The Banana Pro from Lemaker is another credit card sized Single Board Computer. The Raspberry Pi is still leading that space with more than five million units sold, but it’s starting to get crowded. Banana Pro is probably one of the boards which comes closest to the Raspberry Pi, and indeed, their first version was called Banana Pi. This is from China, where imitating is a compliment.
However, except for its size, the Banana Pro is a very different computer. It has 1 GHz dual core Cortex ARM 7 CPU and comes with 1 GB of DD3 RAM, embedded Wifi, IR receiver, and maybe the best, a full speed SATA 2.0 connector. The price is similar though, at about €45 from Reichelt in Germany.
Compared to the original Raspberry Pi, it’s actually a very usable computer for day-to-day use. However, the Pi 2 probably evens that out, with a similar CPU and RAM. Just like the Pi, it has a 40 pin header, with 28 GPIO pins. It also has a camera interface, but also a display interface connector.
The distribution Lubuntu comes with Firefox, which runs quite OK. However, graphics acceleration is missing, and that is noticeable. The Lubuntu install detected and used the Wifi and IR receiver out of the box. It so happened that the volume button on my stereo remote was mapped to “CALC”, so the calculator application pops up. Should be great for XBMC / Kodi. An XBMC Debian based distribution is available, called LeMedia. It claims to support hardware graphics acceleration.
There are many distributions available. Another interesting and obvious one would be the Open Media Vault, which makes it into a Debian based NAS with a good web UI. Here the SATA port comes in handy.
Below are front and back pictures, which should be pretty self explanatory (if you click to get a large picture and zoom). All connectors are described. Also notice the Wifi antenna to the left on the last picture, below the micro SD card.