Hi LattePanda team and fans,
I've had 2x 4G32 Z8300 units for a while now. One runs Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and the other the stock Windows 10 Home install.
With exception to the wifi chip dying on the Windows one, everything has been fine
Despite loving this little powerhouse, there are a number of improvements that can be made, one particular bugbear of mine is the placement of the ports. I've re-purposed 2 metal (one Aluminium, one mild steel) cases now for "industrial" placement (well, my garage) and the number one issue I've always had is the placement of the RJ45 Ethernet port. If the ports were on one side alone, fabricating a case would be far easier.
Here are a list of improvements I'd recommend that would make the product a lot more desirable for system integrators and hardware hackers like myself;
Switch to the Pico-ITX format
The LattePanda board layout is already VERY close to this (88 x 70mm for the LP vs
100mm x 72mm for Pico-ITX), it makes sense to swap to this layout because it would provide the following benefits;
* A standardized layout making case design and integration easier
* All PC relevant ports would be on one (long) side making connectivity simpler
* This would push all Arduino-related ports to the other side of the board, meaning solutions using Arduino could benefit from being inside the case
* More ports can be fit on the back
* Better industry acceptance, that means bigger communities and better support, plus more money for the LattePanda team and that means even more product improvements that benefit the hobbyist users like myself
* You can easily get Double-DIN Pico-ITX cases
Add a MiniPCIe or M.2 slot
There are an infinite number of expansions to be had with these;
How about a 4 port SATA adapter? Turn LP mk2. into a home NAS.
How about a 4G LTE modem with GPS and send it on a drone / into space?
How about a riser card to use a full sized PCIe card?
Providing you had a good power supply from an external source, you could add a dedicated GPU (1080 Ti? haha) to the LattePanda and turn it into a gaming platform or
use CUDA for really cool things such as realtime 4K OpenCV computer vision.
Be careful that the M.2 interface you add is keyed
properly, you say it'll support PCIe 4x, UART and I2C, but according to Wikipedia these are mutually exclusive
and your port can only support either PCIe 4x or
PCIe 2x + UART + I2C. Not both in the same port.
If it was just for SATA, it would be almost uesless, the onboard eMMC is still fairly good
Upgrade to 8GB RAM and Gigabit Ethernet
It goes without saying, LP is pretty good but RAM and Gigabit ethernet can be limiting factors. I've never found the processor a limiting factor, but when trying to copy large files or use more than a few tabs in Google Chrome, the unit starts to page swap and this causes it to run slower.
Add another USB 3.0 port
Having to buy an external USB 3.0 hub shouldn't be required if you wanted to plug more than one USB 3.0 capable device in. What if you're using the LP to copy files between USB 3.0 hard disks for example?
Add a barrel jack for power with an on-board regulator
What would be awesome would be the ability to power the LP mk2. from a wide input voltage (recommend 11v to 30v), as this would make car / truck / industrial integration easier. It also means we can supply our own power supply easier.
Add 4 pin fan support
This could be used in conjunction with the above barrel jack mod, if we could get 12V to a fan with a PWM output for speed control, we could add a good heatsink and remove the thermal throttling completely, meaning an even faster LP mk2.
Currently I power a 12V 40mm case fan from one of the 5V headers, this works fine and the fan just blows enough air, but if it ever overheated there's no fighting it. Just have to live with thermal throttling or worse (I think this is what killed my wifi chip).
As for the name? You have to be careful to choose a name that is future-proof. In 2-3 years time, will you have a mk3. LattePanda? You have to factor that in now!
Suggestions for mk2. and future revision boards;
* EspressoPanda (implies getting something strong, fast)
* GrandePanda (a big boy LattePanda)
* VentiPanda (a cut-down LattePanda)
* MochaPanda (a LattePanda with a different flavour / twist?)