The best single-board computers for makers and hobbyists.
The Raspberry Pi has taken the world by storm, launching a whole new hobby computing revolution. The little microcomputer has inspired makers, developers and enthusiasts to create their own projects in fields as diverse as IoT, home automation and even space exploration.
However, if the Raspberry Pi isn't quite right for you, there are plenty of other single-board computers to choose from. So if it doesn't quite float your boat, here are some of the best alternatives.
The original Raspberry Pi rival, Arduino makes a range of different single-board computers and microcontrollers. They come in a wide variety of different flavours, with different form factors and various levels of hardware sophistication.
Arduino offers more specialised products too, with boards that are tailored for use in IoT, robotics and wearable projects. The company also manufactures a number of peripherals to help extend the versatility of your projects. Arduino's flagship entry-level board is the Uno.
Coming from a long line of single-board computers designed for more advanced hobby computing fans, the BeagleBone Black is the company's more entry-level offering, priced at just under $US50.
It's very similar in terms of specs to the Raspberry Pi, with a 1GHz ARM CPU, 512MB of memory and various input ports. It's also got both analog and digital I/O pins, meaning it can support additional add-on boards.
Asus Tinker Board
A Raspberry Pi clone in the truest sense of the word, the Asus Tinker Board looks near-identical to the Pi, right down to the placement of its various ports. That's not a criticism, however, and the Tinker Board has much to recommend it.
It's considerably faster than the Raspberry Pi 3, for a start, and also supports resolutions of up to 4K. It's more expensive than the Raspberry Pi 3, admittedly, but it's one of the faster single-board computers on the market today.
Imagination Creator Ci20
Built by British company Imagination Technologies, the Creator Ci20 is a single-board computer that's as suited to IoT applications as it is to use as a desktop machine. The 8GB of onboard flash storage comes preloaded with Debian Linux, although it supports Android as well.
Featuring built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the Ci20 is flexible and versatile, featuring a powerful 1.2GHz processor - but it's the Android support that makes this a really tempting proposition.
First released way back in 1981, the BBC Micro is credited by many with kick-starting the first home programming revolution. Now, the venerable machine has got a second lease of life, in the form of the BBC micro:bit.
Carrying on the original Micro's mission of getting kids into computing, this cheap computer features 25 individually programmable LEDs, two physical buttons and even an accelerometer. It's not as powerful or as versatile as the Raspberry Pi, but as a low-cost education device, the micro:bit is a worth successor to the granddaddy of home computing.
If you thought the Raspberry Pi was cheap, prepare to meet a computer even more affordable. Available for just $9, C.H.I.P has a lot in common with the itsy-bitsy Raspberry Pi Zero, including its miniscule size.
C.H.I.P. comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4GB of inbuilt storage, as well as a 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM. The company has also released a portable 'pocket' version, featuring a screen and keyboard controlled with a removable C.H.I.P.
NanoPi 2 Fire
The NanoPi 2 Fire shares the same GPIO pin header setup as the Raspberry Pi, meaning that projects and accessories using the pins should be transferrable between the two boards.
On top of that, it's also got 1GB of DDR3 RAM, Gbps Ethernet support and a quad-core, Samsung-made CPU running at 1.4GHz, all for just $US22.99.