Rock5B SBC Notes

Well, I’ve finally gotten my Rock5 boards, and I’m starting to run down performance on them.

I’m running the BSP kernel (a “5.10” kernel that apparently is far from mainline), and the reference Debian install, though I intend to try the Ubuntu install too.

I’m running benchmarks on it for a Battle of the Boards post, and it took some time to run down all the governors for everything. In addition to the CPU governors, of which the cpufrequtils packages don’t set properly, it’s also got what seems to be a memory frequency controller - a lot of the ARM boards support (even if the kernel doesn’t) downclocking memory to save power when it’s not needed. There’s a governor for that, and I was able to firewall it (“performance” governor) and get stable benchmark performance.

And what a performance it is so far!

The performance cores are rocking the memory benchmarks about 2.5x faster than the ODroid N2+, and even the efficiency cores are no slouch, at 1.5x the Odroid, and about twice the memory bandwidth as the Pi4 cores.

I’m doing some kernel builds for benchmarking, because… well, that’s mostly what I do with systems, really, build kernels for them. Single threaded (make -j 1), the Rock5 comes in at half the kernel build time of the Pi4 - and I’ve not gotten results for it fully loaded up yet, but I do believe it’s going to be impressive with 8-9 threads of kernel build purring away… I’m not forcing those to particular cores, simply letting the kernel schedule it as desired, which probably means there’s some optimizations to be had there as well.

Desktop performance may leave something to be desired, but I’m going to get some of those benchmarks run later. Probably without GPU acceleration - it should be fast enough to just software framebuffer the world, because I don’t think GPU support is very good yet. Though my weak performance was before learning about all the governors.

Software support, so far, does seem a hot mess… but once I got it purring away at 2.4GHz and 1.8GHz, actual hardware performance is looking properly impressive so far!


The Rock5, in current trim, can build the bcm2835_defconfig aarch64 kernel in 467 seconds.

A 3900X, 12C/24T box, cross compiling, takes a bit over 100 seconds. So the Rock5 is only 4x slower in a massively parallel throughput test than a high end last gen desktop chip pulling well north of 100W. I should calculate Wh used for the builds…

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I placed an order for a CutiePi back in August. There was a shipping update saying it would be here by Christmas, which isn’t going to happen. I’m looking for something lightweight and portable. Basically a tablet I can read on, but then plug a keyboard and mouse into for writing or coding.

I’d love to see a tablet enclosure for the Rock5. Sadly it looks like most after-market devices are only for the Raspberry Pi. But I guess that’s still better than an old Android Tablet with Google Play on it.

Your best bet there is likely to be something either “iPad with external keyboard,” or if you can tolerate it, a convertible laptop/tablet/thing. The whole “Tablet but you can make a desktop out of it” dream seems to be just that. Microsoft tried really hard with Windows 8, and it was, reportedly, awful.

I would expect some Rock5 type tablets in the future, but as it’s literally just out, and software support is still rough, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Well, the NVMe performance is legit!

2GB/s ain’t half bad on an ARM SBC!

Alright. I have a Rock5, booting from SPI/NVMe (so no SD card or eMMC present), with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, desktop environment, running in a framebuffer. A few attempts to get GPU acceleration failed, but that’s sufficient to toss it into a daily driver mix and see how it holds up for a while!

This looks like a pretty major upgrade over rPi4B/RockPi4 hardware…

I’m curious if you’ve measured the idle/loaded power consumption?

I just ordered a Rock PI 4C Plus recently, but I’m a little nervous about the power consumption relative to the rPi4B since I haven’t found any thorough and independent write-ups about its power consumption.

Kind of. I’ve got it on a USB meter of questionable accuracy, but I’d say it runs about 2.5W idle (I see about half an amp with the NVMe drive), and 10-12W full tilt (CPU load only, I don’t have good GPU drivers yet). It seems to benefit slightly from a heatsink, but doesn’t really need one - there’s a difference in kernel build times I can measure with a heatsink, but it’s a 2.3 vs 2.4GHz sort of thing, not a major downclocking like the Pi3.

I should measure some power numbers on the different boards. Just a pain as they all have different style connectors… and the N2+ is a 12V barrel connector.

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Awesome, that’s a helpful datapoint.

I guess I’ll report back about the Rock Pi 4C+ once I’ve got one in hand, but I’d guess it’s probably fairly similar :slight_smile: