It’s been nearly three years since the release of the Raspberry Pi, and one thing is clear – there’s a huge market for these low priced Single Board Computers (SBC). And naturally, given how phenomenally popular this particular gadget has become, there’s been an accompanying spike in rival offerings.
Whilst the Raspberry-flavoured SBC remains far and away the leader of the pack with legions of communities tinkering with the device, it’s always worth taking a look into the alternatives. Frankly, as ubiquitous as it is, the Raspberry Pi is not always the best fit for every job. Moreover, when it comes to performance, it’s all too easy to beat.
If you’re interested in expanding your SBC horizons, I’ll be writing some more in-depth posts in this respect in the new year. This being December however, it’s a prime time to look ahead at the latest techie toys poised to hit the market in the next few months. Here’s my list of the SBCs I think are most likely to give the mighty-Pi a run for its money in 2015.
BeagleBoard-X15 - February 2015
Expected price: probably below 100$
The BeagleBone is probably the second best know SBC around. The new BeagleBoard-X15 coming next year will run Linux on a new dual-core, 1.5GHz Cortex-A15 system-on-chip from Texas Instruments called the Sitara AM5728, it will come along with 2GB of DDR3 RAM.
The TI AM5728 SoC inside the BeagleBoard-X15 is the first of the chipmaker’s Cortex-A15-based AM5x processors. The SoC has a quad-core PRU subsystem for programming custom, real-time I/O and features an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX544 GPU.
- Processor: TI Sitara AM572 (2x Cortex-A15 cores @ 1.5GHz)
- 2GB DDR3L (via dual, 32-bit buses)
- 4GB eMMC flash
- eSATA port
- HDMI port at up to 1920 x 1080 @ 60fps
- LCD interface
- Video-in port
- Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet ports
- Other I/O
— 3x USB 3.0 ports
- audio I/O
- PCIe port
- GPIO: four connectors with 66 pins each with about 157 GPIO pins
CubieBoard 4 - January 2015
The CubieBoard 4 is build around Allwinner's UltraOctaA80 SoC. This chip was announced last May and has four Cortex-A15 cores and four Cortex-A7 cores in a Big.Little configuration. The SoC provides full heterogeneous multi-processing (HMP), enabling power and performance optimisations for each Big.Little core. It is designed for tablets, OTT media players, notebook PCs, all-in-ones, and even smart TVs.
The 64-bit SoC also enables 4K multimedia capture, and supports H.265, eDP, USB 3.0, and HSIC technologies. The A80 SoC also integrates an Imagination Technologies PowerVR G6230.
The PowerVR G6230 features two shader clusters and 64 ALU cores, and provides low-power PVRTC and PVRTC2 texture compression formats. It also offers PVRIC lossless image compression and PVRGC lossless geometry compression for further power efficiency.
- Allwinner A80 Octa Core, 4 x Cortex-A15 cores and 4 x Cortex-A7
- GPU: Power VR 64Core G6230
- 2GB DDR3
- 8GB eMMC flash
- HDMI + VGA 1080P display output on-board
- 10M/100M/1G Ethernet
- Bluetooth 4.0 plus EDR
- Other I/O
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x USB 3.0 OTG
- 1 x SPDIF
- 1 x IR 1 x Headphone
- Power: 5VDC with HDD support Li-battery & RTC
- GPIO: 54 extended pins including I2S, I2C, SPI, CVBS, LRADC x2,UART, PS2, PWM x2, TS/CSI, IRDA, LINEIN&FMIN&MICIN, TVIN x4 with 2.0 pitch connectors
- Dimensions 146 x 142mm
Odroid-C1 - December 2014
Hardkernel’s Odroid-C1 SBC runs Android or Ubuntu on a 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A5 Amlogic SoC. The boards comes with 1GB RAM plus an almost RPI compatible 40-pin expansion header. The SoC also integrates the usual Mali-450 GPU found on Allwinner SoCs.
Odroid project’s own benchmarks have shown a 6x advantage over the Pi.
- Amlogic S805 (4x Cortex-A5 cores @ 1.5GHz)
- Dual-core Mali-450 MP2 GPU
- 1GB DDR3
- eMMC 4.5 socket with optional module
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet port
- Other I/O:
- 4x USB 2.0 host ports
- USB 2.0 device/OTG port
- Micro-HDMI out port (video and audio)
- ADC 10-bit SAR interface (2x channels)
- Serial console port
- GPIO: 40-pin expansion connector (GPIO/UART/SPI/I2C/ADC)
- Other features:
– IR receiver
- Power: 5V2A DC
- Dimensions: 85 x 56mm
MIPS Creator CI20
The core of Creator CI20 SBC is an Ingenic JZ4780 SoC, integrating a pair of MIPS32 cores clocked at 1.2GHz and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. The SoC is accompanied by 1GB of DDR3 DRAM and 8GB of NAND flash memory. The board’s interfaces include an HDMI port supporting up to 2K at 60fps, an audio in/out jack, 10/100 Ethernet, both WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless,
“The Creator CI20 dev board is a multimedia powerhouse that has a OpenGL ES 2.0-capable PowerVR SGX540 GPU and dedicated video hardware for a suite of video codecs, including MPEG-4, H.264, VP8, MPEG-2, RV9 and others, making it ideal for HTPC enthusiasts,” writes Alexandru Voica in the Creator CI20 announcement on the company’s blog.
- Processor — Ingenic JZ4780 system-on-chip
- CPU — 2x 1.2GHz XBurst MIPS32 cores
- GPU — SGX540
- RAM — 1GB (32-bit DDR3) — 8GB NAND
- SD slot
- 1x 10/100 Ethernet
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Hardware video decoders — MPEG-2, VC-1, VP8, MPEG-4, H.264 (1080p at 30fps), RV9 (1080p at 60fps)
- HDMI port (up to 2k resolution)
- Other I/O:
- 2x USB — 1x OTG, 1x Host
- 25x GPIOs
- CMOS camera input
- 2x SPI
- 1x I2C
- 7x analog input channels
- 1x UART
- AC97 audio (via I/O jack and HDMI connector)
- JTAG (14-pin MIPS EJTAG header)
- Transport Stream Interface
- Power — 5VDC
- Dimensions — 90.2 x 95.3mm