Radxa Gives Away Beta CM3 Boards as Drop-In 2GHz Upgrades for Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 Projects

Offering four 2GHz Cortex-A55 cores and a neural network coprocessor, this new board could be a tempting upgrade for CM4 projects.

Radxa has released its CM3 system-on-module design as a free beta — offering, somewhat confusingly, a drop-in replacement for carrier boards designed around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 family.

"CM3 is designed as a drop-in replacement for Raspberry Pi CM4," the company explains of its board. "We have tested multiple carrier boards which are designed for the CM4 including the Raspberry Pi CM4 IO board. These carrier boards can just work with CM3 without any modifications. Additionally, CM3 has more resources such as eDP and SATA/USB3.0, we make them available on a third 100p board to board connector."

The module is built around Rockchip's RK3566 system-on-chip, which includes four Arm Cortex-A55 cores running at 2GHz and a G52 2EE graphics processor with OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0, and Vulkan 1.1 support. There's a coprocessor designed for neural network workloads offering a claimed 0.8 TOPS of performance, and up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of eMMC storage.

There are additional features above and beyond the Compute Module 4 that inspired the CM3's design, too, most of which are present on the third high-density board-to-board connector on the rear — including SATA connectivity, Embedded DisplayPort (eDP), and USB 3.0 — but using these will require a redesigned carrier board.

On that front, the company has announced just such a thing: A custom carrier board specifically for the CM3 which use a half-size mini-ITX layout and includes multiple display outputs with dual-display capabilities and a PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 socket — though this, and the USB 3.0 ports, are shared with the two SATA ports, giving the system building a tough choice as to which features they want to use.

More details on the board are available on the Radxa forum, while interested parties looking to build around the CM3 are invited to apply via GitHub to receive a free beta unit in exchange for testing the design.

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