Single board computers, also known as SBCs, have come a long way since the days of the first Raspberry Pi. There’s now a single board computer for nearly every occasion. Some are tiny and less expensive than most domestic shipping options, while others are surprisingly powerful and suitable for use as home entertainment systems.
Best Single Board Computers
|ODROID||ODROID-XU4 Single Board Computer||67.45|
|Asus||ASUS SBC Tinker board||59.99|
|CanaKit||CanaKit Raspberry Pi Zero W||39.99|
|LoveRPi||Raspberry Pi 3 Model B||37.99|
|Arduino.org||Arduino Industrial 101||34.95|
Of course, there’s also no shortage of single board computers that don’t have what it takes to capture the imagination of tinkers, hackers, developers, and computer enthusiasts in general. To help you avoid single board computers without future and nudge you in the direction of some of the most popular single board computers on the market, we’ve prepared this list of top 5 best single board computers in 2017.
The original Raspberry Pi, released in 2012, is the single board computer that has started it all. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is a worthy successor and a proud carrier of Pi’s legacy. It features the BCM2837 CPU from Broadcom running at 1.2 GHz. The chip has a powerful integrated GPU called Videocore IV, clocked at 400 MHz.
Present is also 1 GB of memory, the BCM43438 wireless LAN and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chip, 40-pin extended GPIO, four USB 2.0 ports, a 4-pole stereo output and composite video port, a full-size HDMI, a CSI camera port, a DSI display port, and a microSD port for operating system and data.
Yes, there are more powerful single board computers that cost just as much, if not less, than the Pi 3 Model B, but none are surrounded by such large and active community as this tasty board. This alone is what makes the Pi 3 Model B the best single board computer for beginners. When you also consider just how much third-party hardware accessories and software tools there are for the Pi 3 Model B and other members of the Raspberry family, it becomes obvious why we’ve picked this board as our favorite.
The Raspberry Pi Zero W board extends the functionality of the Pi Zero board with wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity. In many ways, it’s the ideal single board computer for the Internet of Things era. Considering its tiny size, you might be surprised to find out that it comes with the Broadcom BCM2835 CPU clocked at 1 GHz and 512 MB LPDDR2 SDRAM.
Its cost? Around $5. That’s right, for the price of a fast food burger, you can have an incredibly versatile, Wi-Fi-enabled single board computer that stands on the shoulders of the most active and helpful community of single board computer enthusiasts in existence.
The Raspberry Pi Zero W measures only 6.5 cm × 3cm × 0.5cm, and it consumes so little energy that even a moderately large battery pack can keep it running for a very long time. Throw into the mix a decent solar panel, and you’re looking at a potential weather station, a smart GPS tracker, or perhaps your own robot. If these ideas sound too far-fetched to you, just take a look at some of the tutorials prepared by the Pi community to see for yourself how easy it is to start working on fairly complex projects with the Pi Zero.
If you find single board computers interesting for their potential to function as inexpensive replacements for regular desktop computers and home theater PCs, then you’ll love the ODROID-XU4. Even though this board doesn’t cost much more than the Raspberry Pi 3, it features the mighty Samsung Exynos 5422 Cortex-A15 octa-core GPU clocked at 2 GHz and the Mali-T628 MP6 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.2. ODROID-XU4 also has 2 GB of memory, two USB 3.0 ports, one gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 1.4a for display, and the board even comes with an active cooler and a power adapter.
The board can run the latest version of Ubuntu, Android 4.4 KitKat, 5.0 Lollipop, and 7.1 Nougat, giving you plenty of options how to turn it into a full-fledged computer or a handy backup device. When placed inside a nice case, ODROID-XU4 can also be a fantastic first computer for a young child, especially with the Android operating system.
Just like ODROID-XU4, ASUS Tinker Board can be used as a daily computer with more than enough power for basic image editing, Full HD video streaming, web browsing, music listening, and even some casual gaming. The board features the Rockchip RK3288, which is a modern quad-core ARM-based processor that you can find inside many Chinese tablets and multimedia players. With 2 GB of memory and the Mali-T764 GPU, the board can play HD and UHD video at 30 fps with the included media player with support for hardware acceleration.
To further establish the ASUS Tinker Board as an excellent home multimedia center, it comes with one key feature that you won’t find on nearly any other SBC: an HD codec that supports up to 24-bit/192kHz audio. But the Tinker Board isn’t all about fun and games, well, depending on your idea of fun. The board also includes a 40-pin GPIO interface, a gigabit LAN connection, a DSI MIPI connection for displays and touchscreens, and a CSI MIPI connection for connection to compatible cameras, making it great for the Internet of Things.
Just like the Arduino YUN, the Arduino Industrial 101 integrates an ATmega32U4 and an Atheros AR9331 with Wi-Fi and Linino OS. The board has 3 GPIOs, 4 analog inputs, 1 USB port, 1 row of Ethernet signal on pin headers, and a built-in DC/DC converter that requires 5 V at around 130 mA. This curious board is perfect for compact applications written in C, Python, or other supported languages that require more processing power, storage, and better connectivity than what most micro controllers can offer. The setup of the Arduino Industrial 101 board is no more complicated than the setup of any other Arduino board, requiring only a few simple steps. A board like this is really all you need to develop sophisticated, connected real-time applications that solve real problems and could one day evolve into marketable products.