Single Board Computer |A Beginner’s Guide|

A Single Board Computer is a functional computer. It has input and output, memory and a processor. It is built on a single PCB (Printed Circuit Board). SBC (Single Board Computer) does not support expanded peripheral functions with expansion slots. The ARM processor architecture powers most SBCs. It has lower processing speeds and low power consumption. Some modern SBCs follow the x86-Intel processor architecture.

What are Single Board Computer Used For?

As drawn before SBCs can be used to perform any task that an ordinary computer can execute. The basic hardware setup has many uses. It can serve as a machinery interface or desktop computer. It may not be the most cost-effective or capable option for either. The following are a few possible SBC use cases:

  • Digital kiosks (ATMs, ticket machines, vending machines)
  • Digital signage
  • Gambling or other gaming systems
  • Smart home controllers
  • Industrial systems controllers
  • Sensor (scientific, weather, security) monitoring systems
  • Robotics controllers
  • Video processing or computer vision
  • Web or media servers
  • Networking systems
  • AI and machine learning
  • Consumer electronics

In short anything a regular computer can do an SBC can likely do as well. The functions differ less in the set and more in cost use and fitness. This includes technical, physical and abstract parts.

What are the Advantages of Single Board Computer?

The advantages of modern SBCs can boil down to three cost, complexity and customization. An SBC can be a cheaper, simpler and more flexible option for computing tasks.

Using a whole local server for closed-circuit camera video data may be extreme. You may need to process and store video data from security cameras often. Adding cheap SBCs to your setup as needed can save costs and energy. They are useful and can be placed anywhere.

You must show digital signage outside your business. It updates content from the cloud based on time or custom variables. For example, you own a luggage shop. You want to display umbrella ads when it rains. Use data from an open forecasting API. Does anyone sell a solution capable of such a thing? Using an open-source operating system and your custom code is a cost-effective solution. This method can be more direct.

SBCs must have little space, use cheap ARM processors and run Android or Linux. This may seem fantastic. SBCs are useful for various environments. If your use case is unique an SBC may be suitable.

SBC vs. Microcontroller

Microcontrollers like AVR, PIC and STM8 are small ICs. They have a CPU, RAM, ROM and peripherals. 

Microcontrollers are less powerful than SBC devices. They have smaller CPUs in MHz, only one core and RAM and ROM sizes under 64KB. 

Microcontroller peripherals can be more advanced and many than SBC’s. The Raspberry Pi has I2C and SPI. Basic PIC devices have UART, I2C, SPI, ADC, GPIO, timers and inner EEPROM. 

Microcontrollers include all features in one IC. The circuit is smaller and uses less power than an SBC. Microcontroller devices are right for movable applications. Many of them come in DIP packages making them great for prototyping.

Why Are They Preferable Over Ordinary Computers?

SBCs generally have inferior skills compared to PCs. They have increased market demand and processing skills over the years. SBCs might overtake PCs due to their mixed uses. Someone can expect this. Now various reasons make Single Board Computer better than traditional PCs. Some of the famous reasons include:

They are portable. Top in the list of their particularity over PCs is their tiny size. Raspberry Pi one of the world’s popular SBCs is small enough to fit the size of a palm. Their small size makes them portable. They can be programmed and fixed in automated systems.  

They are cheap: Most SBCs are very cheap to get. Single Board Computer are much cheaper to develop than conservative computers. Usually with a reduction in the buying price, there is always a bent for the demand for such a product to soar. Inventions on the use of such products increase. Electrical professionals as well as fans can get SBCs and use them for model purposes. At the moment you could even order some customized SBC boards from us at an absurd bargain. 

They consume less power than PCs. When comparing SBCs to conservative computers on power usage you will notice a significant decrease. An average SBC consumes only eight watts of power. Traditional computers consume 400 watts in power-saving mode. From this angle, SBCs are better than conventional computers. Low power feasting makes them ideal for inserting in electronic systems. 

The SBC wave is already replacing the PC

If numbers do not lie then the best time to have embraced SBCs was in 2013 and the second best time to hold them is now. The two graphs above contrast how people bought PCs and did DIY projects with SBCs in the same period. The market demand for PCs is decreasing. The need for SBCs for experiments is increasing.

People’s buying habits show SBCs are the current wave and will grow in the future. It is time we included the wave and swam along. Unfortunately, most engineers still do not see it coming.

SBCs are popular because they enable programming freedom. DIY enthusiasts want to customize their computers for specific needs. SBCs meet this freedom goal by being cheaper, portable and programmable. SBCs also have lower power feasting.

We will now examine the processors and architectures of Single Board Computer. We will also compare the best SBCs currently offered.

What is a Modular Single Board Computer?

Modular design has gained popularity in fixed computing in the last decade. Single board computer, sensor boards and estimation boards are good examples. This design approach breaks a generic system into independent modules. The modules can be linked to enhance device functionality. Modules are independent. Each one functions without relying on another module only on the base platform.

Modular Single Board Computer Design Layers

To begin designing a custom product define your build specifications. You will need to consider features that are required now and what features may be needed in the future. All these parts can be mutual and broken into two main portions:

·         Application-specific layer. This layer’s hardware modules ought to be selected for a certain set of purposes. Your software must be tailored to interface with specific applications in this layer.

·         Application-agnostic. This makes up everything on a modular single board computer that is not application specific. The layer is the modular base for your system. It connects modules in the application layer.

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What’s the Difference Between ARM SBC and x86 SBC?

SBCs are available with two application processor architectures: ARM and x86. ARM processors run ARM instruction set compatible OS and applications. x86 processors can only run x86-compatible OS and apps.

ARM SBCs are well suited to use Android-based systems. Android was designed for ARM processors. ARM SBCs support various Linux distributions. Some can also run real-time operating systems. ARM dominates the SBC space due to its flexibility and affordability.

x86 SBCs work well with Windows or Linux. If your SBC use case requires Windows generally speaking an x86 processor is the best fit. ARM processors can run Windows. However many Windows applications don’t work on ARM systems. An x86 processor is usually the best choice for Windows except for specific ARM needs. x86 SBCs can run almost any Linux supply. They also support various open-source operating systems. X86 variants of Android are available and viable. Development of Android x86 has stopped. Android x86 shares minimal application growth beyond technical use cases.)

The Cheapest Single Board Computer

Consider these affordable SBC options when on a tight budget. Here are some of them:

Pine A64 SBC: one of the rarest most powerful SBCs I have seen in the market that cost about $15 is the Pine A64. Its design takes much after the popular Arduino Uno.

 If you seek to have an IoT project run with impressive rates but at a lower cost, you should consider The Pine A64. The device wires up to 2GB RAM. It runs on an ARM Cortes A53 Quad-core processor at 1.2GHz which supports 64-bit applications. It has excellent network speeds of about 1000 Mbps. The only bone with Pine A64 is its remote online support if you develop issues with the board.

Raspberry Pi Zero: The Raspberry Pi Zero costs about five dollars. It has 512MB RAM and a processor speed of 1GHz single core. It has 40 GPIO pins. Pi Zero is ideal for learners, hobbyists and engineers. It is great for simple experiments. The Pi Zero is urged for its easy availability and huge community support.

Nano Pi NEO: Nano Pi NEO is small in size and has limited features. Its processor clocks in at 1GHz and its RAM is 256/512 MB. It supports Ethernet, Micro SD and VGA. Nano costs about seven dollars and keeps about 40 GPIO pins. It has slow processing and lacks community support. 

How Do I Choose the Right Single Board Computer?

Choose the right Single Board Computer by understanding technical, performance and environmental needs. Understand dimensions, isolation and heat. Not every Single Board Computer will be a good fit for every use case directly or figuratively. This makes choosing the right SBC a case-by-case conversation. Denial by a sealed section, the need for ethernet, or a specific version can affect single board computer designs.

Carefully check potential SBC solutions for hardware deployment at scale. This is crucial. Esper has wide experience managing SBC based systems. Reach out to discuss your use case. Contact us at any stage of your product life cycle.


Single Board computer have become both nearby and valuable over time. We have explored how to incorporate SBCs into projects.

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