Huawei, Google supercharge Android with new Raspberry Pi-like board

The HiKey 960 will be the go-to computer board for Android and will sell for US$239

Prepare to run Android at blazing fast speeds on a new Raspberry Pi-like computer developed by Huawei.

Huawei's HiKey 960 computer board is priced at US$239 but has some of the latest CPU and GPU technologies. Google, ARM, Huawei, Archermind, and LeMaker all played roles in developing the board.

The HiKey 960 is meant to be a go-to PC for Android or a tool to develop software and drivers for the OS. The board development was backed by Linaro, an organization that develops software packages for the Android OS and ARM architecture.

Linaro CEO George Grey recently said it was sad that Android developers had to write code on x86 chips. He encouraged the organization's members to build a superfast computer so developers could build ARM software on ARM architecture. Intel has scaled back Android support on x86 PCs and isn't making smartphone chips.

The HiKey 960 can be used to create robots, drones, and other smart devices. But it's mainly intended to be an Android PC or a tool for developers who want to write and test applications.

The board can deliver performance similar to the latest smartphone and tablets. It has a Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core chip, which has four high-performance ARM Cortex-A73 and four low-power Cortex-A53 cores. The Kirin 960 is also used in the Huawei Mate 9 smartphone, which started shipping late last year.

The HiKey 960 has 32GB of storage and 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM. The Mali-G71 GPU is capable of delivering 4K graphics and is based on ARM's latest Bitfrost architecture. However, the board will only have HDMI 1.2a slot, which is a 1080p display output.

Other features include dual-band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1. The board has a PCIe m.2 slot to add additional storage or wireless capabilities. It also has 40-pin and 60-pin expansion connectors and multiple high-definition outputs so cameras can be connected to the board.

It will ship in the U.S., European Union, and Japan in early May. It will later ship worldwide.

The board will also support multiple Linux versions in the future.

You can load Android 7.1 on the board, but you will need to be technically savvy and have knowledge of command-line operations. Instructions to load Android 7.1 are on Google's website.

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