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Banana Pi

The folks at lemaker.org sent me a Banana Pi to try out and integrate with my arcades. They sent me a unit at no charge in exchange for a review.

How does it compare to the Raspberri Pi? It will undoubtedly be compared to the RPi as the RPi was the first to the scene and is the one to beat. However, the RPi only had modest specs in exchange for a low price point. Having said this, the Banana Pi easily surpasses the Pi in processing power and RAM.


Banana Pi Specs:

ARM Cortex -A7 1GHz Dual core

1GB DDR3 SDRAM (twice that of the Pi's 512MB DDR2 RAM)

Matching pinout of the Pi's 26 GPIO's

2 USB ports


HDMI, Composite video & 1/8" Stereo out

SATA connector (awesome)

Supports Android 4.2 & 4.4, Raspbian, Debian, Ubuntu


The price point of the Banana Pi is said to be under $30 USD. Though early in it's market stages and popularity, I've seen quite the markup from various retailers (geeetech.com ~$65, ebay sellers ~$80+) and not have been able to located specific distributors via lemaker.org 's website or bananapi.org. From my understanding (looking through Banana Pi's Forums), you might have to contact lemaker.org or bananapi.org directly to buy one at the time of this article. 

I was able to download, mount, and boot the BPi with Android easily. The instructions are easy to follow but the native PhoenixCard loader Lemaker recommends using was not in english; Actually it was missing all lables from the GUI. I was able to follow the instructions regarding which buttons to click based on position. Still, better support is needed. This is a fore-shadowing of the support compared to the Raspberry Pi. But it's an unfair shot against the Banana Pi. The Raspberry Pi was first to the scene, and the only one for a while. 

With Android 4.2 loaded, the Banada Pi runs very smooth. The CPU is fast, graphics transition are responsive and crisp, Loading apps is no trouble for the BPi. The Banana Pi does use the same ARM CPU and the Cubietruck (which I also own) and has comparable performance. Though lacking some features as the Cutbietruck (as it should since the Banana Pi is less than half the MSRP), it performs well. I was pleased with the perfromance in a package just slightly larger than the Raspberry Pi.

For now, I will run emulators built for Android and a keyboard encoder to interface with the controls. RetroPie (what my Porta Pi Arcade's run) was built on an ARM-6 which is native to the Raspberry Pi's CPU. The Banana Pi's CPU is an ARM-7. Conversion will be difficuilt if not impossible for my skill set. 

I will continue this review with my attempt to compile an emulator on the Rasbian OS for Banana Pi. I am looking forward to that with the extra CPU power...Coming eventually. Videos will come too, eventually.


Update Nov 20, 2014:

Forgot to mention this in the original review-The current version of Android for the Banana Pi does not have the required drivers for the onboard wi-fi or ethernet port. Very dissapointing. 

I notice lemaker has released the Banana Pro (the updated equivilent to the Raspberry Pi B+). 


Verdict so far: For a $30 (if you can find a reseller sticking to the MSRP) it's a very capable machine. I enjoy it. It does fit in the market the Rasberry Pi created: same capable (and GPIO compatible) tiny single board computer, with more beef/power. However, support is lacking, but like any single board computer the early stages will have more questions than solutions. Support from the lemaker and the communit will be the deciding factor for early success of the Banana Pi. They have a powerful board with a great target price, but lack the distribution that of the Raspberry Pi and many other single board computers like Beagle Bone, UDoo. 

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