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Beaglebone Bundle: BBB, Wireless Cape & Display - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 8
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 6
Demo Software was of good quality: 9
Product was easy to use: 8
Support materials were available: 8
The price to performance ratio was good: 7
TotalScore: 46 / 60
  • RoadTest: Beaglebone Bundle: BBB, Wireless Cape & Display
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes - null
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Raspberry Pi 3
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Loading up the new firmware. Using the Connectivity Cape

  • Detailed Review:

    Hello Guys,

     

    Another Package from e14, this time a damage carton wondering what happened inside.

     

    What do I have now?

    Its the BeagleBone Black, Wireless Cape and LCD cape.

    Inside the boxes we have ESD Sealed BeagleBone Black, Manual along with USB Mini Cable (most of developer boards never comes with connectivity cable, this one does) , The Wireless Connectivity cape and manual, The LCD, Baseboard and Manual.

     

    First Impressions:

    Although things were nicely and protectively packed the BeagleBone Black didn't give the joyfulness of holding a new piece of hardware, there were scratches over the PCB, USB and Ethernet ports which actually pulls down your excitement for a new hardware.

    On the other hand the wireless connectivity cape and LCD cape were perfect and shining in my hand.

    The Wireless Cape seems to be manufactured by the Chinese PCB manufacturer "Fast Print" last year(2016).

     

    After trying to load the latest Debian into beaglebone for a full day went through the documentations, found that for flashing need to edit the uEnv.txt inside the boot folder to flash the eMMC.

    Procedure can be found here.

     

    And finally was able to flash it with the Debian 9 or Stetch, thanks to the serial debug header at least I could see it was happening.

     

     

    Diving Deeper

    Well most of us know about the BeagleBone Black so if you are looking for that part it is covered at the last of this Roadtest, my main interest was the LCD and Wireless cape.

     

    The LCD Cape:

    The LCD is actually two parts the Base board with the EEPROM and two ZIF FPC connectors, and the LCD with Flex.

    Although the Flex was sturdy and masked with kepton tapes on both the sides, the region where flex joins with the LCD gave a feeling of insecurity, even a small shake over there, the color deteriorated.

    A LCD with a Flex may not be easy to handle but this actually helps when you want to fold and place it in an enclosure. I folded and flipped it to test it out.

    The LCD is Actually a 4.3" TFT with capacitive touch LED back lit and a resolution of 480x272 RGB type display. The LCD alone weighs about an smart phone with a dimension of 68

     

    The board also has an EEPROM, the BeagleBone reads data and understands its an LCD cape.

     

    Visibility was great even in bright light, and nice brightness in dark.

     

    I was like totally happy with the touch performance was almost the same kind of experience with my DellComputers S2240T touch monitor. It also supports gestures like pinch zooming and panning.

    Getting into color and details, it was more than my expectation with a good contrast and clarity cant expect more out of a 480x272 display.

    I wont say this is the best display I've ever seen but definitely this one has a place in my list best 10 portable LCDs.

     

    The Wireless Gateway Cape:

    This is something interesting, a lot of headers and jumpers.

    What does the board have?

    • 2.4- and 5-GHz Dual-Band WiFi
    • Bluetooth and BLE
    • CC2530 for IEEE 802.15.4, Zigbee and RF4CE applications
    • RF430CL331, a NFC transponder to facilitate Bluetooth/WiFi pairing

    All from Texas Instruments.

    Cape also has on board Antennas for Bluetooth, WiFi and Zigbee, a Zigbee debug header, a terminal for NFC antenna.

    This little UFL connector is missing over the board, but I could see 3 solder pads for it.

     

    Well this one I couldn't make it work, I tried the older Debian, the Latest one too still no improvement, Although it has multi wireless protocols on board it lacks proper documentations, the only thing I could found in that user manual was the initial setup which led to no success.

    Couldn't even find appropriate example where this cape has been put to use. This cape is a total disaster until a complete documentation resources are provided.

    Would be great if any of you guys have seen this cape working anywhere, kindly share me the link.

     

    The BeagleBone Black:

     

    First Impressions:

     

    Size is somewhat similar to the Rpi weighs around 50gm, and a lot of GPIOs to play with.

     

    1 - Ethernet Port

     

    1 - Mini USB for PC connectivity and Power.

     

    A DC Barrel Socket for 5VDC input.

     

    1 - Power Button

     

    1 -  Board Reset Button

     

    4 - USER Definable LEDS, Comes predefined for notifications (SD Card access eMMC access etc)

     

    on the other side we have

     

    1 USB Host

     

    Micro HDMI Out

     

    Reverse Mount Micro SD Card Slot. These slots actually doesn't lock the card they just eject it out like the ones in our mobiles, a gentle pull will release the card.

     

    Boot Switch and

     

    2 46 Pin Dual Row Header on Both the sides, for GPIOs and Power Pins.

     

    Getting into the Specs

    eMMC and SDRAM  are from Kingston, HDMI framer by NXP Semiconductors, Ethernet PHY by SMSC or now Microchip. Thanks to the well documented community saved me a lot of time over editing photos and typing.

     

    GPIO Specifications

     

    All GPIOs are strictly 3V3 Logic, and Analog Inputs are at a maximum of 1.8V (12 bit) with a very less protection for the GPIOs. From the BBB's Wiki page

    This is crucial you need to make sure all your auxiliary devices and boards gets power only after booting.

     

    {gallery} GPIOs

    The board takes nearly 45s to completely boot Debian Stretch and at idle stage 23% of the CPU was used and around 110Mb out of 485Mb of the available RAM was used.

    Putting into performance testing, I just tried how easy it was to program the board, I used cloud9 IDE to blink some LEDs,

     

    I used the best cable I have, and download speed was around 1Mbps (I'm like using a 75Mbps fiber connection with absolutely no loss) but 1Mbps is decent for an IoT Device over ethernet.

     

    Trouble:

    The USB Host and micro HDMI are so close that you need to force fit your devices or converter

    Even if you gonna use those expansion cables they are going to be under tension.

     

    I used one of the top quality videos (1080p) to check if the processor could handle it

    It was butter smooth except a few places where I experienced jitters.

     

    The Board actually gets a bit hot just on a idle run for 10mins so if you are planning to use this for some hardcore processing an tiny heat sink will enhance the life.

     

    Multiple OS Supports that including Ubuntu(I tried the video playback with it), Android and what I found was a version of compatible Kali Linux distribution, soon with some more additional software this board is gonna transform into palm sized penetration tester although I planned to use it in different way.

     

    Reasons to consider spending a few more bucks on the BeagleBone Black over the little more powerful RPi3 that comes with on board  Wifi and Bluetooth.

         More control over you Hardware

         Many GPIOs to Play with

         on board eMMC of 4GB

         Open Source Hardware

     

    What I felt was the board can be a little larger more spacious around the ports, and an extra USB Host with a total of 1GB of RAM would be definitely worth the buy.

     

    The only disadvantage would be lack of sufficient documents for certain capes, and this is where your development process becomes a  burden.

     

    Cheers,

    Sakthi


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