New $29 Pine64 computer takes on Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

The $29 SOPINE A64 Compute Module is a smaller version of Pine64 and will ship in February

Raspberry Pi's new Compute Module 3 has serious competition coming its way from the maker of the Pine64 board computer.

The new SOPINE A64 64-bit computing module is a smaller version of the popular US$15 Pine64 computer.

It was announced the same week as the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which is a smaller version of the popular namesake board, was released.

At $29, the SOPINE A64 roughly matches the price of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which ranges from $25 to $30. The new SOPINE will ship in February, according to the website.

The SOPINE A64 can't operate as a standalone computer like the Pine64. It needs to be plugged in as a memory slot inside a computer.

But if you want a full-blown computer, Pine64 also sells the $15 SOPINE Baseboard Model-A, which "complements the SOPINE A64 Compute Module and turns it into a full single board computer," according to the company.

The $29 SOPINE A64 will plug into a memory slot of the $15 baseboard to form a full-blown computer. But that package will cost $44. That is more expensive than the original $15 Pine64, which started shipping last year and is serious competition to Raspberry Pi 3.

The original Pine64 was crowdsourced and also became popular for its high-end components like a 64-bit chip and DDR3 memory. SOPINE is the second product of Pine64, which is also the name of the organization.

The SOPINE computing module could appeal to businesses that want to put computers inside electronics or industrial equipment.

For example, it could be used in advertising displays, payment kiosks, and industrial devices. The SOPINE plugs into a SO-DIMM slot, which is found on many circuit boards on such devices.

So how does the SOPINE A64 compare with the recent Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3? From a pure specification standpoint, the SOPINE has some advantages.

The SOPINE has a 64-bit quad-core ARM-based CPU, much like the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3. It has 2GB RAM, which is twice that of Raspberry Pi's compute module. SOPINE also has faster DDR3 memory, superior to DDR2 memory in Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 board.

The SOPINE A64 has a micro-SD storage slot. If you want HDMI and USB ports, you'll need the $15 baseboard.

Software compatibility for the SOPINE isn't yet known. But the Pine64 worked with Android, Windows 10 IoT Core, and embedded versions of Linux, and the similarly configured SOPINE may support that software. The OSes typically need to be loaded on an SD card, which then needs to be slotted in.

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