Stumbled on the orange pi range of developments boards and wandering if they are any good? Well lets have a quick look to see if they are worth grabbing. Right off the bat these boards are great value for money with one of two things to keep in mind.
- Cheap boards
- Quick shipping
- Variety of boards for different needs
- Stable as anything else (with caveats)
- Fair community support compared to other boards (nothing like Raspberry PI but good enough)
- Stock OS is garbage
- Support/Website is terrible (site is also slow)
- Lack of driver support for GPU etc (the A64 WIN may be better if you need GPU)
- CPU temps can get high in the cheap plastic cases in the stock sets (does not cause crashes etc but may throttle)
- Newer boards do not always have cases available right away
- DC barrel choice over USB for most boards makes powering the board annoying at times
- So far all boards run their SATA port via USB (not an issue if you don’t need disk speed)
With a decent SD card and stable power the Orange PI is nearly bullet proof by development board standards, this screenshot to prove and the last reboot was purely for a kernel update. This particular board acts as a squid proxy and wins server at home with the squid cache residing on a USB thumb drive. If you are wondering how squid performs the short answer is “fine”. It works well on my ~50Mbit home connection with a RAM bias config. Keep in mind that with SSL being adopted at an incredible pace proxy servers are becoming more pain than they are worth in any event and that is reflected in the server loads since a lot of traffic is simply pass through.
- Use a decent SD card – The Samsung Evo range has always proved reliable to me
- Stable power is key, if you have strange problems try another supply
- Switch out for Armbian immediately, do not waste time with the OS images on the official site
The biggest challenge with the Orange PI is being aware that the community has put a lot of effort into a stable and working OS, Armbian covers quite a few boards but most of the orange pi boards are included and the improvements are pretty extensive.
- Stable Kernel Options (Including some important patches)
- Fixes to CPU scaling and power consumption
- Fixes to overclocking (on certain boards)
- Security fixes (including removal of backdoors)
Pretty important to get off the stock OS ASAP and switch out for something else with Armbian being the better choice of the lot at the time of writing.
What can you run on an Orange PI?
- Pretty much anything Linux can like a Proxy Server or DNS Server
- RetroPI (classic game emulator)
- PIHole (Ad blocking DNS server)
- Kodi (Have not ventured into this myself but should be fine if the GPU drivers on your chosen board work)
- Time Machine Server
Decent boards for the price and not too much effort to get running decently. The community is certainly not as big as the Raspberry PI followers but there are still some good things like Armbian and Retropi with decent support and while I suggest you do some reading on any issues related to specific needs and boards you will find that basic needs are easily met.