HumBo - HummingBoard Review

HummingBoard single board microcomputer

In July 2014 a new arrival entered the single board microcomputer arena. This device looks similar to, and has some of the same connections as, a Raspberry Pi model B. It even fits inside a Raspberry Pi enclosure and is generally considered a 'Raspberry Pi clone'. It adheres to the form-factor and has an identical 26 pin GPIO, 2 USB2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI and RCA video ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack socket. That's where the similarities end. This device is not just another Raspberry Pi clone... it is much, much more. This is the HummingBoard from SolidRun.

SolidRun have been very astute in creating a range of HummingBoards to suit the demands and/or budget of most users. Currently available in four different configurations; the i1, i2, and i2eX as complete units, and a MicroSOM i4Pro that can be ordered as a separate HummingBoard Carrier and MicroSOM. The Carrier and MicroSOM can be swapped around, giving the device extra versatility. They've kept the form-factor which means it's already familiar to Pi owners and a lot of existing hardware can simply be plugged in, in the same way. Although the HummingBoard offers much the same functionality and useability that you'll find on a Raspberry Pi model B, it's worth noting that the HummingBoard uses microSD cards and not full size SD cards.

The power of the HummingBoard comes from Freescale i.MX6 (ARM Cortex-A9 architecture) processors. See this comparison of specifications from SolidRun for further information. General model spec's are as follows:
• HummingBoard i1 - i.MX6 Solo single-core CPU, 512Mb 32bit DDR3 RAM @ 800Mbps, Vivante GC880 GPU.
• HummingBoard i2 - i.MX6 Dual-core Lite CPU, 1Gb 64bit DDR3 RAM @ 800Mbps, Vivante GC880 GPU.
• HummingBoard i2eX - i.MX6 Dual-core CPU, 1Gb 64bit DDR3 RAM @ 1066Mbps, Vivante GC2000 GPU.
• HummingBoard i4Pro - i.MX6 Quad-core CPU, 2GB 64bit DDR3 RAM @ 1066Mbps, Vivante GC2000 GPU.

The i2eX, and i4Pro (on a HummingBoard Carrier Pro), comes with a half-size mPCIe port for Wi-Fi cards and mSATA SSD port, giving these devices extra expandability and functionality. A PCF8523 real time clock (RTC) also comes built-in as standard on these models. Incidentally, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be activated on all MicroSOM for an additional small fee.

General thoughts and opinons...

The HummingBoard is an extremely impressive concept, intuitively designed, and wields more than enough power to outshine its contemporaries (even the powerful BeagleBone Black) while retaining the user-friendliness of the Raspberry Pi and being compatible with so many existing and familiar devices and accessories. It's what the Raspberry Pi could (should?) have been, but then the HummingBoard was not limited to the constraints of an ARMv6 processor, or a $35 price-tag for that matter. The ARMv7 (Freescale i.MX6) processor on the HummingBoard enables it to run many operating systems the Raspberry Pi cannot. This is what makes the HummingBoard interesting, especially to more serious developers and those Raspberry Pi users who simply want more from their ARM microcomputer. The HummingBoard (initially released in July 2014) is perpetually gaining support and the community is growing quickly around this device. And why not? The HummingBoard is very innovative, and is just oozing with possibilities, and has a great deal to offer experienced users and beginners alike. SolidRun's suggested retail price for the base-model HummingBoard i1 is $45, which offers a very good price-performance ratio amongst comparable devices.

One thing which stands out about SolidRun (creators of the HummingBoard, and CuBox-i), is that they are a company who welcomes ideas and support for their devices with open arms, and one who actively encourages development. It's great to see a manufacturer being so open, willing, and passionate about supporting, and support for, their product. With the HummingBoard there is not just one promoted, recommended, or supported, operating system (as you might find with other similar devices - e.g. NOOBS on the Raspberry Pi) because SolidRun simply do not have any preferences over how you do what you do on your HummingBoard, just as long as you do it, and if you need help doing it just ask! SolidRun have given us the HummingBoard, now it's up to us to expand our minds and make it work in whatever ways we can imagine, and beyond.

HummingBoard i1 or Raspberry Pi model B?

HummingBoard i1... it wins hands down, every time. The Raspberry Pi is a very good tool, but it does have its limitations. The HummingBoard has very few limitations and takes education and learning (and fun!) to a whole new, higher, level.

Compared to the Raspberry Pi, the HummingBoard i1 looks to be a better designed and higher quality product, has a lot more potential (with the i.MX6 ARMv7 processor), and is exceptional value for money.

HummingBoard i2eX or Raspberry Pi 2 model B?

This is a tough one. Based on features it would have to be the HummingBoard i2eX due to the onboard RTC, mSATA port, mPCI-e port, and faster Ethernet. The Raspberry Pi 2 is slighter faster running Slackware ARM, especially when compiling with multiple cores, but it doesn't have the expandability that the HummingBoard i2eX offers.

Based on price alone, you cannot beat the Raspberry Pi 2 with its $35.00 pricetag. You can basically buy 2x Raspberry Pi 2's for less than the cost of a HummingBoard i2eX.

Where to buy the HummingBoard

The HummingBoard is available direct from SolidRun's online shop, or any of their international resellers.

Click for more info on the HummingBoard!