ROCK 5B developer edition preview – Part 1: Unboxing and first boot to Debian 11

Radxa ROCK5 Model B (aka ROCK 5B) is one of the most anticipated Rockchip RK3588 single board computers due to its features set and relatively affordable price. It was first showcased in January, but it’s taking a while as the Cortex-A76/A55 SoC is a complex beast. The good news is that the public launch is getting closer as Radxa sent “developer edition” samples to developers and enthusiasts for a “debug party”. I was one of the recipients so, in this post, I’ll have a closer look at the latest revision of the board, and give it a quick try first before going into more details in the second of this preview.

ROCK5 Model B unboxing

Radxa ROCK5 Model B package

I received the 16GB RAM version which should be the same for all board part of the “developer edition batch.


Developers are invited to submit reports to Radxa forums, and since those are public, anybody can have a look at the current state of affairs.

rock 5b developer edition

I also got a 16GB eMMC module (FORESEE) with my board.

16GB emmc module

The design has changed a little bit with the HDMI IN connector moved to the front panel, MIPI DSI and CSI connected moved to the side edge of the PCB, and heatsink mounting holes dimensions changed to “north bridge” dimensions.

Rock 5B developer edition

Besides the micro HDMI input ports, the front panel comes with the power and recovery keys, and a color-coded 40-pin GPIO header. As one would expect, Rockchip RK3588 should get pretty hot under load, so a 5V fan + heatsink has been fitted on top of the CPU.

ROCK 5B Rockchip RK3588 SBC

The rear panel comes with a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB 3.0 Type-C port with Display Alt mode also used to power the board, two 8K-capable HDMI 2.1 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 2.5GbE port.

RK3588 SBC with RTL8852BE WiFi 6E module

My board is also equipped with an Fn-Link 6252M-PUB WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 module powered by a Realtek RTL8852BE chip that’s not listed on the Realtek website just yet but is supposed to be an AX1800 chip with support for up to 1148 Mbps link when using 802.11ax. Something to test using the Xiaomi AX6000 and TPLink 2.5GbE donated by Radxa earlier this year.

ROCK 5B M.2 socket camera display connectors

The bottom side of the board comes with an M.2 Key-M socket for NVMe SSD, MIPI DSI LCD and MIPI CSI camera connectors, as well as an eMMC socket.

Rock 5B vs Raspberry Pi 4

Talking about the eMMC socket, let’s install the 16GB module I’ve received. A Raspberry Pi 4 SBC is shown for scale. While Rockchip RK3588 is not the most powerful system I used, it will be “desktop-class”, and in terms of interfaces, ROCK 5B may well be the most featured board or computer I’ve ever owned with 2.5GbE, WiFi 6, 8K video output, 4K video input, support for PCIe Gen3 x4 storage, etc… That’s quite impressive for a board that should sell for just under $200.

ROCK 5B first boot to… Debian 11

Let’s connect a USB keyboard and mouse, an Ethernet cable, an HDMI display, and a USB-PD power supply (the one that came with Khadas VIM4).

Radxa ROCK 5B HDMI no signal

I waited for a while, and all I got was a black screen with the message “no signal” from time to time… As you can see I connect the HDMI port next to the USB-C power port. So I tried the other HDMI port closer to the USB ports…

ROCK 5B Debian 11

And success! It’s called a “debug party” for a reason, and several features ought not to work or it would be no fun. I could login with “rock” password, but finally connected through SSH since it’s easier for the review.

Let’s check some system information:

The processor is clocked at up to 2304 Mhz, and the system is using the same Linux 5.10.66 as in Android 12 on Mekotronics R58. Mainline Linux may eventually happen but it will take a long time. Inquiring minds may also be interested in the boot log.

Let’s have a quick performance check with sbc-bench benchmark:

Oops! The board actually crashed and rebooted during the benchmark. Let’s try again, while monitoring dmesg just in case this happens again.

Sadly, it’s the same results, and dmesg does not provide any useful information. So instead, I’ll use tkaiser results for 7-zip:

For reference, here are the results for Raspberry Pi 4 @ 2.0 GHz (with heatsink and fan):

… and the more powerful (and expensive) UP Xtreme i11 Tiger Lake mini PC (Intel Core i7-1185GRE):

If we look specifically at 7-zip benchmarks, ROCK 5B is 2.4 times faster than an overclocked Raspberry Pi 4 and can deliver about 90% of the performance of an Intel Core i7-1185GRE processor. Not too shabby :). Stability may have to be worked on though, as I’ve been unable to run the benchmark on my own board.

This looks promising. In the second part, besides running benchmarks, I test various peripherals, 3D graphics, video playback (probably software decode at this stage), etc…, and see how it performs as a desktop machine.

Continue reading “Rock 5B RK3588 SBC preview – What works, what doesn’t in Debian 11“.

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