Review: Omega2 IoT Prototyping Board


I've been sent an Omega2 Plus from Onion.io - it is a $9 Linux computer with built in Wi-Fi, Made for IoT.

The Omega2 plugged into a dock

The obvious comparison is with the Raspberry Pi - and the ultra-cheap Pi-Zero.

The Omega2 has a few advantages.

  • It has a (small) amount of built in memory - so even if you don't have an SD card to hand it is still usable.
  • WiFi is also built in - only 2.4GHz, but good enough for most purposes.
  • Arduino compatible.
  • A whole range of expansion boards.
  • It runs Linux Embedded Development Environment - the fork of OpenWRT.

On the downside:

  • There's less RAM than the zero (128MB vs 512MB)
  • No HDMI port.
  • A slower CPU.
  • Fewer GPIO pins (15 vs 40).

Basically, it's fine for building a simple IoT device. You're probably not going to be using this as a media-player or a full desktop replacement.

On its own, the Omega2 is of limited usage. It is a pin-only device. If you want to power it, or get data on or off it, you'll need to wire in directly. So you'll need one of the expansion boards if you want to make life easy for yourself.

Omega Expansion Dock

The basic expansion dock has USB in for power, USB out for regular USB devices, an RGB LED, power and reset switch. The price is $15 - which takes the TCO up closer to the Raspberry Pi.

There are a range of expansion boards - one with batteries, one for Arduino, OLED screens, relays, GPS, Ethernet, breadboards, and more promised.

You can buy the Omega2 and accessories on IndieGoGo and on KickStarter - or direct from Onion.

Installing software

All software is installed via the opgk package manager.

opkg update
opkg install python

A few minutes later and you've got a python environment ready to play with!

It's also simple to install Git in a similar fashion

opkg update
opkg install git git-http

Cloud!

The operating system comes with built-in cloud access via https://cloud.onion.io/.

There are a few "apps" available - but nothing too exciting.

You can also see what the GPIO ports are doing.

I've mixed feelings about this. It is undoubtedly handy to be able to access some parts of your Omega2 from afar - but there's a lack of services there.

Overall, it isn't quite as useful as the Cayenne software for Raspberry Pi.

Final Thoughts

This is a nifty little prototyping board. It has a tiny form factor - smaller than the Pi Zero - and a good range of accessories. As with all small-batch hardware, you may struggle to find the exact accessory that you want.

The built-in WiFi is brilliant - as is the web-based configuration - it takes away a lot of the hassle of setting up the device.

The real downside is the size of the community and the resources the manufacturer can offer. There are thousands of Raspberry Pi tutorials and literally millions of people who can offer help and advice. The Pi foundation puts a lot of effort into creating clear and comprehensive documentation.

With the Omega2, you're left on your own to tinker. Yes, they have a good range of documentation, but their forums aren't used by the board's creators.

If you're happy doing your own troubleshooting when things go wrong - this is an excellent board to play around with. The price is ridiculously low and opens up endless possibilities.

You can buy the Omega2 and accessories on IndieGoGo and on KickStarter.

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