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2017 survey of 98 hacker-friendly SBCs launches with 26 SBC prizes

Jun 1, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 5,247 views
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[Updated: Jun 20] — Pick your favorites from our catalog of 98, sub-$200, hacker-friendly single board computers that run Linux or Android, and you could win one of 26 prizes.

Welcome to our third annual reader survey of open-spec, Linux- or Android-ready single board computers priced under $200. In coordination with Linux.com, we’ve identified 98 SBCs that fit our requirements, up from 81 boards in our similar catalog of hacker boards associated with the June 2016 survey. The ranked survey results of reader favorites was posted several weeks later, showing the Raspberry Pi 3 in first place, followed by the Odroid-C2 and BeagleBone Black.

 

2017 Hacker SBC Survey References


 

The 2017 Hacker SBC Survey has concluded, but its original launch post continues below…

 
We invite you to check out our freshly updated summaries of 98 SBCs, which are prefaced with a discussion of selection criteria. Once again, we have also posted a detailed spreadsheet that compares key features of all the boards in the survey.

Click on over to SurveyMonkey to select up to three of your favorite boards from our list and answer a handful of questions on key buying criteria and intended applications. By completing the survey, you will earn a chance to be among 26 randomly selected winners who will receive free SBCs generously donated to our annual survey by Aaeon, Arduino, BeagleBoard.org, Gumstix, Intel, and Qualcomm.

 
27 hacker SBC prizes

The prizes this time around include the Arduino Uno WiFi, several BeagleBoard.org BeagleBone’s including the new BeagleBone Blue, Arrow’s Qualcomm-backed DragonBoard 410c, the Gumstix Pepper DVI-D, ADI’s Intel-backed MinnowBoard Turbot Quad-core, and several Aaeon UP board models including the new UP Squared, as well as one of the first UP Core boards, which has just launched on Kickstarter.




Top left to bottom right: Arduino Uno WiFi, BeagleBone Blue, Qualcomm DragonBoard 410c, Gumstix Pepper DVI-D, Intel MinnowBoard Turbot Quad-core, Aaeon UP, and Aaeon UP Squared.
(click each image for board details)

To register for the SBC giveaway, we need your contact information — but it will only be used if you are selected as a winner. (Note: You must be 18 years or older to register for the giveaway. Void where prohibited.) Once the 14-day survey period ends, we’ll compile our official list of the “Top 10 Hacker SBCs.” Survey prize winners should receive their boards in July.

We would prefer that judgments be based on hands-on experience, but it’s not a prerequisite. Even if you’ve only learned about some of the boards from the media, by word of mouth, or from a demo at a friend’s house, store, or tech show, we’d like to hear from you. If your favorite board isn’t on the list, you can write it in the comments area at the end of this article.


[quick jumps: SBC descriptions | SBC specs table | survey results]

 
2017 trends in community backed SBCs

Community backed SBCs running Linux and Android sit at the intersection between the commercial embedded market and the open source maker community. Hacker boards are used as desktop replacements, homegrown media centers, and Internet of Things devices such as home or industrial automation gizmos. Other applications include robots, drones, smart city equipment, signage kiosks, and much more.

Our list has changed considerably since last year, with dozens of new products. To make room for new blood, we’ve also retired some of the older and out of stock boards, or boards that simply no longer offer any key benefit in the light of newer, similarly priced boards from the same vendor. Generally, these discards are mentioned in the blurbs of the similar SBCs.

For the most part, the newcomers have come from established projects. This year, for example, has brought us several new BeagleBoard.org blessed BeagleBone variations. We’ve seen a lot more affordable new Orange Pi (Shenzhen Xunlong) and NanoPi (FriendlyElec) SBCs to the point that for the first time we have had to enforce our 10 board per project limit for both projects. In some cases, we’ve combined a few similar boards into single summaries.

New projects and vendors include the high-end Khadas Vim, the Wandboard-like SavageBoard, and the Raspberry Pi-like Tinker Board from Asus. We have also included some slightly older “newcomers” like the Gumstix Pepper SBCs, as well as Aaeon’s x86-based UP board and UP Squared, now that they have recently posted sufficient schematics and other community features to meet our community board guidelines. The UP Squared shipped only recently, along with two other major x86 entries: the Udoo x86 and ADI’s Intel-backed MinnowBoard Turbot Quad-core.

The vast majority of hacker boards continue to run on ARM SoCs where one of the key trends has been increased adoption of 64-bit ARMv8 SoCs. In our 2015 survey, there were only two on the list out of 53. That tally increased to nine boards last year, and this year we count 20. Surprisingly, there’s not a huge difference in price. Indeed, the Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 and NanoPi Neo offer essentially the same board with a choice of Cortex-7 or Cortex-53 SoCs, with $2 and $7 price differences, respectively.

Over the last year, we’ve seen more stripped-down IoT boards like the wireless-enabled Raspberry Pi Zero W, Orange Pi Zero, and NanoPi Neo. However, we’ve also seen new action on the high end. This is primarily on the x86 side, but also in new ARM boards like the Firefly-RK3399, the MediaTek X20 Development Board, and CubieTech’s new CubieAIO-A20.

Meanwhile, board sizes continue to shrink, and price/performance continues to improve for both 32- and 64-bit SBCs. We’re seeing a lot more boards with eMMC flash storage and wireless functions, and a fair amount that have added mini-PCIe, M.2, SATA interfaces, and extended temperature ranges. The CubieAIO-A20 recently broke new ground by offering six USB 2.0 host ports.

The UP Squared joins the DPT-Board as the only boards with dual Ethernet ports. We’re interested to see if the quad-GbE Banana PI BPI-R2 router board manages to ship for under $200.

The adoption of Raspberry Pi’s 40-pin expansion connector continues to gain ground, enabling a wider variety of third-party SBCs to make use of the majority of RPi expansion boards. Fewer new boards are including Arduino-compatible expansion, and only one new 96Boards compatible SBC has arrived since last year that falls within our $200 limit (MediaTek X20). More 96Boards entries are on the way, however, including Arrow’s Cyclone V-based Chameleon96.

Looking forward to the year ahead, we can expect to see continuing innovation both in low-end IoT boards and high-end mediacentric devices. In particular expect to see more boards with quality microphones and other audio features that support expected demand for voice-activated home automation and consumer appliance gizmos.
 

 

2017 Hacker SBC Survey References


 

(advertise here)


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3 responses to “2017 survey of 98 hacker-friendly SBCs launches with 26 SBC prizes”

  1. neo says:

    Really nice comparison, but you really need to add a more detailed os info.
    Is is supported by armbian, arch linux arm, other custom linux, android, openwrt/lede, buildroot, yocto?
    A pretty big part is the os support and the availability of long term support.

  2. No B. Ody says:

    It would be great to be able to sort these based upon column. This is a google docs spreadsheet, shouldn’t this be possible?

Leave a Reply to No B. Ody Cancel reply