In August, 2015 I was offered the chance to beta test a new SoC board. Its name was Guitar and it was being produced by LeMaker, a team of hardware developers from Shenzen.
This was the first time that I was able to get my hands in a brand new product that hasn’t been mass-produced in order to test its capabilities and provide feedback to the development team. It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to learn a lot from it. Up to that moment, most of the Raspberry Pi clones that I had used proved to be a complete disappointment. However, the Guitar wasn’t any of those things.
As a student that had to make all of his projects on a tight budget, buying “unofficial” boards was a standard practice for me. In the case of Atmel and Microchip boards and tools, this wasn’t so bad. My PicKit clone worked as good as the official (but expensive) version and most of the Arduino clones and Atmel development boards worked perfectly… Except for a couple that were defective.
However, this was different for the boards that tried to imitate the Raspberry Pi. Most of them had compatibility issues with Raspbian, and it was common to deal with confusing and outdated documentation… Although, most of the time, there wasn’t any kind of manuals or support. Plus, in order to achieve lower production costs, the parts that were used on these clones were of exceptionally low quality. It wasn’t a surprise that (at least here in Mexico), saying that something was “made in China” was synonymous with “prone to breaking down” and “unreliable”.
But it’s not fair to judge an entire country for the mistakes that some of their companies make. And, when it came to Raspberry Pi clones, there was one that kept a good quality standard: The Banana Pi. Unlike other boards, their developers had taken enough care to make an official website, a forum and provide a constant supply of updates and bug fixes. And, it was precisely those guys who now were trying to make their own single board computer, one that would try to stand on its own instead of being just a clone.
After using the Guitar for about a month, I made the following video, where I talk about the board, its features and my personal opinion on it: