Rockchip Powered SBC Offers Low Profile, High Speeds

The ROC-RK3566-PC board
(Image credit: Firefly)

Firefly have launched a Raspberry Pi alternative that on paper seems to beat the Raspberry Pi 4 while offering onboard flash storage and an NVMe slot for fast storage. As spotted by CNX Software, the ROC-RK3566-PC looks to be a powerful alternative to the Pi.

The SBC in question, the ROC-RK3566-PC comes with a quad-core 64bit Cortex-A55 CPU running at 1.8GHz and etched using a 22nm process. And while having a low-profile RJ-45 may endear it to some, up to 8GB of RAM and 32 / 64 /128GB of on-board flash, along with an M.2 PCIe 2.0 socket for M.2 2242 NVMe SSDs, might seal the deal for everyone else. Everything else on the board is pretty similar to that offered by the Raspberry Pi, with a single HDMI 2.0 permitting 4K/60fps output, a second screen enabled via the MIPI-DSI/RGB interface, and both Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0. There is a GPIO, but it is not Raspberry Pi compatible, as it has fewer pins with a smaller 2.0 mm pitch. You can connect components such as I2C, SPI, UART, PWM etc but you will need to make allowances for the change of pitch.

The RockChip RK3566 SoC features a dual-core Mali G52 2EE GPU, capable of 4K/60 decoding and H.264 / H.265 1080p encoding upto 100 fps. There’s also an NPU, or neural processing unit, for use with machine learning frameworks such as Caffe and Tensorflow. It’s also pretty small, measuring up at 3.5in x 2.3in. A 30-pin GPIO array, Micro SD slot, CSI camera port, and USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports round out the package. There's a full specifications PDF on the Firefly site.

Software support comes in the form of a custom OS, Station OS which seems to be geared towards media consumption. Alternative options are Ubuntu 18.04 (which is a little long in the tooth) and Android 11. No doubt there will be other options once the board gets into the hands of developers.

If you need a little more power then there’s also a larger board, the ROC-RK3568-PC, with similar specs but boasting a slightly faster CPU, Wi-Fi 6, and dual gigabit ethernet ports. A small number of RK3566 units with 4GB RAM and 32GB flash are available from the Firefly store. Hopefully, we’ll see greater quantities of this promising board become available in the near future because, as the website itself notes, ‘geek fun is endless’.

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.