The 2015 Linux hacker board survey has arrived. In its second year, this collaboration between Linux.com and LinuxGizmos.com has collected 53 open-spec, community backed SBCs that run Linux and/or Android. Please take a few minutes to fill out our short SurveyMonkey SBC Survey, and select your favorite SBCs, then enter a drawing to become one of 20 randomly chosen participants who receive a free Linux SBC. Farther below, we offer brief summaries of the 53 boards, with links to product pages.
Last year, our readers chose from a list of 32 hacker SBCs. The resulting list of SBC survey winners was headed up by the Raspberry Pi Model B, followed by the BeagleBone Black, Odroid-XU, CubieTruck (CubieBoard3), and Banana Pi single board computers.
This year we have 21 more boards, as well as better prizes. We are giving away five each of the following Linux-ready SBCs: Beagleboard.org’s BeagleBone Black, Intel’s Edison with Arduino Breakout Kit, Imagination Technologies’ Creator CI20, and Qualcomm’s new ARMv8 based DragonBoard 410c.
We will try to match the boards with your preferences, but can make no promises. We also ask for your email address, but it will only be used in case you’re chosen as a winner. (Note: 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 technology sites, by word of mouth, or a demo at a friend’s house, store or tech show, we’d like to hear from you. Also, if your favorite board isn’t on the list, you can add it as an alternative.
Once the two-week survey is completed, we’ll publish our “Top 10 Open SBCs.” This will also include analysis of readers’ answers to survey questions about intended applications and SBC buying criteria.
Choosing which boards should be considered “open spec, Linux-based community hacker boards” can be challenging. We’re staying with our original, fairly broad guidelines for acceptance, with two new adjustments: The boards must be promised to ship by the end of June 2015, and they need to be priced in single units at under $200.
To summarize the highlights of our criteria: Free, open source Linux and/or Android images should be available preloaded or for download, and users should be allowed to build and sell a board based on the hardware design, even in small runs. The boards should be thoroughly documented at a minimum, and ideally there should be full schematics and other engineering documents. The boards should also be supported with community features such as forums or tutorials.
Not all of our boards hit all these checkmarks, and there are wide variations in how well they provide some of these services. The ultimate consideration is how useful the board is to hobbyists, educators, prototypers, and other hackers.
If we only allowed for boards that fulfill all the open source virtues to the max, including thriving community forums and tech support, exhaustive specs and schematics, and timely (and usable) Linux firmware releases, we would have a much shorter list. Requiring a transparent GPU platform would make our selection very small indeed.
Open source issues aside, sometimes it’s hard just determining if a board is an SBC or rather an OEM development kit or computer-on-module. We have included some sandwich-style “COM+baseboard” designs that are more commonly use in OEM products, as long as they are sold and supported as hacker-friendly SBCs. On the other hand, we have omitted COM-like boards whose real-world ports are limited to a microSD slot or less. The one exception here is the Intel Edison, which is often sold in kit form and aimed squarely at makers. Here, we’ve included it priced with its Arduino option.
We have added several dozen new open-spec boards since last year, but we have also removed more than a dozen boards. For the most part, these were no longer in stock, were not being actively supported, or scored too poorly in our last survey to merit inclusion. Some have been removed from market in favor of next-generation models.
2015 SBCs: Cheaper, faster, smaller
A lot has changed in the community SBC scene over the last year, and even since December when LinuxGizmos posted an interim round-up of 40 hacker SBCs, but without the survey.
This year there are far more boards with quad-core SoCs, and they’re cheaper than ever. This is especially true of the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, which retains its $35 price. Meanwhile, we’re seeing more boards with Pi-like expansion connectors as well as Arduino-compatible connectors.
This year’s crop of SBCs have smaller footprints than before, led by low-cost, power-efficient Internet of Things models. On the high end, meanwhile, Linaro’s multi-vendor 96Boards project has brought us the first 64-bit ARMv8 boards. Our guide includes the first two, which use Cortex-A53 cores: the octa-core HiKey and quad-core DragonBoard 410c.
Many thanks to the vendors who contributed boards, and to LinuxGizmos.com, which also announced the survey today.
The 53 hacker-friendly Linux and Android SBCs under $200 are briefly described in the list below, in alphabetical order.
53 Linux and Android SBCs
86Duino— DM&P, 86Duino.com — DM&P’s $49 86Duino Zero features its own 300MHz, x86-based Vortex86EX CPU plus Arduino-compatible expansion and a modular COM/baseboard approach. An $86 86Duino One model adds more I/O.
A10-OlinuXino-Lime— Olimex, OlinuXino, Mouser – This tiny (84 x 60mm) $34 SBC is also available with an optional mini-PC enclosure. I/O includes microSD, SATA, Ethernet, and HDMI, plus three USB ports and 160 GPIOs.
A20-OlinuXino-Micro— Olimex, OlinuXino, Mouser — The $62 A20-OlinuXino-Micro taps the dual-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner A20, and adds twice the RAM (1GB) of the LIME. The Micro also offers 4GB of flash, plus a VGA support, LCD with touch support, and audio I/O. The SBC provides UEXT expansion connectors with optional UEXT modules.
Arduino TRE — Arduino LLC — The schism forking the Arduino community has further delayed the Arduino TRE. The SBC is “coming soon,” according to Arduino LLC, the original Arduino project, but it’s not listed on Arduino Srl’s Arduino.org website. The TRE runs Linux on the Cortex-A8-based TI Sitara AM335x SoC with 512 MB RAM. Arduino code runs on an 8-bit Atmel Atmega MCU. I/O includes HDMI, Ethernet, microSD, LCD, GPIOs, five USB ports, and Arduino expansion.
Arduino Yún Mini— Arduino Srl — This $60 update to the Yún is offered only by Arduino Srl (Arduino.org), which has broken off from Arduino LLC. The Arduino Yún Mini runs the OpenWRT-based Linino on Qualcomm’s MIPS-based AR9331 SoC with 64 MB RAM, and runs Arduino code on an Atmel Atmega32U4. Linino now has access to more of the board’s features, says Arduino Srl. The Yún Mini is smaller (71.1 x 22.9mm), lighter (16 grams) and cheaper than the original. It strips out the Ethernet, USB , and microSD connections, and instead makes these and other interfaces available via add-on modules.
Arndale Octa Board— ArndaleBoard.org, InSignal, Pyrustek — The Octa version of the Arndale offers a Samsung Exynos 5420 Octa with four 1.8 GHz Cortex-A15 and four 1.3 GHz -A7 cores, plus an ARM Mali T-628 GPU. The $199 board gives you 3 GB of RAM, plus multiple display and camera options.
Banana Pi M2— SinoVoip – The $59 Banana Pi M2 closely resembles the Raspberry Pi Model B+, complete with a similar 40-pin connector, and its Allwinner A31 SoC and 1GB of RAM are competitive with that of the new RPi 2. The M2 features five USB ports, a range of display and camera interfaces, a GbE port, and WiFi. Last year, the Banana Pi project split between SinoVoip and LeMaker factions, but SinoVoip says it will soon regain control via an agreement that will end the trademark dispute.
Banana Pro— LeMaker — LeMaker’s Banana Pro sticks closer to the original Banana Pi, retaining the dual-core Allwinner A20 SoC with 1GB of RAM. It expands to a Raspberry Pi Model B+-like, 40-pin connector, switches the SD slot to microSD, and adds WiFi and a micro-USB OTG port. Unlike SinoVoip’s quad-core Banana Pi M2, it provides a SATA connector, but it only has two USB host ports compared to the M2’s four. The Pro sells for as little as $43.33 at RobotShop.
BD-SL-i.MX6— Boundary Devices, Element14 – Based on Freescale’s SABRE Lite dev board for the i.MX6, the $199 BD-SL-i.MX6 backs up its i.MX6 Quad SoC with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. The feature-rich board offers RGB, LVDS, and HDMI display ports, as well as dual camera ports. Other I/O includes GbE, SD, USB, SATA, PCIe, and CAN connections.
BeagleBone Black — BeagleBone.org, CircuitCo – The Debian-ready, $55 BeagleBone Black Rev C came in second in last year’s survey. Equipped with a TI Sitara AM3358, 512 MB RAM and 4 GB of flash, the BB Black stands out with its numerous expansion interfaces, programmable “PRU” MCUs, and vibrant Beagleboard.org community. Nothing has changed since then, but on June 19, Seeed Studio will release a Beaglebone Green clone that adds a real-time clock and dual Grove System connectors for sensor modules. The BB Green also switches the power jack to a micro-USB, and removes the HDMI port.
Black Swift — Smart Electronics – At $26, or $34 for a Pro version that adds an integrated USB-UART adapter, the Kickstarter-funded Black Swift is one of the cheapest SBCs around. The Black Swift runs OpenWRT on a MIPS-based AR9331 SoC and 64 MB DDR2 RAM. The fully open source, 35 x 25mm device offers WiFi, dual micro-USB ports, and dual PLLD interfaces for adding I/O including Ethernet, audio, and various industrial interfaces.
CloudBit— LittleBits Electronics — In 2014, the popular, Arduino-oriented LittleBits maker platform added its first Linux SBC with the ARM9-based (Freescale i.MX233) CloudBit. The $60, 15 x 10 mm board CloudBit offers 64 MB RAM and a 4 GB microSD card, as well as WiFi, and a USB port. Dual “BitSnap” connectors let you add standard LittleBits I/O modules, six of which are provided in a $100 bundle. The Arch Linux-based SBC connects to a Node.js-oriented cloud platform designed for monitoring IoT gizmos, and supports IFTTT IF-THEN scripting.
Creator CI20— Imagination Technologies – The $65 CI20 runs Android 4.4 or Debian 7 on Ingenic’s dual-core, MIPS-based JZ4780 SoC clocked to 1.2GHz. It’s paired with Imagination’s PowerVR SGX540 GPU, naturally. The Creator CI20 features WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, as well as HDMI, camera, audio, and dual USB ports. You also get serial UARTs and multiple analog inputs and digital I/O. A recent update squares off the previous wing and indent, provides better WiFi performance, and preinstalls Imagination’s FlowCloud API cloud platform for IoT device management.
Cubieboard2— Cubieboard.org, Wang and Tom Dev., Ltd. — The $59 Cubieboard2 runs Android or Linux on a dual-core Allwinner A20 SoC, along with 1 GB DDR3 RAM and 4 GB NAND flash. It offers SATA, microSD, Ethernet, HDMI, and dual USB ports, as well as a 96-pin expansion connector. A version that replaces the NAND flash with a second microSD slot goes for $47.
Cubieboard3 — Cubieboard.org, Wang and Tom Dev., Ltd. – The (“CubieTruck”) offers everything the Cubieboard2 does, and more, including an A20 SoC, 2 GB of RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth, gigabit Ethernet, VGA, and SPDIF ports. The $75 board has fewer expansion pins (54) and lacks standard flash, but you can choose between dual microSD slots, or a mix of microSD and onboard flash options.
Cubieboard4 — Cubieboard.org, Wang and Tom Dev., Ltd. – The $125 Cubieboard4 runs Android 4.4 or Linux on an octa-core Allwinner A80 SoC, which is here paired with a 64-core PowerVR G6230 GPU. The 111 x 111mm SBC offers 2GB of DDR3 RAM plus a generous 8GB eMMC, expandable to 64GB. You also get VGA and HDMI ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, WiFi, Bluetooth, GbE, and a 54-pin expansion connector.
Domino.IO — Domino.IO – The modular Domino.IO SBC kit is built around a $10 “Domino Core” module that runs Linino on the WiFi-ready, MIPS-based AR9331 SoC, and offers 64MB RAM. One of two expansion boards — the Domino Qi Mini — mimics an Arduino Leonardo. The Mini can be further extended with a Domino Qi Baseboard, as well as various I/O modules to make a fully figured SBC. Pricing combos start at $37 for a Kickstarter funded package that includes the Core, Mini, and Baseboard.
DPT-Board — DPTechnics — The Indiegogo-funded DPT-Board is a sandwich-style SBC with a separately available COM running OpenWRT on an Atheros AR9331 SoC. Now selling for $52, the IoT-focused board offers 64MB RAM, WiFi, GPIO, and JTAG, plus dual 10/100 Ethernet ports and dual USB ports. The DPT-Board ships with BlueCherry.io IoT connectivity software.
DragonBoard 410c — Qualcomm – The $75 DragonBoard 410c is compliant with Linaro’s new 96Boards CE standard. The SBC runs Android 5.1, Ubuntu, or Windows 10 on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 SoC, which integrates four 64-bit, ARMv8 Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.2 GHz along with an Adreno 306 GPU. The 85 x 54mm board offers only 1 GB LPDDR3 RAM, but gives you a generous 8 GB eMMC flash. The board is further equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, HDMI, microSD, and three USB ports. There are both 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed connectors, with the latter supplying the only Ethernet connection.
Edison Kit for Arduino — Intel — The 35.5 x 25mm Intel Edison may be a COM rather than an SBC, but it’s also sold to the maker community as part of a sandwich-style SBC called the Edison Kit for Arduino. The kit’s embedded Edison module runs Yocto Linux on a dual-core, 22 nm Intel Atom, along with 1 GB LPDDR3 RAM and 4 GB eMMC flash. The full kit, which sells for a low of $100 on Sparkfun, mounts the Edison on a board that provides WiFi, Bluetooth LE, a microSD slot, and dual micro-USB ports. Other I/O includes a 70-pin connector and a breakout for Arduino shields.
Firefly-RK3288 — Firefly — The $129 Firefly-RK3288 is built around Rockchip’s 1.8 GHz, quad-core Cortex-A17 RK3288 SoC paired with a Mali-T760 GPU. The 118 x 85mm board’s HDMI 2.0 port can output up to 4Kx2K@60Hz video resolution at up to 18 Gbps, claims Firefly. The Android/Ubuntu dual-boot board is equipped with 2GB DDR3 RAM and 16 GB eMMC flash, while a “Plus” version offers 4 GB RAM and 32 GB flash. In either case, you get dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, a GbE port, and three USB ports. Additional I/O includes VGA, LVDS, eDP, MIPI-DSI/CSI, SPDIF, serial debug, IR, and dual 42-pin expansion connectors.
Galileo Gen 2 — Intel — Intel’s second-generation Galileo Gen 2 can be found for as low as $65 at Frye’s. It runs Linux on the same, power-sipping Intel Quark X1000 processor, and offers the same 256 MB DRAM and Arduino compatibility as the original. Minor updates include changing the USB host port from micro-USB to full-sized, updating the PWMs to 12-bit, and making the 12 GPIOs “fully native” for faster performance. There’s also optional 12V PoE support.
Gizmo 2 — AMD, GizmoSphere.org, SemiconductorStore.com — AMD-backed GizmoSphere.org’s Gizmo 2 is $10 cheaper than when it launched in November, but still costs $189. The second-generation version swaps out the G-Series APU found on the original Gizmo for a faster, dual-core G-Series SoC model. The SBC ships with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and adds HDMI, microSD, mSATA, and USB 3.0 ports, in addition the previous I/O. It ships with Timesys Embedded Linux.
HiKey — 96Boards.org (Linaro), CircuitCo, Avnet, Arrow — The debut SBC for Linaro’s 96Boards open SBC standard is built by CircuitCo, distributed by Avnet and Arrow, and supported by 96Boards.org. Like the 96Boards-compatible DragonBoard 410c, the HiKey is one of the first 64-bit, ARMv8 hacker SBCs. Its HiSilicon Kirin 6220 combines eight 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. It’s backed up with a Mali 450-MP4 GPU, 1GB LPDDR3 RAM, and 4GB eMMC flash. The SBC adopts the 85 x 54mm 96Boards CE form-factor, and offers the required 40-pin low-speed connector and 60-pin high-speed connectors. Real-world ports include HDMI, DisplayPort, and three USB ports. There’s no Ethernet, but you get WiFi and Bluetooth.
HummingBoard — SolidRun — This sandwich style carrier board is available with a choice of Freescale i.MX6 “MicroSOM” COMs. You can choose from two dual-core i.MX6 models — the $70 to $80 i2 and $90 to $100 i2eX — as well as single-core i1 model that sells for $100 to $120. The dual-core models have 1 GB of RAM and the single-core model has 512 MB. The HummingBoard offers Pi-like ports and layout, as well as a Pi-like 26-pin connector. All three models offer dual USB 2.0 ports, as well as HDMI, MIPI-CSI, and SPDIF audio. The i2eX model, which has an i.MX6 Dual SoC with a better GPU than the DualLite, also adds LVDS, IR, Mini-PCIe, an RTC, and extra internal USBs.
LinkSprite Acadia — LinkSprite Technologies – Originally announced as the pcDuino Acadia 1, the $99 LinkSprite Acadia offers a Freescale i.MX6 Quad with 1 GB RAM, rather than the Allwinner SoCs typically used on LinkSprite’s pcDuino boards. This full-featured board not only provides 8 GB eMMC flash and dual microSD slots, but also HDMI, LVDS, SATA, and gigabit Ethernet connections. You also get three USB ports, dual cameras interfaces, and Arduino-compatible expansion.
LinkSprite Arches — LinkSprite Technologies – The LinkSprite Arches was originally unveiled as the pcDuino8, and then arrived as a LinkSprite Beta Arches board late last year before going final. The $99 Arches features an octa-core Allwinner A80, and is quite similar to the $125, A80-based Cubieboard4. The SBC is equipped with 2 GB of RAM, 8GB of eMMC flash, and a microSD slot. Other features include WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, CSI, gigabit Ethernet, and three USB ports.
MarsBoard RK3066 — Haoyu Electronics, MarsBoard.com – The $64 MarsBoard RK3066 runs Linux and Android on a dual-core, 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3066 SoC with a Mali-400 GPU. The modular, COM+baseboard design ships with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and 4 GB of eMMC flash. I/O includes five USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, and HDMI, SPDIF, IR, and camera interfaces. An almost identical PX2 version is aimed at industrial applications.
MarsBoard RK3066 Pro— Haoyu Electronics, MarsBoard.com — The $140 MarsBoard RK3066 Pro has the same RK3066 SoC, memory, and modular, COM+baseboard design as the standard version. This larger, pricier board adds more I/O, however, including an Arduino interface, a VGA port, a microSD slot, and 1-Wire, SPI, I2C, and UART interfaces. The Pro also offers all the I/O found on the standard model.
MinnowBoard Max— Intel, CircuitCo – The 3.9 x 2.9-inch MinnowBoard Max is available with single- ($105) or dual-core ($139) Atom E3800 chips. The Debian and Android 4.4 ready board ships with 1 GB to 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, and offers dual USB ports, gigabit Ethernet, micro-HDMI, and SATA connections. Like the original MinnowBoard, the Max supports homegrown add-on boards called Lures, and offers a low-speed expansion header that provides Arduino-like prototyping I/O.
Odroid-C1— Hardkernel, Odroid project – Hardkernel’s latest Odroid skips the usual Samsung SoCs to run Android or Ubuntu on a quad-core, Cortex-A5 Amlogic S805 SoC clocked to 1.5 GHz. A Mali-450 GPU is also available, along with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and either a microSD slot or optional eMMC storage. The $35 Odroid-C1 provides HDMI in and out ports, gigabit Ethernet, and four USB host ports. The 85 x 56mm SBC’s 40-pin connector is said to be compatible with the Raspberry Pi, except for a few pins dedicated to analog input.
Odroid-U3 — Hardkernel, Odroid project – The $69 Odroid-U3 was the third-ranking open SBC in our 2014 SBC survey. The U3 is software compatible with the discontinued U2. It runs Xubuntu and Android KitKat on a quad-core, Cortex-A9 Samsung Exynos 4 clocked to 1.7 GHz, along with a Mali-400 GPU. Like the Odroid-C1, the price is kept low due to the lack of flash, but microSD and eMMC expansion options are available, as well as the standard 2 GB of LP-DDR2 RAM. Other I/O includes micro-HDMI, Ethernet, audio, and four USB ports. The 83 x 48 x 22 mm dimensions reflect the built-in heat sink.
Odroid-XU3 — Hardkernel, Odroid project — The $179 Odroid-XU3 runs Android or Ubuntu on an octa-core, Exynos5422 SoC with four, 2 GHz Cortex-A15 cores and four 1.4 GHz Cortex-A7 cores, paired with a Mali-T628 GPU. The board provides 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM and an empty eMMC socket, and offers micro-HDMI, DisplayPort, SPDIF audio, and Ethernet ports. You also get USB 3.0 host and OTG ports, plus four more USB 2.0 host ports and a 20-pin expansion connector. A slightly smaller and cheaper ($99) Lite version removes the DisplayPort and energy monitoring features, and trims the clock rate to 1.8 GHz.
Orange Pi 2/ Orange Pi Mini 2 — Shenzhen Xunlong Software – The $39 Orange Pi 2 and almost identical $30 Orange Pi Mini 2 advance from the dual-core Allwinner A20 found on the original models to an Allwinner H3, a new 1.6 GHz quad-core SoC. Both boards ship with a Mali-400 MP2 GPU and 1 GB DDR3 RAM, and offer microSD, HDMI, CVBS, CSI, five USB ports, and a Raspberry Pi B+ compatible 40-pin connector. However, the previous SATA port, LVDS, and VGA interfaces are gone, and the GbE port has been downgraded to 10/100 Ethernet. Both boards now have a 93 x 60 mm form-factor similar to the original Mini, and appear to be identical except for the lack of WiFi on the Mini. The original Orange Pi and Mini are also available.
Orange Pi Plus — Shenzhen Xunlong Software — Like the Orange Pi 2 models, the $49 Orange Pi Plus moves up a quad-core, 1.6 GHz Allwinner H3, but in this case it’s matched with a PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU. The 112 x 60 mm Plus similarly features 1 GB DDR3 RAM, a microSD slot, four USB host ports, a micro-USB port, a CSI port, and a Raspberry Pi B+ compatible 40-pin. The WiFi-equipped Plus adds 8GB eMMC flash, and retains some of the features stripped out of the smaller, cheaper Orange Pi 2 models, including the SATA and GbE ports. Firmware images for Lubuntu, Raspbian, and Android were posted earlier this month.
Parallella — Adapteva, Parallella.org – Aimed at power-efficient server clustering applications and parallel programming research, the $99 Parallella runs Ubuntu on Xilinx Zynq-7010 or -7020 SoCs, which have dual Cortex-A9 cores linked to FPGA subsystems. The secret sauce here is Adapteva’s own homegrown 16-core Epiphany coprocessor. The board ships with 1 GB DDR3 RAM, and offers microSD, gigabit Ethernet, micro-HDMI, and dual USB ports. Four 60-pin connectors provide for Epiphany and FPGA extensions.
pcDuino3B — LinkSprite Technologies – Unlike the newer LinkSprite branded Acadia and Arches boards, LinkSprite’s $59 pcDuino3B offers Arduino-style expansion. The board runs Ubuntu or Android on a dual-core Allwinner A20 with Mali-400 GPU, and ships with 1 GB DRAM and 4GB flash. I/O includes SATA, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, audio, camera, IR, and dual USB ports. Unlike the smaller Nano version (see below), the 121 x 65mm pcDuino3B also provides WiFi, a battery interface, and LVDS and I2S audio interfaces.
PCDuinoNano — LinkSprite Technologies — The $40 pcDuino3Nano offers most of the features of the larger pcDuino3B (see above), including an A20 SoC, 1 GB DRAM, 4GB flash, and Arduino expansion. The 92.2 x 54.1mm Nano lacks the 3B’s WiFi, LVDS, and I2S audio connections, but has a price that is $19 lower.
Radxa Rock Pro/Rock Lite — Radxa — The $99 Rock Pro and $59 Rock Lite run Android or Linux on Rockchip’s quad-core. 1.6GHz RK3188 SoC along with a Mali-400 GPU. The Rock provides 2 GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB NAND flash. The Lite version, which is currently out of stock, has half the RAM of the Pro, and lacks the originally announced 4 GB of flash or the Bluetooth radio found on the Pro. Both SBCs measure 100 x 80mm, and offer WiFi, HDMI, Ethernet, USB, and SPDIF ports. You also get 80 pins of expansion I/O. Options include a case and antenna.
Radxa Rock 2 Square — Radxa – Unlike the Rock Pro and Rock Lite, the $129 Rock 2 has a modular, sandwich-style design. Its Rock 2 SOM module has a faster, quad-core Cortex-A17 RK3288 with Mali-T764 GPU, as well as up to twice the RAM (2-4 GB) and up to four times the flash (16-32 GB) of the Pro. The module plugs into a Square Baseboard that runs on 5V/3A power, and offers WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE), GbE, and four USB ports. Other features include HDMI 2.0, SPDIF, and analog audio ports, as well as LVDS, eDP, IR, debug, and UART I/O. There’s also 40-pin GPIO output and a 50-pin LVDS connector. A pricier, OEM-focused Full Baseboard version offers most of the Square’s features, but offers slightly different expansion connectors, and adds a second GbE port, an MIPI interface, and 3G support. Both versions support microSD cards up to 128 GB, as well as SATA HDDs up to 4 TB.
Raspberry Pi Model A+ — Raspberry Pi Foundation — The $20 Raspberry Pi Model A+ measures only 65 x 56 mm, and weighs in at just 23 grams. Like all other first-generation Pi boards, it runs Raspbian Linux on an aging, ARM11-based Broadcom BCM2835 SoC. Compared to the original A, power consumption has been reduced to 600 mA. The A+ adopted the 40-pin connector of the first-gen Model B+, as well as the new RPi 2 Model B. It similarly switched from SD to microSD storage, updated the audio circuit, combined the audio and composite ports, and moved to a design with four mounting holes and rounded edges. I/O is similar to the B+ except for the lack of an Ethernet port, and the inclusion of only one USB host port. The board ships with 256 MB of RAM.
Raspberry Pi Model B+ — Raspberry Pi Foundation — The Linux-ready Model B+ recently received a price drop to $25, which makes sense considering the much faster Pi 2 goes for the B+’s original $35 price (see below). In any case, the real draw here is the huge Raspberry Pi maker community, add-on market, and overall ecosystem. Compared to the older Model B, the similarly 700 MHz, ARM11-based Model B+ has a 40-pin GPIO header, two more USB ports, and a microSD slot. It’s also claimed to reduce power consumption by between 0.5 W and 1 W. The B+ ships with 512 MB of RAM.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B — Raspberry Pi Foundation — The new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B has sold well over a million units in just four months. The $35 Pi 2 has established itself at the moment as the price/performance leader among low-cost hacker boards. It runs on a custom-made Broadcom BCM2836 SoC with four 900MHz Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 900MHz, along with the usual VideoCore IV GPU. The backward compatible, 40-pin SBC has twice the RAM (1GB) of the first-gen Model B+, but is otherwise almost identical, with the same I/O, size (85 x 56 mm) and weight (45 grams). Weirdly, it has expanded its OS support to Ubuntu Windows 10, but not yet to Android.
Rico Board — MYIR — The $99 Rico Board is the first third-party SBC we’ve seen to tap TI’s single-core, Cortex-A9 AM437x SoC clocked to 1 GHz, which features TI’s latest quad-core, 200MHz Programmable Real-time Unit (PRU). A PowerVR SGX530 GPU is also available along with 512 MB DDR3 RAM (expandable to 1 GB) and 4 GB eMMC flash. The 100 x 65mm SBC integrates HDMI, GbE, and dual USB ports, as well as a 24-bit LCD interface that supports optional 7-inch touchscreens. Also available are Parallel camera interfaces and dual 40-pin expansion connectors with support for CAN and other industrial I/O.
RioTboard — Newark Element14, RioTboard.org — The $79 RioT (“Revolutionizing the Internet of Things”) board runs Android or Linux on a single-core Freescale i.MX6 Solo SoC with 1GB of DDR3 RAM and 4GB eMMC flash. The 120 x 75mm SBC offers several advantages over the similar Wandboard Solo, including twice the RAM, built-in flash, and many more USB ports.
SAMA5D4 Xplained — Newark Element14, Atmel — Like the earlier (and still available) Atmel SAMA5D3-based SAMA5D3 Xplained, the $93.50 SAMA5D4 Xplained is a collaboration between Atmel’s Linux4SAM developers site and Newark Element14. The Linux-ready, IoT-focused SBC showcases Atmel’s SAMA5D4 SoC, which like the SAMA5D3, is limited to a single 528MHz Cortex-A5 core. The SAMA5D4 adds NEON, L2 cache, and security features, and several models support 720p video. The 138 x 88 mm Xplained board ships with 512 MB each of RAM and NAND flash, and offers partial Arduino compatibility. You also get HDMI, Fast Ethernet, and three USB ports.
Udoo Neo — Udoo (Seco) — Like the larger Udoo Quad SBC, the IoT-focused, 85 x 59.3 mm Udoo Neo runs on a Freescale i.MX6 processor. Yet, the Neo is optimized for the new i.MX6 SoloX model, using its signature Cortex-M4 MCU to mimic an Arduino. The Neo ships with 512 MB of DDR3L, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, micro-HDMI, microSD, and dual USB ports. You even get 3-axis sensors. In addition to an Arduino connector, there are 36 GPIOs, six analog inputs, and six “multiplexable signals.” Kickstarter packages are available through June 4 starting at $49, while a a “Plus” model with 1 GB of RAM goes for $59. A May 14 blog post promises a new Linux 3.14 kernel, plus an “easy peasy” initial config system, which is also available for the Udoo Quad.
Udoo Quad — Udoo (Seco) — The 110 x 85 mm Udoo Quad combines a quad-core i.MX6 SoC running Android or Linux with a Cortex-M3 based Arduino Due subsystem. In addition to the $135 Udoo Quad, you can choose from a pair of dual-core i.MX6DualLite options that have increased in price since the announcement. There’s a $115 Udoo Dual that lacks the Quad’s SATA port and faster Vivante GC355 GPU, and a $99 Dual Basic that also foregoes WiFi and gigabit Ethernet. All the models ships with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM.
USB Armory — Inverse Path — This tiny (65 x 19 mm), Crowd Supply funded board is designed for secure computing applications. The $130 USB Armory features Trustzone security, USB emulation, and a secure boot feature that lets users apply verification keys that ensure only trusted firmware can be executed on a specific device. The SBC runs Linux or Android on an 800 MHz, Cortex-A8 Freescale i.MX53 SoC with 512 MB DDR3 RAM. The board is limited to two real-world ports: a USB 2.0 OTG port and a microSD slot.
Viola SBC — Toradex — The sandwich-style Viola is typically sold as a carrier board for Toradex’s Colibri modules, but it ships as a hacker-friendly, $64 Viola SBC when pre-integrated with the company’s Colibri VF50 module. The VF50 COM combines Freescale’s Cortex-A5-based, 400MHz Vybrid VF5x SoC with 128 MB DDR3, 64 MB DDR3 with ECC, and 128 MB NAND flash. The carrier board provides LCD, Ethernet, dual USB ports, and a variety of serial, analog, and industrial interfaces including CAN. The SBC ships with a Linux image, and Android is supported as well.
Wandboard Quad — Wandboard.org — Wandboard.org was one of the earliest open board communities, and it’s still quite lively, with frequent software updates. The boards have remained the same, however. The Wandboard is designed as a modular, sandwich-style COM+baseboard assembly featuring a compute module that includes a Freescale i.MX6 Quad and 2 GB DDR3 RAM. The carrier offers WiFi, Bluetooth, GbE, HDMI, serial, SPDIF, analog audio, camera and SATA connections. It also provides dual microSD slots and dual USB ports. In addition to the $129 Wandboard Quad, there’s a $99 i.MX6 DualLite-based Wandboard Dual with 1 GB RAM, which drops the SATA, and a $79, single-core Solo version with 512MB, which also skips the wireless radios.
Warpboard — Freescale, Warpboard.org, Revolution Robotics — Freescale’s Warpboard.org announced the tiny, wearables-focused Warpboard in January 2014 at CES, but PMIC problems have delayed it until an expected shipment this month. In addition to the Warpboard’s single-core, 1 GHz i.MX6 SoC, there’s a Kinetis KL16 daughter card which incorporates a Cortex-M4-based Kinetis microcontroller, as well as Freescale Xtrinsic sensor modules. (In 2015, a Warpboard based on the new i.MX6 SoloX, which integrates a Cortex-M4 on-chip, might make more sense.) The board ships with Android 4.3, which requires a $50 LCD touchscreen. Otherwise, you can download a Linux 4.0 distro that does not require the LCD. It’s unclear whether the previously announced $149 price still stands.
Z-turn Board — MYIR — The $99 Z-turn Board runs Linux on the Xilinx Zynq-7010 or -7020, which combine dual Cortex-A9 cores with FPGA circuitry. The 102 x 63 mm SBC ships with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and 512 MB of reserved NAND flash, and features HDMI, GbE, and dual mini-USB ports. There are also a variety of sensors, buzzers, switches, buttons, and LEDs. Dual 80-pin expansion connectors express the FPGA signals, and can be configured as LVDS pairs. A $139 kit version adds a power adapter, cables, and a 4GB data card.