gammy13
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Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:27 pm

Problem is the Pi is so darned cheap, well documented, and really available. Yeah, there are most certainly better options out there... but I can buy a Pi Zero for under $10.

It’s kind of like the problem Arduino is running into. Why spend $40 for a high end official Arduino when you can buy a cheap Nano on amazon for under $5. For most users this is all they need for their weekend tinkering or Halloween project.

The ‘regular’ hobbyists I know who use a Pi are looking for fun weekend projects. Retro Pi, maybe a music system, maybe a media media center. They’re looking at the price point and how well documented some software is.

CHIP, the “$7” Pi alternative which received well over a million dollars on Kickstarter a couple of years ago shut down their business in late 2018. They couldn’t break into the market and beat Pi. Beagle Board is a great system, but trying to figure it out as a “noob” is annoying compared to the ease of using a Pi.

There’s a market for a Pi alternative, but the Pi has cemented itself as the leader for a lot of good reasons and I doubt we’ll see that change any time soon

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:48 pm

Don't normally let this sort of post through it but I thought I'd let this one go just for a laugh.

Is there room for a pi alternative , probably but the difficult bit is getting the price down to the pi price point and still providing decent support.
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neilgl
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:00 pm

Can we edit the post title and add “ - there are none” ?

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:24 pm

jamesh wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:48 pm
Is there room for a pi alternative , probably but the difficult bit is getting the price down to the pi price point and still providing decent support.
The "decent support" is really the issue. And it's one no other SBC manufacturer seems to have come within shouting distance of achieving. Indeed, there is (or was, it may have been deleted by now) a post from someone who appears to be trying to leverage system development off the Pi ecosystem...and I suspect he isn't planning to pay, either.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:26 pm

If all you want is a SBC there are alternatives out there. It's when you want to add something that uses the GPIO header that things don't usually work out so well. The Raspberry Pi is well established with lots of resources and support, and lots of hardware that usually isn't all that hard to get working. Try doing that with the competition.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:35 pm

gammy13 wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:27 pm
Problem is the Pi is so darned cheap, well documented, and really available. Yeah, there are most certainly better options out there... but I can buy a Pi Zero for under $10.

It’s kind of like the problem Arduino is running into. Why spend $40 for a high end official Arduino when you can buy a cheap Nano on amazon for under $5. For most users this is all they need for their weekend tinkering or Halloween project.

The ‘regular’ hobbyists I know who use a Pi are looking for fun weekend projects. Retro Pi, maybe a music system, maybe a media media center. They’re looking at the price point and how well documented some software is.

CHIP, the “$7” Pi alternative which received well over a million dollars on Kickstarter a couple of years ago shut down their business in late 2018. They couldn’t break into the market and beat Pi. Beagle Board is a great system, but trying to figure it out as a “noob” is annoying compared to the ease of using a Pi.

There’s a market for a Pi alternative, but the Pi has cemented itself as the leader for a lot of good reasons and I doubt we’ll see that change any time soon

The only alternative I can think of which have anywhere near the quality and support are Hardkernels offerings:

https://www.hardkernel.com



I have discounted the Asus Tinker Board as it is very unloved and based off 5 year old hardware which functions better in Chrome OS devices........
Retired disgracefully.....

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:36 pm

This may rub a few of our UK cousins a bit the wrong way... There's a story about the first offering of the Royal Yacht Squadron 100 Pound Cup in 1851. It's that Queen Victoria was on the committee boat at the finish line. Some flunky peering out into the mist with binoculars turned to her and said, "It appears that the America is first." to which the queen replied, "And who is second?" After a careful scrutiny, he said, "Your Majesty, there is no second."

There is the Pi. There is no second.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:51 pm

The winner is clearly the marriage of a Pi and Arduino pro Mini!

The first handles the GUI and internet side, the other one(s) the electrical stuff.
If you make a mistake, you fry an Arduino pro Mini that sells for 2,5$.
I have got a pile of them, which I use as if they were a toothbrush.
The PIs live a bit longer and i reuse them between projects.

Hardware is secondary, the really important thing is how many libraries you have got to chose from, how well they are doing.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:53 pm

gammy13 wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:27 pm
They couldn’t break into the market and beat Pi.
I don't think anyone can. A few large players have tried - Via's APC, ASUS's Tinker Board - but they're all also-rans. See also Intel's attempts at the embedded market - if you can find 'em anywhere.

With the unique Foundation/Trading split, Raspberry Pi is in a very sustainable position. Fully commercial vendors have to maintain a certain profit margin, and do so through marketing, defined product life and product retirement. The Raspberry Pi companies don't work that way, so they're very hard to compete with.

I'm not sure if CHIP is a good example. They were either very naïve or intentionally fraudulent. Either way, they're gone. I wonder if my Pocket CHIP even works still?

Oddly, there are lots of competitors to the Raspberry Pi in the very lowest end. Many of these boards are far less powerful than any Raspberry Pi, but are shipped in huge quantities in embedded and IOT devices. I'm thinking of the just-fast-enough ARM boards in IoT cameras or the MIPS SOCs in lower end routers. Super cheap, running Linux, but not much fun as a general purpose computer.
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:58 pm

gammy13 wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:27 pm
. . . Beagle Board is a great system, but trying to figure it out as a “noob” is annoying compared to the ease of using a Pi. . . .
I don't get this statement. The BeagleBone stuff is down on raw horsepower and the core chip is more oriented to embedded control applications which limits its market, but the quick start guide/procedure might be the best I've seen in 40 years of messing around with computers.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:06 pm

scruss wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:53 pm

With the unique Foundation/Trading split, Raspberry Pi is in a very sustainable position. Fully commercial vendors have to maintain a certain profit margin, and do so through marketing, defined product life and product retirement. The Raspberry Pi companies don't work that way, so they're very hard to compete with.
Not exactly. We're a private limited company with share capital, just like any other registered company in the UK. The Foundation has a 100% share in the company and all non-retained profit is donated to the Foundation (£25m and counting). Our primary revenue is from licencing the Pi design to exclusive partners that manufacture and distribute the Pi 4/ 3/ 2/ 1, with revenues from Zero and Zero W sales coming directly from our own purchase of raw material, payment for manufacturing costs and sale to resellers. Our operating profit margin is typical of other IP licencing companies, but we do have a growing in-house product line as evidenced by the Pi Zero and starter kit/mouse/keyboard products.

We have no significant competitive advantage through our relationship with the Foundation. We're competitive because people buy our products.
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:20 pm

Down at the Pi Zero level I have seen more and more people switch to ESP based devices like the NodeMCU or Helteck/TTGO style. They can do most of what people *use* the Zero for but a bit better.
I know more people using these now as a goto thing than Arduino devices.
I still find the Zero gives more flexibility and ease in programming, but then it has a full blown LinuxOS on it on logging to SD card is easier (given it has one and doesn't need to be bolted on)

In education, the more powerful Pi (and this is where the Zero also works as you port to a smaller device) are just obvious.
Other than the micro:bit as a companion and initial sensor/cross curriculum learning (the Adafruit CPX's haven't really taken off as far as I can see in the UK, despite how nice they are), there isn't a lot to choose from (actually there is no other choice w.r.t.this style.of computing)

BUT, I still know few schools that embrace any of it properly. It takes time out of the curriculum and that can be done on a good old computer (actually pen and paper as they can be trusted being tested on a computer)

I do know a few kids within schools that embrace it after seeing information about them... Which was the same back in the 80s, early 90s.
Just it is much cheaper to buy a Pi now than it was a BBC or even an Electron.
Last edited by bensimmo on Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MarkTF
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:22 pm

scruss wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:53 pm
I'm not sure if CHIP is a good example. They were either very naïve or intentionally fraudulent. Either way, they're gone. I wonder if my Pocket CHIP even works still?
Even at the time I couldn't understand the business model by which NextThing CHIP ever figured to turn a profit, but I don't think they were fraudulent. I still have one running (an old version) of Volumio as a music player and a couple more that I pull out for battery portable tasks from time to time.

To my interests there are interesting things going on in the low end IOT space. Micropython on a nodeMCU board is cheaper than the sdcard in a RPi for instance. I see these things more as complementary to RPi rather than competition, but as one gets into niches there's often something better optimized to that particular niche.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:39 pm

We have no significant competitive advantage through our relationship with the Foundation. We're competitive because people buy our products.
Marketing value of the relationship itself is a significant advantage.

While other products are reviewed and advertised via the Foundations reaches, the RaspberryPi products are by far the most advertised devices to use and the historical links.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:44 pm

jdb wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:06 pm
We have no significant competitive advantage through our relationship with the Foundation. We're competitive because we are.
Having a non-profit 100% owner has certain advantages. Look at Oxford University Press: they're a non-profit, but they make a lot of money from book sales, and yet can plough back that profit into research without having to pay dividends. That structure isn't available to everyone, and it was a very sore point when I worked for Collins Dictionaries that Oxford could claim that their work was academic research while ours was purely commercial and taxed accordingly. (Sure, being part of News International ain't the greatest, though. Perhaps a better analogy is the grumblings I hear from people close to the defunct Maker Media who claimed they couldn't compete with the Raspberry Pi Foundation's publications.)

So, while I was wrong about the structure of Foundation/Trading and I thank you for the clarification, you're quite unusual as a computer company:
  • no advance marketing of new products
  • ability to keep producing older boards¹ like the B+/A+ that other manufacturers would have dropped.
  • licensing the IP of your non-profit parent to manufacturers is an uncommon structure in traditional manufacturing
  • a very close relationship with your SoC partner
  • ability for the Foundation to access grants as a non-profit to develop educational materials.
Not that I'm remotely complaining about any of this: I know of at least one manufacturer who relies on B+s for a product integration, and the non-profit I work for has a popular project based on an A+. It's a blue ocean strategy you've got there: others can't compete.
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:12 pm

The thing with Arduino's is they are Microcontrollers. You flash you program in and it does its thing. No OS in the way. No having to do a proper shutdown. You can just pull the plug to turn it off. What's flashed to it doesn't get corrupted. That does have its advantages depending on what your doing. They can only do so much though.
A Raspberry Pi as we all know is a Single Board Computer and as such can do things a Microcontroller can't.
IMHO its a pick the right tool for the job kind of deal. They both have pluses and minuses.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:03 pm

The only recent alternative to the RPi in terms of my use case is the Rock64. got 2 running as NAS
others that I use (but cannot be seen as "recent alternative") is the NanoPi Neo 2. also as alternate NAS (sometimes)

I do own other SBCs, but as already mentioned support is not very good so those tend stay in the inventory box.
do bring those out sometimes just to do update and upgrade on their OS.

have several arduinos boards as well (some DIY) but have not done the "marriage" between RPi and arduinos. I do use RPi to flash my arduinos (if that count as a marriage of sort)
some ESP32's and ESP8266 as well, well just for collecting stuff I guess. never got the chance to tinker with those yet.

There are other "RPi alternatives" out there in the wild that "claim" to have better specs/performance than the RPi, but seeing their price...."are you kidding me???" sort of image comes to mind... so I don't even bother getting those anymore.
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:11 pm

jdb wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:06 pm
We have no significant competitive advantage through our relationship with the Foundation. We're competitive because people buy our products.
Others have commented on this point, and some of it is close to what I think, but not *quite* there.

I think your competitive advantage is, in part, the knowledge that profits go to purposes of the Foundation and not into making a few people fabulously wealthy. It also probably helps that RPF and RPT personnel get out in public where mere mortals can meet them. When all is said and done, Dr. Upton is a nice guy. It feels good to spend money on a product where you know that you're paying the salaries of people like him.

Those are things that the large companies can't match. Sure, big companies usually have a philanthropic foundation or two kicking about, but the company runs the foundation(s), not the other way around.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:19 am

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:11 pm
When all is said and done, Dr. Upton is a nice guy.
He's also a clever guy. Not many have both.

The guy who came to fix my guttering is a nice guy, but he's not clever.
If he had been, and if a neighbour hadn't called in the Authorities, he'd maybe have got several grand out of me, mug that I am.
I've yet to spend that on Pis, but we'll get there! It would have been easier with Windows boxes.

Since the whole idea at the start was to make them cheap enough to be seen as replaceable (unlike every other machine around at the time) does anyone have any knowledge of how successful it's been in introducing youngsters to computing?

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:06 am

Burngate wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:19 am
...
Since the whole idea at the start was to make them cheap enough to be seen as replaceable (unlike every other machine around at the time) does anyone have any knowledge of how successful it's been in introducing youngsters to computing?
I think that would be very hard if not impossible to quantify. Anecdotal observation from a few Jams I’ve been to is that the enthusiasm harks back to the old BBC computer days and the computer clubs that ran locally.

There are two interesting posts that came out of yesterday’s GCSE results:
Positive: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/its-gcse-results-day/
Negative: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49438969

Personally I think that the Pi and Micro:Bit have done one great thing - stopped this country from teaching word processing as ‘computing’ and reawakened a skills base that was sadly lacking. If that’s the only achievement then all the work folk have put in has been amply repaid more than once :)
Need Pi spray - these things are breeding in my house...

alphanumeric
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:28 am

I have a couple of Micro Bits. I've had some fun with them. The plan is / was to pass them on to one or more of my grand kids. I should get back at that. I need to do something up with lots of blinky lights or a servo or two to spark and interest and get them away from their iPads.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:36 am

alphanumeric wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:28 am
I have a couple of Micro Bits. I've had some fun with them. The plan is / was to pass them on to one or more of my grand kids. I should get back at that. I need to do something up with lots of blinky lights or a servo or two to spark and interest and get them away from their iPads.
It may not help but Pimoroni are having a sale on their own brand kits this weekend - maybe the savings would offset the postage for you?
Need Pi spray - these things are breeding in my house...

alphanumeric
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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:40 am

Andyroo wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:36 am
alphanumeric wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:28 am
I have a couple of Micro Bits. I've had some fun with them. The plan is / was to pass them on to one or more of my grand kids. I should get back at that. I need to do something up with lots of blinky lights or a servo or two to spark and interest and get them away from their iPads.
It may not help but Pimoroni are having a sale on their own brand kits this weekend - maybe the savings would offset the postage for you?
I have all the bits I need, I just have to go find my round 2it. ;)

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:07 pm

Burngate wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:19 am
does anyone have any knowledge of how successful it's been in introducing youngsters to computing?
Andyroo wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:06 am
There are two interesting posts that came out of yesterday’s GCSE results:
Positive: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/its-gcse-results-day/
Negative: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49438969
From that second link, "In 2019 a total of 89,542 students took either the ICT or the computing GCSE", and with 580,850 students sitting GCSE exams, that indicates just 15% undertook the computing or ICT course. That sounds slightly better expressed as "3 in every 20".

Of course, there will be more exposed to computing and technology than taking courses in those subject.

It's probably impossible to ever know how many Pi's are being used to teach kids about computers and programming. We know about 30 million Pi's have been sold and we are told half have gone to industrial users. My guesstimate would be a third of the rest are used by makers, a third as consumer devices, and education makes up the final third; 5 million gone into schools and to students.

It seems many makers and consumers have multiple Pi computers so the number in education could be less. But then there's also some overlap with makers and consumers.

The Foundation's educational goals are admirable and I would say they are achieving those. But it may be fair to say industry has most benefited from the Pi, and makers more so than students.

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Re: Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives 2019

Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:24 pm

hippy,
That sounds slightly better expressed as "3 in every 20".
Does it?

In that moment before my brain has had time to do the arithmetic they both sound equally small to me. Not small enough to be negligible, not big enough to be an obvious lump like a quarter or a half. Perceptions differ of course.

Anyway, it does not sound much better than when I did CS for GCE back in 1974!

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