This blog will show you five alternative boards to Raspberry Pi that are currently on the market and which you might not have considered before, as they aren’t as well known. There are others out there, but these are the ones that I’ve either dabbled in or have researched and am excited for.
Figure 1: Hummingboard
The Hummingboard has been argued to be more powerful than a Raspberry Pi, and certainly the numbers do seem to support this: 1 GHz vs 700 MHz, and more RAM in the available models, varying from 512MB to 1GB. What’s even better with the Hummingboard is the ability to take out the CPU and memory module should you need to upgrade them in the future. It also allows you to run on many open source operating systems such as Debian, XBMC, and Android. However, it is also more costly than a Raspberry Pi, coming in at $55 for the 512MB model and a pricey $100 for the 1GB model. However, I feel that the performance per cost is worth it, and it will be interesting to see what the community does with the Hummingboard.
Figure 2: Banana Pi
Whilst some people can look at the name of the Banana Pi and assume that it is a clone of the famous Raspberry Pi, it’s actually even better. With 1GB of RAM and a dual core processor running at 1 GHz, it’s even more powerful than its namesake (albeit still a fruit). It includes an Ethernet port, micro-USB port, and a DSI for graphics, and can also run Android, Ubuntu, and Debian, as well as Raspberry Pi Image and Cubieboard Image. If you are seeking to upgrade from a Raspberry Pi, this is quite possibly the board to go for. It will set you back around $50, but again, when you think about the performance you get for the price, this is a great deal.
Figure 3: Cubieboard
The Cubieboard has been around for a couple of years now, so can be considered an early-adoption board. Nonetheless, the Cubieboard is very powerful, runs a 1 GHz processer, has an extra infrared sensor, which is good for using as a media center, and also comes with a SATA port. One compelling point that the Cubieboard has, along with its performance, is its cost. It comes in at just $49. Considering the Raspberry Pi sells at $35, this is not that much of a price leap and gives you much more zing for your bucks. Initially, of course, Arduino and Raspberry Pi had huge communities, whereas Cubieboard didn’t. However, this is changing, and hence the Cubieboard deserves a mention.
Figure 4: Intel Galileo
Arduino was one of the first boards to be sold to the mass market. Intel took this and developed their own boards, which led to the birth of the Intel Galileo. Arduino-certified, this board combines Intel technology with their ready-made expansion cards (shields) as well as Arduino libraries. The Galileo can be programmable with OS X, Windows, and Linux. However, a real negative to the Galileo is the performance, coming in at just 400 MHz. This, combined with the cost, $70, means it’s one of the weakest in terms of price-performance on this list. However, if you want to develop on Windows with the relative safety of Arduino libraries, this is probably the board for you.
Raspberry Pi Pad
OK, OK. I know this isn’t strictly a microboard. However, the Raspberry Pi Pad was announced on the 21st October, and it’s a pretty big deal. Essentially, it’s a touchscreen display that will run on Raspberry Pi. So, you can essentially build a Raspberry Pi tablet. That’s pretty impressive, and awesome at the same time. I think this will be the thing to watch out for in 2015, and it will be cool to see what the community makes of it.
This blog covered alternative microboards that you might not have considered before. It’s thrown a curveball at the end and generally tried to provide different boards other than the usual Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone, and Arduino.
About the author
Ed Bowkett is Category Manager of Game Development and Hardware at Packt Publishing. When not imagining what the future of games will be in 5 years’ time, he is usually researching up on how to further automate his home using the latest ARM boards.