Missed out on Raspberry Pi? Here're five alternatives

Missed out on Raspberry Pi? Here're five alternatives

Summary: If you weren't quick enough to snap up a Raspberry Pi before they sold out then here are five pocket-sized computing devices worth checking out while you wait to get your Pi.

TOPICS: Hardware

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  • The Raspberry Pi $35 Linux computer sold out within hours of going on sale in February - with demand for the device reportedly hitting 700 orders per minute.

    The upshot is a lot of people who wanted the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi have been left empty-handed - with anyone ordering the device today unlike to receive one until about July.

    Fortunately, the Raspbery Pi is not the only pocket-sized device in town. There are a variety of alternatives worth considering if you want to get your geek on with a relatively low-cost, portable computer.

    PandaBoard ES

    Like the Pi but with a bit more grunt under the hood and a higher price tag, the $180 PandaBoard ES is suited to both PC user and developer.

    The diminutive board is based on an open-source hardware design, and can run several flavours of Linux, such as Ubuntu and the Android OS. Support for a range of add-on boards allows the device to drive motors, run sensors and power LEDs, or anything else an electronics or robotics enthusiast might want to do.

    Among other things, PandaBoards have been used as media centres streaming 1080p, as control units for robots, as a wearable computer, to run a gesture-control interface, and as a general-purpose Android dev tool.

    Hobbyists and new users will benefit from the active online community collaborating on PandaBoard projects and sharing tips on its use through wikis, mailings, videos and chat channels.

    Photo: teamstickergiant via Flickr under licence.


    Board: Core Logic OMAP4460 system on a chip.

    Processor: 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

    Graphics: Full HD 1080p multi-standard video encode-decode.Imagination Technologies' POWERVR SGX540 graphics core supporting APIs including OpenGL ES v2.0, OpenGL ES v1.1, OpenVG v1.1 and EGL v1.3.

    Video/Audio: HDMI v1.3, DVI-D Connector, LCD expansion header, DSI support. 3.5mm audio in and out, HDMI audio out, stereo audio input support.

    Memory: 1GB DDR2 RAM.

    Storage: Full-size SD-MMC card cage with support for high-speed and high-capacity SD cards.

    Connectivity: 10/100 Ethernet, wireless connectivity 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR based on WiLink 6.0.Three USB 2.0 ports - one on the go, two host.

    Expansion: General-purpose expansion header - I2C, GPMC, USB, MMC, DSS, ETM - camera expansion header, LCD signal expansion using a single set of resistor banks.

    Debug: JTAG, UART/RS-232.

    Other: Two configurable status LEDs, one GPIO button, sys-boot switch to boot from number of sources.

    Dimensions: 4.5 inches high, four inches wide.

    Weight: 2.88oz.

  • Cotton Candy

    If you thought the Raspberry Pi was tiny, then check out the Cotton Candy, a computer that fits onto a USB stick. Billed as the smallest computer in the world, the Cotton Candy is designed to be a computer you can carry in your pocket.

    The $199 Linux-powered machine is simple and only needs a USB port for power and a HDMI-compatible display to operate.

    It can be plugged into any computer or device with a USB port, hooked to a display and paired with a mouse and keyboard and it's ready to go. Cotton Candy's manufacturers describe it as providing a secure way for people to access cloud services and apps on the move.

    Photo: Cotton Candy


    Processor: Arm Cortex-A9 1.2GHz.

    Graphics: Quad-core ARM Mali 400MP. 480p/720p/1080p decode of MPEG4-SP/H.263/H.264 AVC/MPEG-2/VC1. OpenGL ES v2.0.

    Video/Audio: HDMI 1.3a with audio for connection to devices that do not support USB mass storage.

    Memory: 1GB DRAM.

    Storage: Up to 64GB local microSD storage.

    Connectivity: Wi-fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.USB 2.0 male form factor for power and connection to devices that support USB mass storage.

    Supported OS: Android Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and Ubuntu.

Topic: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • They're not alternatives on price ....

    ... Only alternatives on form-factor/function - granted this may be what some peeople are after, but the BIG selling point of the Pi is the price!
  • Wrong ... the alternative is the idea

    @Mouseboy007 - I think you're close, but the real differentiator is the idea behind RaspberryPi which is to help kids (who can't afford big honking computers) get into computing.

    Think back to when the humble Timex/Sinclair ZX81 was making the rounds. Tons of people got their start programming in that awful Basic and even poking machine code into memory. That's the basic idea behind making the Pi so inexpensive that every kid down the block can boot up a Linux system and learn to use it.

    I bought one, not just because I have a grandson who will benefit from it, but also because I want to support the idea behind it.
    • I learnt programming on an HP programmable calculator

      Control structures and conditional jumps are all that is required to understand programming, the rest is just grammar.
    • There is fantasy land, and there is the real world

      Nonsense, if all you want is kids to get into computing, theres plenty of fully functional desktops that can be gotten for the same price as any of these "alternatives". Take a look at HP or Compaq refurbs for a start. (And hey, just like the RPi, they're made in China!) You don't need a "big honking" computer. You just need one that can run programs.

      I don't know what world hardware developers live in but it's a very different one than the real world. HP already proved this when they fire-sale-priced the HP Touchpad. Suddenly it was the rage. And they don't seem to understand why -- especially since they jacked the price up on the re-release. Do they not undersand simple economics of price? People are low on cash, they want bargains. If you are going to sell something at bargain rates, don't act shocked and surprised when you sell them like hotcakes. But from HP to RPi, they are oblivious to the notion that low price means high demand. Meanwhile, it's a fundamental tenet of classical economics. Where do these guys get their MBAs from exactly?
      beau parisi
  • ?

    Ok bit confused..most of these require a computer to run them yet these are being sold as computers? Isn t that kind of redundent to buy a computer to run a computer and a few are priced at the price of a decent cheap laptop??
    • Confused is right

      Um, WTF are you talking about? None of the devices in the gallery require another computer.
      I would have been surprised at this level of lack of comprehension, but then I saw your username.
      • Think before speaking...

        How does one load any information, be it an OS or simple commands, onto the SD card if one has no other computer?
        • Heres how

          Some come with a mini version or Linux pre-embedded into the on board system ram or are supplied with a SD card with a live Linux install on it (save files being saved to the same disk).

          Hence no PC needed.
          Mi Pen
  • These are not really "alternatives" to Raspberry Pi.

    The least expensive of these devices, the CuBox, sells for 4x the price of the most expensive version of Raspberry Pi.

    That's a little like recommending a Cadillac Escalade to "tide you over" until your Hyundai Accent comes in.
  • Similar Maybe

    Not sure who comes up with these titles at some of the e-zines. Sometimes it is the author, sometimes it might be management. In this case, the title of the article is a bit off the mark as a credible alternative due to price difference. One thing I wouldn't mind seeing is that the Raspberry pi split into 2 price points. 1 for educational purposes at a lower cost and 1 for non-educational at a slightly higer price. Money from the slightly higher price could then be used to help fund the educational use sales.
  • I'd rather buy a used laptop

    Plenty of used but completely functional laptops are available for $50 or less.
    • its running costs not just initial costs

      some people seem to be TOTALLY missing the point here with these devices and why many people like and want them to proliferate, its running costs not just initial costs that matter.

      sure for the price of some petroleum in your car and little of your time you can pop down your local tip and get any number of free pc's and their peripheral's and even the odd PV , but its not economical to run them for the longer term for kids and low income family's, these old bits of kit are also bulky and not "install and forget they exist" devices, whereas any ARM device is and will become exactly that in time.

      put simply initial price is not the overall concern today , long term running costs and the ability to run these ARM devices off 12v DC anyone can make from PV,micro turbines, water fuel cells etc while you use them long term

      and i live in the developed world, i still want to run all that ARM PC (yes it is a personal computer) low power LCD,wireless kit off a generic water fuel cell, if only they produced and actually sold such a capable self contained fuel cell kit at a reasonable price today with generic connectors but they dont and that is a shame, a low power home fuel cell kit to these devices could make some very nice global profits if they did make and sell them today.
    • very unrealistic solution

      while a old desktop or GASP an old laptop may be bought for a very small amount of money, they do not serve the purpose of a device like the Raspberry Pi.
      The Pi is a learning device for hardware and software hacking with most of the "HAIRY" interface issues resolved.
      Let me explain, having done the desktop and laptop hacking years ago and repairs recently as needed.
      The Pi has video interface on board---no building a ISA/PCI/GPBUS/USB/HDMI/VGA/ect.. card and writing drivers to maybe get it to work. Trust me that's easilly a years prroject for someone quite saavy.
      so Pi allows quick hardware connection experimentation, once someone begins to understand this they can add on or move to a more powerful system, although I think networking Pito other Pi may prove better and more enlightening for a mult-Pi distributed processing device creation (robotics comes to mind).
      having created such a beast years ago from multiple old computers and laptops it is great fun....creating the electronic connections that don't destroy themselves takes more time and each pc added and the required support/interconnection hardware gets expensive quick. Having to add GPBUS to each PC instead of built inon a Pi. Adding video, audio, networking ect to each pc expensive and often flaky.
      Pi handles all that, keeps it simple so you can focus on the functionality you desire.
      I am buying a few of them for some project ideas i have and trust me I have a room in the basement filled with oldlaptops/desktops with OSX, LINUX, Windows, BEOS, MSX [yes MSX] all installed in them they eat electricity while pi sips. they take up tons of room while a dozen pi could be installed into a single rack space box and super server is born. drawing 1Amp per pi ===got that a 12 Amp 2 5 volt or 60 Watt 12 core server add a 16 input gigabyte switch another 20 Amps a USB based raid array of hard drives and you have the makings of a nice system with 4 external gigabyte network connections and hdmi out all running at lower power draw than one old laptop {19vdc@4.7Amp=my core i-5 460m samsung===
  • It's more than the price.

    Raspberry Pi is exciting for many reasons. Low cost and Linux is just one. What I love is that we might be able to make it more secure to viruses and malware. We don't need more power for browsing the web, answering email, and even light duty cloud computing.

    While the article shows higher priced alternatives, they all have a common theme. Much less power and a full PC on a small printed circuit board. I think I need one for the family room, then remote into the desktop with more power somewhere else in the house. I don't keep stuff in the cloud as I don't trust it (I'm too old).

    I hadn't considered building an Android device for browsing. I don't think I would do that yet. I have hacked a Nook Color with Cyanogen Mod 7 and I'm not impressed. OEMs must spend a lot of time tweaking Android to get it to run well on their devices (Like Motorola's Droid Razr). I think a 24" touchscreen running Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi might make an interesting terminal if its fast enough to render the 3D interface.

    Which is the real issue going forward. Older Ubuntu versions 11.10 and less, run a 2D Gnome Desktop that is really fast on a 16 bit or 32 bit processor. The newer version with its 3D desktop requires 64 bits and dual processors which Raspberry Pi doesn't have. Its possible to go back to Gnome and maybe this will create more support for the older 2D interface. I was really disappointed when I couldn't get Ubuntu to run on an AMD XP2800 without reverting back to 11.04. Ubuntu had been my backup plan for when MS stopped supporting XP. I wonder how the remote interface works between 3D and 2D devices?
    • Ubuntu doesn't run on Rasperry Pi

      Ubuntu doesn't run at all on Rasperry Pi, because Ubuntu require ARMv7 - Rasperry Pi has an ARMv6.
  • Beaglebone missed ?

  • Gadget Show 2012

    The recent Gadget Show 2012 featured an exhibit from the Raspberry Pi where we were able to get a short interview. http://www.mobilesplease.co.uk/news/gadget-show/raspberry-pi/
  • * Batteries Not Included

    Oh yes, the Pi IS small, isn't it...
    What's that... the power supply? That's extra, try to find a "pretty" small one.

    A display? Use your TV's HDMI port. What, your old 3rd world TV doesn't have HDMI? Quit whining, think of all those who don't even have a TV.

    You want keyboard AND mouse? AND External storage? You'll need a USB port extender. You want to modify your SD boot image? Add a second, external, card reader.

    You wish your monitor, CPU, monitor, USB ports, keyboard, mouse, hard drive, card reader etc. were all in a simple, easy to carry single package? That's called - a Laptop.
    • Research

      Please, a little research and a few ideas. You can use a usb phone charger as a psu, a wireless keyboard and mouse with a tiny usb transceiver, the raspberry pi has an RCA video output to suit older displays and the SD card is obviously removable for contents access in other systems.
      Also, at the end of the day, the raspberry pi is primarily for DEVELOPMENT (student use, etc, hence the low cost), not general consumer use. Raspberry pi $35, laptop $300+.
      Why attack such a fantastic idea.
    • Flagged you for being clueless

      The R Pi is USB powered so no power supply needed

      It has compositive video output for those who do not have HDMI

      A keyboard and mouse are required for any data input on ANY computer, but the Pi does not require them to run headless in a project

      If you need external storage, then you need it - the R Pi is not the limiting factor there since it does have USB ports - ditto for the card reader

      If you wish to build a laptop out of a rasp pi then be my guest, no one is stopping you, but I suppose you are also going to sing about the pointlessness of NAS devices since they suffer from the same drawbacks?

      In short - go away you wally.....