Asus Refreshes the Tinker Board 3 Single-Board Computer with the New 3N Plus, 3N Lite

Whether you need a lower price or a true industrial temperature rating, Asus' new Tinker Board models have your back.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoHW101

Asus has announced two new entries in its Tinker Board family, taking the core design of the Tinker Board 3N and offering variants that take it both up- and down-market: the Tinker Board 3N Plus and Tinker Board 3N Lite.

The original Tinker Board 3 design was unveiled back in March last year, six years after the first Raspberry Pi-like Tinker Board. Designed around a larger form factor than its predecessors — and the rival Raspberry Pi 4 Model B — the Tinker Board 3 housed a Rockchip RK3568 with quad-core Arm Cortex-A55 processor running at up to 1.8GHz, Arm Mali-G52 graphics, and up to 8GB of LPDDR4 memory.

By the time the Tinker Board 3 hit the market, though, it had gained a new suffix, launching as the Tinker Board 3N. Now, Asus has announced two new models offering a twist on its previous design: the Tinker Board 3N Plus and Tinker Board 3N Lite, as brought to our attention by Linux Gizmos.

Both the Plus and Lite variants are built around the same Rockchip RK3568 system-on-chip as the original Tinker Board 3N, with the Plus variant including all of the ports and features of its predecessor — including a 14-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, 40-pin LVDS and Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) connector with separate 5V backlight and control header, dedicated CAN-FD 2.0B and RS232/422/485 headers, and M.2 E-key and B-key expansion slots. There are two USB 2.0 ports on a pin header, two USB 3.2 Gen. 1 Type-A ports, and a single USB 3.2 Gen. 1 Type-C On-The-Go (OTG) port, up to 64GB of eMMC storage with microSD expansion, an HDMI port, and analog audio.

The Plus differs, then, in two key aspects — and the first is a somewhat disappointing downgrade, offering a choice between 2GB and 4GB of LPDDR4 memory where the non-Plus Tinker Board 3 goes up to 8GB. This is explained by the real reason for the superlative suffix: the Plus model is designed for industrial use, extending the board's usual 0-60°C (32-140°F) operating temperature range to a claimed -40-85°C (-49-185°F). Otherwise, the two boards are essentially the same.

The Lite, by contrast, offers some actual changes — all designed to bring down the cost. The maximum RAM is back to 8GB, but the usual 16MB of on-board SPI flash has been removed; the M.2 E-key slot is present and correct, but the B-key slot is missing; there's a single RS232 pin header, and a multi-functional RS232/422/485 header, but no CAN bus support; and the two gigabit Ethernet ports available on the standard and Plus variants have given way to a single port on the Lite.

More information on the new models is available on the Asus website, with initial product listings putting pricing at $169.99 for the Tinker Board 3N Plus with 4GB of RAM and 64GB eMMC storage and $279 for the TinkerBoard 3N Plus with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage; these contrast with the Tinker Board 3N standard version, at $199 with the same 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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