The Rock Pi 4B is touted as an alternative to the popular Raspberry Pi. What I was not aware of when deciding to implement one of these boards into a project, was the many quirks that come included with the Rock Pi.
First, not just any ARM-compatible Linux image will work on the Rock Pi. I found this out the hard way, by waiting five minutes for the OS to boot, before doing some research. The image must be made compatible with the Rock Pi by containing several partitions that are required for the OS to boot. For reference, a Raspberry Pi disk image requires only two partitions to boot, a boot partition, and a root partition. The Rock Pi, on the other hand, requires five partitions to boot.
- 1st Stage Loader partition
- Boot loader partition
- ARM Trusted Firmware partition
- Kernel partition
- Root Filesystem partition
This is not a deal breaker for using this board. Not even close. While the choice of compatible Linux images is limited, it is diverse enough to cover many use-cases. The company behind the creation of this board, Radxa, hosts four officially supported disk images as well as three 3rd party disk images. After giving each distribution a try, I settled on a 3rd party distribution, Armbian.
As a budget-friendly Single-Board Computer, not much should be expected in terms of temperature management. Depending on how you use your Rock Pi, you may need to account for a way to reduce and disperse heat generated from the board’s CPU. Lucky for me, a massive heat-sink was included with my Rock Pi. The heat-sink makes direct contact with the Rockchip RK3399 CPU, which gets very hot to the touch. Granted, I was compiling a large piece of software when I made this judgement.
For someone who has used the Raspberry Pi, and is looking for a different SBC to add to their project, the Rock Pi 4B makes an excellent choice. With a similar form-factor to the Raspberry Pi, you can find many cases and parts that will just work, without much modification. Before committing yourself to the Rock Pi, I would advise checking out the list of compatible Linux distributions to ensure that any required software can be made to work.
Rock Pi Required Partitions: https://wiki.radxa.com/Rockpi4/partitions