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BeagleBone AI - Review


Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 60 / 60
  • RoadTest: BeagleBone AI
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Raspberry PI + Google Coral / Raspberry PI + intel neural stick / nVidia Jetson nano SBC
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: none so far, will update this if needed.

  • Detailed Review:

    BeagleBone AI review-in-progress



    I have worked with SBC's before and I was intrigued, to say the least, of the claim that BBAI could be ready to go in 5 minutes. I had to test that for myself and, I have to admit, it was.


    Traditionally SBC's  require the user to download and burn an OS image to an SD card before booting the mini-computer. And then, you have to start the SBC with the card, boot up the os installer, configure the system, reboot, set up the connection, etc... it's not exactly a 5-minute job.


    You could do the same with the BBAI if you wanted to, you have that option, but it is not necessary. Here are the steps for the BBAI zero-download, zero-frustration setup:


    1. You get it out of the box and admire it in all its glory.

    box of the BeagleBone AIbeaglebone unboxed


    2. You boot it up, just by plugging in a powered USB-C cable, from the PC/laptop, from a 5V powerbank or from a 5V USB charger.

    If you connect it to the PC, it shows up as an USB drive, just like Adafruit's micropython boards do.



    3. On the drive, you have an HTML startpage that gives you the basic information about how to connect to the BBAI, directly and immediately, without any other special requirement.


    4. Via a predefined IP address, you connect via your favourite internet browser (I use Chrome) to its Cloud9 console/file manager interface. For that, you can use the already made connection via USB-C or you can connect to the BBAI's wireless access point in order to set up its wifi connection to your local wifi network.

    The instructions for setting up the BBAI's wireless connection are simple and available right in that window, you just have to replace the name of your own network and copy-paste the rest!!!.



    You can also easily  write a configuration file to save the BBAI's wireless connection info, also with copy-paste commands, so that you won't have to enter it again.


    And... that's all! You're ready to go! Just 3 steps really.


    Well, optionally you can run the traditional 'sudo apt-get update' command to check for updates and its sibling 'sudo apt-get upgrade' command to update the system software. It's what I did in the screens above.


    And then start installing your required packages for the machine learning projects that you have in mind.



    Not only is it hot as in 'hottest tech of the year', it is also getting very hot just with the provided passive cooling, just in light usage, for example as I did all of the above plus getting its system software up-to-date, at the end of it I couldn't place my finger on the passive cooling heatsink. Fortunately, Randall was kind to add a 5V F251R-05LLC brushless fan cooler to the package, but I had no long/tall M3 screws with me to secure it on the board  so I had to get some.


    Next day, I've tamed the flaming beast! With the cooler attatched to the heatsink, see the new close-up below, the temperature dropped from the 64 degrees celsius yesterday, to 50-51 today, in low/light usage.  The cooler is connected to the pins 1 and 5 (GND, black wire and 5V, red wire) on the P9 header of the Beaglebone AI and the command for reading the processor's temperature is 'cat /sys/devices/virtual/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp'.


    beaglebone ai with active coolerbeaglebone ai hot without active cooling


    Well, since active cooling looks like a permanent requirement on this board, I figured that I need to make the cooler connection more stable (I will be carrying the board around with me)  and also removable, if necessary. Therefore, since the BBAI has female 2.5 pins, I took out from the spares stash a single-row of male pins and 'MacGyver-ed' a connector out of a piece of 3 pins (pulled out the middle pin since it wont be used for this connection) and soldered the ends of the cooler's cable to the two remaining pins. I taped it all together and behold the result:



    Now onto some real benchmarks!




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