When an old laptop or smartphone is overkill for your DIY electronics project, a single-board computer is the perfect affordable alternative. It’s been almost a decade since the first Raspberry Pi started a phenomenon and four years since Asus joined the party with its original Tinker Board. Now, a next-generation Tinker Board 2S has appeared to compete with today’s more powerful options. It’s pricey at $125, but it packs a lot of potential for sophisticated inventions and dedicated makers.
A Small But Mighty Foundation
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with single-board computers, and the Tinker Board 2S doesn’t reinvent the wheel. About the size of a deck of cards—in fact, extremely similar in size and shape to the Raspberry Pi—the 2S (and the Tinker Board 2, which has just a microSD card slot for storage while the 2S has both a slot and 16GB of eMMC flash) fit a lot of functionality onto a small PCB.
The brain of the Tinker Board 2S is a 64-bit Rockchip RK3399 system-on-a-chip, consisting of a dual-core ARM Cortex-A72 running at 2.0GHz and a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 running at 1.5GHz. This big.LITTLE design, as ARM calls it, allows the two CPUs to dynamically allocate tasks to the appropriate core for reduced energy usage. You also get a Mali-T860 MP4 GPU running at 800MHz and 2GB or 4GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 memory, depending on the model you choose. Our $125 test model comes with 2GB.
The I/O is rather versatile, offering four USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports—three Type-A, one Type-C—with the USB-C connector also supporting OTG functionality and DisplayPort for connecting an external monitor. The Tinker Board 2S also has a full-size HDMI port, permitting dual displays. You’ll also find the usual Gigabit Ethernet and the abovementioned microSD card slot, alongside headers for an RTC battery, fan connector, MIPI DSI and CSI, and the ever-useful 40-pin GPIO header, which is color-coded for convenience. The board also comes with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 on a swappable M.2 card with external antenna.
The power connector has changed this time around, using a 5.5mm barrel connector instead of microUSB or USB-C. No power supply…