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Raspberry Pi stays sky high in 2015 Hacker SBC Survey

Jun 11, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 15,233 views

Our 2015 Hacker SBC Survey has concluded, with 1,721 participants. Now it’s time to reveal 2015’s Top Ten Hacker SBCs, and the 20 winners of free boards.

Last month, LinuxGizmos.com and the Linux Foundation’s Linux.com community website sponsored a 10-day SurveyMonkey survey that asked readers of both sites to choose their favorite three Linux- or Android-based open-spec single-board computers. This year, 1,721 respondents — more than twice the number from the 2014 survey — selected their favorites from a list of 53 SBCs, compared to last year’s 32.

Twenty respondents were randomly selected to receive one of 20 donated hacker-friendly SBCs. These were equally split among Beagleboard.org’s BeagleBone Black, the Imagination Technologies CI20 Creator, Qualcomm’s Dragonboard 410C, and the Intel Edison Kit for Arduino. The winners are listed below, along with a summary of reader answers to questions about buying criteria, intended applications, and boards they wish had been included on our list.

 



Scores of all 53 hacker SBCs
(click image to enlarge)

 
Note that we used a Borda Count method of 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 53 SBCs are provided in a table near the conclusion of this post.
 


This year’s top 10 hacker SBCs
(click image to enlarge)

 
As seen above (and pictured below), the ten most popular SBCs in the 2015 Hacker SBC Survey were the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, Beaglebone Black, Raspberry Pi Model B+, Odroid-C1, DragonBoard 410c, Odroid-XU3, Parallella, Arduino TRE, Edison Kit for Arduino, and Odroid-U3. A table farther below summarizes the key features and specs of each of these ten boards.

 


Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (#1)

Beaglebone Black (#2)

Raspberry Pi Model B+ (#3)

Odroid-C1 (#4)

DragonBoard 410c (#5)

Odroid-XU3 (#6)

Parallella (#7)

Arduino TRE (#8)

Edison Kit for Arduino (#9)

Odroid-U3 (#10)

This year’s top 10 hacker SBCs
(see spec summaries of all 53 hacker SBCs)

Despite the growing competition in the open source community SBC scene, the field is dominated more than ever by the Raspberry Pi. The quad-core Raspberry Pi 2 Model B smoked the second place BeagleBone Black by a score of 2,455 points to 1,598, and the single-core Raspberry Pi Model B+ came in third with 784 points, or almost twice the score of the fourth place (399) Odroid-C1.



Comparison of key features and specs of the top 10 hacker SBCs
(click image to enlarge; other versions are here: [pdf]; [html])

 
Raspberry Pi takes two of the top three honors

A year ago, it was the Raspberry Pi Model B that took first place followed by the BeagleBone Black and a different Odroid — the U3 — which this year came in 10th. Hardkernel’s Odroid project had the second largest combined score for boards from a particular community or vendor, with 940 points. Even combined, that trails the BeagleBone’s 1,598 single-product total, not to mention the cumulative 3,420 points of all the Raspberry Pi boards, including the 12th place Raspberry Pi Model A+.

Continuing the comparison of board families, Cubieboard’s three models combined for 357 points, Olimex’s two OLinuXino boards combined for 195, and Seco’s pair of Udoo boards chipped in for 177. LinkSprite’s two pcDuino boards combined for 88 points, and if you throw in the company’s non-Arduino compatible LinkSprite Arches and LinkSprite Acadia, you end up with 106.





Top row: Cubieboard2, Cubieboard3 (aka CubieTruck), and Cubieboard4; middle row: Udoo Neo and Udoo Quad; bottom row: LinkSprite’s pcDuino3B, pcDuinoNano, Arches, and Acadia
(see spec summaries of all 53 hacker SBCs)

The near clones of the Raspberry Pi did well, but since there are now two rival Banana Pi projects, neither made it to the top 10, as did last year’s 5th ranked Banana Pi. Instead SinoVoip’s Banana Pi M2 landed in 14th place, and LeMaker’s Banana Pi Pro is ranked 16th. The somewhat similar Orange Pi 2 trailed considerably.


Alternative Pi SBC flavors — left to right: Orange Pi 2, Orange Pi Plus, Banana Pi M2, and Banana Pro
(see spec summaries of all 53 hacker SBCs)

Some 43 percent of participants had first-hand experience with their primary choice, down to 33 percent for the second choice and 23 percent for third. If you prefer to judge only by first place selections, the ranking stays pretty much the same at the top of the list, with a few interesting exceptions. For example, based on first selections only, 96Board.org’s (Linaro’s) new 64-bit, ARMv8 HiKey board would have jumped into the top 10 along with Intel’s Minnowboard Max.

The Borda-ranked top 10 includes two boards that aren’t out yet, but are promised to ship before our June 2015 cutoff. Arduino LLC’s long delayed Arduino TRE appears to be finally set for takeoff this month, and Qualcomm was confident enough in the DragonBoard 410c’s ship date to contribute five boards for our contest winners. Like the HiKey, the DragonBoard 410c is the only other ARMv8 board in the contest, and similarly complies with the 96Boards.org spec.


Arduino Yún Mini

There were no Arduino boards in last year’s contest, but Arduino was a strong contender in 2015. As the two rival Arduino factions add Linux boards to their catalog and other SBCs add Arduino shield compatibility, there has been a continuing migration of Arduino users to Linux platforms. In addition to the TRE, which came in eighth, there’s the 13th ranked Arduino Yún Mini from Arduino Srl, which split off from the Arduino LLC project. Other top 10 boards with Arduino compatibility include the DragonBoard 410c and the Intel Edison Kit for Arduino.

We almost excluded the Edison Arduino kit since the Intel Atom-based Edison itself is not an SBC, but a computer-on-module (COM) much like the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. However, we realized there has been wide adoption of the Edison when sold with the Arduino breakout, which makes it much like any other Linux hacker SBC.

All told, the x86 based boards did a bit better than last year. These also include the Atom-based MinnowBoard Max and Quark-based Galileo, as well as the AMD G-Series driven Gizmo 2.



x86 SBCs get hacker love, too! Left to right: MinnowBoard Max, Galileo Gen 2, and Gizmo 2
(see spec summaries of all 53 hacker SBCs)


Parallella

Another surprise was the continuing popularity of the seventh-ranked Parallella, which has a Xilinx Zynq ARM/FPGA combo chip, as well as an interesting “Epiphany” coprocessor designed for parallel processing. While it’s clear that the Parallella is a top-notch product with a reasonable price, we thought it would be too specialized to reach the top 10. The Parallella is primarily aimed at power-efficient server clustering applications and parallel programming research.

We gave participants the opportunity to list other boards they liked, and while the vast majority are already on our list or are slightly different SKUs of the same boards, there were some interesting additions. Among those that might actually fit our criteria, the leading choices were Inforce Computing’s Snapdragon 600 based Inforce IFC6410 and with fewer votes, the newer Snapdragon 805 based IFC6540, as well as Nvidia’s Tegra K1-based Nvidia Jetson TK1.



Left to right: InForce IFC6410 and IFC6540, and Nvidia Jetson TK1


Gumstix Overo

Several readers listed computer-on-modules, with the well-deserving Gumstix Overo family getting the most love. Among other reasons we left them off is that there are too many Gumstix add-on board options, and none that really add up to a complete general purpose SBC.


CuBox

Some readers listed mini-PCs led by SolidRun’s CuBox models. Although many mini-PCs can serve the same purpose as hacker SBCs, we ruled them out to keep the competition more focused.


Chip

Several golden oldies were mentioned that we decided to skip. The venerable PandaBoard got a few nods, but we just didn’t see enough activity on the site to justify its addition. Finally, there were several models listed that aren’t expected to ship until at least August, such as the Tessel 2. The most commonly cited name here was the $9 and up Chip SBC, which won’t ship until December. See you next year, Chip!

 
Open software leads SBC buying criteria

When we asked readers about their buying criteria for community-backed SBCs, the response was similar to last year’s. Open source software support and community ecosystem once again ranked first and second. The two go hand in hand because without the community the chances of receiving a variety of timely, high quality Linux and Android open source builds is often diminished.



Hacker SBC buying criteria
(click image to enlarge)

All the projects promise open source firmware, usually in several flavors, but in many cases, boards ship before they’re fully supported, and some boards never receive the promised support. Even when the core distributions are crafted more by developers working for the board manufacturer or SoC vendor, rather than independent developers, the presence of a dedicated community is generally indicative of the presence of quality software.

Like last year, the tightly bunched categories of networking/wireless, low cost, and open source hardware support filled out the top five buying criteria. They shifted around a bit, with networking coming up on top this time around.

Consumer demands for onboard WiFi and Bluetooth, combined with lower cost wireless chips, have helped make onboard wireless more prevalent this year. The networking category also reflects a growing demand for wired networking, which is fairly standard on commercial x86-based SBCs, but is far from a given on ARM hacker boards. The comments section associated with this question were full of calls for gigabit Ethernet, dual Ethernet ports, and Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support.

The Other I/O category once again ranked sixth, and was again trailed by the closely clustered memory/storage, power efficiency, and processor performance. The middling score for performance is reflected in our product rankings, where there seems to be a total lack of correlation between performance and desirability, at least once cost is factored out. The top 10 includes boards with everything from a single-core ARM11 chip (RPi Model B+) to a quad-core Cortex-A53 SoC (DragonBoard 410c).

One processor trend did seem clear, however, judging both from the selections and reader comments. The open source community appears to be increasingly frustrated with Allwinner’s Linux support. While three Allwinner based boards made last year’s top 10, there are none this year. After the 11th Place Cubieboard4, with its octacore Allwinner A80, the next Allwinner board on the list is the A31-based Banana Pi M2 at number 14.

Other factors listed by readers in the comments sections primarily fell into one of the existing categories, but there were some interesting trends revealed here. Over all, the most cited mentions were for SATA support, smaller board sizes, and wider distribution networks. We’ve gathered some of these comments, especially repeat mentions, below in their various categories, which are ranked by their Borda score, noted in parentheses.

Other important SBC factors listed by survey participants

  • Open source software support (4,388) — open bootloaders, generic Debian support, Yocto/OE support, upstream kernel support, fast boot, quality drivers, no binary blobs
  • Community ecosystem (4,088) — certainty regarding future availability
  • Networking/wireless I/O (3,784) — GbE, multiple Ethernet ports, PoE
  • Low cost (3,636) — low-cost shipping; local distributor availability and support
  • Open source hardware info (3,628) — GPU documentation
  • Other I/O (3,522) — SATA, standard power jack, mic input, easy serial console access
  • Onboard memory/storage (3,257) — 3GB of RAM
  • Data acquisition and control I/O (3,062) — PWM, high-speed GPIO, CAN
  • Low power (3,021) — battery power option
  • CPU/graphics performance (3,020) — GPU acceleration in X, FPGA, multiple processors; real-time features
  • Modularity/expansion (2,874) — Arduino support
  • Multimedia I/O (2,195) — LVDS
  • Other — Long-term availability, mounting or case options, small form factor, high thermal dissipation

 
Home automation tops applications list

We also asked readers to choose the chief application for their SBC projects. Participants could select as many categories as they wanted, but they were all ranked equally. Home automation once again led the list, at almost the same 59.7 percent score as last year.



Type of applications anticipated
(click image to enlarge)

This year, special function servers rose from third to second place above education, which dropped from second to fourth place behind third place home multimedia. In part this was due to the fact that we combined the previous “arts or entertainment” and “other consumer electronics,” categories, most of which probably ended up in the home multimedia category. Beyond that, robots, drones, and the like came next, followed by more industrial applications.

In the optional “other” category, the submissions tended to fit into one of our existing groupings, with many users listing specific home automation and other IoT gizmos like remote sensor applications. The applications listed here show the vast range of embedded Linux. Highlights, many of which were listed more than once, include SDR, automotive, art installations, SCADA, HPC, survey telescopes, flight recording, digital art, weather station, healthcare, 3D printer control, agronomy, model trains, payment processing, test automation, music synthesizer, environmental data logging, human sensory augmentation, security/camera automation devices, machine vision, gaming, defense, biometrics, and “in buoys.”

 
Butcher, baker, candlestick-maker?

In a separate question, we asked readers to select the term that best described the nature of their SBC projects, this time permitting only one answer. This year, we broke out education as a separate category along with the previous maker/hobbyist and commercial/prototyping categories.



Nature of SBC projects
(click image to enlarge)

Education earned a 11 percent score, while maker/hobbyist dropped to 68 percent and commercial slipped slightly to just over 18 percent. We’re guessing that last year educational developers selected maker/hobbyist more often than commercial, and therefore the ratios are approximately the same.

 
Prize winners

Congratulations to the 20 winners of our drawing for one of 20 donated SBCs of four types. Pictured below, they are (left to right, top to bottom), Beagleboard.org’s BeagleBone Black, Imagination Technologies’s CI20 Creator, Qualcomm’s Dragonboard 410C, and Intel’s Edison Kit for Arduino.



20 survey participants won one of these hacker-friendly SBCs
(see spec summaries of all 53 hacker SBCs)

The prize recipients are: Nathan Briley, Greg Chapman, Adam Coleman, Spencer Cureton, Alexandre Dauphin, Robert Dickson, Gorazd Herman, Norman Jaffe, Richard Karnesky, Nick Kartsioukas, Niels Langendorff, Andrew Lunn, Kevin Mihelich, Nick Oppen, Thomas Ozenne, Andrea Panontin, Preetwinder, Jerahmie Radder, Tomas Rimkus, Sverrir Steindorsson.

Many thanks go to Beagleboard.org, Imagination Technologies, Intel, and Qualcomm for donating the survey’s 20 SBC prizes, as well as to our survey’s 1721 participants, who gave a few minutes of their time to help us collect this interesting data on the hacker SBC market.


 
Data and weighted Borda scores for all 53 SBCs

The table below lists the first, second, and third choice votes received for each of the 53 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 first place (highest Borda value) to 53rd.

1st Choice 2nd Choice 3rd Choice Borda Score
1. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B 564 294 175 2455
2. BeagleBone Black 266 273 254 1598
3. Raspberry Pi Model B+ 100 182 120 784
4. Odroid-C1 77 62 44 399
5. DragonBoard 410c 53 54 45 312
6. Odroid-XU3 47 62 45 310
7. Parallella 55 43 52 303
8. Arduino TRE 26 71 69 289
9. Edison Kit for Arduino 37 41 68 261
10. Odroid-U3 33 43 46 231
11. Cubieboard4 22 40 52 198
12. Raspberry Pi Model A+ 22 28 59 181
13. Arduino Yún Mini 12 48 39 171
14. Banana Pi M2 19 39 31 166
15. MinnowBoard Max 28 25 30 164
16. Banana Pro 25 30 22 157
17. Wandboard Quad 21 28 31 150
18. HiKey 36 12 13 145
19. Udoo Quad 24 21 20 134
20. A20-OlinuXino-Micro 25 17 15 124
21. HummingBoard 13 16 36 107
22. Galileo Gen 2 9 21 32 101
23. Creator CI20 18 10 22 96
24. Cubieboard3 14 20 10 92
25. Arndale Octa Board 15 7 16 75
26. A10-OlinuXino-Lime 11 13 12 71
27. Cubieboard2 12 7 17 67
28. Orange Pi Plus 7 11 22 65
29. 86Duino 5 13 13 54
30. Firefly-RK3288 11 7 7 54
31. USB Armory 10 5 8 48
32. PCDuinoNano 7 6 13 46
33. Udoo Neo 6 7 11 43
34. PCDuino3B 8 6 6 42
35. Black Swift 5 10 6 41
36. BD-SL-i.MX6 (SABRE Lite) 4 8 11 39
37. Gizmo 2 4 10 6 38
38. Radxa Rock Pro / Lite 7 3 9 36
39. SAMA5D4 Xplained 2 8 11 33
40. Z-turn Board 5 6 2 29
41. CloudBit 3 3 9 24
42. Orange Pi 2 / Pi Mini 2 1 5 9 22
43. Radxa Rock 2 Square 2 4 7 21
44. Domino.IO 3 4 3 20
45. LinkSprite Arches 1 2 8 15
46. RioTboard 1 2 7 14
47. Warpboard 0 5 3 13
48. Viola SBC 1 1 2 7
49. Rico Board 1 0 3 6
50. MarsBoard RK3066 0 1 2 4
51. LinkSprite Acadia 1 0 0 3
52. DPT-Board 0 0 2 2
53. MarsBoard RK3066 Pro 0 0 2 2

See spec summaries of all 53 SBCs

 
Further information

More information on the 53 boards in this survey, including links to project sites and previous LinuxGizmos coverage may be found in this section of our 2015 Hacker SBC Survey launch coverage. Linux.com’s survey wrap-up story, which includes a top-10 SBC slide show, is here.
 

— Rick Lehrbaum contributed to this report
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

3 responses to “Raspberry Pi stays sky high in 2015 Hacker SBC Survey”

  1. jezra says:

    Ouch. It must really sting to be one of the many ‘on the market” devices that did more poorly than devices that don’t even exist yet.

  2. MumblePi says:

    I’m quite surprised the (#30) Firefly-RK3288 or the (#16) Banana Pro didn’t do better.
    The (#11) Cubieboard4 just missed the top 10 also.

    #11 and #30 have ONBOARD FLASH MEMORY if you don’t want to spend on an SSD (though it works out the same) and the processing power goes way over the Raspi.
    I guess people don’t thoroughly read and compare the spec.

    Even the humble Banana Pro has serious bang for buck and beats the Raspi on network speed and disk access speed thanks to Sata and GBe.
    Home automation from an insertable SD card? Ok… Be my guest.

    Once you’ve used one of these Sata/GBe boards you’ll never go back!

  3. Jim says:

    I agree with MumblePi, Using the Odroid with eMMC will kick the pants off the RPI.

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