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Raspberry Pi 3 B+ wins hacker board reader survey

Jun 28, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 2266 views

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ won our 2018 reader survey as the most popular community-backed, Linux/Android hacker board under $200, followed by the UDOO X86 and Odroid-XU4.

The results are in for our latest hacker board survey, which we ran on SurveyMonkey in partnership with Linux.com. Survey participants chose the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, as the favorite board from among 116 community-backed SBCs that run Linux or Android and sell for under $200. All 116 SBCs are summarized in our recently updated hacker board catalog and feature comparison spreadsheet. (Downloadable versions of the spreadsheet may be found here.)


Raspberry Pi 3
Model B+

Our sample of 683 fell far short of the 1,705 survey respondents in our June 2017 survey and the 1,721 voters in 2015, but it beat out the 473 total for the 2016 survey. Considering the modest sample, the survey may not be highly representative of market share, but it’s still indicative of enthusiasm.

To rank the boards, we used Borda Count scoring, in which we tripled the number of first choices, then doubled the number of second place selections, and added the two results to the unadjusted third-choice amount. The boards that scored at least 20 Borda points are shown in a bar chart at the end of the story, and first, second, and third favorite vote tallies for all 116 SBCs are listed in this Google Docs table.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, which builds upon the RPi 3 Model B design with a faster Broadcom SoC, faster WiFi and Ethernet, and optional PoE, earned a Borda score of 811. This was about twice the score of the second place (414) UDOO X86, which is one of the most powerful of the handful of x86 based hacker boards.



Top 10 favorite SBCs (left) and ranking for all boards with scores of 20 or more (both by Borda count); first, second, and third favorite vote tallies for all 116 SBCs are listed here
(click images to enlarge)

There was a big drop to the next three boards, including the Odroid-XU4 (278), the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (277), which was last year’s runaway winner, and the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero W /WH (255). The remainder of the top 10 list includes the venerable sixth place BeagleBone Black (126) and the Raspberry Pi like Asus Tinker Board (112) and Odroid-C2 (95). The Raspberry Pi Zero (85) came in 9th and the BeagleBone Black Wireless (67) was 10th.


UDOO X86

If you prefer a top 10 list based on first choice only, the top 7 rankings would stay the same, but the Odroid-C2, RPi Zero, and BB Black Wireless would drop lower. This would make way for the UP Squared, Odroid-N1, RockPro64, Orange Pi Zero H2+/Zero Plus 2 H3/Zero Plus 2 H5, and the Rock64, all of which had higher first-pick scores.

Although the small size of the sample makes it difficult to read too much into the rankings, two trends seem clear: First, SBCs with Raspberry Pi like dimensions and 40-pin expansion connectors continue to do well. Second, it’s tough for a new board to break into the top ranks, at least among LinuxGizmos readers. Seven of the top 10 Borda-ranked boards were also in last year’s top 10, and the RPi 3 B+ was the only top 10 board that was not available a year ago.


Odroid-XU4

A few newcomers did, however, break into our 11-20 ranked group, including the RockPro64, Orange Pi Zero H2+, and DragonBoard 820c. The top 10 list also includes a board that will never see the light of day. We included the Odroid-N1 with the expectation that it would ship on time in June, but Hardkernel’s Odroid project just announced that the Rockchip RK3399 based SBC has been cancelled due to difficulties in purchasing RAM.

Hardkernel will release an Odroid-N2 model with an unnamed new SoC from another vendor within 5-6 months. The SoC will offer “faster CPU/GPU cores and native DDR4 support,” says the project. As far as we know, the Odroid-N1 is the only phantom board that snuck onto our list.

In our Jan. 3 catalog of 103 hacker boards, which did not include a survey component, we noted the emergence of Rockchip-based hacker boards. There were three Rockchip boards in the 11-20 group including the RK3228 based Rock64 and the RK3399 based RockPro64 and defunct Odroid-N1. Overall, however, there were no clear trends in terms of SoCs, either by brand or by processing power.

Nor was there a clear trend on price. The RPI 3 Model B+ costs $35 while the UDOO X86 starts at $176 and the Odroid-XU4 goes for $59. The fourth-ranked RPi 3 Model B sells for $35, the RPi Zero W starts at $5, the BeagleBone goes for $55, and on and on with no trend in sight.

The generally low cost, Shenzhen-based NanoPi, Banana Pi, and Orange Pi boards dominated our catalog due to the sheer number of different models (capped at 15 SBCs apiece). Yet in reader rankings, they fell primarily into the middle of the pack. Their scores would likely be higher if China allowed access to SurveyMonkey.

 
Reader buying priorities and goals

In addition to asking survey participants to list their favorite boards, we asked about buying criteria and intended applications. The year-to-year consistency we’re seeing in the answers suggests that a 683 sample may be more significant than we thought. In ranking buying criteria, for example, the rankings were very similar. High-quality open source software again led the list as the top priority, while networking/wireless I/O swapped with community ecosystem for second and third places.



Top buying criteria for a hacker board
(click image to enlarge)

When asked about intended applications, home automation was again on top, but the previous second-ranked education category dropped several levels. Home multimedia and special function servers advanced to second and third place, and data acquisition and control also jumped considerably, suggesting a growing role for hacker boards in industrial settings.


Most likely intended applications for hacker boards (left) and general nature of projects
(click images to enlarge)

In a separate question about more general usage, the maker/hobbyist segment once again led the way, but by a smaller margin. The other three categories increased, with the research and commercial categories seeing the largest gains.

 
15 hacker board prizes

Fifteen of our randomly selected survey participants will receive a free hacker board in the coming weeks. Five prize-winners will receive Gumstix Chatterbox Raspberry Pi Expansion boards for Alexa voice control. There are also five Aaeon UP board models including an UP, an UP Squared, an UP Core, and the new UP Core Plus and AI Core module.

Qualcomm also donated five of the Arrow-built DragonBoard 410c SBCs, which run on the Snapdragon 410 SoC. This pioneering 96Boards SBC has been out of stock every time we checked over the last year, so we dropped it from our catalog in favor of the new Qualcomm/Arrow DragonBoard 820c. Since we compiled our catalog in May, however, the DragonBoard 410c has returned to stock for $75 at Arrow.

We expect there will be an eventual consolidation among hacker boards, but so far there seems to be no slowdown in the number of new entries. We expect to report on many new hacker boards in our next catalog scheduled for the first week of January, 2019. Meanwhile, many thanks to all the participants who voted, as well as the vendors who donated boards.

 

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5 responses to “Raspberry Pi 3 B+ wins hacker board reader survey”

  1. mike says:

    you should run another poll. This time ask what would you use in a commercial product. That’s the only real question to ask here. 99% of these people using / wanting a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is mainly for a mini PC to tinker with. No sane engineer would ever put one in a real product.
    Not to mention who the heck is still using the antiquated and outdated BBB. Sheesh…..

  2. Richard B says:

    Thanks for the poll, data and hopefully win on one of the boards! Follow along daily or any new posts and great resource to the community at large. Cheers!

  3. Max says:

    As far as I’m concerned, what I can buy locally plays a huge role in selecting a specific board – fooling around with customs for “imported” stuff is nobody’s idea of fun around here if I can have something else delivered to my desk with a few clicks; also, any locally-sourced RPi boards tend to be sold at a huge premium around here due to their sheer “brand recognition” meaning one can buy several of most of the alternatives for the price of a single RPi, making the choice a no-brainer. As for the BBB, it may be a screwed pooch that apparently can’t even bring up its Ethernet interface some of the time, but I know of no alternatives to its PRU when it comes to proper real-time tasks – “real time kernels” and such sure ain’t it.

  4. Amir Sherman says:

    This is so not relevant. The reason that Arrow didn’t have stock for Dragonboard410 is because is all the time sold out !!! If someone from LinuxGizmos was contacting Arrow , this was the answer . Now , Arrow have stock and in production for another 20,000 Boards .

  5. rooterkyberian says:

    @mike why raspberry pi 3 model b+ or compute module would be a bad choice for commercial product?
    what would be better than it?

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