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Raspberry Pi 3 takes the cake in 2016 hacker SBC survey

Jun 22, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 9,187 views

Readers selected the Raspberry Pi 3 as their favorite among 81 Linux/Android hacker boards in our 2016 SBC Survey, followed by the Odroid-C2 and BeagleBone.

Earlier this month, and (the Linux Foundation’s community site) sponsored a 14-day SurveyMonkey survey that asked readers to choose their favorite three Linux- or Android-based open spec single-board computers from a list of 81. As with last year’s 53-board survey, the winner was easy to guess. This year it was the 64-bit Raspberry Pi 3 that blew away the 2nd place contender by an even larger margin than the Raspberry Pi 2 did a year ago. Once again an Odroid board and the BeagleBone Black filled the next two slots, although this time it was the Odroid-C2 in second and the BeagleBone third.

2016 Hacker Boards Survey results
(click image to enlarge; summaries of all 81 SBCs are available here)

Even if the winner was unsurprising, there were plenty of subplots here, with considerable changes to our top 10 list. For example, only three of our top 10 most popular SBCs (see farther below) were around a year ago: the BeagleBone, Raspberry Pi 2, and DragonBoard 410c, and only the BeagleBone was on our 2014 top 10 list. Four of the 10 were 64-bit ARMv8 boards. We also noticed a few trends revealed in readers’ answers to questions about SBC buying criteria and intended use (see farther below).

The sample of 473 readers was down from last year, but is still large enough to get a general sense of SBC trends. Participation was lower despite heavy readership of the linked catalog of 81 community-backed SBCs, which for the first time offered a spreadsheet [PDF] of features for all 81 boards.

Those who did fill out the survey earned a chance to be among 12 contestants who won one four boards donated by vendors: BeagleBone Black (, Creator Ci40 (Imagination Technologies), DragonBoard 410C (Qualcomm and Arrow Electronics), or MinnowBoard Turbot (Intel). This year’s prize winners spanned five countries (see farther below).

To rank the boards, we used Borda Count scoring, in which we tripled the number of first choices for a particular SBC, then doubled the number of second place selections, and added the two results to the unadjusted third-choice amount. The first, second, and third favorite vote tallies for all 81 SBCs are provided in a table at the end of this post.

As detailed in our June 2 survey announcement post, the SBCs needed to run Linux or Android, cost less than $200, and ship no later than June 2016. They also needed to meet our relatively generous standards for open source software, open-spec hardware, community support.

Top 10 2016 hacker SBCs

This year, Hardkernel’s Odroid-C2 took 2nd place after the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, pushing the venerable, Cortex-A8-based BeagleBone Black down to third place.

Top 10 2016 hacker SBCs, ranked by Borda-weighted scores
(click image to enlarge; summaries of all 81 SBCs are available here)

The $40 Odroid-C2 arrived only a few months ago, around the same time as the $35 Raspberry Pi 3, and the features and prices are similar, with both boards featuring quad-core, Cortex-A53 SoCs. The Odroid-C2 has the faster (up to 2GHz) processor, but the Pi 3 added WiFi and Bluetooth. The Raspberry Pi boards also come with a more extensive ecosystem and community, although that advantage is somewhat muted by the fact that like many of the boards in the contest, the C2 has a 40-pin, RPi-compatible expansion connector.

Raspberry Pi 3
Model B (#1)

Odroid-C2 (#2)

BeagleBone Black (#3)

Odroid-XU4 (#4)

Creator Ci40 (#5)

Raspberry Pi 2
Model B (#6)

Pine A64 (#7)

Raspberry Pi Zero (#8)

DragonBoard 410c (#9)

Chip (#10)

This year’s top 10 hacker SBCs
(see catalog with summaries of all 81 hacker SBCs)

If you combined the 3rd place BeagleBone Black’s score with the currently available clones — the BeagleBone Green, BeagleBone Green Wireless, andMarsBoard AM335x — the BeagleBones would be neck and neck with the Odroid-C2. Then again, if you combined the Raspberry Pi 3 with the very similar Pi 2, now in 6th place, and the less similar, $5-and-up Pi Zero, now in 8th place, you’d get a far more impressive 1st place total.

Hardkernel’s Odroid project continues to hold its own as the second most popular platform, with the relatively high-end, $74 Odroid-XU4 coming in fourth. The quad-core Cortex-A15 SBC replaced the Odroid-XU3, which was ranked sixth in 2015. The Odroid C1+, which came in 12th, arrived since our last survey as well, but it has largely been eclipsed by the C2.

The surprise hit was Imagination’s 5th place Creator Ci40, the sole non-ARM board in the top 10. Last year, the faster, but less interesting, Creator Ci20 ended up the middle of the pack. The IoT-focused, MIPS-based Creator Ci40, which runs OpenWRT, Debian, or Brillo on a low-power, dual-core MIPS CPU, offers Raspberry Pi and MikroBus Click expansion.

Part of the allure might be that the Creator Ci40 has only just begun shipping — in fact our contest winners will receive some of the first finished boards. The possibility of gaming the contest seems unlikely — when asked which of the four donated SBC models participants wanted for their prize SBC, the Creator Ci40 received the lowest score. The preference rankings among the four boards were fairly even, however.

The $15 Pine A64 came in seventh place, after the Raspberry Pi 2. Even in the $19 or $29 Plus configurations, with 1GB or 2GB of RAM, respectively, the price/performance metric is hard to beat. The Pine A64 combines a quad-core Cortex-A53 Allwinner A64 SoC with a Raspberry Pi connector.

Next came the minimalist, $5 and up Raspberry Pi Zero, followed by the 64-bit, 96Boards-compatible DragonBoard 410c, and the 10th place Chip, which starts at only $9. We’d also like to give a shout-out to the 11th place, FPGA-enhanced Parallella, which despite being bounced from the top 10 this year, had a score that was considerably higher than the 12th place Odroid-C1+.

The highest ranked x86-based board was Intel’s 16th place, Atom-based MinnowBoard Turbot, which was beaten by the surprisingly popular, 15th ranked USB Armory, a stripped-down, yet pricey USB dongle board with amped up security. Another surprise was the 19th place ranking for the aging i.MX6-based Wandboard. It shows that treating your users right, with a solid community and fresh software, goes a long way toward success.

We were surprised that FriendlyARM’s ridiculously cheap NanoPi boards didn’t do better. In part, this was due to the fact that the votes were fragmented over five models, but even the highest-ranked NanoPi-M3, a $35, 64-bit octa-core board, only came in 41st. It may also be that the NanoPi SBCs are too new and unknown, or that Samsung SoCs are relatively rare on hacker SBCs, or perhaps other issues were in play.

Low priced boards with Raspberry Pi interfaces dominate the top half of the full 81-board list, which is up from 64 in our Dec. 2015 hacker board roundup. Yet, some relatively expensive boards including the Creator Ci40, Odroid-XU4, and DragonBoard 410c made the top 10, and others also performed well. Some of the new IoT gizmo IoT boards such as the 13th ranked, low-cost LinkIt Smart 7688 were quite popular, while others fell toward the back of the pack.

As noted, the official rankings are based on Borda-weighted scores, but what if we only ranked by readers’ number-one picks? This pushes the Raspberry Pi Zero, with 2.35 percent of all top picks, out of the top SBCs group, and turns our top-10 group into a top-11 list featuring a pair of two-board ties: the Creator Ci40 and Odroid-C2 would be tied in the second slot, and the Chip and USB Armory tied in the ninth. Additionally, the Parallella joins the group in the eighth slot. The order also shifts a bit for some of the other SBCs, with the Creator Ci40 higher and the BeagleBone lower.

Here’s what the top-10 SBC list would look like if you based it on first choices only. The names of the SBCs on this list that aren’t included in the Borda weighted chart up above are shown in bold.

Top-ten SBCs based only on 1st choices

  1. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
  2. Tied: Creator Ci40 / Odroid-C2
  3. Odroid-XU4
  4. BeagleBone Black
  5. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
  6. Pine A64
  7. DragonBoard 410c
  8. Parallella
  9. Tied: Chip / USB Armory

Buying criteria and likely applications

When asked about their key criteria for selecting a hacker SBC, our readers were very consistent with last year’s choices. Open source software again led the list, followed by community ecosystem and networking and wireless I/O. Other answers were also ranked more or less the same.

Most important SBC features
(click image to enlarge)

There was, however, a notable increase in memory and storage as a priority, and “low cost” dropped several notches. It would seem that the $35 price of the Raspberry Pi 3 may be low enough as long as there’s enough memory and other built-in features. Readers may be increasingly aware of the limitation of loading only 512MB of RAM on multi-core board, especially of the 64-bit variety, even if it costs less than $20. Even the Pi 3’s 1GB is skimping a bit for a 64-bit chip.

Likely SBC applications
(click image to enlarge)

Our question about intended applications for an SBC was also answered very consistently with last year. Home automation stayed on top, while home multimedia edged out special function servers for second place, and education again took fourth.

Nature of SBC projects
(click image to enlarge)

In a separate question about more general usage categories, maker/hobbyist stayed on top. Although this dropped from about 75 percent to about 60 percent, this was likely because we added two new categories — education and research — which combined for about 17 percent of the pie. Commercial projects, meanwhile, ticked up slightly to almost 22 percent.

Prize winners

Congratulations to the 12 winners of our drawing for one of four donated SBCs, and many thanks to, Imagination Technologies, Intel, and Qualcomm for donating the boards for the second year in a row.

This year’s prizes: BeagleBone Black, Creator Ci40, DragonBoard 410c, MinnowBoard Turbot
(click each image for details about the particular SBC)

In case you’re curious the graph below shows the Borda score results for the survey question that asked participants for their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th preferences for prizes in the even that they were selected from our random drawing.

Prize preferences (Borda weighted)
(click image to enlarge)

The lucky winners of these SBCs and their five countries are: Nicolas and Christophe in France; Baruch in Israel; Olivier in New Zealand; Ian and Jack in the U.K.; and Doug, Mason, Jeremy, Kendall, Timothy, and Kate in the U.S. Enjoy!

Borda-weighted scores for all 81 SBCs

The table below lists the first, second, and third choice votes received for each of the 81 hacker SBCs in our survey, along with each SBC’s resulting Borda score. The Borda score = (3 x 1st) + (2 x 2nd) + (1 x 3rd). The SBCs are sorted by Borda score, from 1st place (highest Borda value) to 81st.

Board 1st
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B 72 59 53 387
Odroid-C2 55 20 22 227
BeagleBone Black 27 38 34 191
Odroid-XU4 32 34 13 177
Creator Ci40 55 2 4 173
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B 21 39 21 162
Pine A64 19 17 20 111
Raspberry Pi Zero 11 23 20 99
DragonBoard 410c 18 15 8 92
Chip 12 11 16 74
Parallella 14 6 13 67
Odroid-C1+ 5 8 21 52
LinkIt Smart 7688 9 9 5 50
Orange Pi PC / PC Plus 7 11 5 48
USB Armory 12 3 5 47
MinnowBoard Turbot 8 5 10 44
BeagleBone Green Wireless 5 7 4 33
Banana Pi M3 3 8 7 32
Wandboard 8 2 3 31
Snickerdoodle 5 5 2 27
A20-OlinuXino-Lime2-EMMC 3 6 5 26
HiKey 5 4 3 26
Z-turn Board 6 3 2 26
Arduino Yún Mini 0 8 9 25
Banana Pro 5 2 5 24
BeagleBone Green 2 5 2 18
Cubieboard5 2 5 2 18
Orange Pi One 3 3 3 18
HobbitBoard 4 2 1 17
Arduino Industrial 101 0 5 4 14
Orange Pi Lite 2 3 2 14
Orange Pi Plus2 / Pluse2E 2 2 4 14
Cubieboard3 2 2 3 13
HummingBoard-Pro 3 1 2 13
Intel Edison Kit for Arduino 1 2 6 13
Udoo Neo 1 4 2 13
Udoo Quad/Dual/Dual Basic 2 1 4 12
Arduino Tian 0 3 5 11
Galileo Gen 2 2 0 5 11
LeMaker Guitar 3 1 0 11
NanoPi M3 1 2 4 11
pcDuino3 Nano / Nano Lite 2 2 1 11
Rico Board 0 5 0 10
Banana Pi M2+ 1 2 2 9
Bubblegum-96 0 3 3 9
SAMA5D4 Xplained 2 1 1 9
A20-OlinuXino-Lime 1 2 1 8
Firefly-RK3288 1 2 1 8
Inforce 6410Plus 0 2 4 8
A20-OlinuXino-Micro 2 0 1 7
NanoPC-T3 0 2 3 7
NanoPi M1 1 2 0 7
Odroid-C0 0 3 1 7
Radxa Rock 2 Square 1 1 2 7
RioTboard 1 1 2 7
Cubieboard4 1 0 3 6
86Duino Zero 1 1 0 5
Banana Pi M2 0 2 1 5
Firefly-RK3288 Reload 0 1 2 4
NanoPi2 Fire 0 1 2 4
pcDuino8 Uno 1 0 1 4
Gizmo 2 0 1 1 3
HummingBoard-Edge 0 1 1 3
Radxa Rock Lite / Rock Pro 0 1 1 3
Roseapple Pi 0 1 1 3
CloudBit 0 1 0 2
HummingBoard-Base 0 1 0 2
PixiePro 0 1 0 2
Seeeduino Cloud 0 1 0 2
Arndale Octa 0 0 1 1
Firefly FirePrime 0 0 1 1
HummingBoard-Gate 0 0 1 1
MarsBoard RK3066 Pro 0 0 1 1
Andromeda Box Edge 0 0 0 0
DPT-Board 0 0 0 0
LinkSprite Acadia V3 0 0 0 0
LinkSprite Arches 0 0 0 0
MarsBoard AM335x 0 0 0 0
MarsBoard RK3066 0 0 0 0
NanoPi M2 0 0 0 0
pcDuino Lite / Lite WiFi 0 0 0 0

(summaries of all 81 SBCs are available here)

Further information

For more information about all these boards, refer to our catalog with summaries of all 81 hacker SBCs. There’s also a handy quick reference spreadsheet of all 81 boards here.

(advertise here)


25 responses to “Raspberry Pi 3 takes the cake in 2016 hacker SBC survey”

  1. Pepa says:

    Raspberry Pi 3 is first? Its bullshit. You know. Shared USB/ethernet bus. Just 100M.
    Odroid C2 is 100x times better even when it will have mainline kernel support it will be unbeatable for that price!

    • Dale Humphrey says:

      The c2 is the most incompatible board made to date, virtually nothing usb works, the operating system does not work out of the box, insanely over priced nand, the c2 was one of the biggest SBC flops i have ever purchased, Its fast but worthless if you intend to use it just like all the other SBC in the list.

      • Pepa says:

        You don’t know what are you talking about. I think you’re troll.

        • Werewolfc says:

          You’re a troll also!

        • Dale Humphrey says:

          So how did you power on the device with a usb hdd connected? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get it to recognize a usb cd? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get a usb sound card to work? You didnt because it didnt work (i only had 4 different ones to try), How did you download the .img and jump on a web page without uninstalling and re-installing an older version of arm32 firefox? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get a usb dvd to connect? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get a usb 1.x any thing to work? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get a usb any thing beside flash working? You didnt because it didnt work, How did you get the insane idea it was such a great device? If you want…,. I can list 47 other usb devices that dont work that I found out within 4 days of attempting to use it just like several of the SBC listed here do, before I unplugged it and threw it in the trash. In my opinion the c2 is just a money making scam device to build a functioning arm64 xu5. If im a troll, at least im an honest one!

          • Pepa says:

            Ohh.. Now I know that you’re that troll, who was spamming everything.
            This is you:
            SO FUCK YOU! 😉 Iˇm satisfied with C2 and you’re fool.

          • ssvb says:

            Have you tried to report your problems through the official support channels? What about your PSU? Is it really rated for at least 2A (like the one optionally sold by ODROID)?

            Please just find a way to submit your report in the appropriate place, where the ODROID support people can actually find it. Many people here don’t even have the C2 board and are not interested in long rants. A single link to your request in the official ODROID support forum would be enough. Thanks.

        • Dale Humphrey says:

          P.S. But the good news is…. according to hardkernal, on day maybe, just maybe, canonical could possibly make a functional img for the device, and maybe not. The software incompatibility is just as bad as the hardware. I get more functionality from my commodore 128 running geos. If i go out and buy a new xbox that doesnt work the last thing I want microsoft tech to tell me is to not worry because sony may fix there problems one day. smdh!

        • Dale Humphrey says:

          Furthermore: If you get in touch with hardkernal tech because of a problem, the 1st thing they will tell you to do is re-install the image, Heres a good experiment for you. Take a handfull of sd cards and install the img on each, then go install 20 packages in the same order on each, Then boot each one and look at the discrepancies in the menu, some thing screwy with installing packages as well. I had the idea it could at least sit in the corner and download an occasional torrent so it had some use (like my rpi1), but it bounces between 0.0mbs to 1.6mbs, the highest speed I saw was 2.6mbs for a brief second. It will constantly drop the download speed to 0.0 and then start again. As far as a torrent download station goes, my Rpi1 rev0 runs circles around the c2.

  2. CrashOverride says:

    Raspberry Pi 3 does not meet the requirements stated: it does not have schematics available. Since this disqualifies all Raspberry Pi devices after the original, the Odroid C2 is the actual winner.


  3. Alex Wright says:

    The odroid xu4 is better than the c2. If you need spi like i do then it is loads better and alot faster. I have had this board for a while and love it. Had an odroid u3 before as well as a pi2. next to my beaglebone black this is my favorite board.

  4. ssvb says:

    The Creator Ci40 results look very strange. None of the other boards has such a huge disparity between the 1st and 2nd/3rd choices. I hope that there is some reasonable explanation for this statistical anomaly.

    • HackerBoards says:

      We double checked the results for the Creator Ci40 and what we show in the big table at the end of this post are indeed the numbers reported by the SurveyMonkey survey. Interestingly, the Creator Ci40 was the only MIPS-based board in the field of 81 SBCs, so perhaps the fact that MIPS is rare among hacker SBCs — which are predominantly ARM along with a growing subset of x86 boards — might explain the unusual distribution ratings for the Ci40. Maybe people who like MIPS are *very* devoted to it.

  5. Igor says:

    Referring to: “Buying criteria and likely applications” – A lot of boards needs blobs to boot, almost no kernel is developed open source way (releasing code is not the same as open source development) even the most important criteria is open source. Few of them does not have any sign of community, I/O performance on first placed Rpi3 is terrible, worse than most boards on the list, most of boards does not have on board storage or is useless, most of boards are using closed hardware. If people would understand a little more about those boards, if they would use their brain and at least listen to their wishes, they would rarely buy any board from top 10.

    • ssvb says:

      A lot of boards in the list are very new and still have some rough edges. But many are on the right track. Why “most of boards does not have on board storage” is a problem? Regarding “would rarely buy any board from top 10”, could you please elaborate? Thanks to using a very old SoC, at least C.H.I.P is perfectly open source friendly here and now. And isn’t BeagleBone also reasonably good? A few other new boards from top 10 will catch up rather sooner than later.

  6. Igor says:

    This is what I read / understand out of statistics If people would make choices based on most important criteria, than top 10 should look different. Bright exception(s) exists. On board storage is not a problem to me but it looks like folks care …

    • ssvb says:

      “If people would make choices based on most important criteria, than top 10 should look different”

      So how should the top 10 list look in your opinion?

      • Igor says:

        It’s hard to put down a list of best boards (best on/for what?), but I would roughly go for something like this:

        Odroid XU4 (small multipurpose, powerful, but close boot loader and bad mainline support)
        HummingBoard Edge (packed with everything but still small, industrial grade)
        Clearfog / Turris Omnia (far best NAS / router)
        Orange Pi PC / PC+ 2E (best low-cost multipurpose, open source, mainline)
        Odroid C2 (powerful multipurpose but not quite ready yet, close boot loader)
        Olimex Lime2 emmc (best low cost multipurpose / for industry projects, open source and open HW, mainline)
        Raspberry Pi 3 (multimedia experience but close boot loader, bad i/o)
        … perhaps some gap
        Parallella (no real experience, odd hardware)
        DragonBoard 410c (no real experience)
        BeagleBone Black (no real experience)

        • Pepe says:

          I bought Turris Omnia and it seems like better option than Clearfog (one more PCIe and one more USB port and even cheaper)

          Regarding your list:
          Atleast it doesn’t contain Pine A64 (community makes some changes regarding Linux and Linux kernel about it and also theirs Android is still WiP) and their support is really bad. But it’s the only SBC what I know which runs Horizon GO on Android, yet. What I read on there was some guy, which tries mainlinig, but I don’t know how far is it now.

          About Odroid C2 mainline is on the way. It has even some patches in 4.7, but AMlogic (still) working on it.

          I agree that Odroid C2 has some blobs, but I think it’s really awesome device with their price.
          eMMC slot, GbE, 4 USB 2.0 (if it has 3.0 it will be deal breaker)

          I don’t know why is there Olimex Lime2 its really overpriced than C2 and Adafruit is selling BeagleBone Black for $55 with it no comment. So both are expensive.

          Thanks for tip about OPI-Plus 2E it looks amazing with mainline support. I think I will buy it.

          RPi3 has good community, its their advantage, but what is the most disadvantage is their shared USB port with ethernet. So it’s just for Kodi.

          I was too thinking about XU4, but I hope it will get mainline support, we will see in future and its the only one which has USB 3.0 (I dont include Clearfog and Turris Omnia) and XU4 seems like good opinion to NAS with that. Do you know something like it with USB 3.0 or SATA (not USB-SATA like it was in Orange Pi)

          And about HummingBoard Edge I read somewhere that GbE is capped to 470 Mbits and price is starting from 102$, so.. little bit overpriced again.

          • Igor says:

            Turris Omnia and Clearfog are more or less the same board. It’s very subjective, which is better. Clearfog has M2 slot instead of mSata and 2x mPci so it’s the same.

            Pine A64 is a cheap board with lousy support, everything is WIP. It’s also too big and ugly (ok, this is subjective). There is no way to be in Top 10.

            C2 is a best alternative for running KODI, where stability is not military critical, but I won’t use it as a server. Not now and probably never (because of blobs). I put my bets that we won’t see any serious mainline support before fall 2017. I’ll be happy to be wrong.

            Rpi is only good for KODI, elsewhere is a stupid choice. But since we got C2, choosing Rpi for KODI become stupid too. C2 is so much better, beyond compare.

            XU4 is a good board but mainline is still (far?) away.

            Olimex Lime2 is based on best supported A20 chip and I think it’s the only device on this list with build in battery backup for board and SATA. With eMMC or without and it’s still fairly cheap.

            HummingBoard Edge GbE limitation. Most of the boards on the list can reach gigabit but can’t utilize it due to CPU power or overall design limitation so this is not so big problem. Only exceptions are Clearfog and Turris Omnia. HummingBoards on the other hand can utilize everything – mSata SSD with full speed and if you really need full gigabit LAN, you can have it via mPCI interface. You occupy mPCI slot but it works, tested.

            In most cases price of the board is not so important. Board without support has no value.

            • ssvb says:

              It’s interesting that you are saying that the Pine A64 has lousy support, while praising the Orange Pi PC / Plus2E at the same time.

              Both of these boards are in fact using Allwinner SoCs. Allwinner A64 is just more recent than Allwinner H3 and is slightly lagging behind when it comes to the mainline kernel support. It is only a matter of time. Yes, the Orange Pi PC board is a very good choice now. But try to search in the Internet and you will find a lot of half year old reports about “bad” support for the Orange Pi boards too.

              Anyway, people have voted and now we see the Pine A64 board in the top 10 as a result. My guess is that many of the voters just see a great potential in this board and expect improvements coming on the software side in the near future.

  7. Dale Humphrey says:

    The c2 is the most unstable, unusable SBC made to date, The OS doesnt fully function, almost nothing beyond usb flash works, The emmc is INSANELY over priced(and so is the shipping). Any and every one who voted for it either voted because of the specs, or didnt try to use it. I emailed hackerboards some time ago asking them to do a review of its actual functionality and usability but never received a response. If they would have, alot of people would steer clear of it. Its manufactured and sold broken.

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