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The best Raspberry Pi alternatives (2019 edition)

Let's kick off 2019 by looking at a selection of the very best single board computers for homebrew projects and automation, with prices starting at only $5. However, don't be fooled into thinking that these boards don't offer high performance -- some come with equipped with 7th-gen Intel Core processors and 8GB of RAM. Updated for January 2019

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Topic: Hardware
Libre Computer AML-S905X-CC (Le Potato)
1 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Libre Computer AML-S905X-CC (Le Potato)

This is pretty close to being a full-on Raspberry Pi 3 clone, having a similar form-factor, port layout, and feature set. What is stand-out about the Le Potato is that it features HDMI 2.0 support, allowing it to output 4K.

Le Potato tech specs:

  • 2GHz quad-core A53 S905X
  • Mali-450 MP2 GPU
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 8GB to 64GB eMMC storage

Highlights:

  • 4K HDMI output
  • Source code available for a variety of platforms, including Ubuntu, Linux 4.14 LTS, Buildroot with Linux 4.9, and Android builds up to and including 8.0

More information.

RockPi 4
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RockPi 4

ROCK Pi 4 features a six core ARM processor, 64bit dual channel 3200Mb/s LPDDR4, up to 4K@60 HDMI.

It can run Android and also certain versions of Linux, and comes in two models -- Model A and Model B, each model has 1GB, 2GB or 4GB RAM options.

RockPi 4 tech specs:

  • Rockchip RK3399 SoC featuring a 64-bit hexa core processor with dual 1.8GHz Cortex-72 and quad 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 cores
  • Mali T860MP4 GPU
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB 2.0/3.0
  • Camera interface
  • Model B features Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Highlight:

  • Good documentation
  • Model A and B options allow hardware to be customized for the job at hand

More information.

NanoPi NEO Plus2
3 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

NanoPi NEO Plus2

As the image shows, the NanoPi NEO Plus2 is a tiny board, less than half the size of the Raspberry Pi, but it packs a performance and storage punch and doesn't skimp on the features.

  • H5 quad-core A53 ARM Cortex processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB eMMC storage
  • 2 x USB ports
  • Gigabit ethernet

This board comes in two configurations: 512MB of RAM and 8GB eMMC storage for $32, and 1GB of RAM and 8GB eMMC storage for $44.

More information

2018-09-0614-38-02.jpg
4 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

NanoPi Neo

A cheap, $12 quad-core powered board that's ideally suited for hobbyists.

  • Allwinner H3 quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 up to 1.2GHz
  • 256MB/512MB of RAM
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • USB 2.0

More information

LattePanda Alpha 800
5 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

LattePanda Alpha 864

The LattePanda Alpha 864 is a beast of a board both in terms of price ($358) and performance. This board is powered by 7th-generation Intel Core m3 processor (as found in MacBooks and other laptops), 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, optional 32GB/64GB of EMMC 5.0 storage, and Intel HD 615 graphics.

With all this hardware, it's no surprise that this board can run Windows 10 Pro comfortably.

LattePanda Alpha 864 tech specs:

  • 7th-gen Intel Core m3-7y30 CPU
  • Intel HD Graphics 615
  • 8GB LPDDR3 1866MHz Dual-Channel RAM
  • 64GB eMMC
  • 3x USB 3.0 Type-A
  • 1x USB-C port supporting Power Delivery
  • Dual M.2 ports

Highlights:

  • Powered by a laptop-grade processor
  • Dual M.2 ports
  • USB-C port
  • Ships with Windows 10 Pro

More information.

NanoPi Neo4
6 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

NanoPi Neo4

The Nano Pi Neo4 is the cheapest six-core, single-board computer to be released, ad at $45 the price isn't too bad either. The only downside to this board is that there's only 1GB of RAM, which may introduce a bottleneck for some applications.

NanoPi Neo4 tech specs:

  • RK3399 SoC featuring ARM-based dual-core A72 and quad-core A53 processors
  • Mali T-864 GPU
  • 1GB DDR3-1866 RAM
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet
  • PCIe x2 interface

Highlights:

  • Powerful processor
  • Faster RAM than found in the Raspberry Pi 3 B+
  • 4K output support

More information.

nanopim4.png
7 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

NanoPi M4

Looking for a board with plenty of USB ports? this is the board for you!

In addition to a six-core processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, support for 4K displays and hardware-accelerated 4K video playback, the NanoPi M4 also features four USB 3.0 ports, along with a USB Type-C port. It also includes an interface that supports two 13-megapixel cameras.

  • Six cores, 2GHz 64-bit dual-core Cortex-A72 and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53
  • Mali-T864 GPU
  • 4GB LPDDR3-1866
  • Ethernet
  • 4 x USB 3.0 Type-A ports and 1 x USB Type-C

More information.

UDOO X86 ULTRA
8 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

UDOO X86 ULTRA

The UDOO x86 ULTRA is something special -- it is a powerful x86 maker board and an Arduino 101-compatible platform, combined onto the same board. This combination results in a board that's ten times more powerful than a Raspberry Pi 3.

Intel Quad Core up to 2.00 GHz

  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2 x miniDP++
  • eMMC 8 GB

More information.

t32g05-900x630.jpg
9 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

NanoPC-T3 Plus

The NanoPC-T3 Plus 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
  • 2GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 8/32GB of flash storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Two camera interfaces
  • HDMI
  • USB 2.0

More information

2018-09-0614-30-32.jpg
10 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

HiKey 970

The HiKey 970 is essentially a PC running Android.

Making use of with LPDDR4X 1866MHz memory, and featuring 64GB of UFS 2.1 storage, Bluetooth, WIFI, and GPS , this is a board specifically aimed at developers, especially those looking for maximize accelerated AI capabilities that are not present of most other development platforms.

At a whopping $299 it's not cheap, but it certainly has the horsepower to handle whatever task you want to throw at it.

  • ARM Cortex-A73
  • ARM Mali G72 MP12 GPU
  • 6GB LPDDR4X 1866MHz RAM
  • 64GB UFS 2.1 flash storage, with Micro SD slot
  • Bluetooth/WIFI/GPS

More information

2017-11-3016-01-32.jpg
11 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

MinnowBoard Turbot Dual Ethernet Quad-Core

The MinnowBoard Turbot Dual Ethernet Quad-Core is a powerful quad-core board featuring 2GB of RAM and 8MB of SPI flash storage. It also features twin Ethernet ports for flexible wired connectivity.

Another awesome feature that this board offers is an M.2 B slot for WAN cards, as well as a SIM slot. This gives the board amazing flexibility... but at a cost.

At $199 this is not a cheap board, but it does offer a number of high-end features.

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
  • Open source design files
  • HDMI, USB (optional)
  • 5W energy consumption

More information

BBC micro:bit
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Honorable mention: BBC micro:bit

We move to the other end of the price spectrum to a board that's pretty much disposable.

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. This one is not only great for kids who might be prone to handling things roughly, but it's also great for those jobs where you don't want to have a lot of money tied up in hardware.

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.

More information

ODROID-XU4
14 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Honorable mention: ODROID-XU4

ODROID-XU4 is a new generation of computing device with more powerful, more energy-efficient hardware and a smaller form factor, and costing only $59.

Offering open source support, the board can run various flavors of Linux, including the latest Ubuntu 16.04 and Android 4.4 KitKat, 5.0 Lollipop and 7.1 Nougat.

  • Samsung Exynos 5422 Cortex-A15 2Ghz and Cortex-A7 Octa core CPUs
  • Mali-T628 MP6 (OpenGL ES 3.1/2.0/1.1 and OpenCL 1.2 Full profile)
  • 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP stacked
  • eMMC5.0 HS400 Flash Storage
  • 2 x USB 3.0 Host, 1 x USB 2.0 Host
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • HDMI 1.4a for display
  • Size : 83 x 58 x 20 mm approx. (excluding cooler)
  • Linux Kernel 4.9 LTS

More information

2017-08-0112-40-56.jpg
15 of 16 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Honorable mention: VoCore2

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.

  • MT7628AN, 580 MHz, MIPS 24K
  • 128MB, DDR2, 166MHz
  • 16M NOR on board, support SDXC up to 2TB
  • 802.11n, 2T2R, speed up to 300Mbps
  • 1 port/5 ports, up to 100Mbps
  • Support USB 2.0, up to 480MBit/s

I especially like the VoCore2 Ultimate package, which for $44 represents excellent value.

More information

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

Honorable mention: 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! This has become my go-to board to use for projects. I literally have a handful ready to go at any one time.

Why?

Well, it's not just that it comes in at $10 -- which means I don't have a huge amount of cash tied up in a project -- but also because of the very impressive feature set it offers:

  • 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

More information

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