Tinkerboard now supports HiFiBerry
There are a lot of boards on the market that claim to be “Raspberry Pi compatible, but with more computing power and more features”. We often hear questions like “will the HiFiBerry XXX work with the embedded board YYY?”. Usually we have to answer NO. Let me explain a bit why this is the case:
- GPIO ≠ GPIO
While other boards than the Raspberry Pi might have the same physical dimensions, the GPIO connector is usually different. The reason for this is simple: There is no “GPIO standard” that all manufacturers can comply to other than physical dimensions. So while one GPIO header looks the same as the next, the ‘pinout’ can vary widely. The GPIO header of the Raspberry Pi gives access to low-level functions of the Raspberry Pi SOC (basically the CPU). Using another SOC means that it will support different features, even if you connect it to the same GPIO pins.
- Software support
Even if another board would theoretically be able to support a HiFiBerry add-on board, many suppliers use outdated Linux software and do not adapt this correctly to the hardware. While the HiFiBerry drivers itself are open-source, there is more involved in using them correctly with other hardware. You need to develop a sound driver for the underlying SOC which has to be done by the vendor itself. Many vendors do not want to send time on this.
- Short product lifecycles
We see a lot of vendors that develop a product every year without caring about ‘backward’ compatibility with older generations. If customers didn’t buy last years product, they will buy the next generation – right? The problem with this is that the buyers of the last generation now won’t get software upgrades anymore and in worst case, hardware add-ons for the new board version won’t be compatible with older boards anymore.
Managing an embedded platform like the Raspberry Pi requires a lot of effort – not only from the community, but also from the vendor. Until now, the only supplier that did this really well was the Raspberry Pi foundation.
In the last months we have been in intense contact with Asus. You might have already heard about their Tinkerboard. We can tell you that Asus Engineers spent a lot of time improving the software for the Tinkerboard since it was released. With the latest TinkerOS Asus now has updated the drivers for the sound subsystem to support HiFiBerry sound cards.
We think Asus did a great job here. They are very committed to the Tinkerboard platform. We expect to see more and more software supporting the Tinkerboard in the future.
Do you own a Tinkerboard? Do you want to share your experiences? Let us know in our community area.