I’m an electronics engineer, and specifically, I design electronics that test other electronics. I love my job, and I love finding new technology to solve problems.
Right now I am exploring the world of single board computers (SBCs). I have four, and I am always looking at new ones. I have the Raspberry Pi Model B, the UDOO Quad, the PCDuino (the link is for a version 3, but I have several of the originals), and the Iteaduino Plus A20. Each has something that sets it apart from the others, and each is touted as the greatest thing ever.
But from an engineering perspective, there are trade-offs. The biggest one is the cost/benefit ratio. The RPi is the least expensive, at about $40 in most places, while the UDOO Quad comes in at $135. The feature sets are reflective of the price, fortunately: the RPi has 512Mb of RAM, and a single core ARM1176JZF-S processor running at 700 MHz. The UDOO has 1Gb of RAM, a quad core ARM Cortex-A9 running at 1Ghz, and a built in Arduino Due. These are not minor differences, and the price reflects it.
But what about usefulness? I am looking for something that runs a Linux distro, but has GPIO pins I can manipulate. Both do this. I’d like to talk to it using serial communications, and have support for I2C and SPI bus communications. Okay, still good on both. And I need to collect data, collate it, store it, and push it out to a cloud platform. Again, both meet this need.
What I don’t need to do is stream videos, have a super cool GUI, or act like a desktop replacement. And yet… both will do this, though the UDOO is better at it. And I am not making a DIY tablet, which is good, because both have drawbacks for that application.
And for me, the kicker is this: both need a monitor, a keyboard and mouse, and some kind of SD card for both the operating system and for storage. So for what I intend to use it for, the Raspberry Pi is a more cost efficient solution.
I’m not going to stop looking at all the new SBCs that are coming out, though. Maybe one of them will have something that I really want.