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Six clicks: Single board computers: Banana Pi, Raspberry Pi, and more

We all know about the Raspberry Pi, but it's far from the only single-board computer out there that makers might find both useful and affordable.
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1 of 6 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

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.

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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.

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3 of 6 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

UDOO

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.

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4 of 6 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

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.

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5 of 6 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

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.

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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.

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