Cool Pi 4: The RK3588S Eight-Core Raspberry Pi Alternative

The Cool Pi 4 board
(Image credit: Cool Pi)

For those times when the Raspberry Pi 4 (opens in new tab) just isn’t powerful enough, Cool Pi has a new board that can offer a little more in the way of processing ability. The Cool Pi 4 B is the same size and shape as the Raspberry Pi board (opens in new tab), but features an eight-core CPU and an NPU, plus 8K video too. It’s also more expensive, but there seem to be plenty in stock.

The Cool Pi 4 board

(Image credit: Cool Pi)

The board certainly looks very familiar, but look closer and you can pick out the differences between the Cool Pi and the Raspberry Pi. Possibly the most obvious is the bright yellow 3.5mm composite jack, though of course the Raspberry Pi 4 has one of those too, just in black. The Cool Pi features two video outputs, but while one is a Micro HDMI, the other is a Micro DisplayPort. The HDMI hits the 2.1 standard, allowing 8K/60 output if you’ve got the screen to display it, while the DisplayPort is stuck in the Stone Age with 4K/60. 

It’s that eight-core CPU that really sets it apart. It’s the RK3588S - an optimized version of the popular RK3588 chipset (as seen in the Rock 5 (opens in new tab)) that loses the PCIe bus and has a smaller number of interfaces generally, but which keeps the four Arm Cortex-A76 cores running at 2.4 GHz (we suspect cooling may be necessary) plus four more Cortex-A55 cores for low-powered operation. It’s an Arm DynamiQ design, which puts the big.LITTLE configuration into a single integrated cluster instead of putting them on two dies. 

Behind all these cores sit up to 16GB of LPDDR4 RAM (with 4GB and 8GB versions available), an Arm Mali G610 GPU, and an NPU capable of 6 TOPS. Then, around the edge of the board, you get four USB ports (two USB 2, two USB 3) a gigabit Ethernet with PoE support, a USB-C port for power, a microSD, MIPI CSI and DSI connections for screens and cameras. There are also versions with onboard eMMC, from 32 to 128GB. The 40-pin GPIO array looks to be Raspberry Pi compliant, but that remains to be seen. Wireless connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.

Operating system choice leans towards Debian and Ubuntu (opens in new tab), downloadable from the Cool Pi forum (opens in new tab), where you’ll also find hardware design documents and some source code. The board itself is available from AliExpress (opens in new tab) for $142 for the 4GB version, with free shipping and delivery at the end of the year.

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.

  • Hooda Thunkett
    I keep seeing articles on here about "RaspberryPi alternatives" that all cost significant multiples of the version they are trying to be an alternative to. I find it difficult to call them "alternatives" for much the same reason I can't call a Ford F150 an alternative to an Ioniq5. They both may be able to get you from place to place, but if you need the F150, the Ioniq5 is unlikely to be a replacement, and vice versa.
    If you need the computing power this board affords, the Pi isn't really an alternative. If you don't, then the cost makes this uncompetitive (assuming you can get the Pi).
    Reply
  • lmcnabney
    Something has to sit between the Pi and the NUC.
    Reply
  • Peter Patel-Schneider
    It would be nice if there was something like a Pi but only somewhat more expensive, instead of several times as expensive.
    Reply
  • coromonadalix
    aliexpres is not the best place to buy it, they have begun to over inflate some hardware ...
    Reply
  • user7007
    For the price on ali express (160-205 USD,) you can buy mini pc's with intel chips off amazon. some mini pc's on amazon are as low as $100 - $120. And they come with a case and power supply.

    Aa another reference, a Galaxy A03s or Moto G phone can be had for the same price, also has cameras, screen, cellular, octa-core, etc.

    Just seems like pretty poor value.
    Reply
  • eye4bear
    Have any of you priced a Raspberry Pi on Amazon (if you can find any)? They are going for $159+ for the 4 GB model. Wish I had bought 2 instead of 1 a few years ago
    Reply
  • bit_user
    $142 for the 4GB version, with free shipping and delivery at the end of the year.
    Wow, that's about 1.5x as expensive as the 8 GB Orange Pi 5, shipped.

    With 8 cores, I think you'll probably want at least 8 GB. The 8 GB Pi 4 seems quite popular, and it only has 4 cores.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Peter Patel-Schneider said:
    It would be nice if there was something like a Pi but only somewhat more expensive, instead of several times as expensive.
    There are options, if you're willing to look. The ODROID N2+ 4 GB is only $83, but you have to add a little for shipping from South Korea. I priced out the alternatives (Amazon, AmeriDroid) and decided to order mine direct from HardKernel (the manufacturer). Oh, and it's worth the extra $ to buy an eMMC module, as they're faster than a SD card.

    The ODROID N2+ works pretty much out-of-the-box, but you still have to use a nonstandard image to get things like 3D and video acceleration. So, it's not quite as user-friendly as the Pi, nor is the user community as big. That said, when I recently installed the latest 64-bit build on my Pi 3, it didn't have native 3D acceleration either (but it was very straight-forward to enable).
    Reply