The original Google Coral Dev board was one of the trailblazers in artificial intelligence-capable single-board computers (SBCs). The Coral Dev Board Mini, announced in January 2020, is finally available for preorder, and it looks like $ 100 gets you one of the most powerful, small form factor boards seen yet.
How Does the Dev Board Mini Compare?
While cheaper than the original Coral Dev board, the Dev Board Mini doesn’t skimp on features. It does have a slightly less powerful processor in the MediaTek MT8167S Quad-Core Arm Cortex A35 clocked at 1.3 GHz. This is somewhat offset by 2 GB of RAM, double what came with the original Coral Dev Board.
Beyond that, things are very similar. It shares the 8 GB eMMC flash memory, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, and audio capabilities of the previous dev board.
The main feature of Coral hardware is Google’s Edge TPU coprocessor. The Dev Board Mini runs at the same four tera-operations per second (TOPS) as the original Coral Dev board and will work just as nicely with Google’s TensorFlow Lite framework for machine learning.
Other than the smaller size of 64 x 48mm, the Dev Board has a similar spec, though the full-sized HDMI 2.0 port has been swapped out with a micro HDMI 1.4 output for video instead. Given the recommendation to use Coral Dev Boards in headless mode, this likely won’t be too much of a downgrade for most users.
Full Specifications of the Google Coral Dev Board Mini
For such a tiny SBC, the Dev Board Mini packs a lot in:
- CPU: MediaTek 8167s SoC (Quad-core Arm Cortex-A35)
- GPU: IMG PowerVR GE8300 (integrated in SoC)
- ML accelerator: Google Edge TPU coprocessor giving 4 TOPS (int8); 2 TOPS per watt
- RAM: 2 GB LPDDR3
- Flash memory: 8 GB eMMC
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); Bluetooth 5.0
- Audio/video: 3.5mm audio jack; digital PDM microphone; 2.54mm 2-pin speaker terminal; micro HDMI (1.4); 24-pin FFC connector for MIPI-CSI2 camera (4-lane); 39-pin FFC connector for MIPI-DSI display (4-lane)
- Input/output: 40-pin GPIO header; 2x USB Type-C (USB 2.0)
Google Forges Ahead on the Edge
The announcement of the Dev Board Mini, just before CES 2020, seemed like a logical extension of what had come before. The original Raspberry Pi sized Coral Dev Board was among the first SBCs to include onboard AI coprocessing. It also featured a removable system module (much like the Nvidia Jetson Nano, its main competitor), which slots into a baseboard.
This concept, allowing developers to use the baseboard for testing before moving the system module into its intended destination, has been somewhat superseded by the Dev Board Mini.
That isn’t to say it’s a catch-all replacement, though. The original Coral System-on-Module (SoM) is smaller and more powerful. Even the RAM difference will be short-lived, as Google promises 2 GB and 4 GB variants of the SoM in the near future.
This is a fascinating time for small form factor edge computing. With affordable options appearing for almost all use cases, the AI revolution is well underway and available to all.