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Five alternatives to Raspberry Pi

by Rob Zwetsloot

Tired of waiting for Raspberry Pi? With delay after delay, and no fixed release date in sight, maybe it’s time to look for an alternative

The Raspberry Pi is no doubt a very exciting device, with an unmatched ratio of size, power, and value. However, after months of delays and false starts ranging from manufacturing problems to certification issues, the open source wonder board hasn’t actually been delivered to those who have bought it, or would love to buy it.

All is not lost though, as there are several alternatives available that might just pique your interest.

BeagleBoard

The BeagleBoard-xM and the BeagleBone are two very small single-board computers with two very different specs. The BeagleBoard-xM is a bit more powerful than the Pi, with a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and more input and output ports than you have fingers. It’s still low power, and has support for more modern operating systems than the Raspberry Pi due to the newer ARM chipset.

Five alternatives to Raspberry Pi
A BeagleBoard-xM (right) attached to the Flyswatter open source hardware debugger (left)

The BeagleBone is a much more reserved build, comparable to the Raspberry Pi, but still running on a 720 MHz Cortex A8. It also has a couple of 46-pin expansion connectors.

Prices are of course a little steeper than the Raspberry Pi, with the BeagleBone coming in at $89 and the BeagleBoard-xM at $149

PandaBoard

The PandaBoard ES is a miniature powerhouse. A dual-core Cortex A9 CPU is flanked by 1GB of RAM, and can output 1080p from either its HDMI or DVI Out ports. It comes with a LAN port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a ton of expansion connectors.

PandaBoard Raspberry Pi Alternative
The PandaBoard is an awesome piece of kit

For this amount of power you’ll be paying a more premium price though – A PandaBoard ES will set you back $182.

Cotton Candy

If you’re interested in the media capabilities of the Raspberry Pi, then the cstick Cotton Candy from FXI may just be the device you’re looking for. The USB stick sized system is an absolute beast, with a dual core 1.2 GHz Cortex A9 CPU, and a Quad Core Mali-400MP GPU. The stick has two main connectors – a HDMI male port so you can stick it directly into a TV, and a USB 2.0 A port to connect mass storage devices and provide power.

Cotton Candy Raspberry Pi Alternative
The Cotton Candy packs a lot of power into a small area

The Cotton Candy comes with stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as Ubuntu for ARM. It comes with built in support for all major media codecs so you can start watching media straight away, even over the network with its 802.11n wireless support.

The Cotton Candy is beginning to roll out for $199.

Ninja Blocks

We recently reported on the ability to place your pre-order for the Ninja Blocks now, the Kickstarter backed “Internet of Things”. Unlike Raspberry Pi, the device is actually already making its way to the projects backers.

Ninja Block Raspberry Pi Alternative
Ninja Block is an Internet of Things

The Ninja Block is a simple to use, open-hardware block that can use internet based inputs and a series of external sensors that measure temperature, light, and sound to activate lights, relays, and other actuators. Using a cloud based coding service, users can create simple code to accomplish these tasks.

Ninja Blocks start from $155 AUD

Android Phone

With a large range of devices with varying degrees of power, size, inputs, and outputs, the more dedicated hacker can use these self-powered mobile devices to drive almost anything. Stock Android even has some degree of Arduino compatibility, and a custom ROM will open up the OS even further.

Android Phone Tablet
Android devices can be used as portable, small, computers

Prices for Android phones and tablets vary, wildly

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    • dave

      What I would like to find is a small card for process control (ADC, DAC, DIO, RS-232, USB, and Ethernet). OS’s should be open source RTOS or Linux.

      Dave,

    • Devian

      Nice article, however since you’re mentioned Android devices then don’t forget about Nokia’s N900 running Maemo

    • PhE

      Cubox is also a nice alternative : http://www.solid-run.com/products/cubox)

    • Alexandru Stoian

      You can’t really call something an alternative when it’s cheapest version is 3 times the price.

    • Andy

      At those prices you might as well consider a Cedarview Atom board such as the DN2800MT.
      It offers a lot more features, binary compatibility with almost every OS and very low power draw, as low as ~7 Watts according to: [url]http://www.linuxtech.net/reviews/intel_DN2800MT_cedarview_atom_power_draw.html[\url]

      And it still costs noticeably less than the alternatives you listed.

    • Andy
    • AC

      I’d like to see on with VGA-out for video. HDMI is useless if you need a reliable connection.

    • bernie

      Im sorry but most people who are into these things, know this already.

      Its the Project that excites people NOT the hardware. (ok, price helps a bit).

      If it was all about “hey, here is a cheap 35$ computer”, it would have had the interest we gave the Beagleboard, Arduino, Pogo in the wall and everything else. If it was just a consumer driven thing, most of us would have forgotten about it quickly.

      The hardware is only part of this equation.

    • whyqaz

      Cheapest one is $85
      Raspbery PI is $35
      Interesting read, but hardly an alternative.

    • phill

      the Raspberrypi comes out at over $50 when tax and shipping and all Liz’s many holidays are taken into account

      so these are a real alternative, both power-wise and cost-wise.

    • Richard

      I’m having quite some problem to install openSUSE on the INTEL DN2800 board :(

      Bug report at openSUSE is here:
      https://bugzilla.novell.com/show_bug.cgi?id=756275

    • Pingback: Raspberry Pi review – the price is right, but the software is not… | Linux User

    • JamesN

      Thanks for the great list of alternatives for those of us who missed the boat. I do believe the NinjaBlock uses the BeagleBone, though.

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    • Guardian

      If you add a bluetooth key, a wifi key, a not so standard power supply, the delays, the closed source (broadcom !!!), the unusable software, it will cost more than 35$ or even 50$.

      I’ll probably buy a Pandaboard ES. Thanks for this list.

    • bob

      “the open source wonder board hasn’t actually been delivered to those who have bought it, or would love to buy it.”

      No, but it’s being given and shown to school children, who are the very people this charitable foundation and its hardware were set up to serve.

      It’s probably worth remembering that the Raspberry Pi is fit for purpose to teach children how to programme, and various other small, interactive computing tasks. It’s a trifle dull to start comparing it to ‘better’ hardware when, by all rights, the Pi isn’t really for the hobbyist anyway, no matter how keen everybody was to jump on board and make it their own from the moment of its announcement.

    • Pingback: Raspberry Pi alternatives « 0ddn1x: tricks with *nix

    • http://www.ovalelephant.com Oval_Elephant

      A faster alternative is the MK802 (Pixi Stix). Featuring a single-core 1.5GHz AllWinner A10 Cortex A8 ARM processor, Android 4.0, 512MB of DDR3 high-capacity memory, and WiFi connectivity with a MALI400 graphics processing chip. Support 1080p HDMI video output. Users can run Ubuntu, Debian or another Linux distro via microSD card.
      I have the MK802 in 512MB ($68USD) & 1GB ($74USD) DDR3 RAM.  Here is a link:
      http://www.ovalelephant.com/p-2059-mk802-mini-pc-android-linux–1gb-ram
      We also have the Lenovo wireless keyboard/mouse and microSD if needed.
      International shipping.

    • Abi

      What is the usefulness of a hard-to-get board ? Also, who can believe that nowadays is really hard to build and sell an electronic device in large-scale volumes ??? I can’t believe it. There must be other reasons to keep this board so difficult to buy. Black-market ? Just have a look to the ebay auctions and you’ll discover that someone would spend over 135 euro to get one ! Crazy. WHY ? The $35 selling price is there just to create a strong demand. I guess the real, final, market price will be much higher. Shame on Raspberry PI.

    • Guardian

      @abi
      That’s the right question.

      After investigating, I think those guys want to earn money without investing too much. When you buy a raspi, you have to pay in advance. Then, when they have enough orders to meet the targeted batch price, they launch the process.

      You can easily imagine that it will take longer and longer for people to receive their “gaspi”.

      I’ve received an email from RS to place my order. But I won’t because I disagree with that insane business model.

      For my immediate needs, I’ve bought a low cost router, installed openwrt on it, openvpn, freeswitch, python for programing etc for only 20$. And it has wifi, ethernet and usb…

      Sure it has no video support but does gaspi? A usable one I mean…

    • Guillaume

      Raspbery PI is $35 … but as far as i know, you can’t get one. I’m waiting since 3 months.

      For me and now, this board is a kind of hoax. You can not hope creating a project around it, no availability.

      Take a look at the Allwinner A10 (Mele A2000).

    • pcfr33k

      Andy,

      How can one use the DN2800MT as a Arms development board? You woul dstill need to get a Beagle, Raspberry or Pandaboard no?

      Right now I have a PIC 2 microchip board, A Bus Pirate v3.5b Board and TIAO (TUMPA) for very basic JTAG or programming I2C Basic EEprom programming etc.

      I just don’t see how the DN2800MT could replace the boars I have now nor how they could replace the others I have mentioned to do Arms Development programming?

      I know Linux and windows can be installed on tat Motherboard but you would still need the hardware mentioned in this article no?

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    • kumar

      hi all,
      i got some useful comparison for raspberry pi vs arduino vs pandaboard vs cotton candy in the following website

      http://developmentboards.blogspot.in/2013/04/raspberry-pi-vs-arduino-vs-beagleboard.html