Competition, it’s a beautiful thing… IF the Raspberry Pi is almost enough, but just a bit too slow for your tastes, it looks like it’s pulled the price down on the competition. BeagleBone now has a $45 board (or just $10 more than the B type R. Pi) that has enough added features to make it competitive.
has the story.
The extra $10 compared to the Raspberry Pi gets you some worth while upgrades.
First the CPU. The BeagleBone Black uses the Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 from Texas Instruments clocked at 1GHz. This is a major improvement over the Raspberry Pi which is using an ARM11 based CPU from Broadcom clocked at just 700MHz. The ARM11 is an older ARM architecture and Linux distributions like Fedora Core only support it with special rebuilds. The Cortex-A8 core used in the BeagleBone Black is more mainstream and supported out-of-the-box in distributions like Fedora Core.
I’m not particularly worked up over “Fedora Core” or the need to recompile for any particular chip; but that 1 GHz is a nearly 50% uplift in speed over a 700 MHz (1050 MHz would be a full 50% over 700 at 700+350= 1050, but why be that picky…). Also, the newer cores are often a bit more performance for any given clock rate via various instruction set improvements. IMHO, the next bits mater as much as the higher speed. Especially given that the R. Pi can be overclocked with relative safety to 1 GHz (it has a temp sensor in it and automatically slows down if it overheats… neat trick, that. ;-)
However your extra $10 also gets you 2GB of on-board flash and a microSD card reader. Although the Raspberry Pi also includes a SD card reader, a SD card isn’t included in the $35 and without one you can’t use the Pi. But the BeagleBone Black comes preloaded with Angstrom Linux allowing the microSD slot to be used for additional storage. Of course you can still boot off the microSD card if you want to run a different OS. There are also other ‘hidden’ costs for the Raspberry Pi including the need to buy a USB cable for the power, something that is included in the price of the BeagleBone Black.
Ok, I got the USB cable for 99 ¢ at Fry’s Electronics. Not a big deal. That 2 GB on board flash is worth about $5 ( I bought a 4 GB SD card for $5…) so that’s about $6 to $10 right there depending on how good a deal you can find on parts. Then again, I already had a USB hub, so didn’t need to buy a 5 VDC power supply… and that BeagleBone will need that power module.
The new board supports Android (code named rowboat) as well as various Linux flavors like Ubuntu, openSUSE and Ångström. The new board also supports other OSes such as FreeBSD, QNX, and Windows Embedded!
Like that selection of OS choices. The BeagleBone also has a couple of large connectors for various pinouts too. Looks like a microHDMI and no composite video, so I’ll need a new TV set before I can plug one in to video. OK, not going to happen soon… and I’ll mostly continue working with the R.Pi boards I have.
Still, it’s very nice to know that if I need a bit more “OOMPH!” for some particular appliance, I’ve got it available for all of $10 more. Given that the R.Pi is already “plenty” for many little projects, getting a small HDMI TV for cheap, and a USB keyboard / hub; plug it all into one of these, and it’s a very competent system. Toss on a USB disk for mass storage and it’s a very good workstation for all sorts of data archival and serving applications. The BeagleBone also has rounded corners for the card so it fits in Altoids cans to make a ‘way cool’ visual ;-)
The Wiki says it’s got 512 MB of memory:
Announced in the end of October 2011, the BeagleBone is a barebone development board with a Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 processor running at 720 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, two 46-pin expansion connectors, on-chip Ethernet, a microSD slot, and a USB host port and multipurpose device port which includes low-level serial control and JTAG hardware debug connections, so no JTAG emulator is required. The BeagleBone is initially priced $89(US).
A number of BeagleBone “Capes” have recently been released. These capes are expansion boards which can be stacked onto the BeagleBone Board (up to four at one time). BeagleBone capes include but are not limited to:
LCD touchscreen capes (7″ and 3.5″)
CAN bus cape
Launched in 2013 at a price of $45. Among other differences, it increases RAM to 512 MB, the processor clock to 1 GHz, and it adds HDMI and 2 GB of eMMC flash memory. It removes the USB serial.
Add that 7 inch touch screen and the battery, it’s a nice “pad”. Just need to put a cell phone module on it and you can make a decent DIY phone system… Hmmmm….