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Raspberry Pi Alternatives - Beyond the Little Computer

Posted:02:02 PM January 09, 2024 writer: Ibrar Ayyub

The Raspberry Pi came out in 2012 and quickly became the go-to small computer because it was so cheap and easy to get. Even their basic models were under $50 bucks, opening up the world of tinkering and coding to all kinds of people. But over the years, other companies started making their own single-board computers (SBCs) to compete with the Pi. This article checks out some really cool alternatives that offer different features at various price points - some similar to the Pi and others that take things to the next level beyond your basic mini PC.


The Odroid board series from Hardkernel is one of the closest rivals for the Raspberry Pi. Beginning with the first Odroid-C1 in 2012, Hardkernel has since delivered different Odroid sheets with changing specs at comparative price tags to the Raspberry Pi. Some of the key Odroid models include:

  • Odroid-C2: Delivered in 2016, the C2 is tantamount to the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B regarding elements and execution yet at a lower cost of around $35. It has a quad-focus Cortex-A53 PC processor planned at 2GHz, 2GB of Hammer, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI yield and USB ports.
  • Odroid-N2: Presented in 2019, the N2 steps things up altogether with an octa-center Amlogic S922X central processor and choices for 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of RAM. It provides 4K video output and aims to be a more powerful Pi alternative for around $60-80 depending on RAM configuration.
  • Odroid-XU4: For elite execution applications, the XU4 delivered in 2015 elements an octa-center Exynos 5422 computer processor and incorporates choices for 2GB or 4GB of Smash. It has extensive connectivity including HDMI, M.2 slots, USB 3.0 and more. Capable of running Ubuntu and other full desktop operating systems smoothly. Priced around $80-100 depending on specs.

As a rule, Odroid sheets mean to offer preferred value for the money over Raspberry Pis as far as crude handling influence at comparative costs. Their support community is also quite active. Overall they make for a solid alternative choice for more demanding projects beyond basic usages.

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Rock Pi

The Rock Pi series from Radxa is another prominent competitor in the SBC space. Models in the Rock Pi lineup include:

  • Rock Pi 4: Delivered in late 2021, the Rock Pi 4 is straightforwardly situated against the Raspberry Pi 4 with a quad-center Cortex-A55 computer processor timed up to 1.8GHz, 2GB/4GB Smash choices and elements, for example, Gigabit Ethernet, PCIe interface, equipment sped up 4K disentangling and that's only the tip of the iceberg. It retails around $50-70 depending on specs.

  • Rock Pi X: A lower-cost model comparable to the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ with a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and options for 1GB/2GB RAM. Available for $30-40.
  • Rock Pi’S: An education-focused board with a lower-powered CPU but full-sized interfaces aimed at younger learners and STEAM education projects. Prices around $20.

Overall the Rock Pi boards offer close Raspberry Pi parity in terms of features while undercutting Pi prices slightly in many cases. They also add some unique capabilities like native PCIe on the Rock Pi 4 model. Rock Pi provides an appealing mix of performance and value.


Operating outside the constraints of being a Raspberry Pi Clone is hardware startup Pine64. Known for open hardware initiatives like the PinePhone, Pine64 offers three primary single board computers:

  • Pinebook Pro: A $400 laptop utilizing the Rockchip RK3399 hex-core processor. An intriguing educational laptop alternative at an unbeatable price.
  • Pinecil: An open source soldering iron starting at $25.
  • Pine64 SOM: Modular boards called Systems on Modules that can be integrated into custom devices and products starting from $25. Options include the Rockchip RK3399, Allwinner H6 and other CPUs.

While Pine64 products lie outside the low-cost SBC realm of the Raspberry Pi, they demonstrate interesting open hardware concepts through unique devices at value prices. Pine64 is less of a direct competitor but provides additional creative computing options beyond basic single board formulas.

Banana Pi

Chinese manufacturer AMLogic is very active in the SBC space through boards sold under various brands. One popular line is the Banana Pi series, including:

  • Banana Pi BPI-M3: Comparable to the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ with a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and options for 1GB/2GB RAM from $35.\
  • Banana Pi BPI-R64: Utilizes a quad-core Rockchip RK3328 CPU paired with 2GB RAM for around $50.
  • Banana Pi BPI-M5: Higher-end model featuring an octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU and up to 4GB RAM for $70-100.

Banana Pi boards maintain close feature parity with Raspberry Pis while sometimes offering slightly better processing specs. The BPI-M5 in particular may exceed Pi capabilities at similar pricing depending on configuration. Banana Pi is a safe alternative choice when a drop-in Pi replacement is needed.


Rather than strictly clones, the LattePanda series from AAEON offers Windows-centric takes on single board computers. Models include:

  • LattePanda Alpha:  A minimal expense $99 board based around an Intel Molecule x5-Z8350 processor matched with 4GB Smash and 64GB eMMC. Runs full Windows 10.
  • LattePanda Delta: A move forward choice using the more remarkable Intel Celeron J3455 with choices for 4GB/8GB Smash and 32GB-128GB capacity from $149. Perfect for running light applications in Windows.
  • LattePanda Gamma: Top-tier model with an Intel Core m3-7Y30 CPU packed into a Raspberry Pi-sized format starting at $299. Capable of serving as a fully-functional mini-Windows PC.

LattePanda boards introduce x86 architectures into the SBC space while retaining single board formats. They offer familiar Windows environments rather than Linux for those migrating from other platforms. Performance can comfortably exceed Raspberry Pi levels.

Asus Tinker Board

Asus made the Handyman Board as a Raspberry Pi elective zeroed in on modern purposes as opposed to buyer/specialist markets. Models currently include:

  • Tinker Board: First model with a quad-core Rockchip RK3288 CPU and 2GB RAM for around $75.
  • Tinker Board 2: Updated version utilizing a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor and 2GB RAM priced at $65.

Both Tinker Boards feature Gigabit Ethernet, eMMC storage, and 40-pin headers for custom expansions. Power user software like Gentoo Linux is supported alongside Debian/Ubuntu distributions.

While not as versatile as Raspberry Pis, Tinker Boards fill a niche delivering full-fledged Debian desktop experiences for industrial/commercial applications. Their hardware enabled specialized use cases beyond the typical maker space.

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Radxa Zero/Rock

Smaller SBCs also abound. The entry-level Rock from Radxa matches the Raspberry Pi Zero form factor and provides similar specs including a single-core CPU and 512MB RAM all for only $10.

Alternatively, the Radxa Zero ups the ante with a quad-core Cortex-A53 chip and 1GB of RAM for $15. Both boards pack full connectivity including HDMI/USB in tiny packages ideal for ultra-compact projects.

They prove capable low-cost boards exist beyond Pi Zeros and represent good choices for basic use cases where size is critical over raw power. Many projects can be realized on such small boards marvelously.

Other Options

Many other players have launched various alternatives over the years as well including:

  • NanoPi: A range of boards from FriendlyARM similar to Odroid and Banana Pi options.
  • Orange Pi: Boards from Shenzhen Xunlong utilizing Allwinner SoCs comparable to Banana Pi models.
  • UDOO: Industrial focused boards utilizing various Intel and ARM processors in full-featured configurations.
  •  DragonBoard: Qualcomm Snapdragon boards endorsed by Android aimed at IoT and embedded uses.
  • LattePanda Chi: An open-source variant of LattePanda SBCs designed for education.

Overall, the Raspberry Pi ecosystem remains very active and competitive. Many competing boards provide different tradeoffs between size, power, connectivity options and operating capabilities beyond basic Linux builds and media playback functionality. There truly is something for every type of project at many price points beyond the classic Raspberry Pi. Competition fosters further innovation across devices and form factors.

Choosing the Right Alternative

When considering alternatives beyond the Raspberry Pi there are a few key factors to weigh:

  • Performance Needs: More power? Full OS? Specific processor/architecture required? For projects requiring significant processing power or the ability to run full desktop operating systems, boards like the Odroid XU4, Rock Pi 4 or Tinker Board 2 may be better options thanks to their powerful chips. However, for basic uses the Raspberry Pi and equivalents will suffice.
  • Software/OS: Do you require a specific OS like Windows or an industrial focused Linux distribution? Boards like LattePanda cater explicitly to Windows users while the Tinker Board supports specialized distributions. But most other boards run generic Linux distros.
  • Form Factor/Connectivity: Some projects demand small sizes over all else, in which case nano boards like the Radxa Zero/Rock fit the bill perfectly despite lower specs. Industrial applications may value expansion interfaces, favoring options from UDOO or Tinker Board.
  • Budget: Consider starting costs and any additional expenses. While specs are similar, some boards cost marginally more or less depending on the manufacturer and retailer. research fully to find the best value option.

Picking an alternative aligning with performance needs, software requirements, physical constraints and budget will help identify the right single board computer beyond a basic Raspberry Pi for any given project.

Here are some additional details on considerations when choosing a Raspberry Pi alternative:

Hardware Specifications - Determine requirements for CPU, RAM, storage space, connectivity ports, etc. Options vary in processing power from basic single-core boards up to high-end options that can rival low-power desktop PCs.

Expandability - Check expansion interface options like PCIe, M.2, headers for sensors, etc. Some boards are more hackable depending on built-in interfaces.

Power Requirements - Boards have different power draw depending on specs. Consider power supply needs and if the board can run from batteries. May impact form factor.

Thermals - High-power boards can generate more heat during intensive use. Factors like heatsinks, ventilation and thermal throttling impact prolonged operation.

Community Support - Larger player boards tend to have bigger online communities. Easier to find tutorials, help forums and software support from larger fanbases.

Compatibility - Check software, OS, driver availability to ensure smooth operation. Some boards are Linux only while others support additional operating systems.

Durability - Industrial boards emphasize ruggedness over hobbyist boards. Consider durability needs of intended uses and environments.

Resale Value - More common boards retain value better for reselling later if needed. Obscure boards may be hard to offload.

These additional points help fully scope needs to determine the most suitable alternative beyond a basic Raspberry Pi single board computer. Balancing specifications and practical considerations lead to the best fit.

Additional Considerations for Specific Use Cases and Project Examples

Operating System Support

  • What OS options are available for each board? Are community-built OS images readily available or supported?
  • How well do different boards handle running alternative or customized OS builds? Abilities for tinkering are a plus.

Developer Tools and Libraries

  • Which boards offer official IDEs, debugging tools and other utilities for programming and development workflows?
  • Are boards like the Pi and competitors well supported by coding libraries and frameworks?

Industrial Grade Models

  • Some boards tout reinforced components or embedded features for industrial/commercial applications. What advantages do these confer?
  • Do any boards provide Long Term Support from manufacturers for mission critical uses?

DIY Project Examples

 Highlight interesting projects community members have built using different SBC options to illustrate capabilities and inspire ideas.

  • Case studies showing boards applied in robotics, IoT, education tools, digital signs etc can provide practical use case insights.

Alternative Case and Enclosure Options

  •  Off the shelf case designs vary, but some boards have more robust third-party enclosure support.
  • Are there mounting/installation accessories to simplify integrating boards into other devices and builds?

Storage and Compute Upgrades

  •  Options to pair boards with external storage, accelerators or coprocessors to augment capabilities beyond onboard specs.
  • Things like eMMC, HDD, SSD, GPU modules etc extend possible applications.

Latest Board Updates and Roadmaps

  • What's new or forthcoming from manufacturers - new models, spec bumps, OS upgrades being prepped to future-proof investments.
  • Gauging continued support longevity helps assess platforms.

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In conclusion, while the Raspberry Pi remains a top-selling single board computer known worldwide, it is no longer the only game in town. Manufacturers both large and small have introduced numerous competitive boards that expand the capabilities and use cases for these miniature computers. From higher performance options to niche windows-based offerings to tiny boards optimized for size, there are viable Raspberry Pi alternatives for virtually any computing project need.

The ecosystem remains vibrant as alternatives innovate and push each other forward. While Pi popularity ensures ongoing robust community support, other boards have followings of their own with dedicated developer work bridging gaps. Choosing an alternative requires evaluating specifications, software support, physical attributes and individual budgets to determine the best fit. But whether Raspberry Pi or another board, these compelling devices continue lowering barriers to learning, building and creating for enthusiastic makers everywhere.

This brings our examination of some of the top competing boards to the Raspberry Pi to a close. I hope this overview provided useful insights and considerations for finding options beyond the classic mini computer. Please let me know if any part of the article requires further expansion or clarification.


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