Since the introduction of the first Raspberry Pi (RPi) a few years ago, many similar boards have seen the light. Some are cheaper, some a bit more expensive but more powerful, all are targeted at the same users that have a need for low-cost, small and powerful computer modules running some flavour of Linux. Banana Pi (BPi) is a series of RPi-similar (not compatible) boards manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovoip. Like the RPi, several versions exist. The latest BPi is the M2 Berry and we managed to get our hands on a preproduction sample.

Specifications of the Banana Pi M2 Berry

The BPi Berry is similar to the BPi M2 Ultra that was released a few months back, the main differences being the size of the SRAM (1 GB DDR3 for the Berry, 2 GB DDR3 for the Ultra), the size of the Flash memory (no eMMC for the Berry, 8 GB for the Ultra) and the size of the board. The Ultra’s footprint is compatible with other BPi boards, the Berry on the other hand has the same size and connector placement as the RPi3, hence its name. This makes it the first RPi size-compatible BPi.

The BPi M2 Berry is equipped with an Allwinner R40 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU which gives the Berry a similar amount of horsepower as the Raspberry Pi 2 version 1.0 (yes, you read that right: RPi2, not 3).

banana pi M2 Berry + RPi3
Preproduction banana pi BPI-M2 Berry (left) versus Raspberry Pi 3 (right). 
Note the SATA + power connector. Also note the different
camera (middle) and LCD connectors (bottom).

The graphics side is handled by a MALI-400 GPU (claimed max throughput: 1.1 Gpixel/s). This GPU is the same for all BPi boards, except for the M3.

Like the RPi3 the Berry has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but V4.0 vs V4.1 for the RPi3. Unlike the RPi, the BPi has two push-buttons, Reset and user defined, which may come in handy in some applications.

Now with SATA

The biggest difference between the BPi M2 Berry and an RPi is the presence of a SATA port on the BPi. This allows the connection of an external hard disk or DVD/CDROM drive, which is convenient for applications that require lots of storage or faster throughput compared to USB memory sticks.