ARM board with 16-core Epipany RISC processors

Delay

I got this in March, 2014 while the promised delivery date was May 2013. The product was unique enough to make a year delay feasible. However, the ebook, Intro to Parallel Programming, which was add-on, was no where to be found. There was even no word about it. I doubted that they would care writing one or issuing $25 refund anymore. I might be wrong though.

Parallella top

Impression

Parallella was even better than its spec. Xilinx Zynq 7010 turned out to be Zynq 7020. This 7020 board alone was worth $99 already. There were only the board and a tiny heatsink for Zynq 7020 though. No power adapter and/or micro HDMI which you needed to get it start with.

Parallella ports

Every components were packed densely in a tiny package.

Parallella GPIO

GPIO was on the bottom. For others who were in a lab would appreciate this, but for me, GPIO via this type of connector was virtually useless. I wished I was still able to access the lab once I was a student to get all components and tinker with it. Because of this, to me, Parallella could only be used as headless server and a fun toy to play with parallel programming.

Setting up was pretty much like any other board. You needed 5VDC 2A adapter and the rest wasn’t difficult if you were familiar with any command line and such. On Ubuntu desktop, you would see lags every now and then. You would feel like you were using testing board, but that was what everyone’s opinion with Raspberry Pi also. As headless server, it performed on par with any other ARM board. Unfortunately, I hadn’t or couldn’t take advantage of the 16-core chip at all because I couldn’t let it run 24|7. Parallella ran so damn hot; you needed a fan at all time; that was a awkward and painful setup. Otherwise, I felt it would burn after any heavy usage. That might sound exaggerated, but with the tiny sink included, that wasn’t enough and Adapteva, the creator, knew that. As a result, the later revision which was available at their store, as of writing, did include a big heatsink and changed some parts into smaller one, so that it wouldn’t get in a way of the massive heatsink. Unfortunately, for the revision I had, it wasn’t possible with a flat massive heatsink.

If you thought you were comfortable having a big fan gusting through a tiny board at all time, I would have guessed Parallella could be a fun ride. I wasn’t one of those.

Price

$99 for Parallella-16 (with Zynq-7020 & GPIO) at Kickstarter and $249 at Parallella store for a comparable model

Verdict

I would suggest a new revision on their store had headless version with Zynq 7010, no GPIO, big heatsink compatible for $99 if you liked to play with their 16-core chip or any parallel chip in general. Nonetheless, if you just wanted to tinkering with an ARM board w/ GPIO, I would recommend ODROID whatever board or even Raspberry Pi instead. There were much more afforable and surely things like Raspberry Pi or Odroid-C1 required much less current to operate; you could even use your phone charger.