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Six clicks: Single board computers: Banana Pi, Raspberry Pi, and more
ZD Net ^ | 2 May 2014 | Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Posted on 05/02/2014 12:01:56 PM PDT by ShadowAce

In the beginning, the Raspberry Pi

There were many single-board computers (SBC) before the Raspberry Pi showed up, but its combination of price, power, and community made it the poster-child for the do-it-yourself generation of makers who want nothing more than see just how much they could do with a SBC. Popular as the $35 Raspberry Pi is, there are many other worthwhile SBCs out there for the maker who wants to go a little farther out.

Intel MinnowBoard Max

While far from being as cheap as the Raspberry Pi, for $99 Intel's forthcoming MinnorBoard Max looks pretty sweet.

This SBC, which will appear in June 2014, is powered by either an Intel Atom E3815 (single-core, 1.46 GHz) or the $129 E3825 (dual-core, 1.33 GHz)a 64-bit Intel Atom system on a chip (SoC). It also comes with 1GB of RAM; 8MBs of Flash RAM for on-board storage and a Micro SD card for additional storage; and built-in HD graphics.

For ports, it comes with USB 2.0, USB 3.0, SATA and Gigabit Ethernet. At 99 x 74mm (2.9 x 3.9in), it's credit-card sized. And, as usual for SBCs, it supports Linux. In particular, it will come ready to run with Debian Linux, Yocto embedded Linux, and Android 4.4 System.

I can see makers doing a lot with this high-end, as SBCs go x86 compatible card.


UDOO, pronounced You Do, was one of the first Raspberry Pi rivals.

This SBC is built around a Freescale i.MX 6 ARM Cortex-A9 CPU Dual/Quad core running at 1GHz. For an SBC that's a lot of processor and to take care of its resulting heat it includes large heat sinks. That makes it, by SBC standards, much bulker than most such computers.

On the other hand, the $134.99 UDOO also comes with three separate graphics accelerators for 2D, OpenGL ES2.0 3D and OpenVG. To get those graphics to the world the UDOO uses HDMI. For programming room, it has 1 GB of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 ports, and it uses a Micro SD card for booting and storage.

Finally, for operating systems, the UDOO supports Linaro Ubuntu, Android 4.3, Debian, and Yocto.

BeagleBone Black

A more affordable SBC, the $45 BeagleBone Black is powered by a Texas Instruments AM335x 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor. It also comes with a 3D graphics accelerator, and a NEON floating-point accelerator. For memory and storage it has 512MBs of RAM and 2GBs of on-board flash storage. As for secondary storage and booting it uses the usual micro-SD card. For networking it uses 10/100MB Ethernet and graphics output is done by both S-Video and HDMI.

The BeagleBone family runs Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and Android. In addition, the BeagleBone has its own Linux distribution: Angstrom. It also comes with a great deal of support and several books on how to get the most from this SBC. This makes it, to my mind, one of the best SBCs for beginners.

Banana Pi

The Banana Pi, despite the name, is not a next-generation Raspberry Pi. Instead it's more of a Raspberry Pi clone. Like many similar SBCs from Chinese manufacturers, it's essentially a more powerful Raspberry Pi with, of course, a higher price tag.

This sized SBC costs just over $74 after shipping. It comes with a dual-core, Cortex-A7-based Allwinner A20 system-on-chip running at 1GHz. The Banana Pi also has 1GB of RAM and built-in Gigabit Ethernet. It also also includes a SATA port, a micro-USB port, and a Display Serial Interface (DSI) for graphics.

For operating systems, the Banana Pi supports Android 4.4, Ubuntu, Debian, Raspberry Pi Image, and the Cubieboard Image. If you like the Raspberry Pi a lot, but crave more power, then the Banana Pi is worth a look.

PandaBoard ES

The PandaBoard ES is the latest in a series of SBCs. This latest and greatest model powers up with Dual-core ARM Corte-A9 MPCore running at 1.2 GHz For graphics, it uses the Imagination Technologies’ POWERVR SGX540 graphics core. To supply those graphics to monitors the PandaBoard supports both HDMI and DVI-D

As usual with late model SBCs it comes with 1 GB of RAM. For storage, as you would expect it uses a micro-SD card. For network and other connectivity it uses 10/100Mbps Ethernet and 3 USB 2.0 ports.

For operating systems, it supports BeagleBoard's Angstrom, Android, Ubuntu and Linaro.

This board is meant primarily for Open OMAP 4 mobile software developers rather than enthusiasts. It's a very nice board from all reports, but finding one, even at its suggested price of $182, isn't easy.

TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: hitech; hobby; sbc

1 posted on 05/02/2014 12:01:56 PM PDT by ShadowAce
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To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; JosephW; Only1choice____Freedom; amigatec; Still Thinking; ...

2 posted on 05/02/2014 12:02:20 PM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Thanks, interesting.

3 posted on 05/02/2014 12:07:53 PM PDT by Lockbox
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To: ShadowAce

Kind of surprised AMD hasn’t made one.

4 posted on 05/02/2014 12:17:41 PM PDT by raybbr (Obamacare needs a death panel.)
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To: raybbr

That would be an interesting niche to expand into for them.

5 posted on 05/02/2014 12:18:35 PM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Although these boards can do some amazing things, I fail to see how you can actually “learn” anything that anyone will pay you for by playing with one of these. Now, writing the firmware, designing the interfaces, developing the sensors/actuators for them, identifying and solving real-world problems with them...another story. Using one of these is a learning experience as valuable as learning how to use the remote control on a TV set. Maybe you COULD learn not to apply the power backwards or you will let the “magic smoke” out.

If you really want to learn some things that are useful, find a real-world problem, get a Microchip PIC, wire it up yourself, and build out from that, finding the peripheral components to do the job. You will have a hard time spending $100 for a development system that would have cost five figures of 1970’s dollars.

I assure you, that this is truly “the golden age” of electronic components. They have never been more absolutely freaking amazing, available, AND cheap. Literally anything made today is disgustingly cheap and available from China on eBay, it’s only 12-14 shipping days away, and they have NEVER failed to deliver for me. Now, someone is going to say “buy American!”. Sure, I’d just love to. How? What, exactly, do you think that we still make? Nothing, except maybe regulations and laws.

1930’s definition of poverty: taking in each others laundry.

2020’s definition of poverty: writing apps for one other.

We have Java coders at work who think they are hot sh**. I like to point out that there are probably plenty of 12-year old Chinese middle school students who are better.

6 posted on 05/02/2014 12:20:35 PM PDT by The Antiyuppie ("When small men cast long shadows, then it is very late in the day.")
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To: ShadowAce
I wonder if they all have good cross-compiler support.


7 posted on 05/02/2014 12:22:26 PM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: ShadowAce


8 posted on 05/02/2014 12:25:35 PM PDT by Scrambler Bob (You can count my felonies by looking at my FR replies.)
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To: kitchen
9 posted on 05/02/2014 12:50:05 PM PDT by kitchen (Even the walls have ears.)
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To: ShadowAce

Good summary, of course there are dozens more.

Still hard to top the R-Pi, with its impressive GPU and onboard video. Now they’ve introduced the Compute Module version:

10 posted on 05/02/2014 12:58:07 PM PDT by bigbob (The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. Abraham Lincoln)
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To: The Antiyuppie
Although these boards can do some amazing things, I fail to see how you can actually “learn” anything that anyone will pay you for by playing with one of these.

You could use these to prototype a commercial product based on the same CPU, then do an actual board-level design, or just embed one of these as-is in the product (depending on volume).

11 posted on 05/02/2014 1:23:15 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: bigbob

We use Raspberry Pis with XBMC for our home theater, and we love them. I ripped my entire library of DVDs and BRDs to MKV and we can stream anything we want straight to the device with just a few clicks. We also installed the Amazon Prime video on demand and NetFlix apps and I’ve nearly convinced the wife to ditch cable altogether.

These devices are awesome and well worth the money.

12 posted on 05/02/2014 3:27:34 PM PDT by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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