CubieBoard review - A six-sided nope


Updated: July 9, 2015

When my friend, who gave me his ODROID box for review heard about my unsuccessful attempt of his latest purchase, he got kind of mad, and then, he handed me a CubieBoard instead, asked me to test this other gadget.

So today, I will attempt to test a cubieboard2 unit, and see whether this little device can satisfy my need for the ultimate home media center, which I have been trying to build, without much success, ever since I got my hands on a Raspberry Pi board. Till now, none of the little gadgets is as complete and friendly as the default hardware and software set of my smart TV. Let's see.

Teaser

More about the device

Cubieboard2 comes with an AllWinner A20 system on a chip with two ARM Cortex-A7 CPU, clocked at 1 GHz, plus dual-fragment shader Mali-400 GPU. On paper, video acceleration is good enough for 4K videos, and the display supports HDMI 1080p playback. There's also a very decent 1GB DDR3 RAM, and a built-in 4GB NAND Flash, preloaded with Android. But if you feel like trying other operating systems, you get one microSD slot and one SATA port. Furthermore, the device has a 100Mbit Ethernet connector, two USB ports, and one USB OTG. Pretty neat.

Connections 1

Connections 2

Box, open

I didn't have to struggle too much finding all the necessary peripherals to get underway. My friend provided me with a power adapter, as well as an Edimax WiFi dongle. I reused my wireless keyboard from my earlier tests, and burned a Fedora image to an 8GB SD card. A standard HDMI cable completed the set.

Ready set

And then ...

That's about as far as my testing went. Nothing really worked. And you can't begin to imagine the frustration I feel right now. One, I come across as an idiot who is incapable of powering on a simple board. But then, I didn't have such problems with Raspberry Pi, nor with Rikomagic, Apple TV, nor Google Chromecast. Links to these reviews, in just a few angry scrolls. Two, I am sort of wasting my own time, and yours. Especially since I was looking forward to the test.

On the other hand, I should treat these dev boards as any typical Linux distributions. Some of them boot, and some don't, and it's not a fault of mine in any way. Sometimes, certain products are just not plug-n-playable enough for common, everyday use, and I am not willing to invest the time needed to make them work. Not my cup of coffee.

If you care for more details, well, I tried the Fedora stuff first. Nothing. It wouldn't even boot, and I was very careful to follow the installation guide to the letter. Next, I tried the onboard Android image. It sort of started booting, very briefly, but then it just froze, and that was it. At this point, I admitted defeat, unplug the board and put it away. Cubieboard was simply not meant to be in the Dedoimedo realm of techno goodies.

More reading

To learn about my other gadgetry escapades so far:

Raspberry Pi + XBMC in RaspBMC and openELEC flavors

Rikomagic MK802IV dongle review

Apple TV, my first encounter with nobility

Chromecast test and review

Conclusion

I don't like writing half-assed, incomplete reviews. It's not how I like to do things, and not being thorough is the worst sin in the blogging world. But I could not not tell you about this failure, because it is important to share. Your experience might be stellar, brilliant, or it could be a total catastrophe, and you might need a moment of solace, which this little piece of pointless prose might offer you.

Anyhow, CubieBoard, no. For the time being, my LG TV is the only really complete product, and there's a reason, as it turns out, why expensive devices are expensive, because they offer a complete stack, a peace of mind, and a good experience overall. You might build your own ultra-lean killer media center, but it will cost more life mana and time than if you invested that in pure, hard cash and bought a ready appliance off the shelf. If anything, I'd like to test Apple TV in its natural habitat (i.e. US West Coast), because I presume the results would match my smart TV impressions. But for a simple lad with simple media consumption needs out there, the simplest solution is just a bigass television set.

Cheers.

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