Small Questions: Raspberry Pi vs Atomic Pi

Jul 11, 2020 - 4:42 PM

  • Hi everyone!

    I have a stumbled across this by chance, but I have a few questions and am hoping someone from the community (or dlidirect) can answer.

    One of the difficulties using a raspberry pi these days are that you need to ensure your distro has been compiled to work with ARM type processors. When browsing your distro's available, I noticed none of them are the ARM type. Am I dreaming, or did I stumble across a Single Board Computer that can take regular x86/x64 distro's? Are there any restrictions to this? This is AMAZING if this is true. I find ARM distro's as of late are delayed and not really available unless you do the recompiling yourself - Who has time for that these days? No one. Work smarter not harder, am I right?

    I can't seem to locate the power consumption data. Raspberry Pi's are extremely low power usage, which makes them very attractive. The Atomic Pi's power source appears to be via Molex? Is there an easier route to get power instead of using an older bulkier, power supply that draws a lot of energy? Still trying to not use up a lot of energy if possible. Any chance there is a breakout board that can power the Atomic Pi board from USB-C connectors instead? That would simplify any cases I'm sure.

    I see a lot of threads regarding cases. Is there an official Atomic Pi case or 3d model where we can manufacture our own?

    I'm looking into a couple of use cases:
    Web server (probably apache)
    DNS server
    SMB server
    Network Hardware Firewall / Packet sniffer - would want 2 network ethernet ports on Atomic Pi to physically be a go between ISP and Router.I see one, so I could go USB3 on the other and maintain 1Gbps.

    Any help that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all for taking the time to answer or point me in the right direction.

  • Yeah, the APi will run mainstream Linux distros! It is indeed a 64 bit processor!! However, I wouldn’t run anything heavier than Xubuntu due to limited RAM. A fresh install of Lubuntu 64-bit would probably work best, I chose to install Raspbian(see below). It can even run a limited Windows from an external hard drive. I’d estimate this thing draws just a little less than 20 watts at most. Someone on here said that it never passes 2A at max load, but I’m running a 3.5A supply to make sure I have plenty of power. I modified a CanaKit RPi adapter by splicing in some GPIO jumpers. Yes, power is via the GPIO on the bottom. I recommend doubling up the power connectors like ExplainingComputers did(see below), to make sure there’s no power “bottlenecks”. The odd power input is one of the reminders that this is a repurposed industrial surplus board. The breakout board converts the power to a barrel jack, but I’m too cheap to buy the breakout board. If you want to change the power input, it’s mostly DIY stuff. Same goes for cases. There are some 3D printed ones on amazon with questionable reviews, but you can also search “atomic pi case” on Thingiverse and there’s a few pages of 3D models.
    I just built a skeletal case out of Legos to raise the power connectors up, keep it from shorting out on my metal desk, and keep me from touching the board all the time.
    I’ve heard this thing works great as an NAS, it can even cool itself silently with the heat sink to boot! Seriously, even when working the board hard, the heat sink is barely warm to the touch! No need for a fan like the RPi 4.
    Do note though, if you buy this thing, you’re gonna have to tinker at least a little bit. More tinkering means it gets better and better! My recommendation is to save the technical files, and then install a different OS on the eMMC! The stock Lubuntu is weird about permissions, external devices, and general navigation. I just installed the x86 version of Raspbian ( , and it installed on my system with 64 bit architecture, even though it doesn't say on the site.
    Before you buy, I recommend watching the YouTube videos on the APi by ExplainingComputers and ETAprime.

    In short, it's a powerful little oddball, but I love it!

    Also, if you're looking for an x86 SBC, Lattepanda sells a few models of x86 SBCs with the same Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor. Definitely pricey(over $100), but they would be much more polished than the APi. They are frequently run with Windows, whereas the APi can barely manage it.

    This post was edited Jul 26, 2020 02:34PM
  • Idle wattage is 5W, CPU and GPU benchmarks runs this unit at 13,5W,
    Under normal 100% CPU and GPU load, you'll hardly see it surpass 12,5W (2,5A).
    If you use a baby breakout board, it'll drop the voltage by about 100 to 200 mV. So if you'd like to power the Pi from a USB power brick, you'll need to use 2x dupont cables; and not use the barrel jack.
    The barrel jack is good if you run them from 5V LED PSUs.

    Myself, I used a threaded M3 rod, hex spacers, and nuts, to tie multiple units together.
    Most people would use stretched (up to 10cm) M3 hex spacers to mount some sort of custom print boards or shielding plates on the Pi.
    I would not cover the top, or if you do use a case, use a cut out, where the heat sink can protrude.
    You can get the dimensions from this site, and make your own print of the AtomicPi's motherboard.

    I currently have 38 units ready for Boinc; data crunching.
    Also can be used for:
    Web servers, chat rooms, bit torrent clients, network router protection, an Ad-trap device (one that filters out ad sites on your local network, and gets a blank page instead),
    Sadly only the Wifi works on mine, I wasn't able to get the Ethernet working.
    The Pi has about 6 to 10 GPIO pins (that aren't ground or +5V), and use those for controlling stuff, like robots, 3D printers, and other...
    You can also use it as a desktop for light browsing, or other small desktop use.

  • I've made an add-on box to connect to rtsp streams from a security DVR and add AI based person detection using MobilenetSSD-v2_coco and a Google Coral TPU USB3 AI "coprocessor.

    Once the OS and TPU support code is installed, its all python3 code so it can run anywhere you can find TPU support.

    Initially I used the Raspberry Pi3B+ and updated to the Pi4B when it first came out, as the lack of USB3 on the Pi3B+ really held back performance.

    The Atomic Pi (Developer kit from Amazon) and Pi4B cost about the same for 2GB RAM and a 5V 4A power supply, you need to add the cost of the SD card to the Pi4.

    I setup my Atomic Pi with Ubuntu-Mate 16.04 and installed the TPU support and my AI code ( ).

    Some results for my with 1080p (HD) streams from security DVR.

    Pi4B running Raspbian Buster:
    6 HD: ~15.0 fps, using -d 0 option (no live display) ~16.7 fps

    AtomicPi running Ubuntu-Mate 16.04.
    6 HD (1080p) : ~25.2 fps, live display active

    For this workload the Atomic Pi is giving over 50% more throughput.

    I'm happy enough with it that I ordered another to have as a backup system. Been running 24/7 for about a month now so far no issues.

    One more thing, with this workload, the Pi4B quickly goes into thermal throttling, so I had to add the cost of a case with a fan. The heatsink on the Atomic Pi is just slightly warm to the touch, not as hot as the Coral TPU gets, which is still not too hot to hold on to. Running 24/7 no fan is a BIG plus! The fan in my security DVR is annoying enough as it is.

    If you are doing a lot with GPIO, or want to buy pre-built accessories the Pi are a better choice.