- The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer chipset that offers affordable access to barebones computing and basic programming environments.
- Raspberry Pi models typically come in two categories: Single-board computers and Standalone Motherboards.
- Single-board computers are highly affordable, with most having an MSRP that’s under $200.
The Raspberry Pi is a popular barebones single-board computer chipset. These single-board computers offer limited functionality but make an excellent choice for an affordable, customizable, and programmable computer chipset for beginners and veterans. However, as with anything many people are looking at Raspberry Pi alternatives to drive innovation in the market.
However, the Raspberry Pi name comes at a significant premium. For a time, there were no other single-board computer manufacturers to fall back on. But nowadays, there’s no reason to drop big bucks on a Raspberry Pi when a budget alternative features all the same technology.
Raspberry Pi: Summary
The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer chipset that offers affordable access to barebones computing and basic programming environments. They’re made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity that aims to bring affordable computer education to the masses.
The Raspberry Pi computer has a price point consistently below $100 and typically falls into the $35 range, making it a popular choice for low-intensity computing needs. The original iteration of the Raspberry Pi included a single-core 700MHz processor and just 256 MB of RAM.
The game has changed since the first iteration of the Raspberry Pi, and the newest models include quad-core 1.5 GHz processors and 4GB of RAM. While these single-board computers won’t be able to handle high-intensity tasks like gaming, they’re an excellent introduction to personal computing. They make a perfect choice for parents looking to introduce their children to private computer ownership without dropping big bucks.
The Raspberry Pi’s success also spawned many clones on the market. While many initial clones were just uninspired copies of the original, several tech giants like ASUS have taken up the single-board computer mantle. They have been producing their own competitive single-board computer chipsets.
Single-board computer chipsets are typically used to teach basic computing and programming languages. But these powerful machines can handle most day-to-day computing, making them an excellent choice for working people who don’t typically use their computers for gaming or video editing.
Raspberry Pi models use the unique Raspberry Pi OS, a proprietary operating system that allows PCs to run most modern applications. Alternative single-board computers typically run Windows or a Linux distribution. No OSX single-board computers are on the same level as the Raspberry Pi. The closest OSX PC to the Raspberry Pi is the Mac Mini which is almost ten times the cost of a Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi models typically come in two categories: Single-board computers and Standalone Motherboards. Single-board computers will generally be plug-and-play models that function as fully-fledged computers right out of the box, so long as you have the correct peripherals. However, standalone boards typically require a little more technological finesse to work with.
Standalone boards tend to be more expensive than single-board computers as the components in a standalone board differ from the in-house-made features used in single-board computers.
Here are our top four choices for alternative chipsets for the Raspberry Pi:
- Best Overall: ASUS Tinker Board
- Best Budget: Libre Computer (Le Potato)
- Best Processor: Rock Pi
- Best Energy Efficiency: Odroid
Best Overall: ASUS Tinker Board
The ASUS Tinker Board is our choice for the best overall alternative to the Raspberry Pi. It’s a bit more expensive than proprietary Raspberry Pi models but falls roughly in line with the price of Raspberry Pi standalone boards.
The ASUS Tinker Board has many models and iterations that users can peruse to find the best single-board computer chipset for their specific needs. For instance, the Tinker Board 2 is rated for low-power gaming needs, while the Tinker Edge is designed for use with AI applications.
ASUS Tinker Boards feature various chipsets and features, but most are equipped with a low-hertz quad-core processor, allowing them to process modern applications and even some games!
Again, these are a bit more expensive than the typical Raspberry Pi (hard to beat a $35 price point on a computer, though,) but you’ll be receiving a different type of product with features not available to Raspberry Pi users.
Check out theASUS Tinker Board on Amazon.
Please Note: As of July 16, 2023, the Asus Tinker Board 2 is currently unavailable on Amazon. If you cannot find the product elsewhere, please check back later.
Best Budget: Libre Computer (Le Potato)
- LATEST SOFTWARE SUPPORT: Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and Raspbian 11 support with hardware-accelerated video playback and 3D graphics. Upstream software stack featuring the latest Linux 6.x with open source...
- COMPATIBILITY AND EXTENSIBILITY: Great RPi alternative with same form factor as Pi 3 Model B for re-use with existing cases and power supplies. Identically designed 40-pin header enables hardware...
- HIGH PERFORMANCE LOW POWER: AML-S905X-CC performs faster than a Pi 3 B+ while using half the power. It is designed with power optimizations to increase sustained performance under load and reduce...
- FASTER CPU AND DOUBLE THE MEMORY: Quad 64-bit 1.5GHz ARM Cortex-A53 Processors, 4K Ultra HD ARM Mali-450 750MHz GPU, 2GB of High Bandwidth DDR3, 4K 60FPS High Dynamic Range Display Engine for H.265...
- OPEN SOURCE COMMITMENT: Libre Computer collaborates with software partners to create upstream infrastructure, drivers, and libraries for open-source projects such as Linux and u-boot that power our...
With a nickname evocative of the potato batteries of the not-so-distant past, the Libre Computer (Le Potato) is an excellent motherboard that offers most of the same functionality as a full-sized computer but packaged up in a compact motherboard setting.
Le Potato boards are highly affordable, with prices more in line with a standard Raspberry Pi. Thus, they make an excellent computer for younger kids and people just learning about computers. They’re also perfect for learning early programming languages since they’re customizable and can easily handle low-level programming tasks.
They are a bit more expensive than a typical Raspberry Pi model, but they’re significantly cheaper than Raspberry Pi standalone boards. So, they’re a perfect marriage of functionality and price point, offering a compelling product for every computer enthusiast.
Check out the Libre Computer (Le Potato) on Amazon.
Best Processor: Rock Pi
- Class-Leading Performance-ROCK Pi has been upgraded to OP1 processor a modern and powerful hexa-core ARM based RK3399 Soc, which is equipped with LPDDR4 RAM and optional high performance onboard eMMC modules.The OP1 processor can deliver up to 100% performance improvement compared to previous designs
- Support Twister OS- Twister OS is to provide a true desktop computing experience for single board computers (SBCs), right out-of-the-box after your installation. Twister OS includes themes, applications, tools, and optimizations to allow you to get the most out of your SBC.Rock Pi could also support Android and Linux OS.
- Maker Friendly, IoT Connectivity-ROCK Pi features maker friendly expansion options, including a 40-pin GPIO interface that allow for interfacing with a range inputs from buttons, switches, sensors, LEDs, and much more
- Multi Storage eMMC module-Optional industrial compatible high performance eMMC module, 16G/32G/64G/128G available, TF card slot supports up to 128G; M.2 connector supports up to 2T M.2 NVME SSD,running OS on SSD with SPI booting. GbE with PoE , QC 2.0 & PD 2.0 power Support
- AI Capabilities- ROCK Pi supports mainstream AI stack with GPU acceleration. Further more, a dedicated hardware NPU accelerator coming up next for ROCK Pi will boosts complex Machine Learning algorithm and reduce the power
If processing power is a feature you need, we recommend checking out the Rock Pi. This single-board computer series focuses more on bringing small but effective PCs to the masses, making it an excellent choice for people looking to upgrade their current system on a budget.
The Rock Pi 4 is one of the few boards with a dedicated GPU, and it comes with a MaliT860MP4 GPU that supports OpenGL. Since the Rock Pi 4 has a dedicated GPU, it’s more equipped to handle graphically intensive tasks like gaming. But it will still have limited functionality as the components in the Rock Pi 4 are not powerful enough to handle modern gaming.
However, the Rock Pi also features a Hexa-core processor with a 1.8GHz clock speed, making it one of the most powerful single-board computers on the market. Given that the Rock Pi is quite a bit cheaper than the Raspberry Pi standalone boards, this may be the better option for people looking to get the most functionality for the smallest price tag.
However, the Rock Pi has a few notable features that make it unwieldy for those outside the personal computer geekdom. Notably, using an ARM chip in the PC limits native compatibility with many programs.
Luckily, Windows can now run on ARM processors natively—though users may find some hiccups. However, the compatibility with other Windows apps may be different, as Windows apps are traditionally made using x86 and x64 chipsets.
Check out the Rock Pi on Amazon.
Best Energy Efficiency: Odroid
Shaka International’s Odroid series, including the Odroid N2+ 4GB Ram with 12V 2A Power Supply, is another excellent example of a solid single-board computer. These computers are designed with energy and power efficiency in mind and deliver on all fronts!
The Odroid+ board features multiple manufacturer-side customization options, including different processors, with one featuring a 2.2GHz clock speed, one of the highest clock speeds we could find in the single-board computer sector.
Odroid boards can also be customized in their RAM and feature a dedicated GPU and 4 USB ports to improve the board’s data transfer and provide peripheral customization to users. This is more powerful than most standard single-board computers. It wasn’t featured as our best overall because we wanted to give it a particular category for efficiency.
Check out the Odroid N2+ 4GB Ram with 12V 2A Power Supply on Amazon.
Raspberry Pi Alternatives: Choosing the Best Single-Board Computer for Your Needs
Single-board computers have been gaining much traction in the public sphere but remain a computing option that is relatively unknown outside of the geekdom. After all, most households have at most one to four computers, and most of them are laptops nowadays. However, single-board computers offer many advantages to the typical PC that are unavailable when using a laptop or full-sized PC.
Most notably, single-board computers are highly affordable. Most bonafide single-board computers have an MSRP that’s under $200. They’re also highly hardy since they have very few moving parts, making them an excellent choice for little hands that might not know how to treat electronics with respect yet.
Additionally, the lower power threshold for single-board computers is an excellent choice for parents looking to teach their children about computer ownership and safety. Since the systems are less potent than the typical PC, parents have also installed an artificial block that prevents their children from effectively accessing certain content, like gaming.
If this content block isn’t necessary, there are options for single-board computers that can also effectively game. While these computers are small, they are mighty, and new technological and manufacturing developments are being made every day.
Single-board computers are also an excellent investment for parents of children who are into computer programming. These small computers are powerful enough to build and test computer, tablet, and phone applications, making them great for teaching the fundamentals of computer programming.
Single-board computers also make great workstations for people who don’t have exceptionally intensive work needs. They’re typically powerful enough to run coding studios, word processors, and accounting software, making them an excellent choice for most remote office workers.
When buying a single-board computer, you should assess its components and see if they match your needs. The most common considerations to make when choosing the details of your single-board computer are as follows:
- Task Load
- Operating System
Many single-board computer users consider the size of their computer heavily when purchasing the unit. Single-board computers are small and compact, intended to be used in microcomputer housing.
Some users choose a single-board computer because of real-life space constraints. So, ensure that your single-board computer will fit into your selected housing. Most single-board computers are about the same size as a credit card. But it would still be pretty inconvenient to buy a whole new computer and not be able to use it.
This is the most important consideration you can make after the board size. If you’re planning on only doing light tasks with your new computer, there’s no reason to buy a top-of-the-line gaming model; you’ll never use the power or additional functionality you’re paying extra for.
If you’re a gamer who might want to do some gaming on your new PC, you’ll want to spring for a more efficient and robust build, or you won’t be able to play many games due to your PC’s power constraints. However, microcomputers aren’t designed for gamers or gaming anyway. So, unless you have to game on your single-board computer, there’s no reason not to buy or build a full-size computer with more powerful components.
Raspberry Pi Alternatives: What to Know Before Buying
Before purchasing a single-board computer, you’ll want to ensure that the computer can perform the tasks you intend to do. We’ve harped on it a bit, but we can’t stress enough that single-board computers are intentionally not very powerful. These computers are built with light task loads in mind and are made to be the epitome of affordability rather than performance.
Due to the primary goal being the size of the unit (smaller is better,) the unit’s performance tends to be less impressive than that of a full-sized, multi-board computer.
This drop in performance is also due to the lack of processing occurring on separate boards. A multi-board computer would process different information on different boards—such as graphics processing being handled by the board attached to the graphics card. With no secondary boards, the performance of single panels will be limited in comparison.
Another thing to consider is housing. Most single-board computers come with no housing—just the motherboard with all the components attached, meaning they can’t be used out of the box. While installing a single-board computer to a housing unit isn’t hard, you’ll still want to consider whether you’re able and willing to do that.
Those interested in a single-board computer without the fuss of self-installation will want to choose something from the Raspberry Pi line, as their PCs come with preinstalled housing nowadays.
Using a Raspberry Pi Alternative: What It’s Like
A single-board computer is pretty much the same as a full-sized computer, except for the reduced performance. Most of the same functionality will be available with a single-board computer. Depending on the model of single-board computer you buy, you may see different functionality, especially if you buy a Raspberry Pi instead of one of the alternatives.
Since Raspberry Pis use a proprietary operating system, their compatibility with other programs is limited, and many programs you’re accustomed to using may be unavailable.
Getting a new computer is always exciting, and single-board computers can be fascinating for new people! These sleek, tiny machines are an excellent way to get you or a loved one into computing without all the bells and whistles attached to other prebuilt computers.
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