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Best Raspberry Pi alternatives

Here is a selection of single board computers for homebrew projects and automation, with prices starting at only $5. (Updated April 4, 2017)

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Topic: Hardware
BBC micro:bit
1 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

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.

C.H.I.P.
2 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

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

Raspberry Pi Zero W
3 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

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
Omega 2
4 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.

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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
6 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

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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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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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

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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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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