Saturday, May 25, 2024

Radxa X2L Single Board Computer

 I will be coming back to the Garbage Terminal shortly, I had some hiccups with my original design, which is what happens when you pull a bunch of junk out of a parts box.

In the mean time, I have been messing around with a new bit of hardware I bought. Up until version 5, I was a big fan of the Raspberry Pi. With the Raspberry Pi 5 however, I felt it had jumped the shark. Yes, it was a good product, but it has reached the point where they are just as expensive as a low end computer and therefore lost much of their original luster. Enter the Radxa X2L, powered by an 4 core Intel Celeron Processor J4125. This little board costs as little as $39 for the 2GB of RAM version, I picked up the 4GB version for $52 and there is an 8GB version for $82. You can also get them with various amounts of EMMC storage. The really cool thing about this board is it comes with an RP2040 microprocessor built in, along with exposed GPIO headers very similar to the Raspberry Pi Zero.

The first thing I should say about this is don't bother getting it with any EMMC storage. EMMC is stupid slow and for about the same cost as the upgrade, you can get a 128GB NVME M.2 SSD, trust me, you will be happier. Second don't bother getting the M.2 wifi card either, they cost $20-$30 plus shipping, it is just not worth it. Instead just go find a $10 wifi dongle on Amazon, yes it takes a USB port, but the price makes it worth it.

Things I liked:

This board is basically a complete computer the size of my cell phone. It is a larger than an Raspberry Pi, but still reasonably small, so you can mount it on the back of a monitor or an out of the way corner of your media center, even with a 3D printed case.

I love having an RP2040 integrated into this board, I think all computer should have this.

The BIOS has CSM options for booting non UEFI operating systems like FreeDOS. Fewer and fewer systems are coming with this option and I am glad to see Radxa decided to include it.

Considering this is a Celeron CPU, it performs pretty well. runs smoothly, Chrome and Firefox render well and no problems with Youtube.

Things I didn't like:

 When I was messing around with the RP2040, I found some problems than annoyed me. First off, it does not play well with Micropython, I could not get any I2C hardware to work. I had to use CircuitPython instead. 

The second thing I found was I could not chain multiple I2C devices together. I should be able to chain a dozen devices, but I could not even get two to work properly.

I am not sure what the issue here is, I know it is not the RP2040 itself, I have several Raspberry Pi Pico's and a couple of Waveshare Pico Zero's, I2C and Micropython  work flawlessly on these devices. I should not be having these problems and the GPIO is really the selling point of this board, otherwise I might as well just buy a Mini PC.

What am I going to do with this?

The short answer is I don't know. The longer answer is, I have a couple of idea, like maybe a Cyberdeck, ie a custom built hand made computer with flare and style. However, before I start on something, I need to work out the RP2040/GPIO problems I am having. I am currently working on getting some form of two way communication going via serial between the intel processor and the RP2040, once I have worked that out, I will post about how I did it, along with source code.

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