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10 Single Board Computers Worth Hitting Projects Big and Small «Null Byte :: WonderHowTo

The $ 35 Raspberry Pi is a remarkably useful single-board computer (SBC) with a balance of price, performance, and connectivity options. But for some projects, it just is not enough. Whether you need more processing power, smaller size or better machine learning capabilities, other options are available.

For unknowns, an SBC means that all components of the computer are on a single circuit board (PCB), including the CPU, GPU, and memory. As you know, these parts are generally interchangeable and partially interchangeable in a typical computer. However, the benefit of integrating all components on a single board is that you get a much smaller form factor.

Standard Raspberry Pi Models Computers are computers that are scaled down to the height and width of a credit card. Adding the depth is about the size of an external all-in-one card reader. The Pi Zero models are even smaller.

While there have been SBCs since the 1

970's, they only became so popular with the introduction of the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B in 2012. With this popularity came a shipload of imitators. Some are almost imitators, but they are trying to add value in different ways, such as: B. with a more powerful processor, more memory or cheaper than the already cheap Pis. Depending on the type of project you want to run, a non-Pi board can be more beneficial to you.

Raspberry Pi Competitors: Considerations

When choosing a Raspberry Pi alternative, you should carefully consider what your needs are. For example, are you looking for a generic SBC that can be used for a variety of projects, or do you want something for a particular project that will take a long time to complete? You should also consider your budget. Can you afford to solve the problem, or is it better to have two or three cheaper alternatives than a very powerful one?

Even the size can play a crucial role in projects with limited space or hides from notice. In our spy camera project for example, you want the smallest SBC you can get away with. Connectivity is also often forgotten until you start working on your project and find that the Ethernet is very slow or no Wi-Fi is available.

Finally, ask yourself how much manual work you need for your projects. Follow leaders or go your own way, because some Pi alternatives do not have community support or documentation that is considered noob-friendly.

We'll go over some alternative SBCs that work in all the above cases, but before we do that, we update our memory on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +, the most popular Raspberry Pi model. There's a new Raspberry Pi 4 Model B that we've listed below as a newer alternative to 3 B +, but there were some problems with the USB C power supply, so it's not yet a must with any other boards

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +

While the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + is not the full size version of the latest version of the Raspberry Pi, it is more reliable until the Raspberry Pi 4 fixes its problems.

The 3 B + uses a classic Pi and offers some long-needed upgrades such as 5 GHz Wi-Fi and an Ethernet chip that enables speeds of over 100 megabits per second with PoE (Power over Ethernet) functions. It has the same CPU as its predecessor, but adds a heat spreader to the CPU for better thermal management, overclocking the processor to 1.4GHz. All while maintaining the power factor gold standard price tag worth $ 35.

Picture about Raspberry Pi

For technical data and more detailed information on Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +, as information on To create a hacking kit, see our article and video on the topic.

Offered at Amazon: CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B + (B Plus) with 2.5 A Power Supply (UL Listed)

Option 1: ASUS Tinker Board S

The Tinker Board S comes from a well known brand that many computer enthusiasts will recognize, Asus. And as you would expect from this well known brand, its features are first rate.

The easiest way to imagine the Tinker Board S is an expensive Pi on steroids. The form factor of the Tinker Board S is a pure clone of the standard Pi up to the port layout and the 40-pin connection. Asus has even been able to improve the color coded and labeled port, which is very useful if you frequently use GPIO pins.

It also has a much more powerful processor and GPU, which should be helpful in compute-intensive applications, tasks or anything that requires the rendering of complex scenes. If your project is to be networked, the Tinker Board S also offers full Gigabit Ethernet, making it ideal for access point projects such as the Pumpkin Pi.

Photo about Asus

The real highlight, however, is the 16GB eMMC memory, which is faster compared to the Pi typical microSD card Processing should equal.

Features comes with a hefty price tag of about $ 92. If you do not care about the price or if you need extra computing power, the Tinker Board S is the first choice. However, if you have a limited budget, you can buy two Raspberry Pi 3 B + boards for the same price.

Image about Asus
  • ] Processor : Rockchip quad-core RK3288
  • GPU : ARM Mali-T764
  • Memory : 2 GB Dual Channel DDR3
  • Memory : microSD card; Built-in 16 GB eMMC
  • Wi-Fi : 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.11 b / g / n
  • Ethernet : Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth : 4.0 EDR
  • Connections : Full size HDMI; four USB 2.0; Stereo jack; Microphone input
  • GPIO : 40-pin header
  • Connectors: CSI Camera; DSI Display
  • Power : 5 V / 2-3 A DC power supply via micro USB port
  • Dimensions : 3.37 in (H) x 2.125 in (B)
  • Price : $ 91.99 (Amazon | B & H)

Recommended on Amazon: Zebra Black Ice Case for Asus Tinker Board S by C4Labs

Option 2: Banana Pi M64

The Banana Pi M64 is an improved 64-bit version of the Banana Pi that supports Android, Ubuntu, Debian, OpenBSD and Windows 10 IoT Core. It has twice as much RAM as the Pi 3 B +, a built-in eMMC memory for faster processing and full Gigabit Ethernet. Do you already see a pattern The Raspberry Pi Foundation lag behind their Ethernet game!

However, the Banana Pi M64 only has two USB ports, which are four in a standard Pi. And it's not quite the standard Pi form factor, but it manages to maintain the familiar 40-pin GPIO connector.

Picture about Banana Pi

An interesting feature of the Banana Pi M64 is that it has an infrared receiver means that it can be beneficial for certain IR-driven IoT projects. All in all, the M64 is a good deal if you do not need full documentation and community support. If you're ready to do everything that comes with buying AliExpress Chinese products, then this is a bargain Pi

  • processor : Allwinner A64 (4x Cortex-A53 at 1.2GHz)
  • GPU : Mali-400 MP2
  • Memory : 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Memory : 8 GB to 64 GB eMMC; microSD card (up to 64GB)
  • Wi-Fi : 2.4GHz IEEE 802.11 b / g / n
  • Ethernet : Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth : 4 , 0
  • Ports : Full size HDMI; two USB 2.0; Micro-USB OTG; Stereo jack
  • GPIO : 40-pin header
  • Connectors: CSI camera; DSI Display
  • Power : 5 V / 2 A DC power supply via 4.0 mm jack
  • Dimensions : 3.62 in (H) x 2.36 in (B) [19659017] Price : $ 52- $ 80 (Ali Express | Amazon)

Option 3: Atomic Pi

The Atomic Pi is a brand new player in the scene. It's an x86-based SBC, which costs only $ 35. With its technical data, it would have been a great tablet four years ago, and it's more like a low-end NUC-style computer.

However, to take full advantage of the Atomic Pi's full capabilities, $ 15 is required for a power supply breakout board, so this should definitely not be a top choice if your project requires a small size. That means it has the computer power. So, if you are planning a project to be installed on the desk or in a network cabinet and feel comfortable booting a bare Linux system, you should think about it.

Digital Loggers Direct
  • Processor : Intel Atom x5-Z8350 (up to 1.92 GHz)
  • GPU : Intel HD Graphics
  • Memory : 2 GB DDR3L-16000
  • Memory : 16 GB eMMC; microSD card (up to 256 GB)
  • Wi-Fi : 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz IEEE b / g / n / ac
  • Ethernet : hardwired Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet RTL8111G
  • Bluetooth : 4.0
  • Ports : Full-size HDMI; USB 3.0; four USB 2.0
  • GPIO : 26-pin header
  • Connectors: Not specified
  • Power supply : 5 V / 2.5-4 A DC input
  • Dimensions : 5.12 in (H) x 3.94 in (B) x 1.97 in (T)
  • Price : 44 USD – 49 USD (Amazon Digital Loggers Direct)

Recommended on Amazon: DLI Atomic Pi Full Developer Kit

Option 4: Rock64

The Rock 64 is a reliable Pi alternative. The Rockchip CPU is slightly better than the Broadcom processor of the Pi 3 B + and offers another gigabyte of RAM for the same price. Other versions can increase that to 4GB of RAM for about $ 45. In addition, it offers an eMMC socket if you want to use it via a microSD card. They are usually more expensive than a microSD card with the same capacity.

Image via Pine64

One of the main differences between the Rock64 and Pi 3 B + is that the Rock64 only has three USB ports, but the third port is USB 3.0, which offers faster speeds and can be easily expanded with a USB hub. The Rock64 is also capable of processing 4K videos at 60 fps, making it ideal for retro Pi projects or anything else with high-definition video.

Option 5: NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit

Machine Learning? Computer vision? Deep learning? AI? If any of those are involved in your project, you need the Nvidia Jetson Nano, end of story.

Image via NVIDIA

The Jetson Nano was specifically designed to allow artificial intelligence on the sidelines. The module itself is the size of a standard laptop RAM card (SODIMM), which can be easily implemented in mass production. The developer kit contains the SODIMM module so we can tinker with it.

It has more than enough power to handle all of the AI ​​issues you might be thinking about, such as: B. self-navigating robots and intelligent speakers. Note, however, that if you want a wireless connection, you must use an M.2 key cellular or Wi-Fi card that is commonly available and used in laptops.

Recommended on Amazon: NVIDIA Jetson Nano Starter Kit with 16GB MicroSD Card, 5V 4A DC Power Supply, Edimax USB Wireless LAN for DeepLearning AI Development

Option 6: Onion Omega2 +

If you're looking For an alternative to something like the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the Omega2 + is undoubtedly an option. It's positively microscopic, not much larger than a quarter, making it ideal for embedded applications and IOT projects in general. It is run under Linux Embedded Development Environment, which is based on OpenWRT and is intended only for such IOT projects.

In addition, the Omega2 + has a U.FL connector, which can be used via external Wi-Fi antennas, which offer a significant improvement in the connection. This alone makes it better than the Zero W, which may suffer from low signal strength in some applications.

Image via Onion Corporation
  • Processor : 580 MHz MIPS CPU
  • GPU : Not specified
  • Memory : 128 MB DDR2 RAM
  • Memory : microSD card; 32 MB flash memory
  • WLAN : 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.11 b / g / n
  • Ethernet : with module
  • Bluetooth : with module
  • connections : supports USB 2.0
  • GPIO : 18-pin header
  • Connectors: Not specified
  • Power : 3.3 V DC Operating Voltage
  • Dimensions : 1, 69 in (H) x 1.04 in (B)
  • Price : $ 13- $ 15 (Amazon | Onion)

Option 7: NodeMCU

The Raspberry Pi can be used for many simple projects too be a lot of good There is not much computing power required, eg. For example, operating a sensor and returning data to a hub. Microcontrollers like the NodeMCU are ideal for a WLAN deactivation alarm, a beacon spammer, and a device detector.

Image via NodeMCU

The NodeMCU is based on the famous Wi-Fi microchip ESP8266, exclusively as a Wi-Fi module should be used. But people started to realize that you could use the downtime between Wi-Fi transmissions to do useful things – and the NodeMCU was born.

If you do not mind measuring RAM and memory best in kilobytes, the NodeMCU is excellent and, above all, dirt cheap. Compared to more expensive alternatives like the Asus Tinker Board S, it's practically disposable. And there are many different manufacturers of the NodeMCU, so the quality can vary from board to board. We recommend using the CP2102 instead of the CH340.

Unfortunately, one limitation of working with a NodeMCU is that you need to program or find programs in C ++ / Arduino because you do not run a complete or even reduced program. Linux version like the rest of the Pi alternatives in our list. For more information about programming microcontrollers, see our Microcontroller Programming Guide.

Suggested at Amazon: Set of 4 NodeMCU ESP8266 CP2102 Development Boards

Option 8: ODroid XU4

The ODroid XU4 is a very powerful SBC that outperforms the Pi 3 B + and even the Asus Tinker Board S. However, what it gains in computing power is e s in accordance with standards. It does not use the 40-pin header that is ubiquitous with the Pi, the standard form factor, or the default port layout. A nice feature that is not common is the real-time clock (RTC), which allows time to be kept away from resets.

Image via ODroid

All this together makes it an excellent board for computer based projects, but me would not recommend it so much for projects where you fool around with accessories and booster boards, unless you really know what you are going for. Also, remember that you can buy two Pi 3 B + and two Pi Zero W boards for the price of one XU4.

Image via ODroid
  • Processor : Samsung Exynos5422 Cortex-A15 2GHz and Cortex A7 Octa Core CPUs
  • GPU : Mali-T628 MP6
  • Memory : 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP Stacked [19659017] Storage : eMMC; microSD card
  • WLAN : with USB adapter
  • Ethernet : Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth : with USB adapter
  • Connections : Full size HDMI ; two USB 3.0; USB 2.0
  • GPIO : 30-pin header
  • connectors: serial
  • power supply : 5 V / 4 A DC input
  • dimensions : 3.27 in ( H) x 2.28 inches (W) x 0.87 inches (T)
  • Price : $ 50- $ 80 (Amazon | ameriDroid | Hardkernel)

Option 9: NanoPi NEO4

The NanoPi NEO4 is essentially a shrunken Pi 3 B + at about half the size. The processing functions are similar to those of the Pi 3 B +, but are slightly better with its six-core processor.

Image via Friendlyarm [19659015] The real selling point here is the smaller form factor, if you still have the computing power of a standard sized pi need something smaller. It also offers excellent connectivity with a USB 3.0 port and a USB-C port.

Picture of NanoPi / Antratek
  • Processor : Dual-core Cortex-A72 (up to 2 , 0 GHz) + quad-core Cortex-A53 (up to 1.5 GHz)
  • GPU : Mali-T864-GPU
  • Memory : 1 GB DDR3- 1866
  • Memory : eMMC socket; microSD card up to 128GB
  • Wi-Fi : 2.4GHz IEEE 802.11 b / g / n
  • Ethernet : Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth : 4.0 [19659017] Ports ]: Full-size HDMI; USB 3.0; USB 2.0; USB Type C
  • GPIO : 40-pin Header
  • Connectors: CSI Camera
  • Power Supply : 5 V / 3 A DC input via USB Type C connector [19659017] Dimensions : 2.36 in (H) x 1.77 in (B)
  • Price : $ 50 (Amazon | Friendlyarm)

Option 10: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Last but not least, we have a new member of the Raspberry Pi family, the Pi 4 Model B. The Pi 4 is an upgrade from the 3 B + in every way. It has Gigabit Internet with PoE capability, dual band WiFi, USB 3.0 ports and a flexible amount of RAM. In addition, it retains the same form factor as the 3 B +, which means all of your Pi hats will work on the new Model 4.


There are many options for Pi alternatives, depending on In which niche your project fits in. If you are still relatively new to SBCs and want to limit themselves to worn paths but want something with a bit more momentum than the standard Pi 3 B +, you should try the newer Raspberry Pi 4 in to get one's hands. But if it's sold out and you need a lot of it, then I would look into the Asus Tinker Board S.

If you fly drones, build robots, or anything that involves computer vision or speech recognition, then the Nvidia Jetson Nano is going far. If you want something tiny that is easy to hide, look at the Onion Omega2 +. Give the NodeMCU a chance to do something simple like reading a sensor or triggering a relay. If you have the money and like single-board computers, all of the above are worth buying to find out which one is most useful to you.

Thank you for reading! If you have questions, you can post them below or on Twitter @The_Hoid .

Do not Miss: Buy the Best Wireless Adapter for Wi-Fi Hacking in 2019

Picture of Gareth Halfacree / Flickr

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