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Top Raspberry Pi alternatives, with prices starting at only $5

The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering, with prices starting at only $5. (Updated March 1, 2017)
Omega 2
1 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Omega 2

The Omega 2 from Onion Corporation comes with built-in Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and on-board flash storage - all for $5!

The board runs a custom Linux distro that's based on OpenWrt but you can also choose to run FreeBSD.

The modular nature of the Omega 2 means that you can easily add features such as Bluetooth or GPS to suit your needs.

BBC micro:bit
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BBC micro:bit

While the BBC micro:bit is primarily aimed at schools, its low price (about $16) and ease of use makes it a great tool for learning and prototyping on.

The micro:bit is powered by a 32-bit ARM Cortex processor and comes with a built-in accelerometer, magnetometer and Bluetooth.

A unique feature of the micro:bit is the integrated 5x5 LED matrix that offers 25 individually programmable red LEDs to use as a basic display or output.

Raspberry Pi Zero W
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Raspberry Pi Zero W

OK, OK, I know that technically the Zero W is a member of the Raspberry Pi family, but this one is too awesome to not list!

Why?

Because for only $10 it offers a very impressive feature set:

  • 1GHz, single-core CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Mini-HDMI port
  • Micro-USB On-The-Go port
  • Micro-USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • CSI camera connector
  • 802.11n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4
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MinnowBoard MAX

The MinnowBoard MAX is an update of the popular MinnowBoard, and features a 64-bit Intel Atom E3800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and Intel HD Graphics.

There's also a SATA port allowing the MinnowBoard MAX to be hooked up to a hard drive.

At $139 it's not a cheap board, but it does offer a number of high-end features.

BeagleBone Black
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BeagleBone Black

BeagleBone Black is a low-cost, community-supported development platform for developers and hobbyists. This $55 board allows you to boot Linux in under 10 seconds and get started on development in less than 5 minutes.

  • AM335x 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8512MB DDR3 RAM
  • 4GB 8-bit eMMC on-board flash storage
  • 3D graphics accelerator
  • NEON floating-point accelerator
  • 2x PRU 32-bit microcontrollers

More information

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Udoo Quad

A $135 quad-core board that's just as at home running Android as it is Linux.

  • Freescale i.MX 6 ARM Cortex-A9 quad core 1GHz CPU
  • Vivante GC 2000 + Vivante GC 355 + Vivante GC 320 GPU
  • Integrated accelerators for 2D, OpenGL ES2.0 3D and OpenVG
  • Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU (same as Arduino Due)
  • RAM DDR3 1GB
  • 76 fully available GPIO: 62 digital + 14 digital/analog
  • Arduino-compatible R3 1.0 pinout
  • HDMI and LVDS + Touch2 Micro USB (1 OTG type a+b)

More information

C.H.I.P.
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C.H.I.P.

At $9, C.H.I.P. is a perfect demonstration of how cheap computing has become. You get what would only a few years ago have been desktop power on a tiny board.

  • 1.0GHz CPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of storage
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

More information

Arduino INDUSTRIAL 101
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Arduino INDUSTRIAL 101

A $40 Arduino that's idea for integration into a commercial or industrial product.

  • Atheros AR9331 processor
  • 64MB of RAM
  • 16MB of flash storage
  • USB 2.0

More information

VoCore
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VoCore

A coin-sized Linux computer that is totally open-source, and costs $20. This is a small, low-cost, totally open-source (both the hardware and software) computer that's ideal for projects such as IoT or building your own custom router.

  • 360MHz MIPS CPU
  • 32MB of RAM
  • 8MB of flash memory
  • Ready equipped with header pins for sound, USB 2.0, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi

More information

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Banana Pi M3

Banana Pi M3 is a super charged single board computer with an Octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM. It also features Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB, SATA, WiFi, Bluetooth, and HDMI connection. It can run on a variety of operating systems including Android, Lubuntu, Ubuntu, Debian, and Raspbian.

  • Octa-core 1.8GHz CPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 8 GB eMMC flash storage
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard

More information

cloudBit
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cloudBit

The easiest way to create internet­-connected devices - no programming, soldering or wiring required. IFTTT support allows it to connect with any web service, like Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, or hardware like NEST and Philips HUE.

All for just $59.95.

  • Freescale i.MX23 ARM926EJ-S processor
  • 64MB of RAM
  • 802.11b/g/n

More information

Parallella
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Parallella

The Parallella computer is a high performance, credit card sized computer based on the Epiphany multi-core chips from Adapteva. Starting at $99, the Parallella can be used as a standalone computer, an embedded device or as a component in a scaled out parallel server cluster.

  • 16-core Epiphany RISC SOC
  • Zynq SOC (FPGA + ARM A9)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1GB SDRAM
  • Micro-SD storage
  • Up to 48 GPIO pins
  • HDMI, USB (optional)

More information

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NanoPC-T3

The NanoPC-T3 is the bigger brother of the NanoPi 2 Fire, and features an octa-core processor which has enough power for commercial and industrial applications.

  • Samsung S5P6818 octa-core ARM Cortex-A53 up to 1.4GHz
  • 1-2GB of RAM
  • 8GB of flash storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB 2.0

More information

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NanoPi 2 Fire

A cheap, $23 quad-core powered board that's ideally suited for hobbyists.

  • Samsung S5P4418 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 up to 1.4GHz
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB 2.0

More information

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Intel Edison with Kit for Arduino

At around $92, the Intel name doesn't come cheap, but this Arduino-compatible board is turning out to be a popular choice.

  • Dual-core, dual-threaded Intel Atom CPU with a 32-bit Intel Quark microcontroller
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4GB of flash storage
  • Integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Support for Yocto Linux, Python, Node.js and Wolfram

    More information

    PixiePro
    16 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

    PixelPro

    The PixelPro features a i.MX6Q Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 running at 1.0 GHz, with 2D and 3D GPUs and an embedded 2GB 64-bit DDR3 RAM, which means that it is capable of running rich multimedia applications, embedded web servers, digital entertainment systems, industrial control systems, and high definition video.

    At $129.95, the PixelPro is not cheap, but you get a lt of power for the cash.

    • Freescale i.MX6Q Soc Quad Core ARM Cortex-A9 up to 1GHz
    • 2GB of RAM
    • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • PCIe x1
    • USB 2.0

      More information

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