Cool Pi 4 Model B – A much faster alternative to Raspberry Pi 4 SBC

Cool Pi 4 Model B is a powerful alternative to Raspberry Pi 4 SBC with mostly the same form factor and interfaces but equipped with a Rockchip RK3588S octa-core Cortex-A76/A55 processor that will run circles around the Broadcom BCM2711 SoC found in the Raspberry Pi board.

We’ve already reviewed Rockchip RK3588/RK3588S single board computers and mini PC such as Rock 5B, Khadas Edge2 Pro, and Mekotronics R58, and we were impressed by the performance, but if you prefer to have such a board in Raspberry Pi 4 form factor, then the Cool Pi 4 Model B might be for you.

Cool Pi 4 Model B specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3588S octa-core processor with 4x Cortex-A76 cores @ up to 2.4 GHz, 4x Cortex-A55 cores, an Arm Mali-G610 GPU with OpenGL ES 3.2,  OpenCL 2.2, and Vulkan 1.1 support, 8Kp60 video decoder for H.265/AVS2/VP9/H.264/AV1 codecs, 8Kp30 video encoder, and a 6 TOPS NPU
  • System Memory – 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB eMMC flash module, MicroSD card socket
  • Video Output
    • Micro HDMI 2.1 port up to 8Kp60
    • miniDP 1.4 up to 4Kp60
    • MIPI DSI connector
  • Camera I/F – MIPI CSI connector
  • Audio – 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Networking
    • Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 with optional PoE support
    • Dual-band WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 module (AIC8800) with ceramic antenna
  • USB – 2x US 3.0 Type-A ports, 2x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO header with GPIO, I2C, SPI, UART, CAN bus, etc…
  • Power Supply – USB Type-C port
  • Dimensions – 85 x 56mm (close to Raspberry Pi 4 form factor)

Note the specifications above are for version V11, and there was a V10 with AP6256 wireless module no onboard antenna, and a different eMMC flash module connector (GB042 vs BM20B). Cool Pi provides Debian 11 Desktop and Ubuntu 22.04 Desktop images for either microSD card or eMMC flash storage. The board is supposed to support Android 12 too, but I did not find the image in the forums (Note: the website is really slow and requires email registration to even just browse the forums). The source code for the U-boot bootloader and the Linux kernel can be found on Gitee.

As far as I can tell, the Cool Pi 4 supports all hardware features of the Raspberry Pi 4, but replaces one of the micro HDMI ports by a mini DisplayPort connector. Extra features include support for eMMC flash modules, 8K video playback and output, WiFi 6, and a built-in 6 TOPS AI accelerator. Performance-wise, the Rockchip RK3588S will be in a class of its own, as we’ve found it to be three times faster with 7-zip and four times faster for web browsing (Speedometer) in Linux when compared to Raspberry Pi 4, as well as having a GPU that delivers four times the 3D graphics performance of the Amlogic S922 SoC found in the ODROID-N2+ SBC. The GPU is also 12 times faster than the Raspberry Pi 4 using 3DMark results but I’m not sure how optimized Android is for the Pi board.

SBC Bench results. Khadas Edge2 and Rock 5B (Rockchip RK3588(S)), Raspberry Pi 4 (Broadcom BCM2711), Khadas VIM4 (Amlogic A311D2), and ODROID-N2+ (Amlogic S922X)

The main question will be software support as we still had some issues during reviews, but whether this impacts you or not will depend on your use case and/or skills set. Pricing will also play a major role since the price of the Cool Pi 4 Model B is quite higher, currently starting at $142 including shipping on Aliexpress for the model with 4GB RAM, and no eMMC flash module. The company is also working on the Cool Pi 5 system-on-module based on Rockchip RK3588S, but no details are available just yet.

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38 Replies to “Cool Pi 4 Model B – A much faster alternative to Raspberry Pi 4 SBC”

  1. Their website is limited to 1 Mbps (likely behind an ADSL line), and takes approx 1 minute to load due to large images (about 6 MB of contents for the page). Since there’s nothing to see there except links to a registration page, I guess there’s no point clicking and rendering it unresponsive for those who have an account… But they should at least recompress their images; the photos used divide their size by 8 once saved to JPG without losing quality, this would significantly improve the situation for them. One must also wonder if it’s worth engaging with a vendor that locks their support forums like this…

    1. This is typical of something hosted behind the great firewall. I see they are hosting via HTTPS – I have seen a gigabit connection turn to a few kb/s when using HTTPS through Chinese border routers.

    1. I’m not 100% the shop for the Cool Pi 4 is the official store, so we’ll have to see.
      The Orange Pi 4 does not include the WiFi module by default and shipping needs to be added to the price too, so it will be more than the listed price, but I agree that it should still be quite cheaper.

      1. im a long time fan of your site , is there any other way i can support the website other than disabling adblock ?

        1. If you purchase items on Aliexpress, Amazon, or other stores through links on CNX Software, I may get a small commission which can help, although most Aliexpress links are without commissions. Even if you go grocery shopping on Amazon, clicking on the Amazon links from CNX Software would help.

          Otherwise, there’s the Patron route to give me a small donation every month. Thank you!

    2. I was thinking the same thing. It does seem a bit pricey. The hardware and the specs are a bit attractive. Perhaps they’re thinking they can get a bit more $$ based on from factor and the current shortages. They’ll certainly be filling a gap that’s for sure. Let’s hope for their sake that the software is on point.

  2. Hmm I didn’t know Gitee. Yet another github imitation. However it also requires to log in everywhere you click. This company seems to be having a serious problem with leaving their information accessible to the public, that’s really concerning, and should be sufficient to scare any customer away.

    1. Gitee is the alternative to GitHub for the Chinese market.
      I think forced login is part of the Chinese Internet “culture”. You can’t browse websites such as Aliexpress or Taobao for long without being forced to log in. Comments in China require giving your phone number, and users usually have to log in through WeChat, at least that’s the way it is done on CNX Software China because there are legal issues with allowing anonymous comments.

      1. OK but then it’s really odd to think that in order to *read* git logs you have to authenticate via google or github, which for them basically means giving all their browsing habits and history to a rival. Anyway, with such practices they’re unlikely to sell anything outside of their country.

  3. I suspect the problem for Rockvhip is if they make the RK3588S to cheap it will reduce the market for the RK3366, RK3568 and RK3399 SoC. Even at $99 – $150 the RK3588S devices already bump against multi function RK3568, RK3566 boards. But the RK3588S is so much faster.

    1. Why don’t they just stop making the decade old designs?

      Its like saying the problem for amd zen4 chips, is if they make them at a price to compete with Intel, it will eat into the sales of Zen 1 chips.

      1. I think it’s a bit too early but at least they should proceed like others, which is to reduce the price of the older leading products (that’s probably the case though). RK3399 is indeed a bit old but fairly well supported in mainline nowadays, so it does have its value for certain products. 3566/3568 are quite young, excellent performers in a wide range of applications as their cores are correct, power drain is low, I/Os are rich, and there’s no reason to affect their price. 3588 is just the high-end, i.e. 3568 for those who want maximum power. The 3588S sounds more like 3566 (i.e. same as the other with less I/O). But I think they can cover a very large spectrum of the market for a few years using just these 4 SoCs. As such it makes sense not to lower too much their price.

  4. Rasbperry Pi 4 was release more than 3 years ago.
    If a new SBC trying to compete with that, it should compete with:

    1. Performance – expected to be much better after 3 years
    2. Power consumption
    3. Price, RPI was sold for 35$ for the base version
    4. Software support
    5. Build/parts quality (RPIs last for years, working 24/7)

    None of the new boards gives a fight to RPI, I even prefer RPI 2 over all of the new power hungry boards with multiple video outputs / lan ports.

    1. well, you forgot:

      • availability: rpi4 impossible to find these days for less than $130 or so for the 2GB version.

      I think that’s in part why SBC vendors are rushing on the 3588(S): way faster than RPi in the same price range.

  5. I’d like to see something like this board with an m.2 slot for an SSD and options for 4/8GB that costs around $100; Say $80 for the 4GB version and $100 for the 8GB version.

    And for god’s sake, skip the emmc. The board can be a little bigger as well.

    Is that too hard to ask?

  6. I see it only has 1Gbit Ethernet while the ROCK 5B has 2.5Gbit data rates, wonder why it was implemented differently. No signs of FCC and CE logos on the board and the PMU chip is so far away from the USB power socket, perhaps they have radiated emission problems with a design like that and such long high power tracks. Why go for a credit card form factor similar to incumbent boards but it clearly won’t fit in an enclosure (power button and different port locations)? Stereo out is nice, any mention of microphone-in like other recent boards have announced? Performance graphs look great, any idea why this one appears faster than the other RK3588 boards? What does the S mean on the SoC name? Looks like it doesn’t have the 4k video encoder on this board like other RRK3588 SBCs have.

  7. Raspberry Pi USED to be the single board pc to get. But they sold out. They deliberately created a huge production shortage which allowed outrageous profiteering — the the corporation embraced the inflated prices to rack up HUGE profit margins. BOYCOTT ALL THINGS RASPBERRY!

  8. List price is meaningless these days. What I’d love is ongoing reporting of comparative features of devices available this week with price to my doorstep.

    Many of the devices reported here are vapor. These days, unfortunately, Raspberry Pi, whom I’d much rather support, are vapor too!

  9. I tried multiple places to ask about compatible poe hats in the cool pi forums but kept get messages that I didn’t have permissions.

    1. It would seem that the non-official PoE hat that I have here does work. It has the 4-pin PoE header in the same position and uses a Raspberry Pi-compatible GPIO layout so all looks good there.

  10. You should start with software and hardware compatibility. Cool hardware with crap software is not fun. If add-on boards for a Raspberry Pi do not work, then say so up front.

    I do not want to wade through the specs, only to discover actual use is a PITA.

    We went through the lesson back in the 1980s with (not so) PC-compatible computers. A common delusion of hardware folk is that if they make “kewl” hardware, then the software will somehow just appear. Does not work that way, then or now.

    I would be delighted with a compatible alternative to the (currently scarce) Raspberry Pi.

    Tell us the compatibility story, first.

  11. I was very excited reading all the specs at first but I’m looking for something that would be able to handle and output 4K 120-160hz + HDR to use Kodi on and display on my brand new Samsung S95 65 tv which has 4k HDR10 and over 120hz. Any suggestion unless there is a way to get this out of this one ?

  12. Not sure anyone is going to necessarily cross shop this with a Pi 4. Although given the ongoing shortages and the price gouging currently it’s not an unrealistic scenario to find oneself in.

    Either way a worthy inclusion, at not unreasonable price point. I don’t know that it would be my first choice but having options is never a bad thing.

  13. NooB question: can you run Raspbian on Rockchip CPUs? They’re both ARM 64-bit. I’m looking for something for my kids that is powerful enough for desktop use but has great educational features. The Raspbian OS is great for education and I would love to be able to run it on a Rockchip board.
    I also wonder if the “R’Pi4” form factor also means that the connectors line-up to the R’pi as well. There are some cool kits for putting the R’Pi4 into a commodore 64 style keyboard, or into a laptop. Would love if this board could fit easily in the same kits.

    1. If running Raspbian just means downloading the Raspberry Pi OS image from the Raspberry Pi website, it won’t work.

      You should use images provided by the company or third parties with specific support for a given board only. It’s not possible to use the roof file systems for the Raspberry Pi with other Arm boards, but it’s not a task for newbies.

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