ODROID-N2+ review with Ubuntu 21.10 using Wayland and Panfrost

ODROID-N2+ was launched in July 2020, but I only got the Amlogic S922X Rev C SBC recently with Hardkernel wanting me to test their latest Ubuntu 21.10 image with the Panfrost open-source GPU driver.

ODROID-N2+ Kit Unboxing

Let’s start by checking out the kit I received from the Korean SBC manufacturer.

ODROID Package

The package includes ODROID-N2+ single board computer fitted with a 32GB eMMC flash module, a 12V/2A power supply with an EU plug adapter, an 80mm fan kit, and a USB 3.0 to eMMC reader.

ODROID N2+ 24W power adapter

USB 3.0 eMMC flash reader

ODROID N2 Amlogic S922X development board

ODROID-N2+ is now only available with 4GB RAM, as the old ODROID-N2 with 2GB was deprecated, and we get four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0 video output,  Gigabit Ethernet networking, and a 40-pin GPIO header with the board cooled by a larger heatsink attached to the bottom of the board.

ODROID N2+ SBC review

Fan installation, first boot, and system information

As we’ll see below the fan is not always necessary, but since I got one, I installed it on top of the heatsink using 4 of the 5 spacers provided.

ODROID-N2+ fan installationSo no we get a board slightly elevated to provide better airflow for the ultra-quiet heatsink that shipped with my board. Since Ubuntu 21.10 is pre-installed on the eMMC flash that come with the board, I could just connect Ethernet, HDMI, USB keyboard and mouse, a USB 3.0 hard drive, and the 12V/2A power supply to get started.

ODROID N2+ Ubuntu 21.10 review

The board is completely silent most of the time since the heatsink will only start if the temperature goes above 65°C, and when it did start under load, I could not hear it, and I had to lift to board to check the fan was indeed spinning. Back to our first boot.

Hardkernel Ubuntu
As you can see, I still haven’t changed my broken test TV

The board is working fine, and the vertical lines are just due to my broken LG TV. The log prompt shows Hardkernel user, and we can login with odroid password, but when we’ll use SSH later we’ll find out we need to use odroid/odroid, as Hardkernel is just the name for odroid user….

Let’s check out some system information:


Ubuntu 21.10 is installed on a 32GB eMMC flash (29GB rootfs) as expected, and the system comes with 4GB RAM, 3.6GB of which is available to Linux.

We can get more details for inxi, including confirmation Panfrost open-source GPU driver is used in the Ubuntu 21.10 image:


The audio part is also interesting with the new PipeWire audio/video server running alongside the more traditional ALSA and PulseAudio.

Benchmarks

Let’s run some headless and graphics benchmarks on the board.

We’ll start with SBC Bench:


No throttling was detected, and I could not hear the fan, but it was most likely triggered based on the temperatures reported:


Despite not being that loud, my laptop fan would overwhelm the noise from the ODROID-N2+ fan, so it’s barely audible. Note that the fan was only triggered during the more demanding multi-threaded 7-zip benchmark, and most of the time it is not activated. The test occurred in a room with a 28°C ambient temperature.
7-zip Raspberry Pi 4 vs ODROID-N2+
For reference, the ODROID-N2+ is still significantly faster than a Raspberry Pi 4 overclocked at 2.0 GHz.

Since Panfrost support is one of the highlight of the Ubuntu 21.10 image for ODROID-N2+, let’s double-check i’s needed enabled with glxinfo:


That Panfrost with Mesa 21.3 development branch. The output from glxinfo is rather long, so I’ve included it a pastebin.

Now time for the usual es2gears and glmark2-es2 benchmarks.

es2gears can easily run at 60 fps in full screen mode

es2gears odroid n2

glmark2-es2-wayland also worked just fine with the Panfrost open-source driver.

glmark2-es2-wayland odroid-n2 plus

The is the output from the onscreen test:


The glmark2 score is 979 points. A few years ago we wrote about the same test with ODROID-N2 running Ubuntu 18.04 + Gnome3 + Linux 5.0 on top of Wayland with GPU drivers from Arm. The score was 1,119 points. That was two years ago, a lot must have changed, but it appears the open-source driver might be a little slower than the closed-source driver. I can also see Panfrost relies on OpenGL ES 3.1, while the Arm driver used OpenGL ES 3.2.

I also tried the benchmark in offscreen mode:


The score is lower, which does not make any sense to me.

User Experience with ODROID-N2+

I’ve tested some of the supported features of Ubuntu 21.10 on the board to see how well it would work as a desktop machine:

  • Multi-tasking – Launch Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice Writer, and Gimp in sequence from a cold boot
  • Web browsing with Firefox and Chromium – Opening multiple tabs, Youtube 1080p, 1440p, and 2160p (4K), WebGL demo: Aquarium
  • Gaming with SuperTuxKart and Dolphin emulator

You can watch the video below.

In summary, ODROID-N2+ is fast for an Arm platform. For perfectly smooth video playback in YouTube better use 720p at this time. Firefox uses H.264 video decoding limited to 1080p, while Chromium supports up to 4K using VP9, but it’s unwatchable. The WebGL aquarium demo renders at 16-17 fps in Firefox with 500 fish, but only 3 fps in Chromium, probably because GPU acceleration is not supported/enabled? SuperTuxKart plays OK in full-screen mode, but it’s not as smooth as I would like. I tried Super Mario Sunshine in the Dolphin emulator, and it worked very well.

I had an issue with white text on white background in the Dolphin emulator, and the workaround was to switch to the dark theme in Ubuntu’s Appearance Settings.

Dolphin white text on white background workaround
Dolphin settings before (left) and after (right) switch to Dark theme in Ubuntu settings

I also wanted to play 4K video with other programs and command-line utilities, but I could not install Kodi:


VLC would just show a black screen with audio playing fine, and the command line tools listed in the wiki namely kplayer and c2play were not installed, and I did not manage to build the latter from source. I asked Hardkernel yesterday morning, but I still have received an answer, and I’ll update the post if there’s a solution. I can see the download page still does not have Ubuntu 21.10 for download, so it may mean the image is still being worked on. Anyway, it’s very good we’ve come to a point where an open-source Arm Mali GPU driver is usable in a modern SoC.

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9 Comments
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Salvador
Salvador
19 days ago

It’s not an amazing gles2 performance. Rpi4 with the gpu overclocked performs quite similar on wayland. It’s on X11 that the n2 and the rpi4 sunk deeply…memory bandwidth.

Jasper Smythe
Jasper Smythe
19 days ago

Surrounding heatsink+fan certainly makes for a minimalist case design

crashoverride
crashoverride
18 days ago

As the author of c2play, I can state that it will not work on 5.x kernels. The reason is that mainline Linux uses V4L2 for hardware codecs. C2play is designed to use Amlogic’s 4.9 kernel codec interface.

darkstar
18 days ago

I got 1244 glmark2-es2-wayland score with my bild Debian11+Mesa 21.2.4+Linux Kernel 5.15.1-darkstar on GT-King-Pro yesterday. You can check it on bee-links forum.

David Willmore
David Willmore
18 days ago

Looks like you didn’t get the case. I originally didn’t order it either, but then I saw how clean it was and decided to upgrade. The case is two pieces which slide together from front and back and lock in place. There’s still access to all connectors, but the main board is protected from accidental contact.

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
18 days ago

A pity it was not part of the giveaway week 😛

David Willmore
David Willmore
18 days ago

Don’t get greedy.

Andrew Lynch
Andrew Lynch
9 days ago

Where can I get the software? Whats the URL?

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