The Raspberry Pi is about to get a powerful new competitor in the Pine A64. Designed by Pine64, the Pine A64 looks a lot like the Raspberry Pi at a glance, but the similarities between the two systems are only on the surface.
Looks Like Pi
Essentially, the Pine A64 can be viewed as a more powerful next-generation Raspberry Pi device. The Pine A64 contains a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU clocked at 1.2 GHz. Compared to the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B that was released earlier this year and uses four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 900 MHz, not only does the Pine A64 have a higher clock speed, but it also has a more advanced architecture, which consumes less power and achieves greater performance.
For graphics processing, the Pine A64 uses the dated Mali-400 MP2 GPU. Although we cannot compare the performance of the GPU inside of the Pine A64 to the VideoCore IV inside of the Raspberry Pi without testing both devices, Pine64 stated that the Pine A64 will be capable of 4K video playback, whereas the Raspberry Pi is limited to a resolution of 1920x1200. This gives the Pine64 an edge and should help to attract users planning to use it as a small HTPC system.
The 64-Bit Issue
As the Raspberry Pi was designed primarily as an educational device for students to learn computer programming, it stands to lose the most in this market. This is because the mobile market is transitioning to 64-bit hardware and software, and 64-bit programming for Android- and ARM-based devices should grow considerably over the next few years. All current Raspberry Pi devices feature 32-bit support and lack the ability to process 64-bit software, preventing students from developing these types of programs.
The Pine A64, on the other hand, uses a 64-bit processor architecture and supports the latest 64-bit version of Android (Lollipop 5.1.1) as well as 64-bit distributions of Linux.
There will be two models, the Pine A64 and the Pine A64+, which differ primarily in the amount of RAM (there’s 512 MB on the A64 and 1 GB on the Pine A64+) and the A64+ has a few extra connections available.
|Model||Pine A64||Pine A64+|
|CPU||ARM Cortex-A53 1.2 GHz Quad-Core 64-Bit||ARM Cortex-A53 1.2 GHz Quad-Core 64-Bit|
|GPU||Mali-400 MP2||Mali-400 MP2|
|Memory||512 MB DDR3||1 GB DDR3|
|Storage||MicroSD Up To 256 GB||MicroSD Up To 256 GB|
|Ethernet||10/100 Mb||10/100 Mb|
|Wireless||802.11b/g/n Bluetooth 4.0 (Optional)||802.11b/g/n Bluetooth 4.0 (Optional)|
|USB||2 x USB 2.0||2 x USB 2.0|
|Misc. Connections||3.7V Lithium Battery Charging CircuitHDMI3.5mm Stereo Output mini-jack with Mic Support||3.7V Lithium Battery Charging CircuitHDMI3.5mm Stereo Output mini-jack with Mic Support5 MP Camera Port4 Lanes MIPI Video PortTouch Panel Port|
|Dimensions (L x W)||3.125” x 5”||3.125” x 5”|
The Pine A64 purports to offer more performance and features than the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in nearly all areas, but that doesn’t make it a clear winner. As the Raspberry Pi devices have been on the market for some time and have been widely used, they have a significant amount of software support with which the Pine A64 currently can’t compete.
Depending how you look at it, the Pine A64 may also lose to the Raspberry Pi financially. The two models of the Pine A64 are priced at $15 and $19, respectively, about half the cost of a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, but the Raspberry Pi Zero costs only $5. The Raspberry Pi Zero also has significantly weaker hardware, a single 32-bit CPU core, so it depends on what you plan to do with the device if the extra $10-$14 is worth investing.
The Pine A64 and Pine A64+ are available for pre-order now via the Kickstarter page.
Michael Justin Allen Sexton (or MJ) is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. As a tech enthusiast, MJ enjoys studying and writing about all areas of tech, but specializes in the study of chipsets and microprocessors. In his personal life, MJ spends most of his time gaming, practicing martial arts, studying history, and tinkering with electronics.