New on CrowdSupply, and about 1/5th funded as we write, is the Mixtile Blade 3, a Pico ITX motherboard featuring the eight-core RK3588 chipset from Rockchip and up to 16GB of RAM. If funded, it should make a nice addition to the various SBCs that have jumped on the powerful SoC since its launch, with the advantage that the Blade 3 is stackable, ready for use as a cluster.
The magic comes from a built-in PCIe Gen 3 edge connector, offering 20Gbps of network bandwidth and allowing you to stack many, many boards to create a potential monster with 600 processor cores. By our math, which is shaky, that’s 75 of the boards wired together. Mixtile claims this supercluster would draw less than 1,500W of power.
|CPU||Rockchip Octa-core Cortex-A76/A55 SoC processor RK3588|
|RAM||Up to 32 GB LPDDR4|
|Storage||Up to 256 GB eMMC storage|
|Row 3 - Cell 0||PCIe Gen 3 (Optional)|
|Row 4 - Cell 0||SATA (Optional)|
|Row 5 - Cell 0||Micro SD|
|Ports||1 x HDMI Output (8K @ 60 FPS or 4K @ 120 FPS)|
|Row 7 - Cell 0||1 x HDMI 2.0 Input (4K @ 60 FPS)|
|Row 8 - Cell 0||MIPI-DSI|
|Row 9 - Cell 0||2 x USB C 3.2|
|Row 10 - Cell 0||2 x 2.5G Ethernet|
|GPIO||40 pin GPIO with Digital I/O, I2C, USB, SPI, I2S, TTL, UART|
|Operating System||Linux, Android 12|
|Dimensions||100 x 72mm|
Even if you’re using just one board - and we've seen a few with the same chipset - it’s still a hefty proposition. You get eight Arm cores split between four Cortex-A76 cores and four of the Cortex-A55 cores common in Samsung’s A series phones. This is backed with 4, 8 or 16GB or RAM, and up to 256GB of flash storage. The GPU is the Mali G610, and there's a neural processing unit capable of 6 TOPS.
Elsewhere, there's a single HDMI 2.1 output capable of 8K, and an HDMI 2.0 input that only manages 4K. A pair of 2.5Gbps Ethernet sockets complement the PCIe edge connector, and there's a U.2 multifunction interface compatible with SATA 3 and PCIe 3.0 x4. Power comes via one of the two USB-C 3.2 ports, and the whole thing measures just 100mm x 72mm (3.93 x 2.83 inches). There's a 40-pin GPIO rack too, supporting I²C, USB 2.0, TTL UART, SPI and I²S.
Software comes in the form of a preloaded customized Debian Linux distribution, with Android 12 as an option. It also comes with source code and SDKs for Buildroot and Yocto, to help simplify development. Potential uses for the boards include on-premises servers with high-performance computational capacity, HPC cluster nodes with ultra-low power consumption, data storage and processing for 3D graphics and AI applications, and video streaming, thanks to the onboard video encoder and decoder.
If you choose to back the project, a solo board with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage costs $169, plus shipping. A board with 16GB RAM and 128GB storage is $259 plus shipping. And a four-board cluster box is $239 plus shipping. Mixtile is looking to ship products at the end of October.
Remember that crowdfunding a project is not a guarantee of receiving a finished product. Backing a crowdfunded project is akin to an investment, you believe in the project and want it to succeed. You are not purchasing a retail product.
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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.