Faster Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black alternatives for less than 70 EUR / 90 USD

While the Raspberry Pi (RPi) has improved with its latest Model B+, there are now several other mini computers with twice or more than four times the performance. This article compares RPi alternatives which cost less than 70 EUR / 90 USD. It is full of long-researched information to help you choose the right single-board computer.

The article will explain
  • Which Raspberry Pi alternatives exist below 70 EUR / 90 USD
  • What is the price of each relative to the Raspberry Pi
  • Which one is the fastest by CPU cores, speed and RAM
  • Which single-board computer allows an LCD touch display to be directly connected
  • Which one has Gigabit Ethernet Network


Raspberry Pi Alternatives Below 70 EUR / 90 USD
Type Raspberry Pi B+ (RPi) BeagleBone Black Rev. C A20-OLinuXino-LIME A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 A20-OLinuXino-MICRO Banana Pi (BPi) Cubieboard 2 / A20 Dev Board ODROID-U3
CPU Cores/Speed/Arch 1 x 0.7 GHz ARM 1 x 1.0 GHz ARM 2 x 1.0 GHz ARM 2 x 1.0 GHz ARM 2 x 1.0 GHz ARM 2 x 1.0 GHz ARM 2 x 1.0 GHz ARM 4 x 1.7 GHz ARM
RAM 0.5 GB* 0.5 GB* 0.5 GB* 1.0 GB* 1.0 GB* 1.0 GB* 1.0 GB* 2.0 GB*
Onboard flash no 4.0 GB optional optional optional no 4.0 GB no
Network Speed 100 MBit** 100 MBit 100 MBit 1 GBit 100 MBit 1 GBit 100 MBit 100 MBit
(micro) HDMI yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
LCD (Touch)-Display Connector DSI*** yes, see 4D 7.0" LCD Touch CAPE yes, see Olimex 4.3", 7.0", 10.1" (Touch)-LCD modules yes, see Olimex 4.3", 7.0", 10.1" (Touch)-LCD modules yes, see Olimex 4.3", 7.0", 10.1" (Touch)-LCD modules LVDS LVDS onboard, 7" touch available via Expansion Board no
Camera Port (CSI/OV7670) CSI*** no no (only via I2C or USB) no (only via I2C or USB) no (only via I2C or USB) CSI**** OV7670 via Expansion Board no
USB 2.0 Ports 4 1 x Host, 1 x Client 2 x Host, 1x OTG 2 x Host, 1x OTG 2 x Host, 1x OTG 2 x Host, 1 x OTG 2 x Host, 1 x OTG 3 x Host, 1 x Device
SATA no no SATA and SATA Power SATA and SATA Power SATA and SATA Power SATA and SATA Power SATA and SATA Power no
Analog Audio Out / Mic In Audio no no no both both both Audio
Power Button no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Infrared (IR) Receiver no no no no no yes yes no
(Backup-)Battery connector no yes via expansion connector yes yes yes no no yes
GPIO PINs 40 with I2C, SPI, UART 65 with I2C, SPI, UART, CAN, PWM, ADC 160 with I2C, SPI, UART 160 with I2C, SPI, UART 160 with I2C, SPI, UART 26 with I2C, SPI, UART, CAN 96 with I2C, SPI, UART, ADC 8 with I2C, SPI (Board Rev >= 0.5) + UART
What you pay in EU inkl Tax and USA excl Tax 30 EUR / 35 USD 60 EUR / 55 USD 39 EUR / ‎51 USD 54 EUR / ‎NA USD 65 EUR / 77 USD 45 EUR / 63 USD 69 EUR / 69 USD 70-80 EUR / 65-90 USD
* Shared by CPU and GPU.
** LAN is connected via USB bus instead of independently. This limits the performance because USB 2 is limited to 480 MBit (=60 MByte/s ) and the USB bus is shared by all USB devices.
*** Raspberry PI display (DSI) and camera (CSI) connectors require a (touch-)display and camera that are customized for the Broadcom BCM2835 System of a chip. Cameras for the Raspberry Pi CSI connector are available but the official 7" touch screen for the DSI connector is not yet available to purchase. (see sources)
**** CSI not compatible with RPi Cam but there is a BPi Camera. (see sources)

Why is the Udoo not included in the comparison?

  • Because the goal was to compare Mini-PCs that cost up to 70 EUR incl Taxes. The Udoo Dual Basic costs 73 EUR plus Shipping and Taxes, so about 100 EUR.


Der Raspberry Pi Model B+

The Raspberry Pi (RPi) is a fascinating embedded system. Costing about 30 EUR it is the cheapest in this comparison. It is the most mature platform whose large community has collected a wealth of know how. The model B+ brought a few minor improvements. It is especially interesting if you want to connect USB devices because it has two additional USB ports and because up to 1.2 A can now be delivered to an attached USB device. But the power consumption of all four USB devices together is restricted to a total of 1.2 A. So attaching one 2.5" external hard drive should succeed but to attach two external hard drives, you will need an external active hub. It should be without saying that to connect 1.2 A USB devices you will need a 5 V / 2 A power supply.
Concerning its computing power, the Model B+ is the slowest in the comparison. It is built on the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which contains a 700-MHz-ARM11 processor. That CPU uses the v6 ARM instruction set. All other mini-PCs in the comparison contain CPUs that use the newer v7 ARM instruction set. The newer ARM processor generation allows the same code to run with less instructions and there are arguably more operation systems available which support the newer instruction set.
In summary, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ is cheap, mature and relatively slow.


BeagleBone Black

The BeagleBone Black (BBB) from Texas Instruments was one of the first Raspberry Pi (RPi) successors that I came across. Its processor is faster than the RPi's and uses the newer v7 ARM instruction set.
There are many expansion boards, called Capes, available that fit on the BeagleBone connectors.
A very interesting feature, for some projects, are the two Programmable Real-Time Units (PRU). These cores are independent of the CPU and GPU. They might be used to communicate with the hardware without using the CPU, to process low-level protocols, access GPIO pins and handle interrupts, directly control motors, process audio signals, put the CPU and GPU into deepsleep while processing GPIO signals, or for other tasks.
Also the BBB has more I/O capabilities than the RPi. With the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) pins you can directly control servo motors and with the Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) pins you can read eg the voltage value from a source 60 times per second.
A 7" resistive Touch LCD display with a resolution of 800 x 480 from 4D is available for about 75 EUR / 90 USD.
The GPU performance of the BBB is considered lower than that of the RPi. So there are better alternatives for a media center than the BBB.
Even though the BBB has 4GB flash already onboard, the price difference to the Raspberry Pi is still enormous if you plan to purchase it in the EU. While the official homepage lists a price of 49 USD, the Rev C is only available for about 60EUR at the moment.
In summary, the BeagleBone Black is excellent in its I/O capabilities. For graphic or CPU intensive tasks there are better alternatives.


A20-OLinuXino-LIME, LIME2 and A20-OLinuXino-MICRO

Olimex has several mini-PCs with the relatively fast dual core ALLWINNER A20 CORTEX-A7 chip. Three of those, the A20-LIME, the A20-LIME2 and the A20-MICRO were analyzed in this comparison. The LIME has 0.5 GB RAM while the LIME2 and MICRO have 1.0GB. The LIME/LIME2 do not have audio in/out connections.
The form factor and pin layout of the A20-LIME/LIME2 are the same as for the A10-LIME and the A20-MICRO resembles the A10-MICRO. Therefore you can use the A10-LIME case for the A20-LIME (I tried it) and the A20-MICRO should fit in an A10-MICRO case.
Considering that the A20-MICRO has only the advantage of audio in/out and the disadvantage of slower Network, it is surprising, that the A20-MICRO is more expensive than the A20-LIME2.
The OLinuXino website lists a number of extension modules, that can be connected to the UEXT (Universal-EXTension) connector. The A20-MICRO has two UEXT connectors while the A20-LIME needs this LIME-UEXT adapter because the GPIO pins are closer together. Actually there is also a UEXT adapter for the RPi.
Olimex has a number of LCD and Touch-LCD displays for sale which can be directly connected to the GPIO pins. For example this 7" LCD Resistive touch-screen panel with a resolution of 480x800. It can be purchased from the Olimex web page.
There is no CSI port to connect a camera, but there are I2C or USB cameras available. (see OV7670 camera in the sources)
Finally, all three boards contain an SATA connector to plug in a hard drive.
In summary, the three OLinuXino mini-PCs offer a large performance increase compared to the Raspberry Pi and Olimex has a number of (touch-)displays to choose from that are reasonably priced.


Banana Pi

The Banana Pi (BPi) from LeMaker is the Chinese response to the Raspberry Pi (RPi). The hardware moves a large leap forward in each of the key areas.
First the ALLWINNER A20 CORTEX-A7 chip with 2 x 1.0 GHz CPU and 1.0 GB RAM is much faster as the RPi's 1 x 0.7 GHz CPU and 0.5 GB RAM.
Then the BPi and the A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 are the only mini-PC in this low-budget mini-PC comparison with 1GBit Network. Further improvements compared to the RPi are SATA and SATA Power connections, microphone in (in addition to audio out), a power button and even an infrared receiver.
The 26 main GPIO pins are supposed to be compatible to the RPi model B pins. However some extension boards, as the PiFace, do not fit directly onto the board because they are designed to be placed between the RPi Model B connectors. So to connect some extension boards you will need an extension cable or find another solution.
Concerning the actual performance difference between BPi and RPi, the German Raspberry Pi Geek Journal, in its Aug/2014 issue made a SSH-Transfer performance test with 128-Bit-RC4 encryption where the BPi reached 13 MByte/s (104 MBit/s) and the RPi reached 3.5 MByte/s (28 MBit/s).
There is no touch display currently available that can be connected to the LVDS connector. However in the LeMaker forum (see sources) a 7" LCD display is mentioned that is currently being tested by users.
Concerning software support, many programs that are optimized for the RPi might not run on the BPi because the RPi uses the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and the BPi uses the AllWinner A20 SoC. However, the AllWinner A20 SoC is also used by some other platforms as the A20-OLinuXino and the Cubieboard2 A20 so it is likely that software support will not be a disadvantage of the BPi for long.
In summary, the BPi offers, in many areas, more than twice the performance compared to the RPi and provides a number of additional connections. It is however 15 EUR more expensive (cases are also currently much more expensive) than the RPi and 6 EUR more expensive than the A20-OLinuXino-LIME which contains the same SoC. Because of the 1 GB network and SATA connector it might be a good choice for network storage or a local cloud.


Cubieboard 2 / A20 Dev Board

The Cubieboard2 with the AllWinner A20 SoC is one of several boards that Cubietech offers. Concerning its hardware features, it is almost identical to the A20-OLinuXino-MICRO which is also available with onboard flash memory.
Interesting is the DVK521 expansion board which provides connections for capacitive touch LCD with LVDS interface, resistive touch LCD with RGB interface, camera modules like OV7670, ZigBee modules like Core2530, and many more.
In summary, the Cubieboard2 and the A20-OLinuXino-MICRO offer almost the same hardware. Thus choosing between the two might depend on the available expansion boards or on personal preference.


ODROID-U3

The Odroid-U3 Rev 0.5 from the South Korea placed company Hardkernel is the fastest mini-PC in this comparison but it is still available for no more than 70 EUR.
It contains a quad core running at 1.7 GHz, produced by Samsung which is also a South Korean company. The instruction set is still v7 ARM as it is for the mini-PCs using the AllWinner A20 SoC. Additionally it comes with 2 GB RAM.
One downside is that there are no touch displays that can be connected without using a HDMI to LVDS adapter. Further, for a mini-PC in that price range one might expect 1 GBit Network and USB 3 but the U3 version does not provide those features.
In summary, this is the fastest mini-PC below 70 EUR in this comparison. It is well suited for a web-server or media-server that is connected to a HDMI display.


Sources and further reading

Raspberry Pi B+ (RPi)

BeagleBone Black Rev. C

A20-OLinuXino

Banana Pi (BPi)

Cubieboard 2 / A20 Dev Board

ODROID-U3