Tomas C.

@tomac

From TV BOX to High Performance Single Board Computer: Running Linux on the Khadas VIM2 MAX.

I already own and use many arm single board computers, regular ones like Raspberry Pi, Odroid, Orange Pi and some OpenWrt routers mainly ones using atheros chipset. I favor Raspberry Pi boards for their large community and superior linux and armbian support. However, I have a feeling that current Raspi boards are underpowered and lack useful on-board features like hw buttons or RTC.

After some days researching the possible alternatives I came to the new board would be the best for me, 119 USD and a few days later I get to my Khadas VIM2 MAX Amlogic Cortex A53 Octacore.

VIM2 MAX vs Raspberry Pi3

The Khadas Vim 2 development board designed and released by Khadas for hobbyists, makers and electronic fans in mind it is actually an Android TV box. Do not be fooled by this board originally designed to watch your favorite TV series. Current Home theater PC needs such as streaming 4K video, fast VPNs to watch HD Internet TV across borders or Game Console Emulators cause these boards have really advanced features uncommon on other cheap boards such as dual band WiFi ac support, powerful GPUs, eMMC-based fast storage and large amounts of RAM.

Most TV boxes based on Android feature large number of binary blobs which together with a lack of hw documentation makes it difficult if not impossible to run Linux on them. Not so for Khadas, the manufacturer is strongly committed to the open source as you can see in his github uboot/kernel/drivers repositories. The Khadas VIM2 is clearly sifting to target the same hacker-centric market as the incredibly popular Raspberry Pi.

In terms of specs, it’s powered by the octacore Amlogic S912 and runs Android Nougat — one of the most recent versions of Google’s mobile OS. They also feature gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac and bluetooth. Depending on the model you buy, for $75 and Up, it’ll also ship with 2–3GB of DDR4 RAM and 16–64GB of onboard storage with the Pro and Max models offering higher performance wifi chips too.

While TV Box heritage is clear there’s no denying of the DIY aesthetic in the Khadas VIM2. It comes in an elegant transparent acrylic case that does a nice job of showing off the mini PC’s guts. There’s cutouts to various ports, including the 40-pin header on the top of the unit. The front features a power LED and dual IR receivers, power, user function and reset keys. The back of the unit have 2xUSB ports, Ethernet, HDMI, and one USB Type-C port.

Khadas VIM2 by default comes with Android operating system but using the tools and images in the manufacturer’s site, you can install an Ubuntu Linux operating system on it. The list of operating systems available in the Firmware Resources page.

The best way to change the operating system, the method Upgrade Via a USB-C Cable. In this way, you need to download the operating system image from Firmware Resources page also download the Khadas USB Upgrade Tool and install it. Now go ahead in accordance with the following steps:

Open USB Burning Tool, click File-->Import image to chose an image for VIM2.
Connect VIM2 and PC with an USB-C cable (VIM will power on automatically). Let VIM2 enter into upgrade mode to complete the upgrading:
Long press Power key without release
Short press Reset key and release
Count 2-3 seconds and release the Power key to enter into upgrade mode
Your PC should have found VIM2 device as upgrade mode if you correctly follow the above operations. Now all you need to do is to click Start button of the tool and wait the upgrading to complete.
User: khadas
Password: khadas

Be sure to note the hints provided in USB Burning Tool app. As to flashing firmware, while certainly there is always some risk when flashing firmware, it is pretty low. Even that do not worry if upgrade fails somehow as there is a recovery Maskrom Mode Upgrade.

If you use the Dual OS Image (Android and Ubuntu) image, to switch between the two operating systems is required to do the following:

1> Boot without jumper: Android as default
2> Boot with jumper: Ubuntu as default

The Khadas VIM2 provides an interesting single board computer solution for those wanting a way more powerful Raspberry Pi alternative. It’s unlikely to ever get the same levels of support as everyone’s favorite mini PC but if you’re wanting a high performance platform to run Linux or just tinker, the Khadas VIM2 is certainly an interesting device

Maxing out the VIM2 MAX with Kdenlive+Blender

I hope this quick setup guide will be of interest to you.

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