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How to Choose a Single Board Computer (SBC)?

DFRobot Mar 30 2023 353

Application scenarios for Single board computers (SBCs):

Media center: Single board computers can run various operating systems and applications to stream video and audio content from online sources or local storage

Gaming: Single board computers can emulate retro games or run modern games with high-performance hardware and software

NAS: By connecting a single-board computer to external storage devices and network devices, you can turn it into a NAS that can store and share your data with other devices on the same network.

Industrial automation: Single board computers can support time-sensitive networking (TSN) protocols that enable real-time communication and synchronization between machines and devices

Machine learning: Single board computers can leverage dedicated neural processing units (NPUs) or graphics processing units (GPUs) to perform artificial intelligence and deep learning tasks such as image recognition, natural language processing, etc.

Making: You can use an single-board computer to create various kinds of projects that involve computing, electronics, robotics, IoT (Internet of Things), etc.

How to choose SBC for media center

Single board computers, Media center, watching movie, home theater

Figure: Single board computers for Media center

The video and audio output ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

- HDMI ports facilitate connections to high-definition displays and audio systems for optimal visual and auditory experiences.

- Analog ports enable connectivity to legacy displays and audio systems for suboptimal visual and auditory experiences.

- Speakers and microphones facilitate rudimentary audio output and input capabilities.

The network connectivity ⭐⭐⭐⭐

- Ethernet ports enable connectivity to wired networks for swift and dependable internet access.

- Wi-Fi modules facilitate connectivity to wireless networks for enhanced flexibility and mobility.

- Bluetooth modules enable connectivity to other Bluetooth-enabled peripherals such as headphones, keyboards and mice.

The storage capacity ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sufficient storage capacity via SD card or eMMC facilitates local storage and remote access to media content.

The software compatibility ⭐⭐⭐

Kodi and Plex support a wide range of operating systems and platforms, such as Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS.

Other notable media applications include VLC Media Player, Emby Media Server, and Jellyfin Media Server.

How to choose SBCs for gaming

Single board computers, Video games, mini pc, game console, mini game device

Figure: SBCs for Gaming

The graphics performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dedicated GPUs accelerate graphics rendering and display, while integrated GPUs share resources with the CPU.

The game compatibility ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Selecting an SBC that is compatible with your desired games or emulators is recommended.

- operating systems: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, etc.

- specific controllers or input devices: keyboard, mouse, joystick, touchscreen, etc.

The portability and battery life ⭐⭐⭐

Portability refers to the ease with which a device can be transported

Battery life denotes the length of time a device can function on a single battery charge.

The emulation capability ⭐⭐

Emulation enables the enjoyment of classic games on contemporary devices with improved features and quality.

How to choose SBCs for NAS

NAS, Raspberry Pi clusters, Raspberry Pi NAS servers, Jetson Nano clusters, Disk array clusters.

Figure: Raspberry Pi 4B and Jetson Nano Cluster

CPU performance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

CPU performance influences the speed and efficiency with which an SBC can execute tasks such as file transfers, encryption, compression and transcoding.

The network interface ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Common network interfaces include Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

RAM capacity ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Greater RAM capacity can enhance a NAS’s multitasking and caching capabilities.

The storage interface ⭐⭐⭐

Some prevalent storage interfaces include Serial ATA (SATA), Universal Serial Bus (USB), and embedded Multimedia Card (eMMC), among others.

The power consumption ⭐⭐⭐

Reduced power consumption may lead to extended battery longevity and diminished heat production in a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.

How to choose SBCs for machine learning

AI, AI SBCs, Machine Learning, AI Model Traning SBCs

Figure: SBCs for Machine Learning

The processor architecture and speed ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

- CPUs are general-purpose processors that can handle a variety of tasks.

- Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are specialized processors designed to expedite parallel computations such as matrix operations or neural networks. They are frequently employed in deep learning applications that necessitate substantial computational power.

- Other types of processors include DPUs (data processing units), TPUs (tensor processing units), or NPUs (neural processing units), which are designed specifically for machine learning workloads.

The software framework and compatibility ⭐⭐⭐⭐

- TensorFlow is a popular framework that supports various languages, including Python, C++, Java, Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, macOS, etc.

- PyTorch is another popular framework that offers dynamic computation graphs and automatic differentiation.

- Other frameworks include Keras, MXNet, Caffe, etc.

The memory size and storage capacity ⭐⭐⭐

Machine learning tasks often require large amounts of data and models to process.

The power consumption and cooling system ⭐⭐⭐

Power consumption and cooling systems ensure that single-board computers (SBCs) can operate reliably without overheating or rapidly depleting the battery.

How to choose SBCs for industrial automation

robotic arm, SBCs, Single board computers, Industrial Automation, Industrial

Figure: Robotic Arm - Industrial Automation

Real-time communication ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The SBC should support Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) protocols that facilitate low-latency, high-reliability, and deterministic data transmission between machines and devices.

Environmental robustness ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The SBC should be capable of functioning under extreme conditions such as elevated or reduced temperatures, shock, vibration, dust, and other environmental factors.

Application compatibility ⭐⭐⭐

The SBC should be compatible with a diverse range of industrial applications such as Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), Internet of Things (IoT), networking, transportation, multimedia, and more.

Product reliability ⭐⭐⭐

The SBC should be provided by a company with a proven track record and expertise in addressing the needs and challenges of industrial automation.

How to choose SBCs for DIY project?

Raspberry Pi, Making, DIY Projects, DIY, Single Board computers, SBCs

Figure: Raspberry Pi for Making

The hardware features

- Processors: the brain of the SBC and determine its processing power. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

- Multiple GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins that can connect to various sensors, actuators, displays, etc. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

- I/O Devices: These devices allow the SBC to communicate with other devices and peripherals. e.g., serial ports, Ethernet, SATA ⭐⭐⭐⭐

- USB ports or expansion slots that can connect to external devices or modules. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

- Memory: store data and programs. ⭐⭐⭐

- Cameras or microphones that can capture images or sounds. ⭐⭐⭐

The software support ⭐⭐⭐⭐

- Operating systems such as Windows, Linux, Android, etc. Custom operating systems such as Raspbian, Armbian

- Programming languages: Python, C++, Java, etc.

Cost and availability ⭐⭐⭐⭐