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Zalamel
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Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Wed May 08, 2013 1:19 pm

Hello All,

I'm not entirely sure if it's alright to talk about Pi alternatives here, on the official Pi forum, but this seemed like the best place to ask about it. Seeing has most of you here are quite informed on these things.

Right, so on to the question.

I'm in the market for my first micro-computer, I've been following the Pi for a while now, along with it's competition, and it seems like a good time to get into one.

First let me describe the application in which I will likely use these. For the most part, I'm intending it as a document, audio, and possible video viewer, using Linux. I'll be using these long term, possibly 25+ years...Think of it as a low cost 'Survival Computer', like something you'd find in a G.E.C.K. ;)

Image

http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb2 ... a/GECK.png

My reasoning for this is, they don't take much power to run, and they don't create enough heat to degrade. Hopefully translating into durability and long term reliability.

A secondary role might be as a media device using XBMC, and if it can play some old games using emulators and the like on Linux, that'd be a neat plus.

I've been able to narrow it down to about 3 boards, The Raspberry Pi (Of course :P ), the Cubieboard, and the MarsBoard.

Whilst the Cubieboard and MarsBoard seem more powerful, is the Pi on par with them when overclocked? And is there any major disadvantage with the Mars and Cubieboard?

So which do you think fits my needs best? And if you have any other alternative boards or devices to recommend, I'd love to hear them! :)

UPDATE:

I've decided on, and bought, the Pi, it has everything I'm looking for, plus an awesome community to match. A decidedly excellent combination!

However, I still consider the Cubieboard, A13-OLinuXino-WIFI, and BeagleBone Black viable options, depending on your application.
Last edited by Zalamel on Sun May 12, 2013 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

W. H. Heydt
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Wed May 08, 2013 8:52 pm

It really depends on what features you actually need. The Pi has much stronger GPU than a lot of others, like the Cubieboard (60 fps vs. 30 fps at 1080p, for example). On the other hand, the Cubie's ARMv71 runs about about twice the bogomips rate (1000 vs. about 450) as the Pi.

I would imagine that there is someone out there doing full benchmarks...

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johnbeetem
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Wed May 08, 2013 11:31 pm

You might check out the new BeagleBone Black. If you want to talk to a small screen, BBone has a lot of options. Some links:

http://beagleboard.org/
http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=41489
http://www.element14.com/community/thread/23575

Rene_is_I
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 7:57 am

The two advantages the Pi has is the number of distros available for it and it's huge user base.

pygmy_giant
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 10:59 am

Also, the BBB looks like Darth Vader's pace maker, wheras the Pi has an aura of goodness.

Thanks for highlighting the mars board: http://www.marsboard.com/.

New Pi clones seem to be popping up every week.

As far as I am aware the Pi has the lowest price and lowest power consumption, especially the model A. That means longer battery life in the post apocalyptic Mad Max type resource scarce environment you are preparing for.

In my view, although not the best in every category, the Pi is the best all-rounder as it has GPIO support which the Mars jobby doesn't and better GPU than the BBB / cubie. Also, for a mobile device, low power consumption is important and its CPU is adequate for most things.
Last edited by pygmy_giant on Thu May 09, 2013 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

dom
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 11:12 am

W. H. Heydt wrote:It really depends on what features you actually need. The Pi has much stronger GPU than a lot of others, like the Cubieboard (60 fps vs. 30 fps at 1080p, for example). On the other hand, the Cubie's ARMv71 runs about about twice the bogomips rate (1000 vs. about 450) as the Pi.
The out of box bogomips on Pi is 700. The 450 is a bug in the measurement code that is fixed in "rpi-update" kernels.
You'll get 1000 bogomips with overclock.

However bogomips is a very poor measure of performance.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 11:26 am

This link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BogoMips states
BogoMips (from "bogus" and MIPS) is an unscientific measurement of CPU speed made by the Linux kernel when it boots to calibrate an internal busy-loop.[1] An oft-quoted definition of the term is "the number of million times per second a processor can do absolutely nothing".

BogoMips is a value that can be used to verify whether the processor in question is in the proper range of similar processors, i.e. BogoMips represents a processor's clock frequency as well as the potentially present CPU cache. It is not usable for performance comparison between different CPUs.
Flops would be better: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flops

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meltwater
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 12:10 pm

Your spec is a little too open, since a cheap $50 tablet would probably meet your needs with built in screen, battery, network connection without any effort.

If you want to learn, then the Raspberry Pi is the obvious choice, since you can mod until end-of-days comes (while also using it for entertainment in your rest periods).

The analogue video output means you can get some ultra cheap screens for emergency use too (for instance I took a Toshiba portable DVD player - which was next to useless, awful design and very unreliable - and dropped in a Raspberry Pi). The low resolution screen isn't great for desktop use, but works excellent as a portable networked media player (plus in this case complete with battery power).
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Zalamel
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 4:19 pm

johnbeetem wrote:You might check out the new BeagleBone Black. If you want to talk to a small screen, BBone has a lot of options.
I kind of dismissed the BBB fairly early on in my search for the perfect board, however now that I've learned a few things about Allwinner's CPU's, and their lack of support, the BBB has really come back into consideration. Though I don't know much about it's Texas Instruments processor. More research is needed!
Rene_is_I wrote:The two advantages the Pi has is the number of distros available for it and it's huge user base.
Yes, that does keep me coming back to the Pi...The support for it is absolutely superb, and that is definitely a huge plus that the other boards are somewhat lacking in, for now.
pygmy_giant wrote:Also, the BBB looks like Darth Vader's pace maker, wheras the Pi has an aura of goodness.

Thanks for highlighting the mars board: http://www.marsboard.com/.

New Pi clones seem to be popping up every week.

As far as I am aware the Pi has the lowest price and lowest power consumption, especially the model A. That means longer battery life in the post apocalyptic Mad Max type resource scarce environment you are preparing for.

In my view, although not the best in every category, the Pi is the best all-rounder as it has GPIO support which the Mars jobby doesn't and better GPU than the BBB / cubie. Also, for a mobile device, low power consumption is important and its CPU is adequate for most things.
It is quite exciting seeing all these micro computers popping up everywhere, I really like the direction it's all taking.

The Pi does seem to have to have the lowest, if not on par with the best of the low power consumption boards, and it's relative power to consumption ratio is quite appealing.

It's definitively the jack of all trades, and after seeing a video of the Pi overclocked, and browsing the web with relative ease, it has more than enough power for what I have in mind for it.

Also, a little heads up on the MarsBoard. Whilst it does seem like an awesome board, the support for it is basically zero at the moment. There is a wiki on it, but it's all in Iranian, which can be a problem. The one person who is replying to people in the forums, doesn't really seem to have his facts straight. So until some decent support for it comes along, I'd hold off the the MarsBoard.
meltwater wrote:Your spec is a little too open, since a cheap $50 tablet would probably meet your needs with built in screen, battery, network connection without any effort.

If you want to learn, then the Raspberry Pi is the obvious choice, since you can mod until end-of-days comes (while also using it for entertainment in your rest periods).

The analogue video output means you can get some ultra cheap screens for emergency use too (for instance I took a Toshiba portable DVD player - which was next to useless, awful design and very unreliable - and dropped in a Raspberry Pi). The low resolution screen isn't great for desktop use, but works excellent as a portable networked media player (plus in this case complete with battery power).
I've actually been deliberately staying away from tablets and small, finished computers. They all seem to have a fickle track record in terms of reliability and quality. I suppose technically, something like a Panasonic Toughbook pretty much meet my requirements, but where's the fun in that? :P

I'll definitely be learning a lot from the Pi as well, this is more of a fun project than anything else. Though the thought of actually having, in effect, a small handheld GECK type thing, appeals to my inner nerd :D. I also have plans of possibly turning a Pi into a handheld device of some kind, for emulation.

I agree, the Composite output is something I noticed was lacking on virtually all other boards, and is a definite plus for the Pi. And projects like that are exactly the reason why I'm really digging the Pi, it's so versatile!


So, final thoughts...

After reading these posts, and doing much more research on the subject, I've concluded that the Pi, whilst not the best at everything, is exactly the reason I'm choosing it.

All of the competition, at first glance, look much more capable than the Pi. However there's always something about them that holds it back, all the boards with Allwinner processors aren't very good at videos, thanks to Allwinner themselves not working with developers, and it doesn't look like they're going to change anytime soon. That alone takes most boards out of the running. So lack of support is a big issue, something the Pi has in spades.

The only other real choices now would be the BBB, or possibly an OLinuXino (Haven't done much research on these). I did consider a Rikomagic Mk 802 or 808 at one point, but they're fairly limited in their versatility, and seem to be quite unreliable/shoddily built.

So, I seem to have come back full circle, and find myself staring at the Pi, yet again. I'm going to do a bit more research on the BBB, but I'm pretty much set on buying a Pi now.

Thanks for all your input guys, it was a great help to me. I encourage continued discussion and suggestions on alternatives, though, you can never have enough options. ;)

Rene_is_I
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 4:48 pm

Depending on your exact requirements, here is another possibility:
http://www.elektor.com/products/kits-mo ... 5310.lynkx

I have also done extensive research on all these little computers and came to the same conclusion that the Pi is best.
It can do a bit of everything and that for me is much more important then being best at only one or two things.

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Zalamel
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 6:37 pm

Rene_is_I wrote:Depending on your exact requirements, here is another possibility:
http://www.elektor.com/products/kits-mo ... 5310.lynkx

I have also done extensive research on all these little computers and came to the same conclusion that the Pi is best.
It can do a bit of everything and that for me is much more important then being best at only one or two things.
An interesting board, but with only 180mhz, it's fairly anemic for $89. However it could be a good choice if power consumption had to be at an absolute minimum.

Aye, versatility is the Pi's trump card.

Rene_is_I
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 6:49 pm

Zalamel wrote:
An interesting board, but with only 180mhz, it's fairly anemic for $89.
It certainly ain't to the spec of the Pi (and others) since it's meant to be run headless so although it will be no rocket,
many of the overheads associated with video output will not be an issue.
Although having said that, with the (now) easy availability of the Pi, I can't really see a compelling reason to buy one of those Elektor boards.

Rene_is_I
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 7:18 pm

Had a look at the mars board schematic and I'm pretty impressed with it's expansion capabilities:
LCD, TWI, CSI, SPI, PS2, SDI, IRDA, GPIO, VGA, Composite Video, UART, ADC, Line In and JTAG.

Still don't know if I'd get one though.

pygmy_giant
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 7:47 pm

ooops - I missed that - http://linux-sunxi.org/images/2/24/Mars ... c_V1.3.pdf

I notice it does say "140 extend pin 2.0mm headers" which must be the 4 rows of 35 holes on the board.

I think the lack of pins already installed caused me to assume there were none!
Last edited by pygmy_giant on Thu May 09, 2013 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.


pygmy_giant
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 8:04 pm

ah - I found the link and inserted it in my previous at the exact same time you did in yours!

It does look impressive, but how on earth does one use them - the established community is defiantely a + for the Pi.... but competition is snapping at its heels(!)

Impressive spec but it needs 2A power so could be over-kill and unsuitable for unteathered projects which rely on battery life!
Last edited by pygmy_giant on Thu May 09, 2013 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Rene_is_I
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 8:10 pm

pygmy_giant wrote:ah - I found the link and inserted it in my previous at the exact same time you did in yours!

does look impressive, but how on earth does one use them - the established community is defiantely a + for the Pi.... but competition is snapping at its heals(!)
Exactly why I would not buy one, certainly not whilst there is no decent support and an active community.

EDIT:
Just been browsing thru their forum, makes me want to get one even less now.

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Zalamel
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 8:43 pm

Rene_is_I wrote:
pygmy_giant wrote: Snip
Exactly why I would not buy one, certainly not whilst there is no decent support and an active community.

EDIT:
Just been browsing thru their forum, makes me want to get one even less now.
That's exactly what happened to me. When I first came upon it, I thought "Oh man, this is awesome, and look at that price!" Then I had a stroll through the forums...A real shame, it looks like it could've been a really neat, expandable board. Even with the Allwinner CPU.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 9:10 pm

Yep, this is a great example on how not to go about marketing your product, no matter how good it may be.
I did some more sniffing around and it seems that the MarsBoard is made by a crowd in China, somewhere near Shenzhen and only seem to have three distributors.
One in Poland, one in Iran and one in Russia.
So although one can buy a MarsBoard from anywhere, the after sales service worries me (if one does not happen to live in one of those three countries), after all 50 bucks is still 50 bucks.
Coupled to this is the very scant forums which has 44 members, 18 topics and 83 posts in total.
(The Pi forums probably gets that in 10 minutes).
One of the questions (posted on May 09) still has gone un-answered and has only had 15 views.
Many of the people posting also seem pretty disappointed with the product.

In short, it's only when one sees something like this that one truly appreciates what the Foundation has done and achieved.
So I guess it's MarsBoard >/dev/null as far as I'm concerned.
Last edited by Rene_is_I on Thu May 09, 2013 9:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 9:14 pm

mmm - growing a community takes time - I would give the Mars board a chance to do that before being judgemental - its a big old world out there, and this forum is just one bubble in it.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 9:16 pm

pygmy_giant wrote:mmm - growing a community takes time - I would give the Mars board a chance to do that before being judgemental - its a big old world out there, and this forum is just one bubble in it.
Perhaps in the future things may change, but for now those are my reasons for not even considering a MarsBoard.

It would be very interesting to see comparative figures for the Pi in the same time period.
I wonder if the foundation has those figures and would be willing to publish them though.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 9:32 pm

I guess now that the Pi has successfully tested the market others are trying to establish themselves in it. This is uncharted territory - some of these new boards will flop and others will become established. Its too early to tell. The Pi has carved a niche, but the market will reach Pi saturation at somepoint. Also technology and people's expections move on, so the future of devboards/mini soc computers may not be Pi.... but thats a way off yet.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 9:51 pm

@ pygmy_giant

I agree with some of what you say and my negativity towards the MarsBoard may well change in time
but for now and in context with the OP's question, which I took as him wanting to buy a Pi or equivalent in the next few weeks, my opinion is that the MarsBoard is not even a contender.
It's a pity really as for some applications, the MarsBoard could actually be a better board than the Pi.

ssvb
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Thu May 09, 2013 11:22 pm

Zalamel wrote: Also, a little heads up on the MarsBoard. Whilst it does seem like an awesome board, the support for it is basically zero at the moment. There is a wiki on it, but it's all in Iranian, which can be a problem. The one person who is replying to people in the forums, doesn't really seem to have his facts straight. So until some decent support for it comes along, I'd hold off the the MarsBoard.
What kind of support do you expect? If it is all about possible hardware issues, warranty, purchase & delivery, then you are indeed expected to get this kind of support from MarsBoard folks.

But on the software side it is just a generic Allwinner A10 hardware. And the software support for Allwinner A10/A13/A20/... hardware is provided by the http://linux-sunxi.org community (there you can find all the necessary contact information, irc and mailing lists).

You don't expect every local hardware shop to maintain their own flavour of x86 linux distro for the computers they assemble under their own local brand, do you? ;)

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Zalamel
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Re: Raspberry Pi Vs. Alternatives

Fri May 10, 2013 4:10 am

ssvb wrote:
Zalamel wrote: Snip.
What kind of support do you expect? If it is all about possible hardware issues, warranty, purchase & delivery, then you are indeed expected to get this kind of support from MarsBoard folks.

You don't expect every local hardware shop to maintain their own flavour of x86 linux distro for the computers they assemble under their own local brand, do you? ;)
I was indeed talking about hardware and warranty worries. I haven't read a single good comment about the board in the Marsboard forums, Their customer service is also complained about among the users.

One user who continued to report failure was questioned, this was his reply:

"I have try all images who was recommended in download area before it was changed.
and try some of Miniands images etc.
As I have try 4 different boards i am realy shure it's a hardware construction failure on the board.
It's sad that Marsboard team don't take care of there customers.
As example publishing a script.fex file for the hardware and
update sunxi-bsp HW git archive."

It could be a great board, but the whole operation is a bit shoddy, in my opinion. However, I do hope it improves one day, it's a very nice piece of kit, in theory. :)

Saying that, though, the Cubieboard has almost exactly the same specs, and very decent support. The Marsboard is essentially just a cheaper version of it.

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