After the analysis of Arduino and compatible boards comes this new comparison of Arduino and compatible boards. Raspberry Pi boards and their competition. We hope to create the same effect as with the previous mega post and help people to be clearer about the current board landscape in order to make the best choice.
Many people confuse the Raspberry Pi with a miniPC and this is not the case. The Nettop or miniPC is a desktop type computer. Small From Factor (SFF) such as Micro-ATX motherboards. In addition, they usually run Linux-based or embedded operating systems, with architectures typically based on ARM (also x86, among others).
Note: if you think it is an interesting world, I encourage you to join the club and buy in our shop some of the Raspberry Pi boards and accessories that we have available for you.
Note 2: this article contains some affiliate links (Amazon and eBay) which help us to finance ourselves if you purchase any of the plates through them, thank you very much!
The Raspberry Pi together with some accessories, such as a case, adapter, etc..., could be considered a mini-PC, but not on its own. So what is it? The "Raspi", as we affectionately call it, together with its competitors are SBC (Single-Board Computer). That is, a single-board computer.
In the case of Raspberry Pi, there is an extensive repertoire of operating systems based on Linux such as: Archlinux ARM, LibreELEC, OpenELEC, Pidora, Raspbmc, RISC OS, Raspbian and others (openSuSE, Slackware ARM, FreeBSD, Plan 9, OpenWrt, Kali Linux, Instant WebKiosk, Ark OS and Minepeon). You can see a complete list in our review of existing Raspberry Pi distributions.
If at this point you do not have much idea of what you can do with Raspberry Pi, I leave you a collection of articles that we have been preparing, you will see that it is not short at all.
Official Raspberry Pi boards
The SBC of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is the authentic and official one, even if competitors have emerged. This board came about as a stimulus for schools and to bring computer science to more people. The first germ appeared in 2006although it was an Atmel ATmega644 microcontroller-based board similar to the Arduino. Being open, both its schematics and design data are available for download, and this is where its greatest success lies, along with its affordable price.
But it was not until 2009 that the Raspberry Pi Foundation was created in Caldecote, South Cambridgeshire (UK) and its founders are: Eben UptonDavid Braden, Jack Lang, Pete Lomas, Alan Mycroft and Robert Mullins.
Co-founder Upton, technical director of the ASIC architecture department at Broadcomwanted to bring the same philosophy of the 1981 Acorn BBC Micro computer to children and enthusiasts. And his project would be sponsored by Cambridge University and the company Broadcom (maker of on-board SoCs).
Two years after the foundation appeared, the following were produced the first plates prototype and then began to be sold years later. Its success was such that it sold out and manufacturers were unable to bring as many devices to market as demand. The first batch would be made in Taiwan and China, some 10,000, and then production would move to the UK. Thousands are made every day thanks to a Sony factory in Pencoed, Wales.
The certified plates by The Raspbery Pi Foundation ordered by release date are:
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
The next logical qualitative leap forward is here, the Raspberry Pi 4. The most important changes come not only in power and performance, but also physically.
At first it may seem like a step backwards due to possible incompatibilities with existing accessories (cases, power supply, HDMI cable, etc...). But it is just something necessary to take a big step forward in terms of performance.
The ethernet connector is switched to the side to simplify the routing on the board and make it possible to do this. Gigabit (finally) and put a USB 3.0 pair (finally encore).
Backward compatibility with all HATs is maintained due to unchanged GPIO pins and 4 pins of the HAT PoE.
On the other side of the board we also have big changes. The power connector becomes USB-Cwhich will enable OTG and higher power consumption. In addition, the traditional HDMI connector has been changed to 2 micro HDMI connectors that support video at 4k.
Processor change to a Broadcom BCM2711 running at 1.5GHz which raises the performance by a x3 compared to model 3B+.
Undoubtedly what for me is the great novelty, is that this is the first model that is offered in 3 different flavours, from 1, 2 and 4GB RAM. This will allow us to set up a much wider range of projects with different tight budgets.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+
It's time to renew the smallest family of Raspberry Pi giving a great qualitative leap. They have gone to the Broadcom BCM2837B0 processor to 1.4GHz QUAD ARM Cortex-A53 which makes it much, much faster than its predecessor, which ran at 700MHz. Physically it is still the same overall dimensions and features, so there is only one USB port and no network ethernet.
On the other hand, it is the first time that we can connect this little one to the Internet by its own means, as they have incorporated wireless chipsets for the Dual band WiFi and Bluetooth. In addition, they have doubled the available RAM to 512MB.
The downside is consumption, raised to 2.5Awhich makes it less attractive for battery-powered projects. This move was probably made because the Zero range is already well established in the market.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
As it could not be otherwise on the international day of Pi, the Raspberry Pi Foundation delights us with a new board to improve its third version, the Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It comes with a continuist spirit but improving very interesting aspects. We still have a 64-bit quad-core processor, but in this case running at 1.4GHz.
The connectivity has been improved in several aspects, on the one hand we have the wifi which has become dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz and the Ethernet, which we have the option to do so Gigabit over USB 2.0 (300Mbps max.). We will now be able to powering the board via PoE (great news for certain projects) using a specific HAT that will make use of these 4 new pins together with the GPIO.
The rest of the features remain unchanged, 1GB RAM, 4 USB ports, 4-pole jack output, HDMI, 10/100 Ethernet socket, CSI and DSI connectors, Micro SD for OS and Micro USB connector for power.
This is probably the last upgrade of this board until the new version, version 4, which is not expected. until 2019.
Buy on ComoHacer.eu
Rasbperry Pi Zero W
The new Raspberry Pi Zero W is a modification of the previous Zero model. Its dimensions and appearance are the same, but new functionalities have been added in terms of wireless connectivity. In the case of the Zero W it has WiFi 802.11n and Bluettoth 4.0 for only 11 euros. It comes as the Raspberry Pi Foundation celebrates 5 years of its project, in this 2017. In terms of features, they are the same as the Pi Zero (1Ghz ARM SoC, 512MB of RAM, HDMI, microUSB, ...), but it adds a connectivity chip as an additional module, a Cypress CYW43438. That makes it much more interesting for projects that demand connections, such as IoT. And as a complement to this, the foundation has also launched a set of cases for these boards.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
This is the new Raspberry Pi model launched in January 2016, its price has remained the same as previous Model Bs, but more powerful hardware has been implemented. It is now equipped with a Broadcom BCM2837 SoC that integrates a quad-core 64-bit 1.2Ghz CPU running at 1.2Ghz. Also included is a 400Mhz Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU capable of 28.8GFLOPS of computing power and supporting OpenGL ES 2.0. Ethernet connectivity remains, although Wifi and Bluetooth 4.1 are new. The GPIOs have remained unchanged from the previous model and power has been increased due to higher performance to 2500mA (12.5w). All the changes mean more functionality and twice the power of its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2.
Raspberry Pi Zero
It is an official SBC for only 5$ cost, that is, the cheapest SBC for the moment. One of the main reasons for the success of the Raspberry Pi is its low cost, and now they are lowering the price even further on this new model to keep adding millions to the existing user base. The board will be manufactured in Wales and will come equipped with a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC, which integrates a 1Ghz ARM11 processor that is a 40% faster than the Raspberry Pi 1. It will continue to maintain the 512MB of RAM LDDR2, microSD slot, mini HDMI connection (capable of 1080p60 video), microUSB, 40 GPIO pins (which will respect the order followed in the A +, B + and 2B). All in a packaging factor of 65x30x5mm, certainly the smallest. But despite its size, it will still allow you to run distros like Raspbian and enjoy all the software we enjoy on the other models.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
By surprise and most likely motivated by the competition that was coming out lately, The Raspberry Pi Foundation released version 2 Model B of your board. A more than necessary update, which does not make it the best on the market, but that puts it back in the fight because if we join this improvement with the community that drags and good optimization of its software, we have the perfect combination. The dimensions are the same (an advantage for those of us who sell its accessories), but its construction has changed almost radically, now with 1Gb RAMalso uses a Quad-core 900MHz that those of us who are used to it will find so much agility very strange. On the other hand, by changing its architecture, we will be able to enjoy other more complex operating systems, such as the new Windows 10, which will have a free version for developers on Raspberry Pi 2.
Raspberry Pi Model A+
Its features are similar to the B+, except that its size is smaller (only 65 x 56 mm) and its RAM has been reduced to 256 MB. It has also changed its connectivity, which now dispenses with its Ethernet connection. As with the initial Raspberry Pi A and Raspberry Pi B, the A+ is cheaper. As with the B+, this board is more energy efficient than its predecessors.
Buy on ComoHacer.eu
Raspberry Pi Model B+
It is the update of the B model, whose advantages are the integration of more GPIO pins (going from the 26 of the previous models to 40, respecting the previous pinout scheme), a lower power consumption (600mA, 3w), the inclusion of 4 USB on-board ports and an improvement in the power supply to reduce noise and improve the sound system. For the rest of the features it is identical to the B. The most practical feature is the USB ports, which are sorely lacking in the previous models, although this can be solved with a hub. All this while maintaining the same price as the Model B, due to the fact that technology has matured and allows it to be manufactured at a lower cost.
Raspberry Pi Model B
Priced at around $35 ex-factory, the only differences with the A model are the 512MB SDRAM included in the SoC, two USB ports and the integration of an Ethernet adapter for network connection. Power consumption, with more elements, rises from 300mA (1.5w) to 700mA (3.5w). The rest of the features are common. It is one of the best-selling models (more than 3 million sales).
Raspberry Pi Model A
It was priced at around $25 factory cost, with a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC that integrates a CPU, GPU, DSP, RAM and USB controller. This chip is common to all models, both B and B+. The CPU is an ARM1176JZF-S from the ARM11 family with an ARMv6 instruction set. It runs at 700Mhz, but it is not alone inside the SoC, it also includes a 250Mhz VideoCore IV GPU in charge of graphics and boot. This GPU supports OpenGL ES as the graphics API. It is complemented by a 256MB SDRAM memory shared by the CPU and GPU. On the other hand, it has an HDMI connection for an external display and an RCA jack, audio jack, SD and MMC slot, GPIO pins, 5v microUSB power connection or GPIO headers. Weight and dimensions are similar on all three official boards.
Raspberry Pi accessories
The great success and the community that has formed around this invention has led to a number of different products being made available on the market. accessories or modules for the Raspi. These are elements that add functionality to the motherboard, such as Arduino shields. These are:
RPI Compute Module Dev Kit
It's not a Raspberry Pi per se, but a module that the team at Sony Pencoed and RS Components have built, worth about 30$, as prices have come down quite a bit since its release, going as low as 25$ for the Lite versions of the CM (Compute Module). This is a development kit that combines an I/O module for prototyping with an embedded Raspberry Pi module in a format similar to that of DDR2 SODIMM RAM (200 connectors to be inserted into a slot) and to which a 4GB eMMC flash memory chip has been added. The main board also contains a series of GPIO pins and multiple connectors for quick access to the BCM2835 SoC functionalities (USB, CSI, DSI, HDMI). It also adds the power supply, USB cable, camera and display adapters, all inside the kit. It is intended for the creation of embedded applications, and very much oriented towards enterprise and industrial applications. However, the board is also very interesting for home use, as its modularity will also allow you to expand the computing capabilities by adding modules to it and thus upgrade the hardware capabilities without becoming obsolete... In fact, new versions of the modules are being developed, such as CM1, CM2 and CM3. The Computer Module 3, with its 1.2Ghz Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, double the RAM and 4GB eMMC, has a very high performance, and about 10 times the original Pi model.
Camera Board Module
Basically it's a module that gives the Pi a camera. The foundation, together with distributor RS Component, created it to add to the Raspi board via a flexible cable connected to the CSI connector between the Ethernet and HDMI ports. The module costs about 20$ and is 5MP quality with image resolutions of 1080p, 720p and 640x480p for video. Since the release of the first Rev of this module, more versions have been released, the latest being Rev2.
There is also a NoIR version of the module. This is a similar module to the previous one, but does not filter IR radiation for better performance in low light environments. This infrared camera allows night vision for your projects in dark places. As with the conventional camera, NoIR has also had design revisions, the most current being Rev2.
Buy on ComoHacer.eu
It is an expansion board that allows to double the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi, and integrates a bidirectional motor controller, A/D and D/A channels, ATmega328 programmable microcontolator, 6 open collector outputs, 12 LEDs, 3 switches, jumpers and software for programming. In short, it is a kind of Arduino for developing electronic applications programmed through the Raspberry Pi. It is available for just over 40 euros.
Por less than 20 euros you can get an NFC expansion board based on an NXP PN512 chip to make transmissions between three wireless NFC (Near Field Communication) modes. NFC technology is used by many smartphones to transfer data between devices and this functionality can be added to the Raspi thanks to this board.
It can be found for just over 8. This expansion board allows you to connect up to 4 Raspberry Pi accessory boards. It is like a hub that is inserted into the GPIO connections to multiply the connections x4.
Serial I/O Expander
This is another expansion board that adds 2 relays, 4 switches, 8 digital inputs, 8 outputs and 8 LEDs. All on the same board inserted into the Raspi's GPIOs.
Competitor miniPC boards
When a highly successful product emerges, it is inevitable that others will follow in its footsteps by copying or making similar products. This is why a whole legion of similar boards have been created to seduce users with other needs that the Raspberry Pi does not satisfy or improve on its features:
AMD Gizmo Board
AMD has done the same as Intel, bringing a very powerful board to the market. The Gizmo Board is a low-cost, low-power board. You can use the kit which includes EDK development tools, SmartPRobe, power supply, cables and adapters, etc... Everything to have at your disposal an SBC for development based on the x86 architecture, instead of the typical ARM as in the others. The second version of Gizmo has been the GIzmo 2, in which the power has been doubled. It is also a more energy-efficient board and its computing power has almost doubled. It is powered by an AMD GX210HA SoC with a 1GHz Jaguar DualCore CPU with 1MB of L2 cache capable of 85GFLOPS of computing power. It also integrates a Radeon HD 800 GPU, 300 Mhz and its consumption only reaches 9w TDP (1w less than version 1). It integrates 1GB of DDR3 RAM and can handle Linux operating systems, as well as others such as RTOS, Windows 7 and 8 embedded, etc... Its dimensions do not exceed 10.16×10.16cm. In terms of connectivity, it has a microSD slot, mSATA, miniPCI-Express, 2x SATA III, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, LVDS, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, programmable SPI, JTAG, 5x PCIe (one of them x4 and the rest x1), etc...
This is not a normal Arduino board, but an SBC, so it has to be included in this post as an alternative to Raspberry Pi. The Arduino Project has created this new board for the Internet of Things, combining the properties of an Arduino board with those of an SBC. It can run a GNU/Linux operating system such as LininoOS, contains a WiFi module for connections, a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 processor and a Qualcomm Atheros AR9342, accompanied by 64MB of RAM, 32 KB of SRAM, 4GB of flash memory for storage, GPIO connections like the Raspi, USB output, LEDs, etc...
The motherboard manufacturer has also joined this trend to create its own SBC to directly rival the Raspberry Pi 3. It is a board that has managed to outperform the Pi 3 in the benchmarks it has been subjected to. This is largely thanks to its 1.8Ghz RockChip RK3288 Quac-Core chip, compared to Broadcom's BCM2837. It also doubles the amount of RAM, with 2GB for the ASUS, and of course work has been done on the other features. For example, in terms of the network card, the ASUS uses a Gigabit LAN, instead of the Pi's 100M LAN. On the audio side, it is capable of 192K/24bit audio support as opposed to the Pi's 48K/16. The WiFi has also been tweaked, and Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR has been included, as opposed to the Pi's LE. SDIO is also in its 3.0 version, while the Pi 3 includes it in its 2.0 version. A tough rival for the Pi, which comes in at around €60.
Banana Pi is another of the boards that compete with Raspberry, it is quite popular among the alternatives and the prices are affordable, around 70$. The first version to be released was the Banana Pi, followed by the M2, M3 and finally the Banana Pi Pro version. The Pro is a board capable of running various operating systems, such as Lubuntu, Android, Debian, Bananian (a distro especially for it), OpenSuse, Fedora, Gentoo, OpenWRT, BSDs, etc... It allows us to build low-cost home projects, such as servers of all kinds, emulators, media centres, or simply use it as a miniPC. To make all this possible, it has 1GB of DDR3 RAM, Allwinner A20 SoC (dual-core ARM Cortex A7 and 1.2Ghz), AP6181 WiFi module, microSD slot, USB, HDMI, SATA 2.0, TTL/UART, camera interface, IR receiver, and Ethernet.
It is an open-source board like the Raspi that is produced by Texas Instruments in partnership with Digi-Key. So its brain is an ARM Cortex A8-based OMAP3530 SoC, with a TMS320C64x DSP and a PowerVR SGX530 GPU from Imagination Technologies. It has SD/MMC slot, USB, RS-232, jacks, etc... The board also includes 256MB RAM and 256MB flash. Subsequently, other derivative models with modified features called BeagleBone, BeagleBoard-xM and BeagleBone Black appeared.
Next Thing Co., a Californian company, in collaboration with the Chinese fabless Allwinner (dedicated to create ARM-based SoCs), have created C.H.I.P., a micro-computer of a smaller size than the Raspberry Pi and for a price that breaks records: Only 9 dollars! But despite its price and size, it is capable of running Debian Linux and a multitude of software such as GIMP, LibreOffice, VLC Player, Pidgin, Scratch, etc... This is possible thanks to its small but powerful hardware, with a 1Ghz Allwinner R8 processor (based on a redesigned ARM Cortex A13), 512MB of RAM and an integrated 4GB MMC flash memory. It supports WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, plus the ability to connect VGA and HDMI adapters.
It stands for Computadora Industrial Abierta Argentina (Open Industrial Computer Argentina). It is an interesting Argentinean project to create an SBC for industrial applications such as: agricultural machinery, industrial machines, robots, automatisms, vehicles, as well as other applications such as domotics. It has an ARM Cortex M4F SoC, 8MB of SDRAM, 4MB of Flash memory and an EEPROM memory. It can be programmed in C language, its firmware is based on standards such as OSEK and POSIX, CIAA supports JTAG (for testing PBCs) and contains a battery for backup (RTC + 32B). Its connectivity comes from connections such as RS485, RS232 serial, Ethernet, CAN bus, USB ports (OTG, Aux, Debug), microSD, etc... It also includes SPI, I2C, GPIO and Vaux expansion ports. It integrates a series of outputs and inputs, both digital and analogue to interact with other elements. And as it is specially designed for industry, it also has optocoupled outputs (for dry contact, i.e. without potential), MOSFET outputs (open drain) and relay outputs (for the control of voltages higher than those handled by the electronic board and AC).
Littlebits brings us this interesting and tiny board. It only costs about 60 dollars, but it offers great flexibility for a multitude of robotics projects, etc..., especially for the little ones at home (from 8 years old). Its chip is a Freescale i.MX23 ARM926EJ-S, with 64MB of RAM, WiFi, USB, UART, etc... It is also compatible with a modified version of Arch Linux that is distributed on a 4GB SD card.
Computer of about 65$ that is based on a chip with MIPS architecture and a PowerVR GPU. It can run Linux distros such as Debian, Gentoo and also Android. It has an Ingenic JZ4780 SoC that includes a dualcore MIPS32 at 1.2Ghz and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. It also includes 8GB of flash, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, AC97 audio card with HDMI connection, camera interface with ITU645 controller, Ethernet connectivity, 802.11, Bluetooth 4.0, USB, EJTAG, UART and GPIOs.
An interesting line of alternative boards to the Raspi. Created in Shenzhen, since 2012 when the Cubieboard1 was presented, many changes have been made in the new versions 2, 3 and 4. It is this one, the Cubieboard4, that we will focus on as it is the most current one. It is a development board with an Allwinner A80 SOC, which includes 4 ARM Cortex-A15 and 4 ARM Cortex-A7 cores with a PowerVR G6230 GPU, one of the most powerful SoCs on the market today. It also has 2GB of RAM, 8GB of eMMC memory for storage, WiFI connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0, VGA, microUSB OTG, IR, UART, JTAG, USB 3.0, audio, etc...
It is a compact mini-PC that comes already integrated with a case and everything. It does not look like the ones seen before, i.e. it is not an SBC. It can run Debian Linux-based systems and contains a 1.2Ghz Marvell Kirkwood 88F6281 CPU, 512MB of DDR2, 4GB of flash with the possibility of expansion via microSD or USB via an external hard drive. It also integrates Ethernet, eSATA, JTAG, Bluetooth connectivity and audio jack. This product from Globalscale Technologies is interesting for those who want something more practical and with a case already included. In this case it is a ready-to-plug-and-play miniPC. Something similar to the Gigabyte BRIX or the GameStick, the latter a PlayJam product which, although based on an SBC board, is a finished console.
It is one of the biggest rivals to the Raspberry Pi, along with UDOO. Prices range from $50 to $100, depending on the model, as there are several models available. The HummingBoard-i2eX, one of the latest, has a dual-core i.MX6 SoC, with 1GB DDR3 RAM, GC2000 GPU, HDMI, Ethernet, PCI Express, mSATA 2, USB, audio, GPIO, etc... A good range of boards that in its basic model has similarities in price and hardware with the Raspberry Pi and that if we wish we have more advanced models available.
The board measures 85x54mm, more than enough to integrate a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip with four 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 quad-cores and 1.2Ghz, one of the best GPUs for mobile devices, such as the Adreno, in its 306 model. It also integrates a Hexagon QDSP6 DSP at 700Mhz for audio and vision processing. It also integrates 1GB of LPDDR3, 8GB of eMMC flash, microSD connector, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, USB2.0, microHDMI, and support for two cameras in MIPI-CSI (13MP total).
It is an Arduino-certified board created by Intel and of course based on its x86 microprocessors. It has been designed for educational purposes and thanks to its 400Mhz Intel Quark X1000 chip (based on the Pentium P54C microarchitecture) it can run a Linux-based operating system. Like most SBCs, it includes USB ports, SD card slot, JTAG, RS-232, PCI Express, UART, Ethernet, etc... In addition to these features it is an Arduino IDE compatible board to make our electronic projects. It is interesting in that it moves away from the typical ARM and allows you to develop on an x86 platform.
A high-performance, low-cost series created by Thaoyu Electronics. Undoubtedly one of the most interesting alternatives for its performance and possibilities. It can be obtained for around 80 euros and has unbeatable connectivity (HDMI, USB, IR, Ethernet, microSD, LCD, audio, camera connection, ...), as well as great design flexibility thanks to its CM-RK3066 CPU module or an A20 based on dual-core ARM Cortex A7 at 1Ghz with 1GB DDR3 and 8G flash. Its module contains a Rockchip SoC, based on ARM Cortex A9 dualcore 1.6Ghz and with an ARM Mali 400MP4 GPU, 2GB RAM, 4GB flash and can be swapped for the A20 according to our needs. In addition both modules offer dual boot Android and Linux.
This board outperforms the 100$, but in return it offers pretty decent hardware. It integrates a 64-bit Intel Atom E38xx Series SoC clocked at 1.33Ghz, with an integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU. There are 1GB and 2GB DDR3 RAM versions available which can increase the price to 139$ from the base price of 99$. In terms of connectivity, it supports HDMI, digital and analogue audio, microSD, USB 3.0 and 2.0, Ethernet, GPIOs, I2C and SPI. It supports Debian distributions, Windows 8.1, Yocto Project, Android, etc...
FriendlyARM is in charge of assembling this miniPC or SBC that started with the NanoPC-T1 line and currently we can find the NanoPC-T3 model, which is the most current model at the moment. This model is developed with a Samsung chip and is priced at around 60 dollars. Among its features are an eight-core SoC A53 1.4Ghz, 8GB of eMMC flash memory, 1Gbps Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, connections for audio, MIC, USB, DVP Camera, MIPI-CSI, HDMI, etc... It also has many accessories, such as cases, LCD screens, camera modules, heatsinks, etc..., so it can be a good choice for home automation projects.
There are several versions of the nanoPi. From the earliest designs, they have evolved into the new nanoPi2 and nanoPi 2 Fire. All of them created by FriendlyARM with Samsung chips. For example, the Fire model has a 1.4Ghz S5P4418 CPU, 1GB of DDR3, Ethernet Gpbs, AXP228, USB2.0, serial debugging port and UART, microSD slot, microUSB, HDMI, DVP interface for camera, GPIO, etc... All in just 75x40mm. Compatible with both Android and other Debian type systems. On the other hand, the NEO version presents more important changes, since the Samsung chip has been replaced by an Allwinner H3 SoC with four ARM Cortex-A7 1.2Ghz cores, as well as 512MB of DDR3 RAM, Ethernet 10/100M, USB, microSD, microUSB, pins for debugging, GPIO, and all that in only 40x40mm. It runs u-boot and UbuntuCore, and all in a smaller form factor than its previous siblings.
NVIDIA development boards are a good choice if you want to work with the graphics firm's technology. There are two main models available, the TK1 and TX1, priced at 192 and 600$ respectively. Obviously, the TX1 model is the most powerful of the two, a full NVIDIA development kit, with powerful and complex hardware, which is reflected in the price. It is therefore out of the budget for low-cost SBC boards, like most of the ones reviewed in this article. In return it integrates an NVIDIA Maxwell GPU with 256 CUDA cores, a quad-core ARM Cortex A57 MPCore processor, 4GB of LPDDR4, 16GB of eMMC flash, WiFi, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, 5MP MIPI SCI camera module, power on/off/reset buttons, USB 3.0 and 2.0, HDMI, PCI-e, SD, SATA, GPIOs, I2C, I2S, SPI, TTL UART, headers for display and camera, etc...
These boards developed by Hardkernel are a good alternative to the Pi. The South Korean company launched its first models in 2009, with the ODROID, followed by other models such as the U2, X2, U3, XU, W, and one of the most powerful and current, the ODROID C2. The latter is one of the fastest alternatives to the Raspberry Pi 3. It has a passive air heatsink so that its chips do not reach too high temperatures, keeping the system at a suitable temperature. Its developers have ensured that its price does not soar, hovering around 40 dollars, despite its more than decent hardware. With HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, Amlogic S905 chipset with four 2Ghz cores (ARM Cortex A53 type), high-performance Mali-450 GPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and it is possible to connect an eMMC module (from 8GB to 64GB to choose from) for flash memory, as well as a microSD.
They are low-cost open-source boards, and there are several versions of them. One of the latest is the successor of the first OLinuxXinode, the OLinuxXinode-Micro. This Micro version can be had for about 65$. In exchange for that value, it features hardware driven by an Allwinner A20 dualcore Cortex A7 SoC running at 1Ghz. 1GB DDR3 RAM, 4GB NAND flash with Android. It also has USB connectivity, SATA, USB-OTG, HDMI, VGA output, Ethernet, audio, microSD and SD/MMC, GPIO, 10 buttons with functionalities for Android, Reset button, etc...
Another famous SBC competing with the official ones and capable of running Android as operating system, as well as other distros like Ubuntu, Debian, etc... It has an AllWinner H3 SoC (based on ARM Cortex A7 QuadCore) at 1.6Ghz, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB eMMC flash. For connectivity, connections for audio and video, MIC, HDMI, camera interface, SATA 2.0, USB OTG, USB2.0, WiFi, GPIOs, UART/TTL, IR, TF card slot, etc... have been added.
It is a board with a 1.2Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore SoC and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, sharing a 1GB RAM. It has connectivity for audio, SD/MMC card, HDMI, DVI-D, LCD, DSI, Ethernet, Bluetooth, WiFi, USB, JTAG, UART/RS-232. I2C, GPIO and others. The brain is designed and manufactured by Texas Instruments as the SoC is an OMAP4460 (OMAP4430 for the basic model). Thanks to it you can run systems like Android, Firefox OS, Ubuntu, Linaro, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, RISC OS, QNX, etc... Its price is around 170 dollars, a bit expensive.
For about $100, you can get this board with a Zynq-Z7010 ARM A9, 16-core Epiphany co-processor, 1GB RAM, microSD, USB2.0, GPIO, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and Linux compatibility.
There are different versions of this board brought to us by the American company as an alternative to Raspberry Pi and Arduino, as it mixes the best of both worlds on a single PCB. Its price, depending on the model, is around 50 and on the market you can find pcDuino1, pcDuino2, Lite versions, version 3, Nano, etc. One of the latest versions is the 4, also called pcDuino4 STB, is a high performance board compatible with Android and other systems. Powered by an Allwinner H3 quad-core SoC featuring 1.6Ghz ARM Cortex-A7 processors. With support for 4k video support, Mali 400Mp3 GPU at 600Mhz, 1GB DDR3 copartidos with the GPU, Ethernet, wifi RTL8189ETV, HDMI, USB, AV, etc...
Second generation SBC created by Radxa. It is characterised by its modularity and flexibility combined with its low cost. It has support for Debian and Android. In terms of connectivity, it supports microSD, USB OTG, Ethernet, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, IR, UART, RTC, GPIOs, SPI, I2C, etc... The good thing is that with modules manufactured by the same company you can extend its capabilities, such as the SoM module, with a Rockchip RK3288.
Samsung has launched its ARTIK boards to offer a module for development and connectivity with open source software. It is intended for the IoT or Internet of Things. There are three versions: version 1 has smaller dimensions, version 5 is approx. 25mm square and version 10 is approx. 39mm square. The first one is designed for low power consumption projects and small dimensions, the second one is a bit more powerful with a dualcore ARM and WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth, video encoding capability (720p) by hardware. Finally, the third has an eight-core ARM SoC and extends video capabilities to 1080p. As for operating system support, you can use the Yocto project (Fedora).
It is the new rival to the Raspberry Pi 2 and has support for Snappy Ubuntu Core, combined with ROS and FPGAs it opens up a world of possibilities for robotics. This SBC created by Snickerdoodle and to which they have added WiFi and Bluetooth for a price of 53$. In exchange for that price, a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 w/430k ASIC Gates chip at 667Mhz, 512MB LPDDR2 RAM (1GB optional) and reconfigurable 154 I/O connector are included.
The board can be summed up in a very specific sentence. It is the result of adding 4 Raspberry Pis and an Arduino DUE board. It is therefore one of the most complete and high-performance options we have seen. It contains a Freescale i.MX6 processor based on ARM Cortex-A9 quadcore 1Ghz, PowerVR GPU, 1GB of RAM DDR3, capable of running an Android operating system or Linux distributions without problem. On the other hand, it contains an Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller like the Arduino Due to be programmed and create projects. It has 76 GPIOs, HDMI and LVDS + Touch, Ethernet, integrated WiFi, miniUSB and miniUSB OTG, USB, audio connections, SATA, camera connection, microSD and power. The whole marvel has come out of the American factory SECO USA Inc. and emerged as a crowdfunding project on the famous Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.
VIA, the third in line, has also done the same as its main rivals, AMD and Intel. It has therefore created a PICO-ITX board that is distributed in a box with the accessories and cables necessary for its operation. A complete development kit for less than $100. But in this case it has not used an x86 chip, but ARM. The good thing about SpringBoard is that it not only provides us with the hardware to carry out projects, but also software packages for Android and Linux development, as well as support services during the development stage. In terms of hardware, it provides us with an ARM Cortex A9 at 800Mhz, 1GB RAM, 4GB flash memory and good connectivity (USB, SPI, GPIO, WiFi). The kit includes the Android 4.0.3 development package, Smart ETK with the necessary APIs, as well as the Linux development package with a Debian prebuilt image.
It is a small board created for projects with small dimensions. Its price does not exceed 20$ so you can have a computer with Linux support for very little money. It also runs OpenWrt and has support for WiFi, USB, UART, 20 GPIOs, etc... All powered by a Ralink RT5350F chip.
It comes in several editions, including Solo ($79), Dual ($99) and Quad ($129). Obviously the Quad version is the most powerful and includes a Freescale i.MX6 SoC based on Cortex A9. GPUs include the Vivante GC2000 + Vivante GC355 + Vivante GC320, which share 2GB of DDR3 RAM with the CPU. Connections include audio, S/P DIF, HDMI, microSD, camera, USB, USB OTG, WiFi, Ethernet, SATA and Bluetooth.
Not all of them are here, because it is almost impossible to put them all, as in the case of Arduino and compatible boards. If you want us to add some of them, leave a comment and we will add it as soon as possible. Thanks for reading this far and enjoy the DIY!