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Selection criteria

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.

All the boards in our catalog sell for under $200 for at least one of their configurations, not including shipping costs. The boards must be available for order or pre-order with shipments expected before July 1. We allow crowdfunded boards that have completed funding and may not currently be available for preorder but have promised to re-launch publicly by July 1. Some boards are currently listed as out of stock, but if they are relatively new and are not clearly eclipsed by a successor, we have given them the benefit of the doubt that they will soon return. Over 90 percent boards are in stock now.

Our SBC criteria requires that a board have a minimum of two real-world connections, typically a micro-USB port and microSD slot. We allow sandwich-style board-sets, with carrier boards and attached compute modules. Another rule: Linux or Android must run on the board itself rather than on a connected desktop.


The boards must meet our relatively flexible selection criteria for open source compliance. No SBC is completely open source from the hardware perspective, especially given the typical opacity associated with GPUs and often sketchily documented CPUs. Not all the boards explicitly claim fully open source hardware licensing, but a about 90 percent of them provide schematics — some more explicit than others. At the very least, the SBC’s community project or vendor website must post extensive specs, as well as schematics or extensive documentation for at least all external connections, or for the carrier board in the case of sandwich-style SBCs.

The projects should offer at least some community and technical support for individual developers, such as forums, tutorials, and other resources for sharing tips and designs based on the SBCs. More important to most customers is the need for open source Linux or Android images for download that can dependably exploit the boards’ resources. In the case of new SBCs, we allow a bit of a grace period to post the above resources in a timely manner. Increasingly, projects are meeting user demands for using recent, mainline Linux kernels.

We are willing to overlook deficits in one area for excellence in another. For example, MYIR doesn’t offer much in the way of community, but it provides technical support, full schematics, and extensive documentation. Other projects such as Aaeon’s UP lack full schematics, but offer extensive community resources. All of this involves some judgment calls, so please inform us of any regrettable omissions or unfair inclusions/exclusions.