Dedicating an entire PC to a project can be overkill. This is where single-board computers come in handy.
The best-known single-board computer (SBC) is, undoubtedly, the Raspberry Pi -- known worldwide for its versatility, low power consumption, reliability, and user-friendliness.
This doesn't mean, however, that you can't explore alternatives to the single-board computer (SBC). Alternatives to the Raspberry Pi can be used to customize unique projects, whether you want more performance, AI, VR support, a board rated for industrial use, or one suitable for programming and educational products -- and, perhaps, even taking advantage of ChatGPT applications.
Also: Finding Raspberry Pi: Where to buy the latest model and its alternatives
Maybe you simply want something smaller or with a different focus to the Raspberry Pi, which has been updated to the Raspberry Pi 5 this year.
ZDNET tested and researched the best Raspberry Pi alternatives available now, based on performance, connectivity and storage, ease of use, and price. Le Potato is ZDNET's top pick for the best Raspberry Pi alternative overall due to its features and price in the single-board computer space, proving itself to be a solid single-board computer suitable for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
Read on to compare the processor type, graphics, RAM, and speed of other great Raspberry Pi alternatives.
The best Raspberry Pi alternatives in 2023
- Great price
- Well-made with great documentation
Libre Computer Board AML-S905X-CC (Le Potato) tech specs: Processor: Amlogic S905X SoC | Graphics: Mali-450 GPU | RAM: Up to 2GB DDR3 SDRAM | Connectivity: 4x USB 2.0 Type A | Ports: HDMI 2.0 | Storage expansion: MicroSD Card Slot | Interface: eMMC Interface | Speed: 100Mb Fast Ethernet
This Libre Computer Board is a solid single-board computer at an extremely affordable price point. If you're interested in trying out an SBC for the first and don't want to invest too heavily, this is a great option for you.
Plus, it offers endless storage expansion via MicroSD cards, which is great if you use it heavily. You're not going to be breaking any speed records and it won't be suitable for heavy-resource projects, but this board offers a great set of features including Linux, open source graphics, video libraries, and UEFI support -- and for only $35.
- Color-coded GPIO for ease of use
- Packed with features
- Great finish
- Pricey at different stockists
Asus Tinker Board S R2.0 tech specs: Processor: Rockchip Quad-Core RK3288 1.8GHz | Graphics: Arm Mali-T764 GPU | RAM: 2GB LPDDR3 dual-channel | Bandwidth: 802.11 b/g/n | Bluetooth: V4.0 + EDR | Speed: 16GB eMMC
This board has a number of nice features that make it ideal for hobbyists. We particularly appreciate the color-coded GPIO header, which makes it easy to recognize respective pin headers. Plus, the detailed silk-screen print on the face of the board makes it clear where everything goes.
The Asus Tinker Board features an excellent processor, and the 16GB eMMC speed offers enough power for most projects. There is also HD & UHD (4K) video support and various ports, including LAN and USB. You'll find it for only $125 at Amazon, but the price tends to jump up at different stockists.
- Various hardware options
- Advanced options such as Petitboot
- Steep learning curve
- More complicated than a regular SBC
Odroid N2+ tech specs: Processor: Amlogic S922X -- 4x Cortex-A73 @ 2.2GHz, 2x Cortex-A53 @ 1.9GHz | Graphics: Mali-G52 GPU | RAM: 2GB or 4GB DDR4 | Interface: eMMC socket with optional 8GB to 128GB | Features: 8MB SPI flash with boot select switch and Petitboot app | Ports: Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 2.1 port for up to 4K@60Hz | Connectivity: 4x USB 3.0 ports | Speed: 2.4Ghz with Gigabit Ethernet Port
Powerful yet energy-efficient, the Odriod N2+ would be ZDNET author Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' first choice if he wanted to replace his desktop computer with a single-board computer.
This SBC is great for advanced users who want more power than a regular SBC. It offers excellent connectivity, and it's capable of running the Petitboot app. Plus, it can run various versions of Linux, including the latest Ubuntu, and it's also compatible with AndroidOS.
A version with 4GB RAM can be found at Amazon for $120, or a 2GB model is available at Hard Kernel for $66.
Also: How to install Linux on your Raspberry Pi
- Excellent performance
- Designed for large workloads
- Rapid speeds
- Overkill for most tasks
Udoo Bolt V3 tech specs: Processor: AMD Ryzen Embedded V1202b dual core/quad thread @ 2.3ghz (3.2ghz Boost) | Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3 | RAM: 2x DDR4 dual-channel 64-bit SO-DIMM Sockets With ECC Support up to 32GB | Speed: 32GB eMMC 5.0 high-speed drive
There's not much that the Udoo Bolt V3 can't handle, despite starting off as a Kickstarter project back in the day (a realm where many projects fail). It's incredibly fast and great for use in VR, AR, and AI projects, sporting a Ryzen processor and Vega graphics. If you need to load massive files quickly and effectively, the Udoo Bolt V3 will not disappoint.
The 32GB eMMC speed is unmatched by any other board we recommend. But at a price point of at least $437, depending on the stockists, it's expensive.
- Upgradable RAM
- 3D/2D image acceleration module
- Supports open source
Orange Pi 5 tech specs: Processor: Rockchip RK3588S 8-Core 64-Bit (4xCortex-A76 and 4xCortex-A55) up to 2.4GHz | Graphics: Arm Mali-G610 MP4 "Odin" | RAM: LPDDR4/4x up to 32GB | AI accelerator NPU | Video: up to 8K @60fps | Speed: 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet
The Orange Pi 5 board is a great Raspberry PI alternative if you're looking for a board suitable for media purposes.
The $100 Orange Pi 5 does pack a punch -- sporting a Rockchip RK3588S 8-core (64-bit) CPU (2.4Ghz), an Arm Odin GPU, 8GB RAM (upgradable to 32GB), DisplayPort compatibility, and a video output HDMI connector at up to 8K.
Le Potato is ZDNET's top pick overall due to its affordability and features in the single-board computer space. We've broken down each Raspberry Pi alternative below based on processor, storage, and speed. If one of these qualities is a priority for you, this analysis may help you choose the best single-board computer for you.
Best Raspberry Pi alternative
Asus Tinker Board S R2.0
Rockchip Quad-Core RK3288 1.8GHz
2GB LPDDR3 dual-channel, 16GB eMMC
16GB eMMC high-speed drives, overclocking speed of up to 3.6 GHz
Libre Computer Board AML-S905X-CC (Le Potato)
Amlogic S905X SoC
Up to 2GB DDR3 SDRAM
100Mb Fast Ethernet
Amlogic S922X -- 4x Cortex-A73 @ 2.2GHz, 2x Cortex-A53 @ 1.9GHz
2GB or 4GB DDR4
2.4Ghz with Gigabit Ethernet Port
Udoo Bolt V3
AMD Ryzen Embedded V1202b dual core/quad thread @ 2.3ghz (3.2ghz Boost)
2x DDR4 dual-channel 64-bit SO-DIMM Sockets With ECC Support up to 32GB
32GB eMMC 5.0 High Speed Drive
Orange Pi 5
Rockchip RK3588S 8-core (4-core A76 and 4-core A55) 64-bit, up to 2.4GHz
Up to 32GB LPDDR4 RAM, QSPI Nor FLASH 16MB / MicroSD (TF)
Sometimes you just need to get on with a project, so you buy a cheap single-board computer -- or, perhaps, you've just begun exploring the field of SBCs. But if you want to invest in better hardware, you want to make sure that you're not throwing money away. To find the best SBC for you, we suggest starting with a clear idea of the projects you'll use it for. This can be the hard part, but it's worth the time. If you confuse your use purpose, you may get derailed partway through the project resulting in a massive setback that costs time and money.
Next, do some research. How much power and performance do you need? What operating system do you need to use? This SBC guide offers the best Raspberry alternatives, so you can find the board that fits your budget and needs.
|Choose this SBC...||If you want...|
|Libre Computer Board AML-2905X-CC (Le Potato)||A budget option for hobbyists and enthusiasts, and the perfect way to explore SBCs. This Libre model is a great Raspberry Pi alternative for those who want to learn about SBCs without spending a fortune.|
|Asus Tinker Board S R2.0||While it has a price point on the higher side, the Asus Tinker Board has everything you need for a variety of projects. |
|Odroid N2+||A range of hardware options. The Odroid N2+ is a top performer that one of our own authors would select as a desktop PC replacement.|
|Udoo Bolt V3||A high-end SBC with the kind of performance you would expect from a desktop computer. It's expensive, but the speed and support for VR, AR, and AI projects may make it worth it.|
|Orange Pi 5||A single board computer set up for video, media, and AI support. The Orange Pi 5 supports up to 8K video processing at 60 fps.|
The Raspberry Pi is a great piece of hardware, but it's been built within specific constraints that enable mass appeal. These SBCs take what the Raspberry Pi brought to the table further with features that allow you to customize your experience.
Our list includes options personally tested by ZDNET authors and highly recommended products based on customer reviews and feedback, with these factors specifically in mind:
- Performance: Performance is key when you consider purchasing a new SBC. We have considered processing power, RAM, and graphics.
- Connectivity & storage: The range of connectivity options in SBCs is varied. Some will provide Bluetooth, for example, whereas others only have HDMI and Ethernet. Furthermore, some SBCs will include storage, and in contrast, others will provide USB ports to connect your own drives.
- Ease of use: SBCs don't have to be complex, and some of our options include useful color coding or other features to make your projects easier to handle.
- Price: Not everyone wants to invest in the most high-spec SBC out there, especially if they are just starting out and exploring their interests. We have considered a range of devices with beginners, hobbyists, and tech enthusiasts in mind.
The Raspberry Pi is still the best place to start if you want to get experience with a single-board computer.
Also: Struggling to buy a Raspberry Pi? It could become a lot easier
These alternatives are a great next step if you want to expand your SBC knowledge. The Raspberry Pi is a great tool for familiarizing yourself with the setup and GPIO pins. And, it's a useful tool if one of your kids has an interest in programming that you want to encourage.
There are various options. You can find a lot of generic cases out there to protect your Raspberry Pi or alternative SBC, and I recommend getting one. After all, if you're investing in an SBC, you should protect it.
Also, if you are lucky enough to own a 3D printer, then you'll have an endless supply of them! Alternatively, you can visit the 3D printing marketplace Shapeways to find your perfect case.
You can try to waterproof the case by using seals or silicone grease. You could also spray the board with a conformal coating to resist moisture.
But beyond these steps, there's no way to make them completely waterproof, and you risk damage if you don't keep your electronics away from adverse weather conditions and environments.
We chose a variety of Raspberry Pi alternatives based on performance, hardware options, and pricing. If these don't work for you, here are some suitable alternatives:
Best alternative for budget
Arduino UNO REV3 - Save 14%
The Arduino UNO REV3 is a fantastic entry-level option and is currently on sale at Amazon for $25 -- making it a great option as a Christmas present or stocking filler.
Best alternative for speed
Orange Pi 5, 16GB - A sophisticated, speedy alternative
The Orange Pi 5 is a 16GB, 8-core option for developers, capable of handling AI, VR, AR, and more. You can pick one up for $126 at Amazon.
Best alternative for connectivity
Banana Pi M2 - Connectivity options
The Banana Pi M2 is a supremely affordable alternative with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support at only $40.
Best alternative for versatility
Odroid-XU4 - Stocks move quickly
The Odroid-XU4 single-board computer is a great board for a variety of projects. Given it's popularity, this $83 SBC does tend to sell out frequently.
Best alternative for size
Beagleboard PocketBeagle BeagleBone - Based on Octavo systems
PocketBeagle is a $60 compact, yet powerful, USB key-fob computer.
Best alternative for AI
NVIDIA Jetson Nano - A great alternative for AI
The $149 NVIDIA Jetson Nano developer kit is a great option for developing modern AI applications with excellent user reviews.