6 SBCs to kick off 2016

It would seem that the Single Board Computer, (SBC), has reached it’s popularity peak, (or almost at it’s peak). A look at the top three crowd funding websites GoFundMe, KickStarter and IndieGoGo tells the tale. Here are some of the more interesting SBCs that you can find.

The term SBC is going to be muddied in coming years. There are already a number of SBCs that are more powerful than some desktops, and some embedded devices that are more powerful than classic SBCs. The following is a list of SBCs that stand out for either cheapness or versatility for the Maker. They are the ones that will do well in their targeted area, (with the exception of one).

Executive summary: The overall winner for the best, cheapest, most versatile SBC is the C.H.I.P.

The LattePanda was posted on kickstarter early December 2015, fully funded mid January 2016 with a delivery expected to start March 2016.
This SBC is based on the Intel x5-z8300 Atom CPU that comes in two models. The base model has 2G RAM and 32G eMMC, and the higher end version, (LattePanda Enhanced), has 4G RAM and 64G eMMC. The base model has been arbitrarily priced at around US$79 and the Enhanced at US$129.

The LattePanda supports Windows 10, Android and Linux. However, there is no clear indication of what level of support there will be for Linux. Linux on SBCs has been plagued with GPU support issues with many distributions resorting to binary blobs to get around licensing issues. I would think that this board is no exception.

Support for the usual lineup of HDMI, USB, ethernet, and microSD is present, but also includes WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and WOL on ethernet. More interestingly, there are two aspects to this board that make it stand out further:

Firstly; they have decided to include an Atmega32u4 Arduino compatible chip onboard, with 20 GPIOs accessible from a header block to compliment the Atom’s 2 GPIOs. This effectively provides a real-time platform whilst the Intel Atom handles a lot of the grunt work.

Secondly; there is also support for a DSI touch screen, and 7x 3pin relimate connectors that are compatible with DFRobot’s “Gravity” series of sensors. Nice. This combined with the onboard Arduino expands the possibilities somewhat.

– CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8300 – Quad core 1.84GHz CPU / 500MHz GPU.
– GPU: Intel Gen8 – 500MHz, (supports up to 1080p 60Hz).
– RAM: 2 to 4G (LattePanda Enhanced) DDRL3L RAM.
– Storage: 32 to 64G (LattePanda Enhanced) eMMC & microSD.
– Video: HDMI.
– Voltage: 5v @ 2A.
– Power: Micro USB.
– Network: Wifi, Bluetooth 4 and 100Mbit ethernet with WOL, (Wake On LAN).
– USB: 2x 2.0 and 1x 3.0.
– GPIO: 2 GPIOs for the Atom, and 20 GPIOs for the Arduino.
– OS: Android, Linux and Windows 10.
– Size: 88mm x 70mm.
– 2 serial ports – 1 for each CPU.
– Integrated Atmega32u4 Arduino with compatible header.
– Headers for DSI touch screen, I2C, and 3.5mm audio.
– Headers for sensors – PIR, temperature, rotation/tilt, shock, LED, gas leak, LUX, flame, and relays.

Pros: WiFi, BLE, and sensor support.
Cons: Support for Linux is uncertain.
Summary: Would be a great board for robotics.

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