$10 More for Faster than the R. Pi

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″)
DVI-D cape
Breakout cape
Breadboard cape
CAN bus cape
RS-232 cape
Battery cape

BeagleBone Black

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….

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to $10 More for Faster than the R. Pi

  1. R. de Haan says:

    Nice short video of the R.PI at Bloomberg showing the Sony UK plant. Production went up from 204 per week to 40.000 per week and over the next few months they will reach 1 million R.Pi’s per week. http://www.bloomberg.com/video/raspberry-pi-the-25-computer-inspiring-inventors-KEQvlL5MRYmqNduyHy5aDA.html

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Well I bought 2 figuring that would be more than enough at about double what I’d likely need / want… and right now I’d like to buy 1/2 dozen more… I’d like to make a Phone Switch, a nice HDMI Video / media station, made one into a portable “web / VoIP phone”, another as a dedicated “private side” Samba / NFS file server, and a boot server and….

    I find I must pace myself with them just to be careful not to over commit my time…

  3. R. de Haan says:

    It’s a nice idea to make an inventory of the components and software to build a 3 display glass cockpit (EFIS) with all this cheap computing power available. Sensors are dirt cheap and so are the new touch screens. I think some clever cookies can stir up some competition in the experimental market as it still exists. Twenty years ago a good cockpit instrumentation would set you back around 40.000 USD. Today thanks to the digital revolution we’re under 10.000 USD, despite the fact that we have more instruments today like GPS Navigation, transponder and anti collision equipment and weather maps.
    I’ll bet it can be done for 1/3 of that price including an autopilot. I even think it is possible to turn your plane into an autonomous drone including take off and landing capacity and all weather capabilities for little money. Just put in your destination and there you go… http://www.mglavionics.com/

  4. R. de Haan says:

    @E.M.Smith says:
    23 May 2013 at 9:36 am
    @R. de Haan:

    Well I bought 2 figuring that would be more than enough at about double what I’d likely need / want… and right now I’d like to buy 1/2 dozen more… I’d like to make a Phone Switch, a nice HDMI Video / media station, made one into a portable “web / VoIP phone”, another as a dedicated “private side” Samba / NFS file server, and a boot server and….

    I find I must pace myself with them just to be careful not to over commit my time…

    I already gave you the link for the HDMI Video/Media Station software for the R.PI. Did you catch it?

    As for your experiments getting on the web using two R-PI’s as headless servers between the computer and the modem can you tell me something about the connection speeds you achieved?

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    Yes, I got the HDMI Video/Media link. But having no HDMI Video nor Media have not done anything with it… When I’m “on the road again” and in hotels with HDMI perhaps my enthusiasm will build ;-)

    DIdn’t measure the connection speeds. It lights the 100 mb light on the network / Ethernet port side…which is as fast as my Ethernet goes, not having gigabit in the home yet… on the wireless side, it looks limited only by the dongle you put in the USB port ( 150 mb for me). To the internet it is obviously limited by my router / WAN speed ( 3000 kB/sec or 30 mB / sec IIRC ). Basically, for all my equipment, it is not the limiting factor… (Maybe I need to upgrade my network equipment ;-)

    Which part are you most interested in? Ethernet speed, USB speed, WiFi via USB speed?


    has a way cool picture of horses and riders ‘walking on water’ ;-) but also does CPU benchmarks:

    This is a crude and simple PI test against the Raspberry-Pi and a Dell Pentuim-4 (3.0Ghz)

    The Raspberry-Pi
    Starting PI…
    x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
    Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

    real 0m1.900s
    user 0m1.720s
    sys 0m0.000s

    Starting PI…
    x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
    Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

    real 0m0.099s
    user 0m0.096s
    sys 0m0.000s

    This somewhere between 17x and 19x speed difference, but compairing a ARM RISC ALU with a Pentium’s CISC FPU is not a fair comparison either. In other testing I was doing, I only got a 5x difference in performance, roughtly the difference between the Raspberry-Pi’s 700Mhz and the Pentium’s 3.0Ghz clock frequency.

    As I got this benchmark from an old site, I was amused to note that this benchmark only makes the Raspberry-Pi about 56x times FASTER than a MicroVAX-II, a system I cut my teeth on in my programming life.

    Life’s relative, maybe I should write that down.

    Note; the GPU was NOT part of the testing.

    UPDATE: I managed to get this bencmark to run on a Arduino Uno (16Mhz) and the Pi is 126 times faster, So much for using an 8 bit processor as a number cruncher :-)

    UPDATE 2:

    The new Raspbian Distribution, (after a recompile) produced this benchmark.

    Starting PI…
    x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
    Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

    real 0m0.539s
    user 0m0.520s
    sys 0m0.010s

    or between 3.52 and 3.30 TIMES faster that the original Debian Squeeze distro. That makes it only about 5.44 times slower than the Pentium 4 at 3.0Ghz which I was detecting before with non numeric benchmarking. An interesting side note, due to the ‘Hard Float’ the timings incured 1/100 second of SYS time on the benchmark.


    compares various platforms and has nice graphs of Java vs gcc vs Python vs… performance times (Python like 30 x slower… JAVA about the same as gcc… go figure…)

    If you really want to “go fast” I think you can:


    Compiling with the -O3 flag gives even more impressive results: 21.9 MHz square wave.

    So you can make a nice signal generator out of it using the GPIO pins ;-)

    This guy makes a NAS Network Attached Storage out of it and gets a reduction from full theoretical ethernet max in actual use (which isn’t all that surprising given disks and rotating media and software and…)


    Network speed and CPU usage

    So how fast does it go? The raspberry pi has only 100MBit ethernet, so we’re capped out at a theoretical 11.9MiB/s anyway. In practice, in my 100MBit/s network with one hop between my laptop and the raspberry pi, using samba and gvfsd-smb to transfer files, I get rates of up to 5.6-6.0MiB/s and rates around 5.2-5.4MiB/s seem to be the average. Perfectly fine for my purposes, but it obviously can’t keep up with direct USB2.0, USB3.0 or eSATA connected harddrives. As my laptop harddrive is only 60GiB, I’m not probable to ever wanting to backup more than 30GiB at a time on my NAS, which would take roughly 1.6-1.7 hours. If I ever happen to fill up my entire harddrive, and then want to take a backup, I’ll have to wait ~3.3-3.4 hours. I did not do any overclocking, and I doubt that overclocking will be of much help in any case, as the raspberry pi hums along at 70% CPU usage at full transfer speed anyway. If you’re doing a lot of simultaneous transfers, or you use encryption or other mechanisms that are more CPU-heavy, overclocking might help your throughput.

    Oh, and he was using Samba to a P.C. so not the usual Unix / Linux NFS file system…

    If none of that does it for you, and searching like
    doesn’t turn up what you want, let me know just which part you think is of concern and how fast you want it to go and I’ll see if I can test it…

  6. Steve C says:

    R. de Haan says (23 May, 9:53 am)
    “… I’ll bet it can be done for 1/3 of that price …”

    A fair few years ago, I worked for a large electronics company. When I joined, all the training was based on the old valve (tube) equipment which had sold well for a number of years since WWII, priced at around 16K UKP per box (this was professional stuff). We were developing the new, all solid state version, which had all the bells and whistles, more channels, more reliable, etc., etc.

    Being fair-minded, the firm added a chunk of profit to what the new unit cost to build, and offered it at 8K UKP. Nobody wanted to know. Asking around the customers why they weren’t interested, the management found that nobody could believe that this upstart, miniaturised stuff at half the price could possibly be as good as the 16K original. So, being of sound (commercial) mind, the firm re-advertised everything tne new gear could do, but this time at a price of 18K.

    It sold like hot cakes. But you guessed that.

  7. WhiskersIn PaloAlto says:

    Both the BBB and the Rasp-Pi are cool as stink. Neither is fast when compared to a modern laptop, Both are serious project boards for students. Both let the instructor fix the OS foundation and take any twist or turn the class might go. Python runs well enough on both. The Rasp-Pi folk got the Python folk to take some interesting and necessary changes to IDLE.
    The BBB has an interesting trick running a tiny web server with server side js to toggle LEDs and fiddle with hardware. This could also be done on the R-Pi with a couple days of work.

    I built an MPI cluster out of R-Pi boards — not very fast but a good teaching/ learning tool.

    The bottom line big win is these are worthy computers sufficiently limited in resources to teach programmers to not be sloppy or greedy. The Rasp-Pi is slightly better supported this week, but the hardware cape ability of the BBB could make the difference.

  8. crosspatch says:

    Noticed several expansion boards for the Beagle here: http://www.mouser.com/Search/Refine.aspx?Ne=254016&N=1323038+14977750+4292556358

  9. Gail Combs says:

    Steve C says:
    23 May 2013 at 6:44 pm
    …. So, being of sound (commercial) mind, the firm re-advertised everything tne new gear could do, but this time at a price of 18K.

    It sold like hot cakes. But you guessed that.
    We used the same idea in our business model.

    Unless you are selling a generic commodity the question is: Do you want to sell Chanel’s PARFUM GRAND EXTRAIT starting at $2100.00 or Evening at Walmart for six bucks?

  10. Paul Hanlon says:

    This is great. Competition always works. There’s an announcement on the RasPi site that they are collaborating with Collabura to bring a port of Wayland to the RasPi. Wayland is a direct replacement for the X system and it uses the GPU on the Pi to render the GUI. I wonder what ChiefIO’s performance figures will look like once that is fully implemented.

    Looking at the short video, it is super fast, and looks amazing. So now the ARM can focus on kernel / application stuff and pass off the display to the GPU. Apparently GNOME and KDE will be bringing out their own port of Wayland for their stacks and it will most likely be rendered by the graphics chip / card on a PC.

    They also announced recently that now that they have brought the camera to market, they will be focusing on a display to be powered from the other bus on the Pi. In other news, we have the Razberry, a breakout board for doing Z-Wave communications. Pricey, and I think ZigBee edges it because of the encryption, although Z-Wave seems to have more appliances enabled for it.

  11. DocMartyn says:

    I learned to write software on a 4K Z80 and bought my Spectrum with a whole 16K of memory.
    In those days we wrote tight code. Then I had an Apple II, with 162K and I could write peptide sequence comparison programs, for which I got a A on my final year B. Sc. Project.

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    Blame “object oriented programming” and “dynamic libraries”.

    So now simply making a nearly empty program will load up a huge amount of libraries of code “in case they are needed”. Where in the past just a tiny bit of “write out one character” code would be loaded if you only wrote out a character, now they just load the whole damn i/o library… and sometimes have re-written it in object oriented form, so it loads the entire O.O. library of things too…

    You can still write “tight code”, but may need to recompile the libraries and maybe even break them back out into small parts…

    Frankly, it’s damn hard to be as inefficient as the current crop of computers / libraries / compilers. All I can figure is that folks are incredibly good at being bad…

    (Don’t get me started on the rampant use of Virtual Machines and multiple layers of indirection each loading their sets of bloated libraries… See: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/cruel-raspberries/ )

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