Huawei HiKey 960: A Competitor To The Raspberry Pi?


Huawei certainly seems to be going through a rather adventurous phase. From having a phone with dual cameras and Leica certification, the Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company is setting their sights on something a little smaller in size but also packs a sizeable punch. Meet the HiKey 960.

Currently, the most powerful ARM-based computers that are available to general consumers are inside Chromebooks. True enough, a device such as a Raspberry Pi is cheaper and can actually be used as a fully operational Linux desktop not more than US$35, but there’s a catch. It’s severely underpowered when it comes to doing work such as heavy web browsing and a bit of photo or video editing on the go.

HiKey 960
The Huawei HiKey 960
Image Credits: 96Boards

This is where Huawei comes in. Their latest flagship phone the P10  pack the company’s latest Kirin 960 octa-core processor. Processors such as this and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor have all the juice they need to rival the performance of an ultraportable laptop such as a Chromebook. With that regard, the HiKey 960 is based on the Kirin 960 chip inside the P10. So that’s four high-end Cortex-A73 cores, and four low-power Cortex-A53 cores. Priced at around $239, the HiKey 960 would be compatible with multiple versions of Linux in the future and also upcoming Android versions.

A large limiting factor when it comes to using the hardware found in modern smartphones for PC-esque usage is the shortage of RAM coupled with them being slow. For the HiKey 960 though, users would get 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM. This won’t be as fast as the RAM you find in high end PCS and laptops currently available, it’s still a big step when comparing it to what was available in the market about a year ago. In terms of Graphics, the GPU on the Kirin 960 has enough of a kick to power up a 4K output, though unfortunately, the board only comes with and HDMI port capable of 1080p output.

In terms of connectivity, the HiKey 960 comes with 40-pin and 60-pin connectors. These can be used for attaching hardware such as cameras. In addition, it also has a PCIe M.2 slot. This means that you can actually plug in an SSD or Solid State Drive apart from the 32GB onboard storage. This would also result in faster boot times coupled with faster read/write times as well

The HiKey 960 is essentially aimed at developers who are working on ARM-based software such as Android apps. At the moment, this development is done on standard x86 based hardware and then compiled and ported to ARM. Huawei’s HiKey 960 board could actually help bridge the gap that exists between the development and testing phases.

That’s not all though. A larger purpose of this would be to develop an all-out ARM-powered desktop that can be used for general use. While it’s still only a concept, it could very well become a reality in the not-too-distant future.


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