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MaaXBoard Single Board Computer + Accessories - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 9
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 8
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 57 / 60
  • RoadTest: MaaXBoard Single Board Computer + Accessories
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Raspberry Pi 3B

  • Detailed Review:

    Since 2017 I am using Raspberry Pis as my favorite for experimenting, retro-gaming and development. I really enjoy using the tiny and energy-saving computers. But I wanted to discover more inconvenient devices, which are not that popular as the Raspberry Pis. I discovered the element14’s giveaway of the MaaxBoard on Facebook. This could be a great opportunity to test another single-board computer, which is not available in my country. So: First, I’d like to thank element14 for this awesome opportunity.

    The Board arrived on April 14th at my place. I was writing my finals, so I did not have much spare time and I was unable to start testing immediately. But I was able to inspect the Shipping box. It was very well packed and included everything to get started immediately:

    • MaaxBoard (incl. a quick-start-guide)
    • MicroSD-Card 16GB
    • HDMI-cable
    • Power supply (EU, UK, US plugs included)

     

    Package-Contents

    MaaxBoard-Box

     

     

     

    First off, I’d like to talk about the MaaxBoard itself. The board features 2GB RAM, on-baord WiFi and Bluetooth as well as a Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO and two USB3-Ports. This board looks quite high-quality and is well assembled (no wobbeles or creaks). I only had to tighten the screws of the pre-assembled heatsink. Last but not least, the Maaxboard supports three buttons to control the board: power on/off the device, as well as a back and home-button (for Android). You can get further information by browsing through Avnet’s website, so I don’t want to go into much details.

    First of all, I wanted to test the Setup of this devices. This process is very simple on Raspberry Pis: You only have to download an image, flash it with etcher to a micro-sd-card and finally setup the Pi using “raspberry-config”-command. On the MaaxBoard the first steps are very similar to the “Raspi”. You can find a download-link for the image in the MaaxBoard’s quick-start-guide. You can flash this image using etcher just like using the Raspberry Pi.

    After inserting the SD-card to the MaaxBoard, you will be welcomed by the Yocto-GUI. The setup-process is very different from the Raspi-setup. I was unable to find a config-file for setting up the device, so I had to edit everything by hand:

    As I am living in Germany, I wanted to set my keyboard layout to german. I found a command for changing the layout on a website. Unfortunately, this command was not working on my device. On the one hand, the MaaxBoard informed me about the new layout, but on the other hand the settings were not saved, so I was unable to use another keyboard layout. As a result, the system’s navigation with my keyboard was a pain. I even tried to reinstall the System, but it was still not working. However, setting up the WiFi was very simple. You can either use a GUI or the CLI to set up your WiFi.

     

    Testing

     

    After setting up the device, I decided to compare the MaaxBoard with my raspberry Pi 3b (I currently do not own a Raspi 4).

    For testing, I am using a fresh installation of their “predefined” operating System: Yocto on the MaaxBoard and Raspbian 10 Buster on the raspberry pi. My first test are about the general system’s speed.

    Booting time:

    The booting time of a raspberry Pi 3B: 21.2 Seconds

    The booting time of a MaaxBoard: 21.1 Seconds

     

    Opening the Chromium Webbrowser and loading the Google.com-Starting-page:

    Opening Webbrowser (Chromium and Google.com) on a raspberry Pi: 4.48 Seconds

    Opening Webbrowser (Chromium and Google.com) on a MaaxBoard: 7.14 Seconds

     

    Surfing facebook.com:

    Surfing to a website (Facebook.com) on a raspberry Pi: 5 Seconds

    Surfing to a website (Facebook.com) on a MaaxBoard: 10 Seconds

     

    Checking the IDLE-data using htop-tool. Htop is preinstalled on the MaaxBoard and can additionally installed on a raspberry pi. Those CPU values are estimated, because the data were changing every second, while the RAM-data used to be constant:

    IDLE (CPU) Raspberry Pi: Max.: 4%

    IDLE (CPU) MaaxBoard: Max.: 5%

    IDLE (RAM) Raspberry Pi: 161M/926M = 17%

    IDLE (RAM) MaaxBoard: 446M/1.94G = 22%

     

    Switching off both devices is much different. On both devices you have two choices. Using the command line (both), press shutdown-button (MaaxBoard) or use the system’s GUI (Raspi). I used the command and stopped the time, when the screen turned off:

    Shutting down Raspberry Pi: 11 Seconds

    Shutting down MaaxBoard: 15 Seconds

     

    Further testing:

    I developed a tool for controlling a Fischertechnik-industrial-plant using python in university. This tool consists of about 10 python scripts, which are being executed in different threads. Normally, this plant is being controlled by a Raspi; but for testing, I exchanged it with the MaaxBoard. While you can’t discover many differences in the boot-time, the MaaxBoard is much faster in loading and executing those python-scripts. But I have to mention, that Python was not preinstalled on the Yocto-image. Getting Python to work was another journey I had to take.

     

    Overall impression

     

    I really like the specs of the MaaxBoard. It provides more RAM in comparison to the Raspberry Pi 3 and even features USB3-support. Unfortunately, only 2 USB-Ports are available on the MaaxBoard. If you’d like to connect a mouse and a keyboard, you’ll unable to attach a flash drive. Another point is, that changing the keyboard layout was impossible on my device, so using my keyboard was real pain. But on the other hand, tasks in different threads are being executed much faster.

    Unfortunately, no housings are available for the MaaxBoard, so you have to 3D-print a housing or the board will be unprotected.

    Moreover, the MaaxBoard is very new, so there is a very small community. If you are unfamiliar to Linux or single-board-computers, I think you should collect experiences with a more community-supported Raspberry Pi. Furthermore, you’re stuck with Yocto or Android (which was not working for me), there are (currently?) no alternative Operating Systems available.

    Although I think the MaaxBoard is doing a good job and can be a good alternative to the Raspberry Pi – at least for experienced users. But there are a few points I would like to be changed in a later revision:

    • Preinstalling Python
    • Adding two more USB-Ports (maybe 2xUSB2 and 2x USB3)
    • Optimizing the OS: The OS is taking much RAM and opening Apps could take a while. But executing multithreading tasks are running quite fast
    • Allow changing the keyboard-layout

    Finally, I think it would be awesome to support Raspberry Pi operating systems. So, it would be possible for users to switch between different systems. I would love to see retropie on this beast


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