4 Powerful SBCs For When You Need Extra Processing Power


The Raspberry Pi is the most popular single board computer due to its affordable price and the flexibility and support it offers. However, the most powerful model in the series, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, was released in 2019.

During this time, other companies released single-board computers that eclipsed the Pi 4B with more powerful processors and better I/O functionality. Let’s take a look at some single board computers that should be your first choice when you need extra processing power.

1. Odroid N2+ Photo Credit: Hardkernel

Hardkernel’s Odroid N2+ outperforms the Raspberry Pi 4 in almost every way, from the powerful hexa-core processor to the onboard eMMC slot that offers faster I/O throughput rates.

The Amlogic S922X hexa-core processor features a quad-core Cortex-A73 clocked at 2.4 GHz and a dual-core Cortex-A53 clocked at 2 GHz. It uses the big.LITTLE architecture and can prioritize either power consumption or performance depending on the situation.

Affordable for a board with its features, the Odroid N2+ is around $85 for the 4GB variant. However, it is by no means a perfect product. Compared to the Raspberry Pi 4, it offers worse software support, lacks built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and some users have reported problems with the USB ports.

Odroid N2+ Specifications:

processor

Hexa-core Amlogic S922X system-on-chip with quad-core Cortex-A73 @ 2.4GHz and dual-core Cortex-A53 @ 2.0GHz; Mali G52 GPU

Storage

2GB or 4GB DDR4 RAM

storage

eMMC socket (8 GB to 128 GB), microSD card slot

Networking

1 x Gigabit Ethernet

ports and interfaces

1 x HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm composite video jack, 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 OTG, 40-pin GPIO header,

Performance

12V/2A via DC jack plug

2.Orange Pi 5Plus

Although Orange Pi had already overtaken the Raspberry Pi with the earlier Orange Pi 5 (which we consider to be one of the most powerful single-board computers alongside the N2+), the team went a step further with the Pi 5 Plus.

The newer board uses the full-featured RK3588 processor instead of the RK3588S, giving it several improvements, most of which focus on I/O. However, both chips have the same CPU and NPU.

The RK3588 has 8 cores, including a quad-core Cortex-A76 and another quad-core Cortex-A55, and has a main frequency of up to 2.4GHz. The embedded Neural Processing Unit (NPU) supports up to 6 TOPS (tera operations per second) of processing power for edge computing and machine learning projects.

The Orange Pi 5 Plus offers 4GB, 8GB and 16GB of LPDDR4 RAM and has an onboard eMMC socket for storage. It is powered by a 5V/4A USB Type-C connector and features a 40-pin GPIO expansion header.

A special feature of the Orange Pi board is the power button, which allows for a clean shutdown, and the HDMI input, which can come in handy for image processing and video recording. Although the Pi 5 Plus is relatively new, Orange Pi has a track record of offering above-average software support compared to other Raspberry Pi alternatives, and support will likely improve over time. The board lacks Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but a module can be connected via the M.2 E-Key slot.

The Orange Pi 5 Plus is not a cheap board. The 16GB model of the board is around $150 on Amazon. The original Orange Pi 5 offers similar features at a lower price if you don’t need the extra I/O.

Specifications of the Orange Pi 5 Plus:

processor

Rockchip RK3588 octa-core 64-bit processor with quad-core A76+ (2.4 GHz) and quad-core A55 (1.8 GHz); Mali G610 GPU; 6 TOPS NPU

Storage

4GB, 8GB or 16GB DDR4 RAM

storage

eMMC socket (16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB/256GB), microSD card slot, M.2 2280 slot for NVMe SSDs (PCIe 3.0 x4)

Networking

2 x 2.5G Ethernet

ports and interfaces

1 x HDMI 2.1 output, 1 x HDMI input, 3.5mm audio jack with microphone, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 40-pin GPIO header, M.2 connector M-Key for NVMe, M.2 connector E-Key for connectivity

Performance

5V/4A via USB-C power supply

3. Rock Pi 5B Photo credit: Radxa

The Rock Pi 5B is a 5th generation single board computer from Radxa. According to tests by Jeff Geerling, the Rock Pi 5B is up to three times faster than the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. If you want to know more, we’ve compared the Raspberry Pi 4 and Rock Pi 5B in detail.

It features the same SoC as the Orange Pi 5, the RockChip RK3588 processor, coupled with an ARM Mali-G610 3D Mali GPU, a 6 TOPS NPU and supports 8k video encoding and decoding. The SoC supports up to 32GB of RAM, but the Rock Pi 5B only offers 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB LPDDR4 RAM options.

The Rock Pi 5B features a USB-C Power Delivery/Fast Charge port and also features Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality. It has an integrated 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.1 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack. With its two full-size HDMI ports and DisplayPort over USB-C, it can power up to three displays. It also has an HDMI input, although support for this feature appears to be in the works.

The Rock Pi 5B is more expensive than the Orange Pi 5 Plus, with the 4GB model selling for around $170.

Specifications of the Rock Pi 5B:

processor

Rockchip RK3588 octa-core 64-bit processor with quad-core A76+ (2.4 GHz) and quad-core A55 (1.8 GHz); Mali G610 GPU; 6 TOPS NPU

Storage

4GB, 8GB or 16GB DDR4 RAM

storage

eMMC socket (16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB/256GB), microSD card slot, M.2 M-Key slot for NVMe SSDs (PCIe 3.0 x4)

Networking

1 x 2.5G Ethernet

ports and interfaces

2 x HDMI, 1 x HDMI in, 3.5mm audio jack, 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 40-pin GPIO header, M.2 connector M-Key for NVMe, M.2 connector E-Key for connectivity

Performance

12V/15V/20V @ 2A or higher via USB-C, PoE

4. NanoPi R6C

FriendlyElec’s NanoPi R6C is one of the cheapest RK3588S boards you can buy. FriendlyElec describes the single-board computer as “a universal high-performance platform for edge computing”.

The NanoPi R6C has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one 2.5Gbps port and the other transmits data at a rate of 1Gbps. It features a single HDMI 2.1 port (8k@60fps) and offers up to 8GB of RAM. The GPIO header has 30 pins including I2S, SPI, and PWM pins.

You can either buy the bare board with 4GB of RAM for $85 or add the custom metal case for an additional $15. However, the base version lacks onboard eMMC flash and you’ll have to pay for the 8GB version if you want the onboard storage.

NanoPi R6C Specifications:

processor

Rockchip RK3588S octa-core 64-bit processor with quad-core A76+ (2.4 GHz) and quad-core A55 (1.8 GHz); Mali G610 GPU; 6 TOPS NPU

Storage

4GB/8GB LPDDR4 RAM

storage

32GB eMMC, microSD card slot, M.2 M-Key slot for NVMe SSD

Networking

1 x 2.5G Ethernet, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet

ports and interfaces

1 x HDMI, 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 30-pin GPIO header, M.2 connector M-Key for NVMe

Performance

5V/9V/12V/20V via USB-C

The single board computers listed above offer much more processing power and expandability compared to the Raspberry Pi 4. They are the best options for hosting high-bandwidth servers, edge computing, and running artificial intelligence projects.

While the software support for these boards isn’t anywhere near the same as the Raspberry Pi, they make a lot of sense for people who don’t mind tinkering around a bit to get things working.

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