The $35 Raspberry Pi 3 buys you a lot of computer for your money, but since the launch of the tiny machine in 2016, rival boards have emerged that offer even more power for a rock-bottom price.
The latest single-board computer promising to outdo the Pi specwise is Libre Computer's Renegade, which packs DDR4 memory, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and 4K video out onto a $35 board.
The specs outstrip those of the Pi 3 in a number of ways: DDR4 memory is far faster than the DDR2 of the Pi, the Gigabit Ethernet can transfer data far more rapidly than the 10/100 Ethernet on the Pi, the USB 3.0 port can shunt data about 10 times faster than the USB 2.0 ports on the Pi, and the HDMI2.0a video out has the bandwidth to support smooth playback of video at 4K, unlike the HDMI 1.3 port on the Pi. That's not to say the board itself will support smooth 4K video playback, which is dependent on power of the CPU/GPU.
The specs are very similar to the Pine64 Rock64 board, except the Renegade adds DDR4 memory, although the Rock64 is slightly cheaper, selling for $25.
The Renegade will run Android 7.1 "Nougat" and various Linux-based operating systems.
The board shares the same form factor as the Pi 3, so there should be some degree of compatibility with Pi-targeted hardware add-ons, but the Renegade only has three USB ports, one less than the Pi.
Despite many Pi clones now being faster on paper, sometimes the spec sheet doesn't tell the entire story, due to bottlenecks elsewhere in the system. For example, there have been reports of disappointment with the speed of the USB 3.0 on the similarly-specced Rock64 board, with data transfer rates not far above USB 2.0, and also of smooth 4K video playback not being possible, despite hardware-accelerated decoding of each video.
Rival boards to the Pi also have the disadvantage of not sharing the Pi's extensive range of software, projects and community support, which makes getting started with the Pi so easy.
Libre Computer is currently raising money on Indiegogo towards the project, with about $625 raised towards its $10,000 goal so far. The board will be available with 1GB of memory for $35, 2GB for $40 and 4GB for $70.
Libre Computer has launched a number of boards, including Le Potato, which sells for $25 and lacks the DDR4 memory, USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet of Renegade.
- Chipset/CPU: Rockchip RK3328, quad-core Arm Cortex A53-based processor
- GPU: Arm Mali-450MP2
- Memory: 1/2/4 GB DDR4 RAM
- Storage: eMMC 5.x flash module socket (8 to 128 GB) & micro SD card slot
- Video / Audio output: HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port (composite video + stereo audio)
- Supported video codecs: 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264, 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
- Network: Gigabit Ethernet
- USB: 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x USB 3.0 port
- Expansion: 40-pin GPIO header with PWM, I2C, SPI & 3-pin ADC Header with 2x analog inputs, GND
- Debugging: UART header pins
- Misc: IR receiver / button
- Power: 5V via micro USB port
- Dimensions: 85 x 56 mm
Read more about the Raspberry Pi
- Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide
- Want a more powerful Raspberry Pi? Choose from these 20 alternatives
- GCHQ builds monster Raspberry Pi cloud with OctaPi formation (ZDNet)
- How to give your Raspberry Pi 'state-of-the art computer vision' using Intel's Neural Compute Stick
- Raspberry Pi 3: The inside story from the new $35 computer's creator
- Raspberry Pi in 2017: New boards, new OSes and more
- Choosing a Raspberry Pi OS? Here's the definitive list
- Raspberry Pi rival delivers a 4K Android computer for just $25
- Raspberry Pi and Docker: Tiny $35 computer gets major new release of HypriotOS (ZDNet)
- Turn any hard drive into networked storage with Raspberry Pi (CNET)
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.