Apr 282014

While I was away in Poland for Easter I had an email from someone called Jet (jetxu@lemaker.org – he asked me to share that) about a board called Banana Pi. I’d heard of it already. I also knew that other people in the Raspberry Pi community had been approached (we talk to each other ;p). They wanted me to join their forums and submit a request for a sample.

I didn’t want to play that game so I said I was happy to have a look at it if they sent me one, but otherwise no thanks (and by the way we get about 4k views per day). They asked for a mailing address.

The day after I returned from Poland, it arrived.

Banana Pi

Banana Pi

So What Is It?

It’s basically a clone of the Raspberry Pi, but with some differences.
For starters, it’s slightly larger and the PCB is thinner…
length * width * board thickness
85mm * 56mm * 1.5mm Raspberry Pi
92mm * 60mm * 1.0mm Banana Pi

Banana Pi Vs Raspberry Pi

Banana Pi Vs Raspberry Pi

It uses an Allwinner A20 dual-core T processor and has 1 Gb of RAM
The ARM CPU is faster than the ARM CPU of the Raspberry Pi.
It has a Mali GPU, which is said to be significantly inferior to the Raspberry Pi’s VideoCore GPU, but I have no way of measuring that.

The GPIO header is supposed to be pin-compatible with the Raspberry Pi.

It has an ‘on the go’ micro-USB port, which is confusingly in the same place as the Raspberry Pi’s power port.
It also has…

  1. A SATA port for hard disk drives
  2. Power and reset buttons
  3. A teeny electret microphone
  4. An IR sensor
  5. A tiny button, they call a UBOOT key.
  6. The ethernet port is a Gigabit port
  7. A metal SD card slot

It has two ribbon connectors in similar location to the DSI and CSI ports on the Raspberry Pi, but the width and pitch are different so they won’t be compatible with Raspberry Pi accessories.

Price. Delivered to UK is about $76, which is about £45. In the UK you can buy a Raspberry Pi model B for £28.07 delivered (from CPC).

Banana Pi Vs Raspberry Pi underneath

Banana Pi Vs Raspberry Pi underneath

Took A While To Get It Working

I went to their site lemaker.org and downloaded one of the choice of three SD card images. I picked the one they called “Raspberry Pi” because I assumed it was a port of Raspbian for the Allwinner A20 chip they’re using. I ended up with a .tzg file which extracted to a file called pi.8GB, which I then flashed to an 8Gb SD card using ‘dd’ on a Ubuntu laptop (~an hour). That didn’t boot properly, so I looked for the instructions and did it exactly according to those. That failed in exactly the same way. I got about two screens worth of normal boot messages followed by something that talked about numbers of blocks being different.

I think it was an issue of media card size differences here. I tried shrinking the image with a utility I use for Raspbian images – autosizer.sh, by SirLagz but that didn’t work (probably due to the unusual partition arrangement). I didn’t have any available SD cards >8Gb so, for the time being, I stopped.

Then I remembered I had a 32 Gb card in my weather station pi, so copied and shrank that SD card image, then cloned it and made sure the weather Pi was working, before flashing the nana Pi Raspbian image to the larger card. It takes about an hour to flash an 8 Gb image using dd in Ubuntu and USB 2. So having done it three times I was a bit irritated. If it didn’t work third time, I decided I’d ‘call it quits’.

Third Time Lucky

Happily it did work the third time. The Banana Pi version of the Raspbian image has 5 partitions on it: Recovery; Boot; Root; Settings and ‘the partition with no name’.

GParted view of the SD card partitions

GParted view of the SD card partitions. Click to enlarge.

SD Card Image Is Twice As Big As It Needs To Be!

It’s an 8Gb image with 3.36 Gb of empty space in the main Linux partition. This could have been compressed and resized later GRRRR. It takes about an hour to write to SD card on a USB 2 card writer. This isn’t funny when you have to do it 3 times to find a card that works. So by the time I got to this stage, I was already quite irritable.

Are We There Yet?

It boots OK, but with some failure messages e.g. ‘module sndBCM2835 not found’ etc…

Then it logs you in automatically and takes you straight into LXDE, after what seems like a long period of ‘blank screen, has it crashed?’ In my opinion, this kind of misses the point of Pi, which is to boot into a command line environment and then have to type a command to make it do something (i.e. being in control).

Once there, though, LXDE works quite well. There is no GPU support, it’s all running on the ARM CPU. But it works quite well in terms of being able to drag windows around the screen. Midori still takes a long time to fire up, but, once it’s going, it works well loading graphically-intensive web pages tolerably fast. I don’t generally browse on the Raspberry Pi as it’s slower than my patience threshold. The Gigabit ethernet port, 1 Gb of RAM and faster ARM processor helps the ‘nana outperform the Raspberry in this area.

But Here’s The Thing.

I don’t use the Raspberry Pi for browsing because I have two phones, a tablet and several larger computers that do this much better.

I use the Raspberry Pi for programming in Python, learning Linux and hacking around with electronics and controlling hardware with GPIO ports, SPI, I2C.

I have been known to fire up OpenElec and use that to watch a video occasionally too.

Sadly, although they say their GPIO header is pin-compatible with the Raspberry Pi, the Banana Pi’s GPIO ports are not yet accessible or usable by someone like me. There is no RPi.GPIO or WiringPi for the ‘nana, and the ports are not accessible in bash either.

A ‘low-level programming guru’, I am not. So GPIO work and electronics is not an option at this time. Maybe it will be, but not yet.

Not All Add-ons Will Fit

Even if the GPIO header pinouts are the same as on the Raspberry Pi, not all add-ons will fit properly because the distance between the GPIO header and the composite port is different.

Banana Pi with Raspberry Pi add-on

Banana Pi with Raspberry Pi add-on. Doesn’t quite fit. (Raspberry Pi underneath.)

Let’s Watch a Movie Then

Are you waiting for the other boot to fall? There’s currently no GPU support either. So no omxplayer, or XBMC either. Other media players, like VLC, might work using the ARM, but I don’t expect the performance would be particularly good until the GPU can be brought into use.

So. Should I Get One?

Here’s the thing. It looks like a well made piece of hardware. It’s about 50% more expensive than the Raspberry Pi. The ARM CPU has a bit more ‘oomph’, and it has some extra hardware features, SATA, mic, IR, etc. But the software, support and community are not there (yet).

If you don’t need/want your hand holding or you’re a hard-core developer, you should probably get one. But, since the software side of things is at a very early stage of development, and there isn’t much support available, most of us would be better off sticking with the Raspberry Pi. It might be worth it to some people who require the extra CPU oomph, but I feel that the vast majority of users will be better served by the Raspberry Pi because there are so many resources, blogs, YouTube channels, Jams and people around to help.

If they can gather enough momentum from developers, the banana could be a good platform. The big question is can they? The jury’s out on that one.

I look forward to seeing where this project goes. It doesn’t have the same ‘feelgood factor’ as that generated by the Raspberry Pi’s charitable, educational goals. And one can’t help feeling that perhaps they’ve made a mistake trying to identify with the Raspberry Pi? Maybe they would have been better off calling it something different, or waiting to release it until there was a more complete software stack?

We’ll see. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below. I will make a video, perhaps later in the week.

Update. I’ve been a bit busy to make a video, but Mathew Keegan has made one that pretty much echoes my opinion above…

  119 Responses to “Banana Pi Review – First Impressions”

  1. Looking at your GParted screenshot, it seems they’ve taken a NOOBS install and converted it to a dd image – so you’ve effectively got the worst of both worlds. The ‘partition with no name’ sdc2 is simply the extended partition which the two logical partitions (sdc5 and sdc6) sit inside.

    Seems really odd that they’ve *attempted* to copy the layout of the Raspberry Pi, but then made the board-size different and put the connectors in *slightly* different places, which means existing cases won’t fit, and as you point out some addons won’t fit. I guess it’s an example of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ ?

    I don’t think I’ll be adding any bananas to my raspberry diet yet ;-)

    • It seems to me that the philosophy is that they’ve listened to ‘the moans’ about the Raspberry Pi and tried to fix as many as they could. I gather it is by an educational group and it _will_ be open source, but it seems to me that the software is at least 2 years behind where the Raspberry Pi is at now. How quickly will it be able to catch up? Will they be able to get enough developers on board? We’ll see.

      Instead of trying to be the Pi, I would have loved it if they’d released it with a version of Ubuntu or something the Pi doesn’t do.

  2. Still waiting for mine, but your review sounds about what I’ve been expecting. i.e. It’s alright, but nothing to write home about yet.

  3. Interesting, it looks like the hardware is good but the software has a way to go (although I think you should be able to get the GPIO to work, its fairly standadised I thought?).

    It definitely has advantages, the addition of SATA, GigE and a faster CPU means it has a lot more applications than the Pi, or at the very least should do a lot of the things the Pi does a lot better. The poor performance of both the network card (which can’t even manage 100 megs) and the USB (which has numerous issues) on the Pi leaves me thinking that as long as I didn’t need graphics this might be a better choice.

    Its a shame the form factor isn’t the same as it makes cases etc incompatible, I wonder if that’s to avoid legal issues?

    • You could probably stick a SATA HDD on it and it might make a reasonable server.
      I wouldn’t know where to begin with the GPIO though. Direct Memory Access, Registers and C are just things I’ve read about it books.

      If it can’t be done in a high level language like Python, it’s not for me (at the moment) simply through lack of knowledge.

      • It could be as simple as just loading the GPIO kernel module. I don’t know for sure but I believe once its working all the usual GPIO tools should work.

        • I believe that depends on whether the kernel that the BananaPi is using has been setup with the correct GPIO definitions (register addresses) for the GPIOs exposed by the SoC they’re using. I don’t have a BananaPi so I’m not going to spend the time investigating ;)

          • Yeah that sounds right Andrew.
            One thing we need to remember though is the chip they are using on the Banana Pi is pretty common though right? This isn’t a Banana Pi specific thing, I’m guessing it should “just work” the same as installing regular Ubuntu should just work. I dunno though I don’t have one either :)

          • The fact that their distro still tries to load RaspberryPi-specific modules like sndBCM2835 makes me sceptical that GPIO would “just work” though :-/ But hey I’m not a kernel developer, so I could be wrong!
            The A20 SoC is indeed used by several other low-cost Linux / Android boards though.

    • If anything it is very odd that the design so closely mimics the design of a Raspberry Pi as to potentially infringe copyright, while being different enough to be physically incompatible – to make a product that is compatible with another system can be a justification for a similar looking product. Mega Blox vs. Lego Duplo, for example. IANAL.

      It sets up a bad relationship with the buyer though – I nearly bought one until I saw it at Oxford Raspberry Jam, believing it to be a drop-in replacement from a casual look at the pictures. I would have been annoyed to discover the incompatibilities.

      I think the RasPi’s form factor can be improved upon, so I’m excited about Embedded Pi, and there is room for compatible boards with alternative features. This does neither!

      • The irony is that the Model B+ Raspberry Pi changed the board layout with their Model B+ Board. The Banana Pi seems to be getting a lot more community support, (there are more linux operating systems working on the banana pi and more distributors around the world) For example, http://www.bananapi.com.au is the Australian distributor.

  4. Can Banana Pi runs on python3 ?
    What is maximum of SD card?
    Couldn’t it be 16, 32, or 64GB SD Card?

  5. Thank Alex and Bull.
    The sd card can handle up to 64 GB.
    Do you know where can i buy Banana pi? I’m from Canada.
    The Bananapi.org has shown where to buy.

  6. I do like that the board has a more powerful CPU and much more capable I/O like SATA and Giga Ethernet and a Reset button. Power and I/O I really miss on the Raspberry Pi.
    If you can boot to the hard disk on SATA this thing will fly.

    The Raspberry PI may have a powerful GPU, but it still needs lots and lots of work in progress in software to become great.
    And the USB on the Raspberry PI is quite mediocre (bugs and slow).

    Only time will tell if this Banana will be a useful board. It does remind me of the first days of the Raspberry Pi, also no perfect OS, GPIO a bit of a mystery and lack of maturity in general. It changed for the best for the Raspberry PI but took 2 years and many many volunteers (elinux for example) and the Pi Foundation and Broadcom support.
    If the Banana PI can get a following like that it may succeed.

    The price will have to come down though.

  7. I guess they just tried to modify Raspbien OS to boot up the board to application developers on RPi. That’s why it shows “BCM2835 not found”.

  8. I have had some discussions about the Banana Pi and am currently considering importing the board.
    The problem i have, as is shown in the previous threads, is that i am not sure people will want to buy a product which does not have the community support (yet).
    My initial estimate is that the board could be sold in the UK for around £49.99 including shipping.
    I would appreciate some feedback to see how many people would be interested ?

    • It’s a bit chicken and egg I think. I’m sure demand for the hardware would be there if there was something like a Ubuntu distro ready to go. But there isn’t. People won’t want to buy a product that is so difficult to get up and running. I’m no expert, but I spent several hours on Sunday before I could even get their distro to boot. That was with a Ubuntu laptop that most people won’t have.

      It’s currently just too hard. Will it get easier? It might. There are communication issues though. Check the forums over at the nana pi site for an idea of what I’m talking about.

  9. GPU slower than the rPI plus the 5 week wait kills the idea for me. raspBMC makes an amazing value media centre on rPI if you clock it a little so the bPIs faster CPU sounded good. How they expect to charge more and use an inferior GPU is beyond me. I’ll wait ’til June and buy an x86 ‘Intel MinnowBoard Max’ (http://www.minnowboard.org/meet-minnowboard-max/) for $129 E3825 (dual-core) and get x86 USB 3.0, SATA and Gigabit Ethernet. Could install Android 4.4 and then install the Android version of XMBC . . . hello cost effective media centre :-) Should be enough power to run Windows 8.1 Update 1 with XBMC (& Windows Media Center) too. Nice to have options.

    • I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the GPU speed, but I was going on what James Hughes said here…

      …and he’s someone whose opinion I believe I can trust. (He has Broadcom inside knowledge of GPU stuff.)

      • Hmmm…
        I’m not convinced the GPU is slower, I’ve heard otherwise. Also whilst I agree there’s no decent image for the Banana Pi yet, its GPU does actually have properly working drivers for Linux available which AFAIK the Pi still doesn’t have just yet (although its not far off). With reference to James H point of view, if I read that thread right he also claimed the CPU was slower and he’s wrong about that (someone even pointed that out to him) so I think we need to see actual benchmarks before we can say anything. Basically the Banana Pi is the same Chipset as the Cubieboard 2 which is better than the Pi in almost every way (except cost). Please remember the Pi is great because its cheap, not because its good hardware.

        • I thought he said the whole thing was put together quickly, but I can’t be bothered to re-read the whole thread again. The CPU is definitely faster. I’ve proved that to my satisfaction already. But as yet no GPU action on the nana to compare.

          Lest we forget, Eben, Gordon and James (not Hughes, t’other one) designed and worked on the BCM2835, so they probably have a pretty good idea how it compares to the Allwinner. I doubt they’d be deliberately letting their forum mods spread untruths about its relative performance.

          I also expect they have a pretty good idea of what the competition is up to.

          If I can get my video done in time for CamJam, d’you want to borrow the nana to have a play Dan?

          • The main difference between the Raspberry Pi CPU and the Banana Pi CPU is the Raspberry Pi’s Broadcom chip is ARMv6 whereas the Banana Pi’s Allwinner Chip is ARMv7. This is really important because there are big fundamental improvements in the architecture between v6 and v7 meaning distributions such as Ubuntu have dropped support for ARMv6 because its so old. The end result is the Raspberry Pi is incompatible with modern ARM code and whilst it can run Raspbian (which has specifically been made for it) it can’t run a typical ARM distribution such as Ubuntu. The Banana Pi on the other hand can run both. Another thing worth pointing out is even though you noticed the Allwinner outperforms the Pi, this was when you were running Raspian right? Raspian is ARMv6 code, if you were to run native ARMv7 code such as Ubuntu it would be even faster still. Hope this all makes sense :)

            …oh and thanks for the offer of the loan of the nana :)
            I’ll give it a miss though as I have an Odroid here still in the packet :)

        • Ignoring the fantastic community and educational aspects for a moment, the other thing that makes the RPi great IMHO is the amount of effort the RPF put into fixing/improving the firmware and Linux kernel… https://github.com/raspberrypi

          Alex: t’other James is James Adams http://www.raspberrypi.org/camera-board-available-for-sale/

  10. OMG, the threads above are all far too deeply nested to make any sense of… but honestly no one needs to benchmark a 486 to know it’s faster than a 386, and this is what the difference between an ARMv6 CPU and an ARMv7 really is… the partcular allwinner chip used is does contain the slowest low power version of the Cortex A7 reference CPU, but the A7 is a very new CPU, perhaps 6 years newer… and this particular implementation contains 2 of them both running at a higher clock rate… lets forget any idea that the raspberry Pi CPU is faster….

    As for GPU, the Mali GPU is the ARM reference GPU and although the Mali 400 is lower end one I’m pretty dubious that a 6 year old chip has a faster GPU… although actually 90% of the silicon on the Raspberry Pi CPU is actually GPU, not CPU…. so I’m prepared to accept it might be similar… however I suspect the reason people are complaining is that the drivers are not as good for Linux, or not set up in what sounds like a rushed distribution for that board:- http://limadriver.org/

    It seems to me that the hardware is “better” in most measurable ways… but there’s a ton of devices with better hardware than the Pi… like this one:- http://hardkernel.com/main/products/prdt_info.php

    The reason to use a Pi is because it has good software support and good community, and it’s VERY cheap… not because it’s a good computer.

    • Sounds like we’re agreed on pretty much everything except perhaps the GPU issue then? The ARM on the nana is noticeably faster than on the (real) Pi. The guys from the foundation on the RPi forums keep saying that the VC4 GPU technology is current and Samsung use it in several of their phones in preference to their own proprietary stuff. I have no way of testing that though. But the Broadcom guys should know. I thought it was more like 95%. I know the BCM2835 has 48 cores.

      • Agreed, I know the VC4 GPU is still current… I don’t know if the RPi chip has a newer version than was contemporary when the ARMv6 CPU was new… however Samsung are now making their own SoC’s (Exynos)… and these all use the ARM GPU’s… I don’t think it’s relevant TBH, they are both quite powerful… the difference will be drivers.

  11. Incidentally, I just handed Daniel Bull an Odroid-X to test out/use for a media centre… it’s also using a Mali 400 GPU, so he will soon have some insight into it’s capabilities…

    • Just been testing with the Odroid-X (quite an old model now) running Android. Using the Quadrant benchmark and looking at the GPU specifically (because that’s what matches the Banana Pi) its on par/faster than the following: Motorola Atrix 4G, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Nexus S. These are just a tad faster but in the same league: Asus Transformer Prime TF201, HTC One X, LG Optimus 2X. Not really sure how that compares to the Pi but those are reasonably decent tablets/phones. The GPU certainly isn’t slow.

      • It’d be nice if we can get an image that utilises the GPU on the nana.
        If they can get Raspbian working on it, you’d have thought a more mainstream Linux distro would be high on their list.
        I might try the Cubieboard image next, but I’ll need to get some more SD cards in.

  12. Thank you for this Review – we have done a similar one in German, and tested PiFace plugging (result: not compatible).

    If you care to take a look:

  13. Thank you Alex for the review.

    Which micro USB power sources are used ?

  14. A near-complete benchmark Banana / RaspberryPi : http://hardware-libre.fr/2014/06/raspberry-vs-banana-hardware-duel/

    • Great stats!
      Just a quick note, if you ran the tests again with an OS compiled/optimised for the newer ARM Cortex-A7 architecture used by the Banana Pi (such as Ubuntu ARM) the slower performance you saw in the single threaded test would go away. This is because Raspbian is compiled for the much older ARM11 architecture used by the broadcom chip in the Pi and it can’t take full advantage of the CPU in the newer ARM Cortex-A7 architecture used by the Allwinner A20. Take a look at this link on Wikipedia and compare how many generations behind the Raspberry Pi’s ARM11 is to the Banana Pi’s Cortex-A7:
      To take advantage of the A7 unfortunately you need to recompile. Ubuntu ARM uses these extras which is why it dropped support for ARM11 and won’t run on the Raspberry Pi.

      Of course in reality none of this is important for the Raspberry Pi as its purpose is education in which case the community means more than anything else. But its worth bearing in mind for those who have applications which require performance.

  15. Regarding price – I see on aliexpress some offers for Banana Pi for $52 with shipment (to Poland). That’s £30, so almost no difference. AFAIK up to $150 purchase is duty and tax free for EU citizens when buying from outside EU for personal usage.

    Raspberry Pi had IMO too few power (CPU, RAM) from very beggining. I have even written on blog why I won’t buy RPi. And I didn’t buy, but I got (and use) one for free. RPi should have better CPU (armhf), 1 GE card and more RAM (RAM is cheap, RAM is blessing for desktop or server) and SATA port. Sure, it’d be more expensive having this (I wish there was RPi C and D), but much more useful. Sure, for me it’s just a cheap Linux board, not use it for electronics or add-ons.

    Regarding add-ons – I’d say it’s add-ons failure. Photo you provided is great example – it was enough just to leave empty space in place where connectors are placed. I guess next generation add-ons will fit both Banana Pi and RPi. And/or there will be “extensions” to put add-ons a bit higher. Last but not least – RPi design/dimensions is not a standard in any way.

    System image for SD card – Raspbian image for RPi has also a lot of free space. I uninstalled a few things, but right now I have only 1,7 GB used, so I believe images could be made for 2 GB cards… BTW images for RPi have journal enabled by default. It(?) killed my SD card in about 4 months.

    • If an add-on board is designed specifically for Raspberry Pi, how can it be the add-on board designer’s fault that it doesn’t fit on another board which is supposedly a clone of the Raspberry Pi (but isn’t)? That is a ridiculous argument.

      • Yeah Alex, better make sure any future add-ons fit other boards that aren’t invented yet…it’s your public duty to look into the future and anticipate these things!!

        Is Rozie for real?!

      • I think this may be a lost in translation problem as I’m guessing English isn’t Rosies native language. It seems likely that what Rosie was trying to say was its an /issue/ which could be resolved with future generations of the add on board, rather than it was a /failure/ of the add on board (which is what she actually said). Basically if the add-on board doesn’t fit and there is enough demand for the Banana Pi, then some subtle design changes could be made so a future version of the add-on fits both platforms.

        However Alex’s original point in the blog still stands. If the Banana Pi is supposed to be a clone, its not a very good one as its obviously physically incompatible (which the photo clearly shows). And if its not trying to be a clone, why try and look the same and claim it is? It doesn’t make much sense to do half a job….

        Also as much as I agree with Rosies point that the Banana Pi is technically superior, without the accompanying community support I can’t see “Banana Pi compatible” as a strong enough justification for add-on board manufacturers to rework their designs. It would make much more sense to rework the Banana Pi. However saying that, I think if I was designing something new or reworking a design for other reasons, I might consider shaving the board a bit as long as there was absolutely no detriment to its usage on the Pi, simply so I could also claim it was also Banana Pi compatible as a selling point. Although I have a feeling at this point some may feel not being Banana Pi compatible is a bigger selling point ;)

        • It’s all moot anyway – GPIO doesn’t work on the ‘nana :-)

        • You’re right, I’m not native English speaker. BTW rozie is a nickname (starting with small r and with z inside). And I’m male (sorry guys). But I said what I wanted to say. If point that add-ons made for product R don’t fit product B is valid, the point that add-ons for product R should be designed more carefully or improved/adjusted is also valid. But I guess both points are wrong in some way. Banana Pi is NOT a clone of Raspberry Pi. This assumption appears in original post, but it’s utterly wrong. It is similar board with SOME compatiblities. And it was never oficially announced as clone, but clearly inspired by RPi.

          They could(? – not sure if it was possible to fit all this on the same size board, it has minor edge size difference, but it has 16% larger area…) make it more compatible, but they didn’t. Maybe they want to sell more cases. ;-)

          Anyway, I guess ‘nana will be quickly adopted by people who want device to run Linux. Shortly after this it will take over multimedia and maybe at the end it will compete at electronics usage. Which may be good news for people interested in electronics, as there may appear more cheap second hand PRis on the market.

          • Hi Rozie,
            firstly sorry for getting your name and gender wrong.

            Secondly I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with your statement that the “Banana Pi is NOT a clone of the Raspberry Pi”. It might not be a very good clone (as we have seen) but it is a clone. If wasn’t a clone why would it have the same sockets in roughly the same places and use the same GPIO pinout? It makes no sense? If you were to design a board from scratch, the chances of it looking almost identical to the Raspberry Pi and having the same pinout are non existent. Even if you were aiming to make it the same size it wouldn’t be the same. For example the Cubieboard 2 is roughly the same size and has the same processor as the Banana Pi but it looks nothing like the Raspberry Pi. However the Banana Pi is so similar to the Raspberry Pi its difficult for someone without experience to tell the difference. …and all of this is before we even talk about the fact its called a “Banana Pi”. One of the reasons people are so upset about the Banana Pi is because its trying to gain popularity by pretending to be a copy and using a similar name.

            With reference to your comment about it being quickly adopted; for it to gain any real popularity and compare with the Raspberry Pi it needs 3 things:
            1. Great hardware
            2. Great software
            3. Lots of accessories
            4. A great community

            At the moment it has great hardware I totally agree with you there, but the supplied software doesn’t work properly by default (IE: the graphics are not accelerated, the GPIO doesn’t work, etc) and there are no Banana Pi accessories (although some of the Raspberry Pi accessories might work we don’t know for sure as the GPIO doesn’t work). And I’ve not looked into the community yet but its almost certainly not on the same scale as the Pi.

            So basically while I agree it “might” get some adoption (if they fix the installation images, etc) I can’t see it happening quickly. Also we need to consider it will have a lot of very strong competition, every week I see a new board! Also some of the boards have a lot of community, accessories and software already existing like the Odroid’s and Cubieboards.

            Anyway I guess we need to wait and see!


            • I understand your point. Banana Pi is surely deeply inspired by RPi. I totally agree it tries to get (steal?) some popularity from RPi. You may even call it a plagiarism, when we talk about board design. BTW did they violated any copyright OSLT? But it has some compatibilities (like GPIO pinout), and some improvements. It’s aimed at similar target group, and similar usage. There was no reason for them to make it different. As I wrote on my blog what I’ve heard: Chinese people will take (anything) and make it better.

              I won’t agree that it’s difficult to tall a difference. At least not to anyone who sees anything more than a “small board which looks like computer”. It would be even harder to tell the difference if Banana Pi was the same size and pinout as RPi. I think they don’t try to get popularity by pretending anything. It’s kind of reference to RPi for sure, but IMHO not pretending to be one or clone.

              When we compare BPi and RPi we need to remember that BPi just appeared and just first reviews were published. IIRC RPi also didn’t have full functionality since very beginning – overclocking (at least easy one) and possibility to buy license for decoding mpeg came later. So yes, we will see.

              When we talk about software and community – I think that better board (at least for Linux users) may give many improvements to RPi. Sorry to say, I don’t find Raspbian (images, tools) very good. I say this as long term Debian user. Many RPi users have very little Linux knowledge, and RPi is just slow for typical Linux users. BPi can close those two world (people interested in electronics and people interested in Linux).

          • Just to weigh in here…It is definitely a clone. They were originally and still are marketing it as such. They have also stolen some of the original Raspberry Pi artwork and adapted it to the Banana Pi.

            A brief look at their website shows a fair few copyright infringements.

            Just wanted to point that out, regardless of the hardware, software or community.

          • @Aaron Can you provide some details/examples? I never have seen marketing Banana Pi as Raspberry Pi clone on official pages. What artwork was stolen, exactly? What copyright infringements on webpage?

          • @Rozie – the layout drawing here is a direct clone (http://www.lemaker.org/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid=9&id=39) and there are many other similar ones like that among other things. Most of the Alibaba marketing will use the Raspberry Pi trademark without permission. The original Raspbian they made still had the Raspberry Pi logo on both the boot screen and on the GUI background.

            Not to mention the layout of the PCB itself which is clearly copied. There is no way you would end up with connectors in nearly exactly the same places unless you actually tried to do so

            Trying to deny it is a clone is a fairly futile exercise – it quite clearly is.

          • Personally I agree Daniel’s points. There is still a long way to complete the great board especially the software and communities. That will take time to check how long they could go.
            Meanwhile, I stand more close to Rozie. (For sure, Banana Pi is surely deeply inspired by RPi.) I don’t know if Raspberry Pi PCB pinout and layout is patented or ownership protected. (can it?) I did not see the layout drawing is clone from somebody though. (Did I miss anything?)
            Raspberry Pi is still a good product for basic programming platform and also lots of possibilities in the life. Do not need to compare other products coming lately. Appreciate their efforts and great vision.

          • I haven’t been paying much attention to the Banana Pi, but just spotted http://www.raspberrypi.org/china-tour/#comment-1001264

  16. Check out http://www.bananapi-kaufen.de/ fpr Information, Compares and Tutorials :)

  17. The sata power on my board does not work and i had to get 5V from the GPIO pins!

  18. For the german banana pi friends: http://www.bananapi-kaufen.de/erster-eindruck-und-vergleich/ on this site you find a comparsion between banana pi and raspberry pi :)

  19. I just ran an extensive benchmark comparison between the Raspberry and Banana Pi. You can find the results here: http://gleenders.blogspot.be/2014/07/banana-pi-benchmarks-banana-pi-vs.html

    • Those only test the ARM though. We already know the ARM on the nana is faster. Good to have quantitative data. Would be nice to have some for the GPU too. :)

    • Nice data thanks Gert. That’s the first time I’ve seen a benchmark done with an OS which takes advantage of the newer ARM architecture in the A20. Like Alex says if you could get the graphics working well enough on both systems and do the GPU that would be awesome. I think there are still issues getting proper graphics drivers for the Pi though so it may not be possible :(

      By the way Alex I found out something interesting the other day, the Mali GPU on the A20 is actually the ARM reference GPU design so its going to get really common and well supported. As you know the GPU on the Pi is unique to Broadcom which I guess made sense at the time the Pi processor was designed as there was either no ARM GPU or it probably wasn’t very good?

      • That’s interesting. So that means it should be quite straightforward to get GPU-enabled Linux on the nana? I wonder if they’ve done it yet? Haven’t looked for a while.

  20. My Banana Pi arrived today and wow, what a difference. I went for the Lubuntu operating system and installed the GMusic browser along with some gstreamer plugins. GMusic browser is a highly visual music manager and player designed to work with large mudic collections. The app just worked and played without any of the background noise that I get with the raspberry.- Thats the point, it can run android or ubuntu without compromises and just works, in fact it runs better than my old Thinkpad laptop that runs the same operating system.

  21. The problem with the BananaPi is it is one big GPL violation. It definitely, at least as of now, not an open source platform as they claim it is. The source code for the Linux kernel is not being released and the version on their github does not allow for a functional Gbit Ethernet among other things. There have been several requests at lemaker.org to release the current working source code for the kernel that is shipped with the images but they refuse to do so because it is not “stable”. I don’t have any confidence in this platform if they can’t furnish the code to kernel they’re shipping with (which is a GPL violation. Also, when you check the cpu load, it is always pretty high. If we had the working code, the community could probably fix that and other issues but the developers are pretty stingy with the information. So, chances are there won’t be much of a community formed around this device. Unless you are happy with the pre-built images/kernels they supply.

  22. Makes you wonder why they bothered roughly copying the Pi board layout, but not enough to make it fit existing cases.
    I mean the layout is about the worst aspect of the Pi.

    Now the B+ has fixed the initial sloppy design, the BananaPi looks ridiculous.

  23. Got a sample Banana Pi recently, only had to pay the hefty customs fee (~20$), which is still cheaper than a delivered RPi ($50). I was about to write a review, only when I found out yours was better.

    What I’d like to point out, though, is the board of the Banana is thinner than the Raspberry Pi, and considering its edges are rife with connectors, I find it may cause problems in the short run if not put in a proper enclosure. The power USB connector already feels loose, and the solder job is not on par with the RPi. The small metal parts are thinner, and it feels lie they tried to cut costs wherever possible. Running the same applications on the RPi and the Banana give a clear advantage to the BPi, with much less CPU being used. With its SATA connector and limited lifespan of an SD card, at least the Banana Pi is better suited as a set-and-forget download machine than the RPi. Documentation is lacking, which is a shame considering the board has been in production for months, but at least their forum is rather responsive.

    Have you tested the OTG port? How it is supposed to be used? It seems to have a standard female micro USB connector, not the square connector used on Nokia’s smartphones. Same question for the SATA power connector: it doesn’t look anything like one. Somehow I doubt the Banana power circuit would play nicely with such a draw: 700mA for the board, 1.3A peak for a 2.5″ SATA drive, 1A for two USB ports. As the Raspberry, it crashes when a wifi dongle is inserted while running,

    • I haven’t tested anything other than what was reported above. When I tried the SATA port I powered the SATA drive from an old PC PSU. It worked fine, but as you say, no idea how well the nana SATA power port works.

      I knew the board was thinner. I measured it…
      “length * width * board thickness
      85mm * 56mm * 1.5mm Raspberry Pi
      92mm * 60mm * 1.0mm Banana Pi”

      It gives it a flimsy feel.

      The USB hotswap issue has been completely fixed on the Raspberry Pi B+

      I suppose the OTG port is supposed to be used with a USB OTG cable e.g. like the 2012 Nexus 7? But no idea really. It might be of use to some people, but it’s of limited value to me at this time.

      I also recently heard that they’ve finally got the GPIO ports accessible and working on the nana. Might be interesting to revisit that side of things. :)

      • Hi,
        – SATA power works fine,
        – onboard RTC works but needs a 3v battery (solder pads are present)
        – li-po / li-ion 3.7v battery charging circuitry works (battery solder pads are present), banana could run on battery without step-up circuit
        – RPi.GPIO and Wiringpi are now working (on Raspbian for BPi 3.1), sources are on github
        – XMBC 13 is working in Android 4.2.2 with hardware acceleration

        The only thing that annoys me is the impossiblity to power it from the GPIO like a RPi. Other than that, this is now a really good board.

        • Would you care to share some details on how you tested it? On my board there’s no voltage on the white connector. I can see the position of the 3V battery, but don’t know if it’s the only part missing to get a working RTC. I wasn’t aware there was a Li-Ion charging circuitry inside, how have you discovered it?

          On the other hand, I actually think not being able to power it from the GPIO is a good thing, since on the RasPi, it bypasses the protection circuitry

  24. As home file server and dvr (TV recorder) backend it kicks ass. Raspberry Pi is not powerfull enough to throughput files at same speed due to CPU (bottleneck), Gbit ethernet port and finally SATA. RPi CPU nearly chokes on being vdr server. I consider BPi to be more optimal solution for a server which needs are more I/O critical. It is also more responsive on serving websites (almost instant response I can not tell the lag where as in RPi it is bit of there).

    • I wouldn’t consider the BPi to be a decent file server. Decent means you can pull what the GigE interface can output, which is clearly not the case with a tested speed around 50MiB/s on SATA interface.

      How did you manage to make a DVR out of it? AFAIK there’s no video input option on the BPi.

  25. In Australia at the mo, and bought a BananaPi Pro to play with. Quite nice to have wireless on board, but thus far can’t seem to get iwconfig or iwlist to work, although ifconfig can see the wlan0 device. Still early days though :-)

  26. One more important point. The RPI is designed so that the megabit Ethernet shares bandwidth with USB. This (along with lack of a sata port) makes for a terrible server if that’s what you want to do. Because you mist use usb to sata which is already a compromise, any read write will dlow down the network connection and vice versa.

    The banana pi doesn’t have that limitation.

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