There’s a new competitor in town for the Raspberry Pi 3, and it may prove a better fit for certain types of workloads. The Rock64 (sold by Pine64) is similar to the RBP3 in several respects: Both chips use a Cortex-A53 CPU, though it’s almost impossible to determine how high the Rock64 is actually clocked. The data isn’t on the Wiki or site page, and the only reference I could find was buried in the actual manufacturer documentation, where it notes that the maximum clock speed of the Cortex-A53 quad is 1.4GHz (the RBP3 runs at 1.2GHz).
The GPU is a bit of a puzzle. TechRadar reports a Mali-G450MP2 configuration, but Rock64’s own documentation lists a Mali G450MP4. Either way, you aren’t going to be doing much in the way of high-end gaming on either solution, though we’ve seen some interesting builds using the VideoCore IV inside the RPB for emulating early consoles.
Rock64 features not found on the RBP3 include a USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0a, theoretical support for HDR10 and 4K video output, the option to use eMMC storage, and a gigabit ethernet port. (The RBP3, on the other hand, includes wireless and Bluetooth support out of the box.) More RAM is also supported, up to 4GB, though this substantially raises the price, from $ 25 for 1GB of DRAM to $ 45 for 4GB of DRAM. Supported operating systems include Android 7.1, Debian, and Yocto, though the user community around the Rock64 chips is much smaller than its RBP equivalent.
Overall, the peripheral capabilities of the Rock64 are a bit more advanced than its RBP3 counterpart, even if the underlying CPU cores are the same. If the GPU is a Mali-450MP4 it would probably be stronger as well (I’m a touch less certain about the Mali-450MP2). Maximum clock speed on the GPU, for the curious, is 500MHz — again, it’s not clear which clocks are actually being used.
The 4K support question is also iffy. Technically, yes, there’s decode support for codecs up to and including that capability, but I’m a little less sure on the ability of the relatively modest hardware to handle 4K video decode in H.264 or H.265. If anyone out there has an RBP3 or equivalent and wants to prove me wrong, please do. But for now, I wouldn’t necessarily count on that option. Being able to technically handle output is one thing; being able to practically do it is something altogether different.