Banana Pi BPI-M4 was unveiled at the beginning of the year as an alternative to Raspberry Pi 3B+ with the same form factor, but equipped with a more capable processor, namely Realtek RTD1395 with support for 4K video output and decoding, Gigabit Ethernet support, PCIe, etc..
SinoVoIP has however made the choice not to go with Gigabit Ethernet, and opted for a cheaper design with Fast Ethernet instead. Having said that, the 4K capabilities of the processor, and PCIe via an M.2 socket are still leveraged in the company’s latest Banana Pi board. What’s changed is that Banana Pi BPI-M4 is now available on Aliexpress for $38 plus shipping in 1GB RAM + 8GB flash storage configuration.
- SoC – Realtek RTD1395 quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 processor with Mali-470 MP4 GPU
- System Memory – 1 GB DDR4 (option 2 GB)
- Storage – 8G eMMC flash (max 64 GB), micro SD slot up to 256GB
- Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0b port up to 4K @ 60 Hz
- Decode – 4K2K 60fps H.265 and VP9, 4K2K 30 fps H.264, 1080p (Full HD) of MPEG1/2/4/H.264 MVC, AVC/VC-1, VP8, VP9, AVS, AVS Plus, HD JPEG, etc.
- Encode – 1080p (Full HD) H.264
- Audio – Via HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack
- Connectivity – 100 Mbps Ethernet and 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi 5 + Bluetooth 4.2 (via RTL8821 module) with u.FL antenna connector
- USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 2.0 type C port
- M.2 Key E slot with PCIe 2.0 and USB 2.0
- 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO header with up to 28 GPIO, UART, I2C, SPI, PWM and power signals (5V, 3.3V, GND)
- Misc – Boot selection switch; power and activity LEDs; Power, Reset, Uboot and Install push buttons
- Debugging – 3-pin debug UART header for serial console access
- Power Supply – 5V/2A via USB type-C port or PoE using the official Raspberry Pi PoE HAT.
- Dimensions – 92x60mm; Note: Raspberry Pi 3B+ measures 85 x 56 mm, but SinoVoIP appears to have included the connectors for their dimensions
- Weight – 48 grams
You should be able to re-use most of Raspberry PI accessories including enclosures and some HAT add-ons board, but software support is uncertain, especially for the PCIe interface used in the M.2 socket. The wiki has some information about hardware, but almost nothing for the software except the board supports Android and Linux, plus some instructions for WiFi and Bluetooth. No firmware image download link, and no source code. It’s unclear whether the board on Aliexpress is pre-loaded with Android or Linux (Ubuntu?), so better wait until they actually update their wiki properly with sources and firmware images before going ahead with a purchase if your board fits your needs.