When I began researching Linux.com's third annual Top 10 open source SBC board feature, it quickly became clear that so many new boards had shipped since our last Top 10 in August 2013, any personal judgment would be highly arbitrary. So in the spirit of self-serve consumerism and general laziness, I am passing the hard work on to you. Together with LinuxGizmos.com (see their article here), Linux.com has set up a survey on SurveyMonkey with 32 open spec single board computers that fit our fairly broad requirements.
Pick your top three products and answer a few questions about what you're looking for in a hacker board, and enter the drawing for a chance to win cool Tux, embedded Linux, and Android gear. Five randomly selected winners will receive a T-shirt, sweatshirt, hat, mug, or USB drive.
CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY NOW! (Or scroll down to the embedded survey, below.)
After the 10-day survey is completed, we'll compile our official Top 10 Open SBC list, and analyze the results for trends. After filling out the brief survey on SurveyMonkey, enter your email address at the end. The email address will only be used in case you're chosen as a winner. (You must be 18 years or older, and no purchase is necessary to enter or win. Void where prohibited.)
We are particularly interested in hands-on experience, but we also realize that relatively few people have used more than a few of these boards, so it's not a prerequisite. Even if you've only learned about some of these boards from the press, from word of mouth, or getting a demo at a friend's house, a store, or a tech show, we'd like to hear from you. Also, if your favorite board isn't on the list, you can add it in the comments section, and we will make note of those. Farther below, we offer brief summaries of the 32 boards, with links to product pages. More information can be found at LinuxGizmos, which has covered most of these boards over the last year.
The SBCs on our list are all shipping, even if only recently. They must offer open source Linux and/or Android images or offer links to other free sources. The projects must offer schematics and other hardware reference materials for at least most of the board's features and components. At a minimum, licensing should enable third parties to build products at least for small runs of non-profit applications.
It's also essential that the boards are backed up with at least some community website features, with a forum or something similar, where users can ask technical questions and exchange tips. Ideally, there should be additional documentation, tutorials, and other resources.
The boards need to supply a few real-world ports at a minimum, as opposed to a computer-on-module (COM) that requires a baseboard. On the other hand, a growing number of new contenders are modular COM/baseboard combos sold as integrated SBCs. Some of these SBCs are also available with enclosures as miniPCs, but they must also be sold as boards.
For space reasons, our summaries below do not always list OS support. The vast majority, however, support Android and one or more Linux distros. A few are Linux only, and some are more oriented toward Android, but also support Linux.
Also note that after the name of the board, we often list more than one vendor name. This is because open SBCs are often collaborations between manufacturers, open source projects, and distributors. We list distributors when they appear to be the sole distributor of the product. The listed prices are the lowest we found, but forgive us if we did not find the ultimate bargain price. Prices change over time, and in some cases vary significantly depending on the distributor.
Finally, you may have noted that some hot new boards you've read about are not on the list posted farther below. That's because they haven't shipped yet. Perhaps on next year's list we'll see products like:
Arduino TRE -- Arduino's first SBC to run a full Linux distro (on a TI Sitara AM335x SoC) along with the usual Arduino goodies
HummingBoard -- SolidRun's Raspberry Pi clone with modular COM/baseboard setup, aimed at its CuBox developers
Logi -- ValentFX SBCs that combine FPGA circuitry with plug-in Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black boards used a COMs
MinnowBoard Max -- Intel's $99, second-gen hacker board featuring a new Atom E3800 and Arduino compatibility
Red Pitaya -- Xilinx Zynq ARM/FPGA based SBC for open source Linux-based measurement and control
Warpboard -- Freescale's tiny, single-core i.MX6 based SBC, designed for wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
If you hear of any other cool new boards on the way, let us know. Meanwhile, here are the open-spec boards you can buy now -- and don't forget to enter the raffle on Surveymonkey:
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Open SBC selection list:
86Duino Zero-- DM&P, 86Duino.com -- DM&P's $39 86Duino features its own 300MHz, x86-based Vortex86EX CPU plus Arduino-compatible expansion and a modular COM/baseboard approach. A $69 86Duino One model adds more I/O.
A10-OLinuXino-LIME-- Olimex, OLinuXino, Mouser -- The tiny, $42 A10-OLinuXino-LIME backs up a Cortex-A8 based Allwinner A10 SoC with 512MB RAM, and offers I/O including 160 GPIOs.
A20-OLinuXino-Micro-- Olimex, OLinuXino, Mouser -- The $77 Micro SBC taps the dual-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner A20 SoC, and adds twice the RAM of the LIME model, as well as VGA, LCD/touch, audio I/O, and UEXT expansion connectors.
APC Rock-- Via Technologies -- Based on Via's 800MHz, Cortex-A9-based Wondermedia SoC and Neo-ITX form-factor, the $56 APC Rock supports Android and Linux OSes, including Firefox OS. An APC Paper mini-PC version is also available.
Arndale Board-K-- ArnadaleBoard.org, InSignal, Pyrustek -- The $259 SBC features Samsung's Exynos 5250, which combines dual 1.7GHz Cortex-A15 cores and four 1.2GHz -A7 cores, plus a Mali-T604 GPU. The feature-rich board is loaded with sensors, as well as modular wireless, audio, and camera modules.
Arndale Octa Board-- ArnadaleBoard.org, InSignal, Pyrustek -- The Octa version of the Arndale offers a Samsung Exynos 5420 Octa with four 1.8GHz Cortex-A15 and four 1.3GHz -A7 cores, plus an ARM Mali T-628 GPU. The $179 board gives you 3GB of RAM, plus multiple display and camera options.
BeagleBone Black-- BeagleBone.org, CirtcuitCo -- The TI Sitara AM3358 based BB Black just switched to a pricier $55 Rev C version with double the flash (4GB). The real draw here is the vibrant Beagleboard.org community and ecosystem.
Banana Pi-- Lemaker.org -- This $49 Raspberry Pi clone has the same port positions and header layout as the Raspi, but features a faster Allwinner A10 SoC with twice the RAM (1GB). It also adds SATA and micro-USB ports.
BD-SL-i.MX6 (SABRE Lite)-- Boundary Devices, Element 14 -- Freescale's SABRE Lite dev board for the i.MX6 has been spun off as an open spec, $199 BD-SL-i.MX6. It offers rich I/O including RGB, LVDS, and HDMI display ports, dual camera ports, plus GbE, SD, USB, SATA, PCIe, and CAN connections.
Cosmic+-- Phytec -- For $65 you get a Freescale Vybrid VF6xx (Cortex-A5 @ 500MHz) SoC running Linux, plus a Cortex-M4 MCU running Freescale’s MQX RTOS. For $10 less, you can scrap the MCU.
Cubieboard2-- Cubieboard.org, Wang and Tom Dev., Ltd. -- The Cubieboard2 moves up from the original's Allwinner A10 to the dual-core A20. The $59 SBC offers SATA, microSD, Ethernet, HDMI, dual USB ports, and a 96-pin expansion connector.
CubieTruck (Cubieboard3)-- Cubieboard.org, Wang and Tom Dev., Ltd. -- The $89, Allwinner A20-based CubieTruck offers most Cubieboard2 features, and adds flexible flash options and doubles RAM to 2GB. It also adds WiFi, Bluetooth, GbE, VGA, and SPDIF ports.
Galileo-- Intel -- Based on the Linux-ready Intel Quark X1000, this $60 "Internet of Things" SBC offers Arduino compatibility, plus microSD, Ethernet, GPIO, analog inputs, dual USBs, JTAG, and serial ports. Intel is giving away 5,000 Galileos to developers this year.
Gizmo-- AMD, GizmoSphere.org, SemiconductorStore.com -- AMD's first open-spec board extends its Linux-ready G-Series processors with I/O including VGA, DisplayPort, audio, SATA, USB, GPIO, and PCIe. Add $10 to the $189 price for a developer version.
Hackberry A10-- Miniand -- The $65, Android-oriented Hackberry runs on an Allwinner A10. It features WiFi, full-sized SD, analog video outputs, and four-pin serial headers, among other I/O.
IGEPv5 Community Edition-- ISEE -- The $207 IGEPv5 runs Yocto Linux or Android on TI's OMAP5432 (dual Cortex-A15 cores @ 1.7GHz). The board offers extensive ports, including five USB ports, plus expansion interfaces and industrial temperature support.
Improv -- Make Play Live (Coherent Theory LLC), Vault Technology -- Emerging from the KDE Plasma Active community that designed the Spark tablet and perhaps someday, the Vivaldi tablet, the $75, Allwinner A20 based Improv SBC similarly runs Mer Linux and KDE. It offers swappable CPU and feature cards using a modular EOMA-68 form-factor, which lets it plug into a laptop dock.
i.MX6 Rex-- Fedevel, Voipac -- This modular COM-and-baseboard combo from Slovakia features a dual-core i.MX6 SoC. The $235 board provides extensive storage and I/O, and features PCIe, Mini-PCIe, and SIM expansion.
MarsBoard RK3066-- Haoyu Electronics, MarsBoard.com -- This $60 board replaces the Allwinner SoCs on earlier MarsBoards with a dual Cortex-A9 Rockchip RK3066. The COM-and-baseboard design offers five USB ports and dual gigabit Ethernet ports, along with HDMI, S/PDIF, IR, and camera interfaces.
MinnowBoard -- Intel -- The $189 MinnowBoard should fade quickly once Intel's $99, Atom E3800 based MinnowBoard Max hits in July. The original model runs Yocto Linux on an older Atom E640. Its extensive I/O includes dual PCIe interfaces.
Odroid-U3-- Hardkernel, Odroid project -- A quad-core Samsung Exynos 4412 Prime and 2GB of RAM for only $59? True, there's no onboard flash, but there's plenty of expansion, plus micro-HDMI, Ethernet, audio, and four USB ports.
Odroid-XU-- Hardkernel, Odroid project -- The $169 Odroid-XU showcases Samsung's Exynos 5410 Octa, with four Cortex-A15, four -A7 cores, and a PowerVR SGX544MP3 GPU. Extensive I/O includes six USB ports. There's also a $199 XU+E model with power analysis sensors.
Parallella-- Adapteva, Parallella.org -- The $99 Parallella runs Ubuntu on a Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC with dual, 667MHz Cortex-A9 cores plus FPGA. A 16-core Epiphany RISC coprocessor helps with parallel processing. The result is a low-power server clustering platform. I/O includes 60-pin connectors for Epiphany and FPGA extensions.
PhoenixA20-- Anichips, Swiftboard.org -- The Allwinner A20 based PhoenixA20 adopts the 100 x 72mm Pico-ITX form factor. The $59 SBC offers extended temperature support, plus multiple display, camera, and wireless interfaces.
Radxa Rock-- Radxa -- The quad-core Rockchip RK3188 is all yours with 2GB RAM and 8GB NAND flash for $89. (A $69 Radxa Rock Lite gives you 1GB and 4GB apiece.) The Radxa boards offer WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as real-world HDMI, Ethernet, USB, and S/PDIF ports.
Raspberry Pi Model B -- Raspberry Pi Foundation -- Despite the lowly 700MHz ARM11 processor, the top-selling Raspi rules them all thanks to its $35 price, expansion chops, powerful (and now more open) VideoCore IV GPU, and an enormous community and ecosystem. A stripped down Model A goes for $25, and there's even a new COM version.
RIoTboard-- Newark Element14, RIoTboard.org -- The $74 "Revolutionizing the Internet of Things" board sips power on a single-core Freescale i.MX6Solo, and offers 1GB RAM and 4GB flash. The 120 x 75mm SBC manages to squeeze in five USB ports.
SAMA5D3 Xplained-- Newark Element14, Atmel -- This open-spec showcase for Atmel's 536MHz, Cortex-A5 based SAMA5D3 SoC comes with 256MB RAM, 256MB flash, and a $79 price. Designed for wearables and IoT, the SBC includes dual LAN ports and Arduino compatibility.
Sockit Development Kit-- Arrow Electronics, Terasic, RocketBoards.org -- The $299 Sockit offers an open source window to Altera's Cyclone V SX, which integrates dual Cortex-A9 cores with a Stratix V-like FPGA. Interfaces include VGA, audio, gigabit Ethernet, and USB, plus optional high-speed expansion cards.
Udoo Quad-- Udoo -- The $135 Udoo Quad combines a quad-core i.MX6 SoC with an Arduino-like subsystem. A $99 Udoo Dual omits SATA and has a lesser GPU, and a $79 Dual Basic foregoes WiFi and gigabit Ethernet.
Wandboard Quad-- Wandboard.org -- The $129 i.MX6Quad based Wandboard Quad is sandwich-style boardset with a COM that includes the SoC and RAM, plus wireless, SD, and camera interfaces. A $99 Wandboard Dual loses the SATA, and a $79, single-core Wandboard Solo skips the wireless radios.
ZedBoard -- Avnet -- The $395 Xilinx Zynq-7020 ZedBoard offers the I/O you'd expect from a typical $100 ARM board, as well as extensive FPGA expansion I/O. The price includes a 4GB SD card with Linux.