Radxa's Rock 5A Borrows the Raspberry Pi 4 Layout for an Eight-Core Beast with Up to 16GB of RAM

This credit-card size single-board computer offers impressive specifications in a compact — and very familiar — footprint.

Embedded computing specialist Radxa has announced a new model in its Rock family of single-board computers, the Raspberry Pi 4-mimicking Rock 5A — offering eight processing cores, up to 16GB of RAM, and an on-board neural processing unit (NPU) accelerator for machine learning workloads.

Inspired by the popular Raspberry Pi range, and formerly known as the Rock Pi family, Radxa's Rock single-board computer models have become popular alternatives — either due to supply chain issues making Raspberry Pi boards hard to find, an issue which the company hopes will soon be resolved, or thanks to higher specifications and extra features. The new Rock 5A is no different, offering a device roughly the same size as a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B but with considerably higher performance.

The new board is built around the Rockchip RK3588S system-on-chip (SoC), giving it four Arm Cortex-A76 cores running at 2.2-2.4GHz plus another four lower-power Cortex-A55 cores running at 1.8GHz. There's an ARm Mali G610 MC4 graphics processor with OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.2, and Vulkan 1.2 support, a neural processing unit (NPU) accelerator with a claimed compute performance of six trillion operations per second (TOPS) at INT4 precision, and a choice of 4GB, 8GB, or an impressive 16GB of LPDDR4x memory modules.

The Rock 5A includes two micro-HDMI video outputs, one of which supports 8k60 and the other 4k60 output, plus a four-lane MIPI Display Serial Interface (DSI) connector — all three of which can be used simultaneously — with hardware video decoding of H.265/H.264/AV1/AVS2 at up to 8k60. A single physical MIPI Camera Serial Interface (CSI) can be used as one four-lane or two two-lane ports, there's an eMMC connector and an M.2 E-key slot for high-speed storage, a microSD slot, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports of which one can act as a USB On-The-Go (OGT) port, and a gigabit Ethernet port.

What you won't find on the board is any wireless networking, though this can be added using a USB dongle or an M.2 card. There is a real-time clock with optional battery backup, a user-controllable status LED, a fan connector with pulse-width modulated (PWM) speed control, and a 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header with a range of signals including one CAN bus, up to three SPI and six I2C buses, two SPDIF and one PCM/I2S signals, up to five UARTs of which two have hardware flow control, seven PWM pins, one analog input, and two each of 5V and 3.3V power pins.

Radxa has indicated that the board will be shipping towards the end of the first quarter of 2023, with pricing set at $99 for the 4GB model, $119 for the 8GB model, and $159 for the 16GB model — though the company has partnered with ALLNET China to sell pre-order codes at $5 good for a $30 discount, bringing the prices down to $74, $94, and $134 respectively.

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