Radxa Launches the ROCK 5C, 5C Lite Single-Board Computers — And Adopts Raspberry Pi's PCIe Pinout

Mimicking the Raspberry Pi form factor, these new boards include 8k60 video output and an on-board 5/6 TOPS NPU for machine learning.

Embedded computing specialist Radxa has announced a pair of new ROCK single-board computers (SBCs), built around a Rockchip RK3588S2 or RK3582 system-on-chip: the ROCK 5C and ROCK 5C Lite.

"Radxa ROCK 5C is a compact single-board computer that offers a range of cutting-edge features, characteristics, and expansion options," the company claims. "It is the ideal choice for makers, IoT [Internet of Things] enthusiasts, hobbyists, gamers, PC users, and anyone in need of a high-spec platform with excellent performance and reliability."

The ROCK 5C is the latest entry in the ever-growing ROCK family of single-board computers, following the release of the larger pico-ITX ROCK 3B back in November last year. Despite the company having declared pico-ITX as "the perfect SBC form factor" at the time, the ROCK 5C is a return to the Raspberry Pi-like layout — mimicking the Raspberry Pi 4, though with only a single full-size HDMI connector where the Raspberry Pi has two micro-HDMI ports.

The flagship ROCK 5C model is built around the Rockchip RK3588S2 system-on-chip, giving four high-performance Arm Cortex-A76 cores with four lower-power Cortex-A55 cores in a DynamIQ configuration alongside an Arm Mali G610 MP4 graphics processor; the ROCK 5C Lite swaps this out for a Rockchip RK3582, which drops two of the Cortex-A76 cores and the entire GPU.

Both models, interestingly, include an integrated neural processing unit (NPU) for on-device machine learning — delivering up to five tera-operations per second (TOPS) on the ROCK 5C Lite and six TOPS on the Rock 5C, both at the lowest INT4 precision.

Common to both boards are support for up to 32GB of LPDDR4x memory, an on-board eMMC connector alongside a microSD slot for storage, an HDMI 2.1 port support 8k60 output, a MIPI Display Serial Interface (DSI) port for 1080p60, and a MIPI Camera Serial Interface (CSI) port good for one four-lane or two two-lane connections.

There are two full-size USB 2.0 ports, a single USB 3.0 Host port, and a second USB 3.0 port that can operate in Host or On-The-Go (OTG) modes. There's a gigabit Ethernet port with optional Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support, on-board Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 radios, an analog headphone jack, plus a 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header.

There's an interesting inclusion at the far end of the board, too: a flat flexible circuit (FFC) connector based on the one found on the Raspberry Pi 5, carrying a single lane of PCI Express Gen. 2.1 connectivity — and, in theory, delivering support for Raspberry Pi 5 PCIe add-on boards, including the recently-launched M.2 HAT+.

More information on the ROCK 5C and ROCK 5C Lite is available on the Radxa product page; the boards are on sale now starting at $34.30 for the ROCK 5C Lite with 1GB of RAM and topping out at $228.54 for the ROCK 5C with 32GB of RAM.

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