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Published by Adnan Elezovic

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Raspberry Pi Alternatives (March 2017)

Maybe it wasn’t what you were looking for? Doesn’t complete the tasks you need it to? It’s just not what you wanted?

Well, you’ve come to the right place, because in this article we go over a few alternatives for the Raspberry Pi that are out there in the world with different features and uses and maybe one of them is just right for you.

One might ask why would you need a Raspberry Pi alternative? There’s actually quite a few good reasons. The main one would be the price range. Yes, I know, $25-$35 is not much, but people who buy these products are usually between ages of 18-22 due to the fact that a person of that age usually goes to a university so they would most likely need one of these for projects and such. However, you don’t have to be a college student to have a reason to buy these. Simply said, if you do not have a stable income, $25-$35 might be a high price for you, so you would be looking into cheaper alternatives for Raspberry Pi.

Another good reason would be the fact that it simply doesn’t do what you need it to do, or it’s too big for a project you need. The original Raspberry Pi is quite big in size if it were to be used in some portable project, however depending on what you are doing and making, it may not be. But, in case it is, there are smaller alternatives which do pretty much the same function at cost of something else, such as processing power, number of ports and so on.

By the end of this article, you will have quite a few Raspberry Pi alternatives presented to you with their specifications and detailed descriptions and at the very end, there will be three category picks for BEST, BESTSELLER & BESTBUY according to the price, usage, portability and similar factors of the product.

Table of contents:

 

Banana Pi M3

  • Octa-core 2GHz CPU
  • LPDDR3 2GB RAM
  • Bluetooth 4.0 support
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • SATA Port

This is one powerful piece of hardware. I mean, it has a physical antenna attached to it, like.. damn. Anyway, this device is slightly bigger than the Orange Pi, but it has it’s reason as it comes with an eight core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU which has PowerVR GPU chip. Alongside the powerful CPU, it comes with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 8GB onboard eMMC (memory) which is amazing, meaning you don’t even need an external storage source to have an OS running on this, as you usually would need with other products. The 4 USB 2.0 ports which enables you to have multiple devices and peripherals attached to it, like a keyboard, a mouse and similar. The 2.0 USB might be a slight drawback as the standard today is 3.0 however it makes it up with other features such as the gigabit ethernet and a SATA port.

Yes, a SATA port. This thing has a SATA port. You can plug in an external hard disk drive into this, or even an SSD, depending on your need, granted you would need to supply additional power for the external drive, but if you can handle that problem, you can easily have a 24/7 HDD or SSD operating on this device, which would extend your possibilities even more. Other than the standard USB ports and an HDMI output, it has an IR receiver which means this device is very suitable for somewhat big projects that reach into software development and electrical engineering and that unleashes even more possibilities.

Alongside those features, it has a really powerful WiFi chip which also brings Bluetooth 4.0 with it. The WiFi chip receiving and transmitting power can be greatly amplified by using an external antenna which comes with the product itself, and it’s really all straight-forward. From the hardware set-up to software side, this miniature and portable PC brings astonishing power in such small form. Whether you would use it for a simple media center in your home, or a cluster network, or pretty much anything else, it will suit your needs as it does pack a punch.

 

 

 

Orange Pi One

  • Quad Core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7
  • ARM Mali GPU
  • 512MB DD3 RAM
  • 40 Pin GPIO
  • Various connectors such as HDMI and Ethernet

Other than the fact that this piece of hardware is noticeably smaller than its counterpart, Orange Pi, it has almost identical specifications.

The CPU itself isn’t much weaker than the one in Orange Pi, so it gets the job done, but due to the fact that this edition of Orange Pi boards is smaller than the other ones, it has a bit less features to it, but it is a fair trade-off because after all, you do get a much smaller board to work with, which is very useful if you’re using it for projects that rely on constant mobility and compact size.

In comparison to the full sized Orange Pi, this one has 2 USB ports less which is the biggest visual change when comparing the two. It still has the crucial 40 GPIO pins, so you won’t be left with little functionality as it still holds almost all the features as the full sized Orange Pi. Sure, it has a bit less RAM and a slower CPU, but you wouldn’t be buying this one if the full sized Orange Pi sufficed. Perhaps you need a much smaller board that’s easier to conceal? Or the original one just doesn’t fit.

Really, there are multiple reasons you could be getting this one, but the price isn’t one of them due to the fact that the price differential is less than $10, so yeah.. there’s that.

Other than the size, a little slower processor and less RAM, Orange Pi and Orange Pi One are almost identical and when you factor in the price difference between the two, the most common reason you would have for buying the Orange Pi One is due to it’s smaller size.

Orange Pi

  • Quad Core 1.6GHz ARM Cortex-A7
  • 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • Ethernet, HDMI, 40pin GPIO ports
  • ARM Mali GPU
  • 3.5mm audio output

The first product we’ve tested is branded as Orange Pi with a price tag of $24.98 on Amazon. This compact and modular ‘nanoPC‘ is truly amazing for its price. It outmatches Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi 2 in multiple factors while it’s in rivaling grounds with Raspberry Pi 3 which is very powerful for its size. In general, it has all the ports you would need, ranging from Ethernet, HDMI, 3 USB 2.0 ports and 40 GPIO pins for use as you require. The ethernet port is 100Mbps so it may not be the most suitable choice for networking projects or similar as you would usually need 1Gbps ethernet ports for networks, but 100Mbps is still not bad if you were to go with this board.

The audio output is your regular 3.5mm port and it will deliver great audio to your speakers or headphones, which makes it suitable for a home cinema center. Alongside the 3.5mm port, there is a camera interface port for which you can buy an additional camera board. Upon connecting it to the board, you can turn this compact and portable PC into basically anything. On the bottom side of the board, you will find a TF card slot in which you can insert a memory card which will additionally expand the space you will have full control of. The most suitable use of this would be booting a different OS if you had to, or if you were for example going to have a media library on this PC for your home, you could store all the media on that card and just have it in the slot all the time which will grant you access to all the files on it over the Orange Pi PC.

Other than those, there is also a small sized microphone on the top side of the board which seems to be of decent quality. It won’t pick up all of the sounds, especially the ones from a far, however it can prove itself useful if working with applications which have voice commands and similar.

Powering this device might seem odd to you as you might expect it would use a micro USB port, however this uses a barrel pin and it’s rated at 5V 2A DC, but you do get an adapter with it so it shouldn’t be a worry, but if you were to power this on a portable battery, you might run into some issues.

The GPU itself is a Mali400MP2 chip clocked at 600MHz and it fully supports OpenGL ES2.0 which means you are able to run games off of it. Simply said, if you wanted to make a portable console of some sort, you are able to do it due to the OpenGL support alongside the HDMI output. However, it is not made for RAM intensive applications, after all, it does have only 1GB of RAM which is shared with the GPU, but it is able to run Google Chrome.

The operating systems you can install on this device are Android Ubuntu, Debian and a Raspberry Pi image. As previously stated, you will need a memory card to install anything on this PC. Overall, this compact and modular ‘nanoPC’ is very versatile as it has many uses and applications, however if you’re going to use it for RAM intensive applications and similar, it may not be the best choice, but other than that, it’s great.

 

 

Intel Edison Kit for Arduino

  • Intel Atom based on 22nm Silver Mont architecture
  • Yocto Linux, Arduino, Python and Node.js support
  • Open source community software tools
  • DDR3 1GB RAM alongside 4GB eMMC flash memory
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • C/C++, Python, Node.hs, HTML5, JavaScript support

Intel Edison is a great piece of hardware as it packs great features for it’s price of $84.99 and as bad as that price may sound, it is actually worth it as this board comes directly from Intel with their CPU, Intel Atom. The possibilities with this device are pretty much infinite as long as you have the idea and knowledge due to the fact that it has quite a powerful hardware and it is well built and optimised and tested over a long period of time by multiple developers coming directly from Intel. The point of this device was to induce creativity among people mostly on Intel forums however the goal went much further away and that’s a good thing as people have shown you can use this portable miniPC for anything, ranging from a simple home media library to a complex robotic system. As long as you have ideas, you will not get bored with this one. Even if you have some big ideas, this device can probably handle it as the parts that it’s made from are quality checked and well-made.

The CPU itself is an Intel Atom CPU clocked at speed of 500MHz, and yes, that may sound low, but don’t let it fool you, it’s actually very powerful. It’s made to handle CPU intensive works and applications so it can be used for parallel processing of data, even big chunks of data aren’t a problem due to the fact how good this CPU has become over the years. I have an Intel Atom Notebook clocked at 1.6GHz and that ‘laptop’ is tiny when compared to others, and you would think to yourself that it’s useless, however it’s not. I’m able to do intricate Java programming on it alongside HTML and Javascript, so, once again, don’t let the low clock fool you, it is actually pretty damn good for its size. Other than the CPU, it packs 1GB of DDR3 RAM which is pretty decent. If you ask me, I would like at least 2GB, however depending on what you do with it, 1GB should be quite sufficient as the CPU makes up for it in most of the areas where it lacks.

The operating system that comes with the board itself is Yocto Linux v1.6 and may require a bit of time to get used to it, but once you do, you will be unstoppable due to the fact that pretty much everything is open sourced. However, the point of this board is to create a bridge between itself and Arduino boards. Once you combine the features of both of those, you have a powerful system that can be used to any extent, depending on what you need.

As I have noticed, a lot of users which own different boards had a problem with temperature and overheating of certain parts on the board, and while there are solutions, Intel Edison board has no such problems. Its operating temperature is between 32 and 104 Fahrenheit and due to amazing cooling optimisation Intel has implemented on this board and similar products, it will basically never go over that 104 mark. HOWEVER, if you ever do experience problems with the temperature with the onboard chips, you can always buy those miniature aluminium heat sinks which work quite well from my experience.

To wrap it up, Intel Edison Kit for Arduino is a very good product I would recommend to any advanced electronics hobbyist as it involves physical circuits due to the fact that it connects to an arduino and it has unmatched features in this field.

 

And now, for the grand finale.. three different categories and only four participants. It looks like an easy win for everyone, but in reality.. it’s not.

As a reminder, we have three categories: BESTBESTSELLERBESTBUY.

Now other than the fact that we have only four candidates this time, it still wasn’t an easy decision on the category of BEST as they all compare almost evenly in various areas. Some have advantages and some don’t, but overall, they’re somewhat even when we take a look at their general score. Anyhow, the winners for three of the categories are as following:

 

 

 

 

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Adnan Elezovic

the ‘everyone thinks i am a madman’ guy.

Part time reviewer for Geektick. Other than writing reviews, I also write random fiction related works, such as short stories and journals.

Aside from writing, I play some video games from time to time, but I tend not to distract myself too much with them, and I enjoy pretty much every music genre out there, so yeah, I got that going for me, which is nice.

If I were to express life in one sentence, it would be: “Imagine.. and you’ll live.”

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