Building a router with Banana Pi R1 — part 1

Introduction

Banana Pi R1 in a case and WiFi anten­nas

WiFi (also known as the IEEE 802.11 pro­to­col stack) has become triv­ial after the boom of the Inter­net in the ear­ly years of the 21st cen­tu­ry. Most res­i­den­tial Inter­net con­nec­tion offer­ings in the mar­ket has turned the WiFi router an essen­tial piece of hard­ward, main­ly due to the pletho­ra of devices with­out any form of phys­i­cal (cabled) con­nec­tion, like smart­phones, tablets, dig­i­tal music read­ers, etc.

There are dozens (if not hun­dreds) of dif­fer­ent devices, with dif­fer­ent fun­cional­i­ties and con­nec­tion speeds, but in essence, they all do the same. They allow simul­ta­ne­ous con­nec­tions of sev­er­al devices in you home or office to con­nect to the Inter­net via Eth­er­net cables or WiFi.

Banana Pi R1

A few months ago I dis­cov­ered the Banana Pi R1. This is a WiFi router unlike most.

Its hard­ware fea­tures make it a very pow­er­ful router, even capa­ble os play­ing mul­ti­me­dia files (HD movies, most­ly), main­ly due to its HDMI con­nec­tiv­i­ty.

Main fea­tures:

CPU A20 ARM Cor­tex ‑A7 Dual-Core (Arqui­tec­tura ARMv7)
GPU ARM Mali400MP2 Com­plies with OpenGL ES 2.0/1.1
Mem­o­ry 1GB DDR3
Net­work 5x10/100/1000 Eth­er­net 8P8C (RJ45, 1 WAN port e 4xLAN), 802.11n Wi-Fi
Video input CSI con­nec­tion (com­pat­i­ble with Rasp­ber­ry Pi)
Video out­put HDMI, CVBS, LVDS/RGB
Audio out­put Jack 3,5mm and HDMI
Pow­er 5V 2A, via Micro USB
USB Ports 1x USB 2.0
Stor­age MicroS­DXC (up to 256GB), SATA 2.0
Oper­at­ing sys­tems Android, Lin­ux (sev­er­al dis­tri­b­u­tions), OpenB­SD, FreeB­SD (test­ing), Win­dows IoT Edi­tion

Com­par­ing these fea­tures with a main­stream router of the same price range, we can clear­ly see the advan­tages. Below are the hard­ware fea­tures of the ASUS RT-AC66U:

CPU Broad­com BCM4706 (MIPS 74K archi­tec­ture)
Mem­o­ry 256MB
Net­work 5x10/100/1000 Eth­er­net 8P8C (RJ45, 1 WAN port and 4xLAN), 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Pow­er 19V, 1,58A
USB ports 2xUSB 2.0
Stor­age 128MB + 2MB
Oper­at­ing sys­tems AsusWRT-Mer­lin, DD-WRT, Toma­toUSB

The price tag is sim­i­lar but, as you can see, the Banana Pi R1 is more expand­able and also has a graph­ics proces­sor, HDMI out­put and SATA port, which makes for a ter­rif­ic media play­er.

In the sec­ond part, I’ll be talk­ing about the avail­able oper­at­ing sys­tems and how to install them.

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