When we talk about computers, everyone thinks of laptops or desktops. We don’t usually consider 10″ mini-laptops or, what we talk about most in HWLibre, boards like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino. These boards, whose basic package does not include anything else, serve as a brain for almost anything, such as a multimedia center, a speedometer or a spy camera. But what if we need “more brains”? It seems that’s what Google thought of when they launched the Coral Dev Board.
What’s the point of a new plate if this market is dominated by Raspberry Pi and Arduino? More than we could ever think of at first. Today’s boards are intended for use in devices with common tasks. Among these tasks we may have to run an operating system, as long as it is not a very heavy one. Operating systems, which I think is the most complicated thing existing boards can do, can be complex, but they are nothing compared to AI. The Coral Dev Board has been created thinking about the Artificial Intelligence, so that the developers can carry out their projects in this field.
Technical specifications of the Coral Dev Board
It only takes one look to realize that the Coral Dev Board is not “a Google Raspberry. Why is that? Well, because it has a built-in fan to prevent overheating. In addition to this component, by far the largest, we have:
Edge TPU module.
- CPU: NXP i.MX 8M SOC (quad Cortex-A53, Cortex-M4F)
- GPU: GC7000 Lite Graphics integrated
- ML Accelerator: Google Edge TPU coprocessor
- RAM: 1GB LPDDR4
- Flash memory: 8GB eMMC.
- Wireless connections: Wi-Fi 2×2 MIMO (802.11b/g/n/ac 2.4/5GHz) Bluetooth 4.1
- Size: 48mm x 40mm x 5mm
- MicroSD card slot.
- USB (2 ports): Type-C OTG Type-C power Type-A 3.0 host Micro-B serial console.
- LAN: Gigabit Ethernet port.
- Audio: 3.5mm jack with PDM digital microphone (x2)
- Video: HDMI 2.0a.
- GPIO: 3.3 V power rail 40 – 255 ohms programmable impedance ~ 82 mA maximum current.
- Power supply: 5V DC (USB Type-C)
- Size: 88 mm x 60 mm x 24mm
Reason of its price
I think the price deserves a special section, even if it is short. Right now, if we go to Amazon we find the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ for less than 40 euros. The Coral Dev Board is not yet available in other stores, it is only available in their official store, and it’s price is 149.99$, about 133 euros at the exchange. The reason is simple: the Coral Dev Board doesn’t play in the same league as Raspberry or Arduino. If we look at the RAM, some ports, etc, we might think so, but the new Google board has everything that developers need to use it for their Artificial Intelligence and ML (Machine Learning) projects.
The difference between what we will be able to do between the Coral and other plates is that the Coral looks to the future, while the plates we all know are the present. In that future there will be IoT (internet of things) devices in every corner of our house and outside and these devices will learn our habits to help us make any task faster, more efficient and easier. In short, to make our lives more comfortable.
With Mendel operating system, based on Debian
Another positive point of this board is that it is not necessary to start projects from scratch. The “Coral Developer Board” (that is “Dev Board”) includes support for TensorFlow Lite, models that can be compiled to run on the Coral Dev Board. The board comes with a complete operating system installed, and this is for me another of its strengths. The operating system it includes is Mendel, a Debian based operating system. If you are not familiar with Debian, you will surely be familiar with Ubuntu, one of the most popular versions of Linux, which is based on that Debian that is so unknown to some people.
Including a Debian-based operating system means that you can use all (or almost all) of the tools available for Linux. In fact, Ubuntu is a very popular operating system among developers, and anything that can be done with Ubuntu can be done with Mendel. As a Linux user, I can almost assure you that among the few differences that Mendel users will find will be the user interface and where each click should be made.
Coral USB Accelerator: a brain connected by USB
At the same time as the Dev Board, Google has also launched the Coral USB Accelerator. I think its price explains a little bit the price difference between the Coral Dev Board and the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. The USB Accelerator value 74.99$ and inside it has the most important thing of the Dev Board, that is, what we could call the brain that will allow us to create Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning projects. If we add to the 66$ the about 40$ that the Raspberry Pi is worth we would have about 100$, about 30$ less than the whole board. However, we have to take into account that with that 30 Euros we would already have the board mounted. From this point of view and taking into account that the guarantee is given by Google, the price is at the level of the market or just a little bit above.
Addressed to developers
As its name indicates, the Coral Dev Board and the USB Accelerator have been created with developers in mind. A normal user does not need those parts of the “brain” that allow to execute Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning projects. I explain this because we should not get carried away by consumerism and buy a board that we are going to waste if what we want is to create a multimedia center or a speedometer. In fact, I thought about buying a Raspberri Pi for my own multimedia center but, for a little more, I bought a set-top box with Android TV, which offers me everything I need and much more.
On the other hand, and as with the rest of the boards of this type, we have to take into account that ‘Strong’ does not include any box to put it in, so we will have to work with the loose board, create a box for it ourselves, wait for someone to sell accessories or a set that includes some kind of support, power, etc, as Raspberry Pi does.
What do you think of the Coral Dev Board and its brother the USB Accelerator?