Beaglebone Black Radio Challenge - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Beaglebone Black Radio Challenge

Author: tayken

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Beaglebone, Paspberry Pi

What were the biggest problems encountered?:

Detailed Review:

I especially waited for the project to end to write my review as seeing all of the products in action was needed for me to write the review. Overall impression was pretty good. So now I'll be looking at each part one by one.


Beaglebone Black

This was the main component of the project and everything revolved around it. Single-Board Computers page has a comparison with the Raspberry Pi, so I'll not get into more details. Here are the advantages and disadvantages over Raspberry Pi:


  • Faster processor
  • More RAM compared to Rev 1 Model B
  • Lots and lots of more GPIO pins!!!
  • Ethernet over USB
  • Onboard storage (eMMC), which means you can use it without a uSD card.
  • Less power usage compared to Model B.
  • Has LCD panel interface, although Adafruit revealed a product for Raspberry Pi recently.


  • Only one USB port. In my ADS-B project, I had to use a USB Hub because of this.
  • No jumper for booting from uSD card. You have to press a button each time to boot from the uSD card. Not really good especially if you want to take images for safekeeping.
  • No audio output. Although the comparison matrix at Single-Board Computers page says that there is a 3.5 mm connector, there is none. By default, it uses HDMI for audio out.
  • Doesn't contain any adapter or cable for the Micro HDMI connector. Although I think they're planning to include a cable in the future kits.


If I want to compare it with the classic Beaglebone, except the boot situation, Black version doesn't have any disadvantages. It has a faster processor, more RAM, onboard storage (eMMC), video out, JTAG over USB connection and less power usage. You can check out the comparison and a more detailed feature list from here.

My comparison goes like this: If you need a unit which will be used as a desktop or small number of IO requirements, use Raspberry Pi. If you are fine with a headless display (I almost always use my SBCs headless, even RPis) and/or tons of IO requirements for different peripherals, use Beaglebone. You can connect a USB keyboard and mouse directly to RPi as Model B has 2 USB ports but BBB requires a USB Hub, so I don't suggest using it as a desktop computer. But in my opinion, overall, Beaglebone Black beats both Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone.


4.3" LCD Screen Cape

This is a real nice cape for Beaglebone Black. It has a resistive touchscreen, 5 buttons mapped to up/down/left/right/enter, power button and reset button. There is not much info about it other than this wiki entry and this wiki entry. Great thing about this is the latest Angstrom images work with this out of the box. It's really plug and play! Bad thing is it's a little bit small for some applications, so you may want to use the 7" version. This one is nice for projects that require some sort of display to user (you can check out my ADS-B project) but you won't be able to drwa pictures with it. Also although the wiki entries say that a stylus is optional, it's not. You have to use some sort of stylus, otherwise the cursor jumps around a lot!


Compact USB Wi-Fi Adapter with 4" Antenna

This is actually UWN200 by Logic Supply. I've only used adapters similar to UWN100 with my SBCs. They're all OK without an external antenna inside a house but I would say for a mobile project, it's better to have an adapter with external antenna. This adapter comes with an SMA connector so you can find different types of antennas for your application easily. Another advantage for this adapter was the documentation: There is a documentation for Beaglebone Black! It's really great as Wi-Fi on SBCs can get quite frustrating from time to time.


Adafruit Software Defined Radio Receiver USB Stick

This is actually one of those DVB-T dongles that has the RTL2832U chipset. I actually had 2 similar adapters, one with the same MCX connector, another with BMA connector. Real nice thing about this is compared to other two, this one is really small and it gets concealed by the LCD Cape. Bad thing is I was planning to make my own antennas for ADS-B reception and MCX connectors are really hard to make, they are really small. I'm just glad that it didn't have one of those MMCX or UFL connectors.

This adapter also comes with it's antenna and a remote. I mounted the antenna on top of my monitor (it has a magnetic feet) so that I always have an antenna out on my desk but I couldn't find a use for the remote.


Adafruit BBB Case

This is an injection molded plastic case for Beaglebone Black. I actually didn't use it during my projects but I tried out 's idea later on and it's impressive. You actually don't need any screws to fix the BBB to the case. And the case has mounting hoes at the bottom so you can hang it on the wall or under your desk for example. The top part is press fit and it fits snugly. I don't think that it'll pop open on it's own but with the added extra load of cables and USB sticks, it's possible, so you may want to be careful.


Adafruit Power Adapter

It's a normal switch mode 5 V 2000 mA output adapter which accepts 100-240 V. Actually it looks a little bit different than the one shown on the product page but the product code checks out. It managed to power all the products that came with the kit and a USB Hub without any glitch.



Overall, I really liked all the products that were included inside the kit. For people transitioning from microcontrollers to SMBs, I really suggest Beaglebone Black as it has lots of peripherals which can use different communication protocols.

I'd like to thank the folks at Element14 for selecting me for the competition.