8 Alternatives to the Raspberry Pi

Circuit board on a black background
credit: Raspberrypi.org

A favorite of the maker and tinkerer community, the Raspberry Pi microcomputer has inspired people to create some amazing things from home automation systems to time-lapse photography rigs. At $35, the computer is at a price that most DIYers can afford which is a large part of its success, but it's also a very stripped down computer. Lately, a range of microcomputers have come on the market trying to steal some of the Raspberry Pi's thunder, many of which have more processing power and features. If you're in the market for some hardware to use in your next genius project, click through for 8 Raspberry Pi alternatives.

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HummingBoard

credit: SolidRun

This board is very similar to the Raspberry Pi -- it will be great for media streaming, robotics, consumer electronics and even as a PC -- but SolidRun's HummingBoard kicks things up a notch with a quad-core processor, four times the memory of the R Pi, integrated wifi and Bluetooth connectivity. The configuration and layout is very similar to the R Pi, so additional hardware that worked with the R Pi, should also work with this. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but it should be available soon.

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Banana Pi

credit: Lemaker.org

The Banana Pi from Lemaker.org is for Raspberry Pi lovers who just want more processing speed and a few added features. The Banana Pi has the same board layout and supports the same add-on modules as the R Pi, though the board itself is slightly larger. The Banana Pi has a dual-core 1 GHz processor, twice the RAM as the R Pi and an on-board microphone. It's being exclusively sold through the Ali Express website for $50.

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BeagleBone Black

credit: adafruit

At $55, the BeagleBone Black is right in the same price zone as the R Pi and in a recent comparison Make Magazine declared it a better board in many areas for the price. Some of the places where the BeagleBone Black wins is that it has a faster processor, is ready to use right out of the box and has 4 GB of on-board storage, while the R Pi requires an SD card.

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MinnowBoard Max

credit: MinnowBoard.org

The MinnowBoard Max is Intel's entry into the hacker-space. It's a completely open-source single-board computer -- you can see the software and hardware and users can even download the schematics of the board. It features a low-power 1.91 GHz processor, Intel HD Graphics and runs Linux and Android. While the R Pi is mostly seen as an educational tool, the MinnowBoard Max, at $99 (or $139 for a dual-core version), is more for serious hobbyists. It is supposed to go on sale to the public by the end of the month.

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Odroid-U3

credit: Odroid

The Odroid-U3 is another one of the boards to come out in the wake of the Raspberry Pi that punches up what can be done with a computer of its size. The Odroid-U3 features a much faster 1.7GHz quad-core Samsung processor -- the same processor used in the Samsung S3 smartphone -- and it has four times the RAM of the Raspberry Pi. According to Odroid, the U3 has six to twelve times the performance of the R Pi, but at less than twice the cost at $65. A recent survey of hackers and makers done by the site LinuxGizmos ranked the U3 the third favorite single board computer after the R Pi and the BeagleBone Black.

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Udoo

credit: lhl

Arduino boards really lit a fire in the maker movement. The microcontrollers have led to many single-purpose DIY electronics, but when the Raspberry Pi came along, many people embraced the microprocessor because it expanded what they could do with some decent CPU. Arduino has filled that need with the Udoo, a microcomputer that can accomplish all that a Raspberry Pi or Arduino board can. It can run either Android or Linux and has an Arduino-compatible board embedded. The Udoo has more processing hardware than the R Pi, with either a dual core or quad core as options, but that extra power comes with a $99 to $135 price tag.

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Radxa Rock

credit: Radxa

The Radxa Rock steps up the microprocessor game with a quad-core 1.6 GHz processor, built-in Bluetooth, WiFi with antenna, 1 GB of RAM, and 4 GB of onboard storage all for $79. For $20 more, there is a version with 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of onboard storage. The kicker for the Radxa? It comes with it's own clear plastic case so you don't have to buy one separately.

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Smartphones

credit: samsungtomorrow

Seeing as the processors featured in all of the microcomputers are similar to or, in some cases, exactly the same as the ones found in smartphones, it seems appropriate to include smartphones on this list. Smartphones are amazingly powerful computers for their size. If you have a smartphone and also one of these microcomputers, it's likely that you can do far more with your smartphone, especially when it comes to completing multiple functions at once. The ability to do something new with your smartphone is just a quick app download away. Of course, the fun of the microcomputers is that they're open laboratories where you can add, change, build upon and customize to your heart's content. Most of us aren't tinkering with the hardware of our phones, but when it comes down to computer power, if you're looking for something small that packs a punch, it's probably already in your pocket.