Best Single Board Computers 2021
The Raspberry Pi is undisputed the most common single-board computer (SBC) that came out in recent years since it was first announced in 2014 by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The company is continually sticking in implementing its Broadcom system on a chip (SoC) solution across all boards generations to achieve maximum compatibility with old and new images, but what about using more advanced hardware platforms designed by Chinese vendors?
Just for this purpose, this list was created. With respect to Broadcom SoC, Chinese vendors such as Rockchip and Amlogic in cooperation with local Chinese design companies are worthy contenders in terms of hardware when it comes to SBC with excellent value price specs ratio. You might not get the most extensive software support as the raspberry pi, but if you are willing to compromise and use 2-4 Linux distributions including android, it might be a great low-cost alternative.
The current version is the Raspberry Pi Model 4 B, released in June 2019. Topline specs are a 1.5GHz, 64-bit quad-core processor, Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth 5.0/BLE, and Power-over-Ethernet support (with separate Poe HAT). For the first time, a Raspberry Pi comes with 4 GB of RAM option, setting a high bar for Chinese design companies competing heavily in the SBC market segment.
A system on chip (SoC)
A system on chip (SoC) is an integrated circuit that integrates all components of a computer or other electronic system. These components typically (but not always) include a central processing unit (CPU), memory, input/output ports, and secondary storage – all on a single substrate or microchip, the size of a coin. It may contain digital, analog, mixed-signal, and often radio frequency signal processing functions, depending on the application. As they are integrated on a single substrate, SoCs consume much less power and take up much less area than multi-chip designs with equivalent functionality. Because of this, SoCs are very common in mobile computing (such as in Smartphones) and edge computing markets.
Systems on Chip are in contrast to the common traditional motherboard-based PC architecture, which separates components based on function and connects them through a central interfacing circuit board. Whereas a motherboard houses and connects detachable or replaceable components, SoCs integrate all of these components into a single integrated circuit,
(Source & Credits: Wikipedia)
Choosing a Single Board Computer
Just like choosing a desktop PC, you have to pick the right specification suitable for your needs. The best approach is to do some research and check different brands of SBCs including their prices. make a list of technical requirements based on specific needed such as computing power needed, the minimum CPU cores needed, memory capacity needed to run applications & services, selecting a good GPU if you are into gaming and video applications.
The external storage option is also an important factor worth considering in 2020. newer SBCs have with a built-in Onboard eMMC memory module socket so you have much better flexibility in adding higher capacity storage. Adding an SSD trough an M.2 PCI Express adapter is maybe top priority if you’re planning on using the SBC as a type of data such as multimedia files, apps, etc.
What Can you do with a Single Board Computer?
Like with any hardware platform, depending on hardware specifications it’s perfect for a variety of DIY projects, whether it’s connecting your 3D printer to a network, or learning to code, or putting together a streaming media hub. Some SBCs with 2 up to 4GB RAM can also be used as a tiny pc that is not only quiet, without moving mechanical parts but also energy efficient, conserving minimum power.
Without further ado, here’s a selection of the best Raspberry Pi alternatives of Chinese SBC (Single-board computers) brands you can buy in 2020, sorted by brand names, hardware platforms, websites, etc.
Best Single Board Computers Brands
T-Chip Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd.
Allwinner, Rockchip, Samsung, Amlogic
AsusTek Computer Inc.
Zhiwei Robotics Corp.
SINOVOIP CO., LIMITED
Xunlong Software CO.,Limited
Shenzhen Wesion Technology Co. Ltd.
Amlogic, Rockchip, Texas Instruments, XMOS