The world of single-board computers (SBCs) has long been ruled by the Raspberry Pi, a true heavyweight with an impressive track record of over 45 million units sold. But in the wake of this monumental success, a host of competitors has risen, each seeking to make its mark and provide enticing alternatives to the beloved Pi. Let’s take a closer look at the landscape of SBCs and dive into four standout challengers that offer distinctive strengths and applications in today’s market.
Orange Pi 4 and 5:
Developed by Shenzhen Xunlong Software Co., Ltd., the Orange Pi series presents the Orange Pi 4, a compact powerhouse fueled by a Rockchip RK3399 SoC. This impressive setup includes a dual-core Cortex-A72 processor coupled with a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, complemented by a Mali-T860 MP4 GPU. Boasting 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and an array of connectivity options, the Orange Pi 4 caters to a diverse range of applications.
Stepping into the limelight alongside its predecessor, the Orange Pi 5 elevates the game with an octa-core Rockchip RK3588S processor and up to 16GB LPDDR4X. Targeted towards professional users and ambitious projects, its heightened performance and capabilities open doors to more demanding endeavors.
Verdict: The Orange Pi series offers robust hardware and extensive connectivity, ideal for developers, hobbyists, and ambitious projects. However, acquisition through specific channels like Amazon.com remains the norm.
Banana Pi BPI-M4 and M5:
SinoVoip’s Banana Pi family introduces the BPI-M4, featuring an Allwinner H618 SoC paired with an ARM Mali G31 GPU. While equipped with 2GB LPDDR4 RAM, it competes admirably with the Pi 4 across various applications. Its successor, the BPI-M5, utilizes an Amlogic S905X3 SoC and 4GB LPDDR4 RAM, presenting a cost-effective alternative suitable for smaller-scale projects, albeit slightly less powerful than its counterparts, such as the Pi 5 or Orange Pi 5.
Verdict: The BPI-M4 and M5 offer robust hardware at attractive prices, appealing to developers, hobbyists, and small businesses seeking cost-effective yet versatile platforms.
Nvidia Jetson Nano:
Designed for enthusiasts and developers focusing on GPU performance and AI capabilities, the Nvidia Jetson Nano stands out prominently. Housing an Nvidia Tegra SoC with four ARM Cortex-A57 cores and a Maxwell GPU boasting 128 CUDA cores, it’s optimized for AI, robotics, and automation. With 4GB LPDDR4 and extensive interfaces including USB ports, HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet, GPIO pins, and camera interfaces, the Jetson Nano is a powerhouse, albeit at a higher price point.
Verdict: Perfectly tailored for AI-centric projects, its premium price might deter those seeking SBCs for casual uses like retro gaming or media centers.
From South Korean manufacturer Hardkernel, the ODROID N2+ features an Amlogic S922X SoC, combining four Cortex-A73 and two Cortex-A53 cores alongside a Mali-G52 GPU. Offering DDR4 RAM support, multiple USB ports, GPIO pins, and a robust design, it excels in media centers, retro gaming, and professional projects.
Verdict: An all-rounder catering to diverse needs, the ODROID N2+ impresses with performance and versatility, making it an ideal choice for various embedded and consumer electronics tasks.
As the quest for the perfect single-board computer continues, these alternatives showcase the expanding possibilities within the compact computing sphere. Each contender carves its niche, offering distinct advantages across diverse applications and user preferences, ultimately enhancing the options available to tech enthusiasts, developers, and hobbyists seeking tailored solutions for their projects.