm audio jack
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps, BDISO/MKV, etc…
  • Connectivity
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet
    • SIM card slot (requires PCIe modem)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports, USB type C interface (no info on supported features)
  • Expansions
    • 1x PCIe 1.1 slot
    • 1x PCIe 2.0 slot
    • 40-pin “Raspberry Pi” GPIO header
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART connector
  • Misc – Power, reset and LSADC keys; RTC battery connector; IR receiver; fan header
  • Power Supply – 12V /2A via power barrel connector
  • Dimensions – 148 x 100.5 mm (same dimensions as Banana Pi R2 board)

The PCIe slot are likely to be used for 802.11ac WiFi and cellular (2G. 3G, 4G) modules. The board supports Android 6.0 + OpenWrt, and the company claims it can also run Debian 9, CentOS 64-bit, Ubuntu 16.04, and Raspbian distribution, currently with Linux 4.1.35, but slated to be updated to Linux 4.9. Realtek RTD1295 SoC is also partially supported in Mainline Linux.

SinoVoIP often announces boards many months before the board is released. For example, Banana Pi BPI-R2 was first unveiled in January 2017, and only launched in July. So I’d expect Banana Pi W2 (BPI-W2) to start selling sometimes in 2018. You may find a few more and less accurate details about the board on Gitbook. Note that Shenzhen Xunlong has been working on their own “Orange Pi Home RTD1295DD board“, and I don’t know the status, but the company tends to announce their boards the day they are launched.

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tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

All the PCIe information above is not correct but that’s no wonder given this company never provides correct information or even ‘technical documentation’. On the two M.2 E key slots on the upper PCB side there’s single lane PCIe 2.0 exposed and on the other one single lane PCIe 1.1 and SDIO (which version? Who knows?). The M.2 key B slot on the lower PCB side is most probably USB2 only since the RTD1296 is said to feature only PCIe 2.0 x1 and 1.1 x1 which are already exposed on the top PCB side. So no ‘PCIe modem’ but just… Read more »

danman
danman
2 years ago

I want this!!!

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@danman
With which use case in mind? 🙂

chelobaka
chelobaka
2 years ago

In case VPU/GPU drivers were available it could be a nice platform for mediacenter/NAS combo.

danman
danman
2 years ago

@tkaiser
For streaming HDMI input. I hope they’ll provide some sort of SDK for this.

ahrlad
ahrlad
2 years ago

@danman
SinoVOIP are infamous for having terrible support. This board looks great on paper, but for any one use case you’re very likely to be better off with another board using a similar chipset.

boudyka
boudyka
2 years ago

I can think of one useful case in out HDMI MITM aka NeTV Overlay fun

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@ahrlad Let’s wait and see, maybe they really improved a bit now realizing that they just have to hire a technical writer so that this madness with ALWAYS providing incorrect information and BS instead of ‘tech specs’ stops. I would define a benchmark as follows: – for those curious about media(center) capabilities: provide honest information now what’s available through/from RealTek: specs, information, sources, ARM DDK stuff (the infamous MALI BLOBs) licensed only for Android or also for Linux? – removing all this BS on their Gitbook pages and replacing it with technical documentation worth the name – providing real information… Read more »

jolin
2 years ago

yes,we are get starting to improve our tech support

TC
TC
2 years ago

this could make a nice sat/ip box with full os support and lower power consumption than dreambox & co

RoganDawes
RoganDawes
2 years ago

I’m pretty excited about this, I think it would make an awesome penetration testing drop box. MitM {ethernet|HDMI|USB}? Yup. Can add WiFi via mPCIe? Yup! Remote access via 3G/LTE modem? Yup! Decent amount of RAM? Yup! Reasonably fast processor? Yup!

And I can hope that at some point in the not too distant future, we might just get OpenGL/OpenCL support for the GPU! If Realtek gets on the same bandwagon as Allwinner, that is! 🙂

jolin
2 years ago

Banana Pi W2 now out of stock,please wait us some time for mass production.

ahrlad
ahrlad
2 years ago

@tkaiser
I tried zooming in on the bottom photograph, and I’m fairly sure the m.2 slot is labelled “USB”, unlike the ones on top. On the other hand, the space for the card is weirdly wider than necessary – was it originally designed for an mPCIe/mSATA connector?

e: The slot is dimensioned for an LTE m.2 card, they look like that for some reason.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

ahrlad : @tkaiser I tried zooming in on the bottom photograph, and I’m fairly sure the m.2 slot is labelled “USB”, unlike the ones on top. Good find, so we have to rely on the design house’s silkscreening 😉 But I fear a lot of potential customers of this board will be mislead by ‘technical documentation’ and buy M.2 SATA SSDs (that could also work in such a M.2 B key slot — there was a huge thread in Firefly forum where a lot of RK3399 users made this mistake and ended up searching for an alternative use for their… Read more »

Philipp Blum
Philipp Blum
2 years ago

Price?

TLS
TLS
2 years ago

HWTools have some M.2 SATA cards, but they’re super expensive compared to miniPCIe cards http://www.hwtools.net/M.2.html The board layout of this thing is shit. Yes, it has everything you can throw at it and then some, but it’s a terrible piece of hardware in terms of where things are placed. Audio is going to suck, as it’s right next to the power conversion circuitry which will introduce noise into the analogue audio part. Only the bottom M.2 slot would work with “router grade” Wi-Fi cards, as the two on the top are too small and even so a miniPCIe slot would’ve… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

TLS :
HWTools have some M.2 SATA cards

Hmm… which one could fit here? The B key slot is USB only, PCIe is only available through the E key slots and SATA on none of the M.2 but only directly exposed. The only extender that could fit is the P15S-P15F (mPCIe to M.2 Extender) combined with a mPCIe SATA adapter. But this mechanical adapter thing is either unavailable or freaking expensive 🙂

BTW: Are USB Wi-Fi cards considered ‘router grade’?

ahrlad
ahrlad
2 years ago

@tkaiser Since the application is very clearly m.2 modems only, I can’t imagine anything more two data pins are wired. There wouldn’t even be much benefit to having a port like that support 3.0 speeds, they’d be better off breaking out a proper usb 3 port instead. I don’t think there’s any huge technical reasons it wouldn’t be possible to make router-grade cards in usb 3.0, but I can’t imagine there being any reason for manufacturers to make them in that interface either? Those cards aren’t marketed to consumers, they barely fit in standard slots at all, like this’n https://www.amazon.com/AIRETOS-AEX-QCA9880-NX-802-11ac-Extended-Temperature/dp/B00OJPJVV6… Read more »

Daniel
Daniel
2 years ago

The RTD129x SDK is only available from Realtek and a few other distributors, under an NDA. Additionally, the board is a pain to flash.

So I don’t see this as much as an development board unless BananaPi plan on giving that out too.

lionwang
1 year ago
tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

ahrlad : As for ‘Sata cards’, I’m not sure exactly what’s meant, but there are lots of cheap m.2-mSATA and m.2-7pin SATA adapters on Aliexpress And how many of these adapters work here? Not a single one since there are no SATA lines present on any of the 3 M.2 adapters (I believe the amount of confusion with mPCIe/mSATA today will look like nothing once M.2 will spread more especially with such questionable choices like done here 😉 ) @Daniel In case RealTek is changing here they most probably chose the worst partner ever to cooperate. Remember the last non-Allwinner… Read more »

Daniel
Daniel
2 years ago

@tkaiser In my line of work, I’ve gotten access to the Realtek SDK. I’ve been tempted to post the kernel source (its still under GPL) on GitHub as there is quite a demand for it, but I am afraid of the possible legal ramifications. Their kernel contains the source code for a lot of their WiFi/Sound/Bluetooth chips which Realtek might not want open-source, as they’re built directly in the kernel and hence would need to be GPL too. I’m going to guess that’s one of their reasons for not following the requirements of the GPL. Even their GPIO documentation contains… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@Daniel
Alright, so lets move on to something more interesting given that there are zero upstream contributions by RealTek themselves. Thanks for the insights!

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

Silly me, I should’ve checked first. At least for RTD1295 it looks promising wrt basic support: https://github.com/afaerber/linux/commits/rtd1295-next

ulli-kroll
ulli-kroll
2 years ago

tkaiser :
BTW: Are USB Wi-Fi cards considered ‘router grade’?

If you think about 802.11ac
Currently no, there a lot of work to be done to support mac80211 on Mediatek devices.

raul
raul
2 years ago

This looks like a killer board, the IO options are incredible. 2 gigabit lans, 2 sata, 1 USB 3.0, m.2, is that a USB type c there too? I mean if this is released it will make all existing boards instantly obsolete.

But it appears the Banana pi folks have issues with software support which would be critical to using all this IO. And how would 12V/2A be enough to power this?

lvrp16
lvrp16
2 years ago

The beautiful thing about RTD chips is the 64-bit wide DDR bus. It drastically improves performance on a lot of applications.

ahrlad
ahrlad
2 years ago

tkaiser : And how many of these adapters work here? Not a single one since there are no SATA lines present on any of the 3 M.2 adapters (I believe the amount of confusion with mPCIe/mSATA today will look like nothing once M.2 will spread more especially with such questionable choices like done here <img draggable="false" class="emoji" alt="?" None of these three m.2 connectors support SATA m.2 drives? I should maybe have noticed that from the E-key slots but I’m not all that familiar with them. Wowzers that’s pretty dumb. Anyway you could just use a cheap-as-free $34 m.2 e-key… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

ahrlad : None of these three m.2 connectors support SATA m.2 drives? Of course not since this SoC has only 2 SATA ports and they’re already exposed as that. To make use of additional SATA ports $some controller is needed so either attach a PCIe SATA controller as Synology and QNAP did on their RTD1296 NAS boxes (of course not possible on this BPi board without insanely expensive adapters since M.2 Key E used here for PCIe instead of the more reasonable mPCIe choice) or use an USB3 SATA controller (works surprisingly well with good controllers but if I would… Read more »

Andreas
Andreas
2 years ago

tkaiser : At least for RTD1295 it looks promising wrt basic support: https://github.com/afaerber/linux/commits/rtd1295-next On RTD1295 since last night I have GPIO and SATA working, so it’s possible to boot into a Linux distro with my linux-next based kernel. Other useful things like Ethernet or USB are still missing though. So far no vendor contributed RTD1296 (or RTD1293) devices for my kernel project, and I have no user feedback either, so we can only assume that with a few DT tweaks they should work similarly… Note that all RTD1295 devices that I’ve encountered after the Zidoo X9S have been shipping with… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
1 year ago

We could ‘convince’ BPi people to release vendor’s 4.9 kernel and u-boot sources: https://github.com/BPI-SINOVOIP/BPI-W2-bsp

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@Andreas
Thanks for the update! 🙂

Though in the meantime I’m wondering whether it’s not a better idea to ignore products from vendors like RealTek who seem to be keen on keeping everything ‘closed source’ and even actively try to hinder open source communities to support their products.

Wolf
Wolf
2 years ago

@tkaiser

My view is that HW and SW goes hand in hand, it doesn’t make sense to have super-duper HW platform if you can’t make use of many of the features. I also think opting for other platforms is a good way to punish the vendor, and being vocal as well to set a low reputation for them.

sinovoip
2 years ago

@Wolf

such as realtek, MTK ,More and more attention is paid to open source, and banana pi also get many support from Realtek and MTK ,But now it’s not enough. But someone has to start to do it. It’s a hope, isn’t it ???, Better to start than not to begin.

Rahul
Rahul
2 years ago

Is secure boot feature is available for RTD1296. Since most of the SOC are coming with this feature but this is not documented here.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

https://archive.fo/LVJt6 (don’t be scared, the archive SinoVoip’s ‘technical documentation’ hero prepared is called ‘Register_BananaPi BPI-R2 from MTK.rar’ but it contains stuff for W2 from RealTek of course. But hey, where’s the difference anyway?!)

Akash Patel
Akash Patel
2 years ago

hello,
How can I buy the Banana Pi BPI-W2 with Realtek RTD1296 chip design for our R & D purpose. Can you Please provide me a link for that. Else Price in India??

Dances with Penguins
Dances with Penguins
2 years ago

Good morning, in my humble opinion, a home gigabyte router (high throughput) with WiFi (AC) capabilities, Samba, two exit interfaces (one 3/4G), it’s what the homeusers need: – 1x WAN 1000BaseT – 4x LAN 1000BaseT – 1x SIM slot 3/4G – 1x (micro)SD/CF slot for storage. The other things as M.2 and mini PCI-E slots, sata & usb ports are bonuses. Guess what ? Connecting a decent (500-550MB/s) sata3 SSD to a Banana Pro unit and using it’s own 1Gbs ethernet adapter and Samba v4.2.14, will produce transfers no faster than 20-22MB/s (sequential read/write from/to B-Pi pro’s shared folder). Therefore,… Read more »

Muqorobin
Muqorobin
1 year ago

Can we connect this board to touch screen panel? If can, how can we connect it?

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