An open-spec, Allwinner H6 based “Orange Pi 3” SBC has gone on sale for $30 to $40, with the latter giving you 2GB of RAM and 8GB eMMC. Other highlights: GbE, HDMI 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, WiFi-ac, and mini-PCIe.
The long-awaited Orange Pi 3 — the highest end of three Allwinner H6 based Orange Pi SBCs — has arrived for about the price of a Raspberry Pi 3. The most powerfully equipped H6-based SBC to date will attempt to take on Rockchip RK3399 based boards, including Shenzhen Xunlong’s own Orange Pi RK3999.
Orange Pi 3, front and back
In Dec. 2017, Shenzhen Xunlong was the first to produce a hacker board based on the Allwinner quad-core, Cortex-A53 based H6 SoC. The $20 Orange Pi One Plus, a spinoff of the Allwinner H3-based Orange Pi One, was followed by a $25 Orange Pi Lite2, which offered WiFi instead of the One Plus’ GbE port. Both boards were limited to 1GB RAM, which is just barely enough to keep up with the high-end H6. In addition, their modest feature sets failed to exploit the SoC’s extensive peripheral support. Both SBCs were also hobbled by support for an old Linux 3.1 Kernel.
The Orange Pi 3 addresses most of these concerns with a choice of 1GB and 2GB LPDDR3 RAM and a robust feature set with 4x USB 3.0 ports, an optional 8GB of eMMC, and a mini-PCIe slot. Also, thanks to the Armbian community, you can now load Ubuntu and Debian images based on Linux 4.19 on the H6-based Orange Pi boards in addition to the standard Android 7.0 support. The Linux images are still experimental, however, and the only available image is still dedicated to the One Plus. The Orange Pi Project expects to offer its own Linux images soon.
Despite its snappy 1.8GHz clock rate, the Allwinner H6 is not as fast as the increasingly prevalent RK3399 SoC, lacking the latter’s dual Cortex-A72 cores. The mismatch is reflected in the higher price of the RK3399, as well as RK3399 based boards such as the Orange Pi RK3999, which recently dropped to $89.38 with 2GB RAM.
Yet, this top-of-the-line Allwinner entry features RK3399-like peripheral support and a high-end Mali-T720 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES3 and DirectX 11. The video-centric SoC supports “H.265 6K @ 30fps” video decoding and H.264 4K @ 30fps video encoding and provides providing full-channel, 10-bit HDR10 technology.
Orange Pi 3, front and back detail view
The 90 × 64mm Orange Pi 3 is larger than the earlier H6-based SBCs, which appear to be the only other H6 hacker boards on the market. Despite the extra size, the SBC has the same 26-pin GPIO expansion header found on the earlier models instead of the typical 40-pin connector found on Orange Pi boards.
Aside from the features noted above, the board provides a wireless module with 802.11ac (WiFi 5) and Bluetooth 5.0, accompanied by an antenna. You also get an HDMI 2.0a port, an audio AV jack, a mic interface, and an IR receiver.
In addition to the 4x USB 3.0 ports, there’s a micro-USB 2.0 port and micro-USB OTG. Although the latter is said to support power input, the product page warns that a micro-USB power supply is not supported and that buyers should purchase a DC 5V3A charger for the separate DC input.
The mini-PCIe slot is a welcome — and still rare — addition to Arm hacker boards. However, it is not fully implemented. The CNXSoft post that alerted us to the Orange Pi 3 notes that linux-sunxi’s H6 page warns that the H6’s “quirky” PCIe controller circuitry “doesn’t map the PCIe address space properly.” Long story short — drivers will likely need to be modified.
Specifications listed for the Orange Pi 3 include:
- Processor — Allwinner H6 (4x Cortex-A53); ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES3 and DirectX 11
- Memory — 1GB or 2GB LPDDR3 RAM
- Storage — microSD slot; optional 8GB eMMC
- Wireless – Ampak AP6256 module with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5.0; antenna
- Networking — 10/100/1000Mbit Ethernet port
- Media I/O:
- HDMI 2.0a with audio and HDCP 2.2 output
- 3.5mm audio output jack with CVBS AV
- Mic input
- Other I/O:
- 4x USB 3.0 ports
- USB 2.0 host port
- Micro-USB 2.0 OTG port with power
- 3-pin GPIO with UART and ground
- 26-pin GPIO expansion connector
- Other features — IR receiver; power and status LEDs
- Power — DC barrel jack with +5V @ 2A; supports micro-USB power; PMU (AXP805); power button;
- Weight — 75 g
- Dimensions — 90 × 64mm
- Supported OSes — Android 7.0; Ubuntu and Debian images coming (experimental Linux 4.19 available from Armbian
The Orange Pi 3 is available for $29.90 (1GB RAM), $34.90 (2GB RAM or 1GB RAM with 8GB eMMC), or $39.90 (2GB RAM, 8GB eMMC). More information may be found on the Orange Pi 3 AliExpress page. More info, including image downloads and schematics should eventually appear on the Orange Pi project website.