Single Board Computer Operating System: Best SBC for Android

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The world of single board computing is a vast and exciting one, and it can at times be overwhelming. If you’re weighing your options when it comes to operating systems and find yourself leaning towards Android, it’s time to look for an SBC with a few features or capabilities in particular. Since Android is built on the Linux kernel, what you want from an SBC running Android won’t be all that different from one using Linux, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

AOSP: Supported Devices

First things first: make sure your board supports the AOSP (Android Open Source Project). It’s even better if the board is maintained with the AOSP common tree, because if that is the case, you’ve got a much larger community supporting the code, and it will ensure you get lots of core updates and security fixes throughout the life of your board.

Add SBC Display

Make sure you can add display and touch screen capabilities to your board. Android is typically embedded with a display for user interfacing, so if you don’t need a screen, embedded Linux would be a better choice. In addition, HDMI can function as a port, but in many cases MIPI-DSI or LVDS are better choices because they don’t need an HDMI interpreter, meaning your display modules will be a less expensive and you will have more options for size and resolution.

Android Single Board Computer Touch Screen

While we’re on the topic of display, let’s talk about touch screens. Android can certainly be used without a touch screen, but since most people are used to having one to interact with this particular OS, getting a board with a built-in capacitive or resistive touch controller will make your life a lot easier. You can add touch through USB or another add-on module, but the costs of taking that approach can add up fairly quickly. Because graphics are often an important component of Android OS builds, it’s a good idea to look for boards with more RAM to support graphics features.

In addition, since the release of Android 4.4, your board’s processor should be able support the ARMv7 instruction set at the very least. This requirement isn’t difficult for newer boards to meet, but it’s something you should definitely be aware of if you’re looking at older boards. If you want 64bit capabilities, look for at least ARMv8 architecture. Skip the Cortex-A32 for 64bit designs, because while it is ARMv8 compatible, it has a 32bit core.

ARM NEON: Android ARM Board

Lastly, if you’re going to be doing anything graphics intensive, you should look for ARM NEON as an option since it provides a strong media processing engine and delivers fairly impressive results when compared with alternatives.

In short, look for support via AOSP, strong display connectivity, a processor with NEON, and a decent chunk of RAM. Once you’ve got all that on your SBC, it’s time to start developing with Android.

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