While I was on sabbatical, all the rage on Kickstarter and Indigogo was the new $5 IoT board. To my surprise I was contacted by Randolf from Onion to see if I would do a writeup on their new product. So in the interest of full disclosure, they sent me a free Omega2+ board and the expansion dock. As always I will remain unbiased and give my honest review.
The Omega2 is sold as a $5 IoT board that combines the form factor of a small arduino while giving it the power of a Raspberry Pi.
The Omega2 comes in 2 versions, the one I got was the Omega2+ that comes with a 580MHz CPU, 128MB of Memory and 32MB of storage on board. It also has a microSD slot. The current retail price of this is $9.
The lower version(Non +) is the same but has only 64MB of Memory and 16MB of storage. It also does not have the MicroSD slot. The retail price of this base version is $5.
The boards run Linux and come with a skinned verison of OpenWRT which alone is incredible for the price, but the real kicker is that it comes with onboard WiFi! You read that right, no more extra dongles required!
So, on paper this board seems to good to be true, lets see how it works in some real applications.
Well the first thing I noticed, which I found annoying for prototyping, is that this board does NOT have a voltage regulator on board. And it runs on 3.3V which means you HAVE to use an external regulator, even to power it from USB.
I was lucky enough to be also sent what they call an "Expansion Dock" which comes with an onboard regulator, but at a price of $15 we are now sneaking up on Raspberry Pi A+ territory in terms of pricing. Here is a picture of the Omega2 in the expansion dock:
Once I had it powered on though, everything else was a breeze. The setup was pretty straightforward but I still have not been able to succesfully connect it to their Onion Cloud. Other than that, all the features worked as expected and I was honestly impressed!
Here is the Pinout for the Omega2:
With just a little bit of more work, I think this board can be awesome for projects that require lots of internet connected nodes! However you do need a few additions. The first and most important one is a voltage regulator! Though at <$1 we can add the LD1117v33 and that still keeps the price point low enough. The last downside to this board is that it does not have any analog inputs, so if your project requires that you will have to shell out for some ADC's as well.
The closest competitor to this board is the Pi Zero, which has more processing power, RAM and GPIOs but it needs an additional WiFi Dongle, a micro usb to USB host cable and is bigger in size. Here they are side to side:
This makes the verdict pretty simple, if you have a requirement for a wifi capable board that does not need high processing power or too many GPIOs then this board is for you.
Overall, I am very impressed and I can honestly say that I will be ordering a few more to use for my upcoming Home Automation project!