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The Raspberry PI Sucks.

It sucks be­cause it's ex­pen­sive. Or at least it's ex­pen­sive for how lame the hard­ware pro­vid­ed is.

The oth­er day I got a Mele a1000 box for which I will do a full re­view soon, I hope. But I re­al­ly need to get the word out: this thing kicks Rasp­ber­ry PI in the ass so hard it's not even fun­ny.

For starter­s, it costs twice as much. Which may seem bad, but trust me, even at twice the cost, it's cheap­er. Be­cause if you are the kind of per­son for whom the $35 makes a dif­fer­ence, then you are al­so prob­a­bly some­one who does­n't have a HD­MI-­ca­pable TV or mon­i­tor. And the Mele works with HD­MI, but al­so with RCA con­nec­tors and VGA, which means pret­ty much any TV or mon­i­tor man­u­fac­tured in the last 20 years will work in a pinch. You can re­pur­pose an­cient mon­i­tors (1024x768 CRTs from 1996? WORKS FINE) that are avail­able ev­ery­where.

Al­so, it comes with Wifi, wi­hch the Pi does­n't. And of course Eth­er­net, too.

It comes with 4GB of in­ter­nal stor­age and 512MB of RAM. The Pi? None and 256m­b. See a pat­tern here? You pay twice as much and it comes with more than twice as much hard­ware in it.

Al­so, it has two USB con­nec­tors (1 in the Pi mod­el A, 2 in the Pi mod­el B).

One im­por­tant fea­ture: it comes in a box. A nice, stur­dy, small box, that can be nice­ly placed so that it does­n't break apart.

The CPU is sev­er­al times faster and sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions more mod­ern. The GPU is slight­ly less pow­er­ful, but you won't no­tice, the on­ly thing the Pi can do with that GPU is de­code video re­al­ly quick, for any­thing re­mote­ly in­ter­est­ing the CPU is a bot­tle­neck.

And both are pro­pri­etary, but at least some­one is work­ing on open Mal­i400 driv­ers.

The Mele is use­ful out of the box, you can just in­stall Ubun­tu on it, or use An­droid, which is open source. It's ful­ly root­ed, you don't need to do any­thing strange to in­stall oth­er op­er­at­ing sys­tems in it (just like the Pi!) ex­cept that since the CPU is so much bet­ter, it can just do stuff eas­i­er.

Did I men­tion that while the Pi has on­ly a SD card for stor­age while the Mele has 4GB of flash, and a SD slot, and an eSa­ta slot? And that us­ing that it could be a nice small file server?

And the kick­er: it's not a char­i­ty. It's $70 be­cause you are pay­ing a busi­ness to cre­ate the things, and does­n't de­pend on get­ting se­vere­ly dis­count­ed chips from Broad­com, it just is a good prod­uct at a good price. And that's just awe­some be­cause it means in 2 years we will have some­thing about as pow­er­ful as the Mele at the Pi's pri­ce­point, and some­thing much more pow­er­ful at the Mele's price, and that's sus­tain­able, be­cause the peo­ple who are build­ing it and de­sign­ing it, and sell­ing it, and ship­ping it, are mak­ing a liv­ing out of it, while kick­ing the ass of the char­i­ty. And that's good. And if you want 100000 of the­se, you or­der them, and you get them, in­stead of hav­ing to pre-buy, and wait month­s, and see them ship in tiny batch­es.

So, buy this, or some­thing like it.

Al­so: $92.60 with free ship­ping

Tom Cubie / 2012-06-20 08:00:

Hey man, i love this article : D

I am Tom Cubie and i sell Mele A1000/A2000 on aliexpress.
I am also a developer contributing code on A10 kernel and u-boot.

I also donate the devices to developers.

This is my shop.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-20 14:04:

Too bad I didn't know about it before or I would have ordered mine from you!

Thanks for the cool toys :-)

Jean-Luc Aufranc / 2012-06-20 08:05:

It actually has 3 USB ports (2 on the back, 1 next to the SD card slot).
The only Pi advantage (beside the price) are the availability of GPIO connectors and some others interfaces, which is great for hardware hackers, but those are not in the majority of Pi users.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-20 14:13:

Missed that one, thanks!

Egon Elbre / 2012-06-20 08:18:

To make things really cheap/small, you have to make compromises. I agree Mele seems to be better in speed/memory etc. The most important thing Raspberry Pi has is a very enthusiastic community.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-20 14:12:

Anything that enthusiastic community implements, I can have running on the mele in one day, except for RISC OS stuff.

jors / 2012-06-20 21:59:

Estoy de acuerdo con Egon por el transfondo de su comentario: RaspberryPi ha sabido publicitarse y al final va a acabar siendo un proyecto (a largo plazo y con soporte por parte de la comunidad) en lugar de un mero producto. Esto me recuerda a la Sharp Zaurus que tengo olvidada por algún cajón de casa...

Evidentemente esta es sólo una opinión, y el tiempo lo pondrá todo en su lugar.

PD. Me he pasado por la web del producto y además de estar prácticamente todo en chino (o parecido) ni siquiera te puedes bajar la datasheet.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-21 13:29:

Obviamente está en chino. Es un producto chino para el mercado chino. Cuando lo recibís, está en chino, también.

CortexA15 / 2012-06-22 17:53:

yeah sure, all the ARM HW community can potentially live in harmony unlike the old x86 eat or be eaten mindset if you want to grow and prosper rather than be chained to x86 SOC for another life time, but i still think the pi guys should have made their base hardware from a generic Cortex + NEON SIMD base rather than this old ARM11 as now the pi code will not be able to be NEON super charged :)
and so the pi students cant learn and actually contribute new NEON assembly and C code to the wider ARM cortex code bases that need and want this extra speed boost (like apple did/do to all their core PPC and now ARM code) for the real world markets place.

perhaps the pi guys should now make another play and produce a Cortex A9 dual/quad with internal 1gig Ethernet and SATA as their next progression hardware as the minimum if not a quad like i always thought they should/would for long term educational use for instance Freescale do the imx6 quad and do 15year support contracts so long term supply is not a problem but their GFX cores are 3rd party and not open source OC so that needs sorting or reverse engineering....

Sam / 2012-06-20 08:30:

Sorta missing the point of the pi there. The pi is a small CHEAP computer designed to be used for teaching, it doesn't need a modern powerful processor or loads of RAM. It does need to be cheap enough to mean that if you blow it up, or attach it to your homemade drone, or whatever pet project you may and you break it it's only £25 to replace, not £60. I want one to attach to the back of my TV and run XBMC, I want another to be low powered file server in the other room. pi will do these perfectly, the Mele is more than I need.

There is also the advantage of support, the Mele may be a better device but it's less accessible and less well known, more people developing for pi means more interesting uses and more diverse software written for it.

A school can also buy twice as many pi's for the same money and teach twice as many pupils, the extra value of having more ram and connections on the Mele does not outweigh the doubling of the cost of the pi when the pi's main purpose is teaching, not having super-duper hardware.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-20 14:12:

No, the school can't buy twice as many pi's, unless they are buying them to teach hardware hacking to the students.

If the idea is to teach programming, then there are going to be extra expenses with the Pi:

1) Boxes. You can't have bare circuit boards on a school, they won't last.

2) Monitors. The Pi requires a more expensive monitor.

3) Wiring. The Pi has no Wifi, so you have to run wires to all stations, and buy switches.

4) Storage. The Pi comes with no storage, so add SD cards (cheap, yes)

5) USB Hub. With only 2 USB ports, they are going to be taken by keyboard+mouse. If you want to plug a webcam, a BT dongle, a mass storage device, or *anything*, you need a hub. The Mele has 3 ports.

How much closer to U$S 70 is the Pi with all that? I am guessing pretty close. And then, for the same cost, you have a much lamer device.

James Wright / 2012-09-25 11:11:

The issue with the Mele in an educational context is that lots of useful features are included in the machine. The benefit of the Pi lacking a lot of these features is that students can learn computer setup and configuration (in terms of both software and hardware), contributing to their general computer literacy.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-09-25 11:13:

I would love three examples.

Jan Lukeš / 2012-06-20 11:05:

Also it has power source. And after recent ICS upgrade, Mele A1000 is usable even with Android.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-20 14:04:

Yes, did the ICS upgrade last night, and it's *much* better.

Pablo2M / 2012-06-20 17:26:

¿Que pensas hacer con la raspberry?

Anonimous Coward / 2012-06-21 13:25:

Does the A1000 has 4 GB of internal storage or just 2 GB? (the specs in DealExtreme reads: "2GB Nand Flash" for the A1000, and "4GB Nand Flash" for the A2000).

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-21 13:29:

Mine has 4GB I think. I would have to look.

Ramiro / 2012-06-23 02:26:

We shouldn't forget one factor that is very important: Time.

I think that the time between the moment the final design of the Raspberry Pi was set in stone and sent to manufacturing and the moment Mele launched these Allwinner can be measured in months, and there lies the difference.

Any manufacturer of this kind of devices need to deliver and must draw a line and end the design phase, maybe they could wait a few more weeks to be able to use a more powerful CPU or GPU or with better connectivity and/or cheaper. but that's a never ending story.

Case in point: Allwinner and other chinese ARM licensees whose products power Android-compatible tablets/STB (Mele Ax000 are among them) that started to flood the market in Nov/Dec '11 have launched multi- (mostly dual-) core designs a couple of months ago and products based on them are already starting to appear.

Products that surely will make the Mele A1000 itself look underpowered in a way similar to your comparison with the Raspberry Pi.

All of this In a period of six months or less.

Vinay Sajip / 2012-06-27 08:14:

+1: very valid point. The Mele is very nice, but there's no need to slag off the Raspberry Pi. It echoes an earlier initiative by the BBC with the BBC Micro, which brought a lot of young people to programming. And not through schools, either; it made it affordable to get your own, easily programmable computer and play with it at home. So what if the Raspberry Pi people don't have their own fab and deep pockets? They still tried to make their corner of the world a little better, and there's no shame in that.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-27 12:54:

I am all for anyone starting a cool project for whatever reasons. I know I start a lot of things for no reason at all. OTOH, the final product should not be sheltered from criticism.

I know that the A1000 will look underpowered in 3 months. That will not make it any less powerful thhan it is. OTOH, will the RPi foundation have a much more powerful product in 3 months? Will they have made the Pi cheaper? My guess is, probably no.

If they can't, that has to be considered when evaluating the merits and results of the product and the project.

Vinay Sajip / 2012-06-27 13:57:

That's with 20:20 hindsight, is it? The RPi people went with what options they had at the time. There will still be people who can afford the lower-priced product, but not the higher-priced product. If a few of them opt for the RPi because of price, then there are no losers, are there?

Roberto Alsina / 2012-06-27 13:59:

Agreed 100%. This is June 2012, and we do have hindsight. I am not saying they did anything wrong, just that the result is not all that great.

Justatroll / 2012-07-15 08:46:

It's not hindsight. Moore's law is very predictable. People have been saying for several months that by the time the Raspberry Pi Foundation can meet demand, there won't be any left because it will be obsolete on arrival. This is just a repeat of the OLPC which was another lame project where they promised vapor and took way too long to deliver. If we consider this type of deceptive advertising acceptable in this industry then I have a kickstarter project you may be interested in.

I'm going to make a Core i7 computer the size of a credit card with 8x USB 3.0 ports and sell it for a $1. I don't want to commit to a release date because I'm a con artist hiding behind a good cause, and am also full of shit. Since when did Tech Sector startup product releases turn in to options trading? I'll sell you 9 gazillion mega flops today, to be delivered somewhere between Q1 of 2013 and Q3 of 3011.

The joke when first announced was the name Raspberry Pi was a ballsy foreshadow to the fact they never intended to deliver on a reasonable schedule and would be blowing raspberrys at their suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^H customers all the way to the bank.

Justus / 2012-07-02 15:03:

Thanks for the pointer to this interesting device. Could anyone who has one tell me whether or not it is CE certified?

Roberto Alsina / 2012-07-02 15:07:

Sorry! There are no stickers or certification logos I recognize, and have thrown away the manuals.

an 80's guy / 2012-07-14 10:34:

The Rasberry Pi has been made in order to resemble the 1980ies Homecomputers, aka ZX 81, ZX Spectrum, VIC20, C64, etc. People on the university of Cambridge say: "We got a lot of talented IT students, it's just, they don't know anymore what a computer is", meaning, that today's way of development is highly abstracted, away from the machine. They designed the Rasberry Pi so, that you could boot directly into Python, afair, which would resemble the booting into BASIC on the old machines. The Pi NEVER was intended for the market, it has found now. Oh, and don't forget all the pins on the Rasberry Pi board. You don't find that on the mele.

Ian Tester / 2012-07-23 19:47:

Interesting article and I agree with you. But I'd like to raise two points:

Firstly, the RPi may not give as much "bang per buck" as others, but perhaps it offers enough "bang" for many people and their purposes?
Secondly, the RPi has many I/O pins for hardware experimentation. I don't know if these A10-based devices have any general-purpose I/O. If they do, it's nowhere near as easy to get to.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-09-01 11:25:

Ningún problema excepto pagar el impuesto :-)

sighs / 2012-11-25 22:40:

not bothering to wade through all these comments to see if i'm repeating someone else's sentiment. so you thinking kicking charity in the 'ass' is a good thing? let's hope you never need charity.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-11-26 00:59:

Looks like we have a confusion here, or maybe I misspoke.They are a charity. They don't *do* any charity.

In other words, they are a non-profit that provides a mediocre product. I would rather products be provided by companies trying to make a profit, since that's much better for the economy in general.

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