Odroid X2 Android Motherboard
Not so long ago during a visit to Pimoroni, I was asked if I would like to test and review the ODROID X2 mother board; a Samsung powered quad core Arm A9 1.7Ghz micro board with 2Gb of ram, 6x USB 2.0 ports and 1xRJ-45 port.
Measuring in at only 90mmx94mm, the board is not much larger then the Raspberry Pi but to compare the two would be unfair. The ODROID costs £88 or 165,000 Korean Won compared to the RPi at less then half that. The RPi is an affordable, cheap computer platform, suitable for a whole host of low cost projects, but a desktop replacement it is not. The ODROID X2 would seem better suited as a micro PC or an in-car computer. Its quad core CPU has enough grunt to handle applications that would leave the RPi having a mental break down.
Last year I tried running a Mame emulator on my RPi with the hope of turning it in to a mini retro gaming box. My experience was less than thrilling, leading me to give up on the idea. So when the chance was offered to try another mini board with Mame, I have to admit I had some reservations. The X2 uses a micro HDMI port and a unusual .8mm power jack. Researching the specs, I ended up buying a Gemini joypad power supply and micro HDMI to HDMI adaptor from ebay. With all the parts needed to get the board working, I downloaded one of the Jellybean SDC card image files.
Up and Running
The X2 will only boot with a working OS installed on an SD card. Turn it on without one and the board will not post, sitting there, dumb to the world. To get the image on the memory card, you will need a computer with an SD card reader, so you can flash the image.
Flashing SD Cards And Booting Your OS
Ready to go SD cards can be purchased from com.odroid.com. If you did not get one when buying your X2 board, the following tutorial with guide you through preparing your own SD card.
1. First you will need an image file, found here “com.odroid.com/sigong/nf_file_board/nfile_board.php”
Choose the files appropriate to your board and follow the link to the image file.
2. When you have it downloaded, extract the file to your desktop. Insert your SD card in to your card reader and make a note of its drive letter, you will need it later.
3. Now download Win32DiskImager from “launchpad.net/win32-image-writer” and extract the file and run the program as Administrator.
4. Using Win32DiskImager, select the *.img file you extracted earlier.
5. Select the driver letter of your SD card in the device box, make sure your select the correct drive letter or you may wipe your hard drive!
6. Click “Write” and wait for the process to complete. Once the DiskImager has finished, exit the utility and remove your SD card from the reader.
7. Insert the card in to the Odroid and power on. If everything went according to plan, the board should boot up.
To write a disk image under Linux, you will need to follow the process below. Be aware I’m posting this as is. I wrote my SD card under Windows XP, so have no experience with the process below.
Copying an image to the SD Card in Linux (graphical interface)
If you are using Ubuntu and hesitate to use the terminal, you can use the ImageWriter tool (nice graphical user interface) to write the .img file to the SD card.
- Download a zipped image from this link or other mirrors
- Right click the zip file and select “Extract here”
- ATTENTION: As of this writing (15 June 2012), there is a bug in the ImageWriter program that causes it to fail if the filename of the image file or its path (i.e. all the names of any parent folders that you extract the image file into) contain any space characters. Before going any further, ensure that neither the file name of the image you’re using or the path contain any spaces (or other odd characters, for that matter). A bug has been opened for this issue: https://bugs.launchpad.net/usb-imagewriter/+bug/1013834 Once the issue is fixed, edit this page to advise people to use an updated/patched version of ImageWriter.
- Insert the SD card into your computer or connect the SD card reader with the SD card inside
- Install the ImageWriter tool from the Ubuntu Software Center
- Launch the ImageWriter tool (it needs your administrative password)
- Select the image file (example ODROID-X_31_07_2012.img) to be written to the SD card (note: because you started ImageWriter as administrator the starting point when selecting the image file is the administrator’s home folder so you need to change to your own home folder to select the image file)
- Select the target device to write the image to (your device will be something like “/dev/mmcblk0” or “/dev/sdc”)
- Click the “Write to device” button
- Wait for the process to finish and then insert the SD card in the ODROID
Mame and NEOGEO
Thankfully the hard days of finding a good emulator for Andoroid are behind us and now there are several to choose from. For the X2, I found MAME4droid and NeoDroid the pretty easy to set up and more importantly free to use.
MAME4droid was by for the easiest app to get working and the performance on the Odroid was nothing but remarkable. Street Fighter 2 playback was a steady 60fps with only the occasional drop to 30-40fps when a lot was going on. Had i not had the FPS showing in the top corner, I don’t think I honestly would have noticed. The sound was also perfect, unlike the RPi which struggles to offer good sound support. The Odroid handled it with ease and really pulled the rug from under my RPi Mame efforts. This was especially true when I came to play Bubble Bobble, which the RPi almost died trying to play with appalling FPS and stuttering audio. On the Odroid the game was silky smooth, the only thing missing was a proper joystick.
Not as easy to configure I found as MAME4droid, but from what i gather is one of the better free NeoGeo emulators out there, tho there is a paid version. One of the first hurdles I faced was actually running NeoGeo roms. The emulator seems almost allergic to some NeoGeo rom files and in other cases threw up errors regarding missing files names. Eventually I discovered what I believed to be the problem, the romset which comes with NEOdroid. Put simply, I think it is out of date and has one or two spelling errors such as when running Metal Slug, NEOdroid reports file 263-pg1.bin as missing. However a closer look of the Metal Slug archive revealed the existence of file 263-p1.bin but no 263-pg1.bin. This seems to be an on-going issue for many other online users as I found quite a number of threads on the subject. I also found a post by the author of NEOdroid, instructing users to use Mame roms with Neodroid and not NeoGeo roms. This has me a little confused, given that NEOdroid is meant to be a NeoGeo emulator. Okay I know the NeoGeo was basically an arcade unit in a console, but surely there are some differences between a real arcade cabinet and the console. I plan to try this app out a little more before writing it off, as it overall seems like a good emulator.
Eventually the Odroid will be installed in a Picade cabinet and connected to a proper joystick and hardware buttons. It will be interesting to see how well the android operating system handles the setup. So make sure you come back to see how i get on, making an android gaming cabinet.
Keep on geeking!