What is a computer without a community? There is some form of community behind every computer. From the explosive growth of home computers in the 1980s to the present, users have gathered to support and promote their platform of choice.In the world of single board computers (SBC), the largest and most supported community has been around raspberry pie, It has witnessed more than 9 years of growth, mainly concentrated on the $35 computer. ASUS is no stranger to the SBC scene. A few years ago, we saw the ASUS Tinker Board come out, when the Raspberry Pi 3 just came out. Now in 2021, ASUS has released a series of Tinker Boards, and we have Tinker Board 2S for our review.
The ASUS Tinkerboard 2S is designed to be on par with the Raspberry Pi 4. Compared with the Pi, it has some features that look good on paper, including a 6-core CPU with two cores running at 2 GHz, a faster GPU, and a 16GB -Board storage. However, due to lack of community support and poor performance, this $129 motherboard cannot even compete with Pi.
ASUS Tinker Board 2S hardware specifications
|CPU||Dual-core Arm® Cortex®-A72 @ 2.0 GHz|
|Quad-core Arm® Cortex®-A53 @ 1.5 GHz|
|Graphics processor||Arm® Mali™-T860 MP4 GPU @ 800 MHz|
|RAM||2GB / 4GB|
|Show off||1 x HDMI™ supports CEC hardware|
|1 x USB Type-C® (DP Alt mode)|
|1 x 22-pin MIPI DSI (4 channels)|
|Micro SD(TF) card slot (push/pull)|
|Connectivity||1 RTL8211F-CG Gigabit Ethernet LAN|
|1 M.2-802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless and BT 5.0 (2T2R)|
|Vocal||1 x HDMI™ audio output|
|1 x S/PDIF TX pin (from GPIO)|
|1 x PCM/I2S pin (from GPIO)|
|USB||3 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports|
|1 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C® OTG port|
|Universal input and output interface||The 1 x 40-pin connector includes:|
|-Up to 28 GPIO pins|
|-Up to 2 SPI buses|
|-Up to 2 I2C buses|
|-Up to 2 UARTs|
|-Up to 3 x PWM|
|-Up to 1 PCM/I2S|
|-Up to 1 S/PDIF TX|
|-2 x 5V power pins|
|-2 x 3.3V power pins|
|-8 x ground pins|
|1 x 2-pin recovery connector|
|1 x 2-pin boot connector|
|1 x 2-pin reset connector|
|1 x 2-pin debug UART connector|
|1 x 2-pin DC fan header|
|1 x 2-pin RTC battery connector|
|power||1 x 12~19V DC power input jack (5.5/2.5 mm)|
|aspect||3.37 x 2.125 inches (85 x 56 mm)|
Use ASUS Tinker Board 2S
ASUS Tinker Board 2S has a big.LITTLE CPU configuration. We have two 2-GHz Arm Cortex A72 cores and four 1.5-GHz Arm Cortex A53 cores. When we need extra power, A72 will start and provide us with power, but for general tasks, A53 can get the job done. In contrast, the Raspberry Pi 4 has four equal 1.5 GHz Cortex A72 cores.But it’s easy Overclock the Raspberry Pi 4 to 2.1 GHz Or higher.
The default operating system of Asus Tinker Board 2S is Tinker OS, which is a branch of Debian 10 “Buster”, which uses LXDE as the desktop environment. Before being renamed to Raspberry Pi OS, the desktop experience was good at best and felt more like an old version of Raspbian. Tinker OS is a powerful and responsive operating system, we can use APT to install applications, write code and browse the web.
720p YouTube playback is impressive and responsive. In fact, the playback speed from window to full-screen playback is very slow, but faster than Raspberry Pi 4. When we switched to full-screen playback, we saw very few dropped frames and the video was also very worth watching. Then, we tested the old Big Buck Bunny video at 720p 60 and 1080p 60, where we started to see the worst results, with a lot of dropped frames in windowed and full-screen modes, and at 1080p 60, the video buffered and paused. , Our gigabit network is not to blame.
ASUS Tinker Board 2S has a 40-pin GPIO, which imitates the Raspberry Pi, but we have some problems. Mainly there is no compatible Python 2/3 library that can be used with GPIO. For the previous Asus Tinker Board, there is ASUS.GPIO, which is a branch of the RPi.GPIO library, but unfortunately this library is not suitable for 2S. We contacted ASUS for support and were told that ASUS is working on “additional information” on how to make GPIO work with Python.
We did use Wiring Pi to manage some basic GPIO access, especially GPIO commands. We used a simple BASH script to create a simple button input and LED output project. It worked well, but we still yearned for a useful Python library.
Dominating the ASUS Tinker Board 2S is the aluminum heat sink, which keeps the CPU cool, but unfortunately, it prevents the HAT from accessing the GPIO. The heat sink comes with a pre-coated thermal adhesive, which is usually where we load Stressberry and perform temperature and speed stress tests on the CPU. But this does not apply to Tinker Board 2S, so we tried sysbench, but there are no installation candidates.
Therefore, our test cannot be directly compared with Raspberry Pi 4. Using a little Python expertise, we managed to write some code to check the CPU frequency and temperature every five seconds, and write the data to a CSV file. When playing a 720p YouTube video, we recorded a maximum temperature of 54.4 degrees Celsius at a maximum speed of 1.5 GHz.
We connected the Asus Tinker Board 2S to our gigabit network and were able to surf the Internet immediately, but that cannot be said for Wi-Fi. We are sitting five meters away from the access point, and our connections are fragmented at best. We could not find one of our two SSIDs, and the one we could find did not provide the best experience.
There is no problem with other devices on the same SSID. In order to improve the Wi-Fi connection, there is an antenna terminal on the Wi-Fi card, but you need to buy your own antenna.
The 16GB eMMC on the Tinker Board 2S is very good. We copied a 2.8GB file from a SATA USB 3 drive and copied it to eMMC in less than 51 seconds. The same test was performed using a 16GB A1 micro SD card, which took 52 seconds. Surprisingly, the same test took 1 minute and 27 seconds to copy the image to eMMC through the USB C interface using the same SATA drive. We want the USB C interface to be faster, but unfortunately it is not. Therefore, from all these tests, we can infer that eMMC is very good, but we can use a high-quality micro SD card. We can choose to boot from microSD and eMMC through the J3 jumper between the power supply and the HDMI port. If we choose to try other operating systems (if any are available), this ability to switch between eMMC and microSD will be very useful. For the previous Tinker Board, we can only choose a limited number of other operating systems, usually Armbian and Diet Pi. Armbian is more like a Debian version based on Arm, and DietPi is a Swiss army knife for file server, DNS, and media streaming projects.
We tried to use the CSI connector to test the official Raspberry Pi camera, but we encountered a problem. The CSI connector on the Asus Tinker Board 2S is designed for the smaller connector of the Raspberry Pi Zero. Fortunately, we have an adapter on hand, and following the online guide for older Tinker Board models, we tried to output the video to the window, but this is not the case.
The power supply for Asus Tinker Board 2S is through the DC barrel jack, we can provide 12 to 19V DC power supply. These power supplies are very common and we can provide more current through this connector than through a typical microUSB or USB-C 5V power supply. However, it is much easier to find a USB-C power adapter to work with Raspberry Pi 4 compared to a 12V or 19V brick.
Use case of ASUS Tinker Board 2S
For now, ASUS Tinker Board 2S is very suitable for desktop applications and home servers. It has enough capacity to perform these tasks brilliantly. As a maker board, Tinker Board 2S was paralyzed due to insufficient GPIO access. This may change when the Python GPIO library arrives, but don’t expect the same level of quality as the Raspberry Pi.
The hardware looks good, of all USB 3 ports, USB C is the most popular. Tinker Board 2S has one more USB 3 port than Raspberry Pi 4. The important thing is that we intend to use it for home server tasks. The problem we encountered is that the overall software experience disappoints the hardware. The way we use any machine is through software. If the software is not good, then we will lose confidence in the hardware. This is our position on ASUS Tinker Board 2S. For US$129, we expected it to be much better, and when we consider that Raspberry Pi 4 is US$75 and is equipped with everything needed for a desktop/manufacturer experience, ASUS Tinker Board 2S cannot compete on price, nor can it challenge The dominance of Raspberry Pi.