x86 single board computers

After the success of the Raspberry Pi there have a countless copy-cats who have tried to cash in on the trend, some more successful than others. They may have been a blessing for developers and makers in terms of price, though for many consumers situation hasn’t changed; ARM still lacks support for many popular applications that currently only work on x86.

That’s where x86 sbc (single board computers) come in.  I currently own a first generation Raspberry Pi which I’ve used to run Kodi and Rasplex (unofficial Plex client).  The Pi works perfectly fine for these applications, although I wasn’t too happy with the sluggish performance when displaying artwork or navigating between menus.  I immediately knew I had to Google my way through this in order to achieve better results.

After reading up on different blogs and forums I overclocked it, which did provide a speed boost.   I later configured my home server for NFS and explicitly use wired ethernet for all stationary PCs.  This does improve network performance over the traditonally used Samba shares.  I further modified the config file on my Pi’s SD Card so that it functioned as a bootloader which launched Kodi/Plex from an external USB3 drive.  This had the biggest impact.  I used this for quite a while and was generally quite satisified with the results.   I later added a Flirc to allow me to program any remote to work with Kodi/Plex.  I was truly happy with my Pi.

Fast forward probably less than a year down the road and I had bought a NUC, which is what I use on my TV today.   They’re great little PCs, though the charm of a tiny DIY project somehow disappears when you’re using a barebones system.  After a while I always, like a lot of tech enthusiasts, start reading up on what’s new or coming in the future.

These past few days, I’ve been obsessing over the various x86 sbc that have been recently announced these past few months. The ones that I have found so far are the JaguarBoardLattePanda, and the UP board.  They all sport an Intel x86 chip, eMMC memory, and between 1-4 GB ram depending on the board and/or model. This means I can run a full fledged Windows on them and I won’t need to boot from an SD Card which typically is slower than an on board eMMC.  This is an exciting prospect, as these boards are approximately the same size as the Raspberry Pi and don’t include a case – so the DIY appeal is definitely there!  I’ve read up on them and I’m leaning towards the UP board as they have decent specs and are produced by a company called Aaeon, which is an associate company of Asus.

It will be a few months until I can order an UP board and the range of products in this segment may very well have changed within that time period.   If and when I order one, I’ll try to share my thoughts on the product.

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