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I'm looking for an alternative for RPi4 that seems not ready (yet?) to run run Qt/QML applications on framebuffer using hw acceleration. A lot of people have the same problems but no ones provide answers, so I'm afraid there's no much interest on both sides (Qt and RPi) to make the stuff available.

I need a board with the following features:

  • run Qt5/QML applications without X, with GPU acceleration to play FullHD video - hopefully with QtMultimedia
  • same GPU acceleration available for omxplayer (or another player that supports remote commands, transparency, etc...)
  • Ethernet
  • USB
  • a couple of GPIO
  • support for Buildroot config / Yocto meta-layers
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I've successfully written and ran a Qt/QML application (albeit with a simple interface) on a custom baseboard for the CM3 running Raspbian Lite without X. Not through framebuffer but using the VC .sos provided for the Pi. If you used framebuffer on the Pi you likely used Qt without hardware acceleration. Qt has a separate QPA backend using VC libraries directly.

There are alternatives, but they are usually development kits and SoMs with their carrier boards rather then SBCs. Those are targeted at professionals who design custom devices with such processors.

You can for example look at Toradex i.MX 6 Quad SoM which is a Qt reference platform. They have Yocto support too. The SoM with it's carrier board will set you back about 200 euro though.

The official i.MX 6Quad Sabre board is 450$. And that's for SoCs which tend to be on the cheaper end of the range for their performance point.

Apart from the i.MX there are other series of SoCs which you can look at with their own SoMs and devkits, such as:

  • STM32MP1, though those are new SoCs on the market and historically their MCU (ST didn't have MPUs on the market for quite some time) code quality was not satisfactory for me
  • The Beaglebone series, they have weak CPUs but some quick Google suggests people have successfully ran Qt with QML on them (although the most powerful, BeagleBone AI, has no Yocto support as far as my searches indicated). Or other Texas Instruments processors in general.

The cheapest option would be the BeagleBone Black which is also the only hobbyist/maker board which has a chance of fulfilling your requirements that I know of.

Apart from the Pi's BCM2 every other SoC mentioned above has full documentation available (I often compare BCM283x's measly 150 pages to total 6k pages of datasheet+manual of the Sitara SoC found in the Beaglebone).

Lastly, there is a lot of maker boards with Allwinner or Rokchip SoCs but those are not fully open AFAIK.

Source: general knowledge gathered from working professionally with embedded systems (both Linux and MCUs).

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  • It was my mistake: with framebuffer I meant without X server. – Mark Jan 31 at 6:22
  • @Mark i.MX has long positioned itself as the HMI SoC. I've read once (lost link) about a harvester HMI updating live from CAN using Qt with QML. – Jan Dorniak Jan 31 at 9:07
  • thanks, I'll evaluate also the costs... i.MX6 boards are not obsolete? Now there is i.MX8... – Mark Jan 31 at 13:49
  • @Mark It doesn't work that way on this side of the business. New processors are fasters but that doesn't make old ones obsolete, industrial applications are often more about cost then fast SoCs – Jan Dorniak Jan 31 at 13:52
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    @Mark that's how I understood you. A quick look at NXP's website shows those SoCs should be available until 2026, but search for "longevity commitment' yourself. Typically it's 10 or 15 years since launch date. – Jan Dorniak Jan 31 at 14:07

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