RIoTBoard - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: RIoTBoard

Author: jdmcs

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 Black, Raspberry Pi Model B, Raspberry Pi Model B+

What were the biggest problems encountered?: I could not change the Android resolution without a serial debug cable, as the resolution is passed as a U-Boot parameter.

Detailed Review:

Throw Me a Bone, Bake Me a Pi, Start Me a RIoT

Which Hobbyist SBC is Right for My Application?


Disclaimer: element14 provided the RIoTboard for review through their RoadTest program. I have also been a customer of both Newark/element14 and MCM Electronics (both Premier Farnell companies) for some time now, and I am not aware of any relationship between my history as a customer and my selection for the Road Test program.


According to a May 2014 survey, the top two “Linux- or Android-based open-spec single-board computers” were the Raspberry Pi Model B and the BeagleBone Black. Available in single-quantities and at a cost of $35 or (at that time) $45, respectively, the entry cost to either platform is low. Both boards have their strengths and weaknesses, and especially to a novice, choosing between the two can be a daunting task.


Enter the RIoTboard, a new development platform designed for projects in the Internet of Things (IoT). The RIoTboard seems to address a number of the common complaints of both the Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone Black. The RIoTboard also serves as an evaluation platform for designers who want to use the Freescale i.MX 6Solo, and as as well as a platform for Android software developers who want to test their applications on-hardware.


Two other announcements of note have happened since the May 2014 survey. First, the BeagleBone Black Revision C was announced, which included a specification bump of the eMMC to 4GB, a change to Debian as the default Linux distribution, and a cost increase to $55. And more recently, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was announced, which included an expansion of GPIO on the main (P1) header (at a loss of the P5 header), two additional USB ports, and improved power circuitry, but retains the same $35 price point as the Model B. While the BeagleBone Black Revision C replaced the Revision B, the Raspberry Pi Model B will continue to be produced as long as customer demand exists.


I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there are many other hobbyist SBCs available on the market. There are many strong contenders — and even a few surprises — within the top ten of the aforementioned survey. However, the goal of this review was to take the two most popular SBCs and put them side-by-side with the RIoTboard to help you choose an SBC for your project.


Review Methodology


If you already skipped to the end of this review to determine the overall winner, then you were probably disappointed when I did not present one… But the point of this review is to help you determine which hobbyist SBC fits your application, so you ultimately get to pick the winner.


I’ve divided this review into categories that might be important to your project. For each of these categories, I have compared all four boards based on what is included in the package (accessories add extra cost to a project) and determined which board or boards are the best. I’ve also given honorable mention when I think a board merits it (I do reserve the right to take “official” accessories into account here), and given warning where a board has trouble in a given area. I hope that all of this information helps you to pick a winner for your project.


Did I miss a category, or an aspect of a category, important to your project? If so, please leave a comment and I will use that info to make future reviews better — and I will also try to follow-up with an answer.


Note on Reviewing the Raspberry Pi


Unfortunately, neither of the Raspberry Pi models I am reviewing include on-board flash. For categories where the Raspberry Pi does not need to be powered, this only means that the measurements will not include the user-supplied SD card. For any tests where I need to power the Raspberry Pi, I will use the 8GB NOOBS card that I last ordered from MCM Electronics.


For categories where there is no difference between the Raspberry Pi Model B and Model B+, I have opted to review the Raspberry Pi Model B and use the results for both models. This is because I started the review before the Model B+ was announced, and as such, had not planned to review four boards. Even though the Model B was not discontinued, I felt that this review would be incomplete if I did not refactor to include the B+.


Side-by-Side-by-Side Comparison


Audio Input/Output


Heads Up: While doing research to determine the type of stereo output (line out or headphone out) present on the Raspberry Pi, I discovered at least one blog post on the poor quality of the Raspberry Pi stereo output. It seems as if the Raspberry Pi may be using pulse-width modulation (PWM) to drive the stereo output. Unfortunately, I can’t easily verify this.


Some say that silence is golden. But if your project requires sound, then silence is the sound of failure. Let’s see how each of our competitors let you get sound out to, or in from, the world.


Stereo InputStereo OutputHDMI Audio?
BeagleBone BlackNoNoYes at CEA resolutions
Raspberry Pi Model BNo3.5mm HeadphonesYes
Raspberry Pi Model B+No3.5mm HeadphonesYes
RIoTboard3.5mm Microphone3.5mm HeadphonesYes


The BeagleBone Black is the least capable when it comes to built-in audio. Built-in audio input is nonexistent, and audio output is limited to HDMI audio. Per the HDMI specification, only CEA resolutions support audio — so this limitation would apply to all HDMI-compliant SBCs. However, the BeagleBone Black only supports two CEA resolutions: 1280x720 (720p) at 60Hz, and 1920x1080 (1080p) at 24Hz.


Like the BeagleBone Black, the Raspberry Pi models B and B+ do not have built-in audio input. However, they do support stereo output via a 3.5mm jack in addition to HDMI audio.


The RIoTboard has a stereo microphone input, in addition to a stereo output for headphones and HDMI audio.


Winner for Audio Input/Output: RIoTboard

While all of these boards have at least one sound output method, the RIoTboard is the only one that has a sound input method.


Camera Input


Yes, you should be able to use a USB camera with any of these boards, if the OS you are planning to use has a driver. For applications that are power, space, or weight constrained, this may not be a workable solution; some SBCs include dedicated headers for cameras that may be more suitable to these applications.


The BeagleBone Black does not feature any dedicated camera headers. In addition, it does not appear as if a Camera Serial Interface (CSI) interface is available by breaking out signals from the main header — this makes sense, as the only camera cape I can find for the BeagleBone Black uses a General Purpose Memory Controller (GPMC) interface instead, which is available on the main headers.


The Raspberry Pi models B and B+, as well as the RIoTboard, include CSI camera interfaces. However, the pinout of the Raspberry Pi CSI interface is different from the pinout of the RIoTboard CSI interface. In addition, the RIoTboard has a second camera interface. From the pinout, it appears to be a parallel interface (whereas the CSI interface appears to be serial), but looking at the signal names, it looks to be related to CSI. In any case, since the CSI specification is closed, I can’t determine much more about these interfaces.


In any case, use of these interfaces requires separate hardware, and this review is focused on what is included in the box. If I were going to declare a winner based on what is in the box, I’d have to say that the RIoTboard wins because two interfaces is greater than one.


However, the Raspberry Pi foundation is shipping two different 5 megapixel cameras for the Raspberry Pi (one with an IR filter and one without), whereas I can only find one 2 megapixel camera that is compatible with the RIoTboard. And yes, there is the BeagleBone Black HD Camera Cape I mentioned earlier. So if I were going to declare a winner based on available cameras, then the winner would be the Raspberry Pi models B and B+ because two available cameras is greater than one.


Winner for Camera Input: Raspberry Pi Model B/B+ and RIoTboard (tie)

The RIoTboard has two different camera interfaces, whereas the Raspberry Pi has two available camera models. If I had cameras for both interfaces on the RIoTboard and for the Raspberry Pi, I could probably break the tie.




Since I don’t know what your application is going to be, I am going to compare the costs of these boards in terms of what you need to boot the device. I am also going to assume you already have a power adapter as costs can vary (though the cost for an AC to DC power adapter for any of these boards should be in the same ballpark, as they all use 5V DC power).


For the BeagleBone Black and the RIoTboard, you don’t need anything else to boot the board, since they both have an on-board eMMC device. However, the Raspberry Pi Model B requires an SD Card to boot, and the Raspberry Pi Model B+ requires a Micro SD card to boot.


As of 8/17/2014 on Newark/element14’s website, in the US, your cost would be:

  • BeagleBone Black: $52.95
  • Raspberry Pi Model B: $35.00 (no bundles available, so add the cost of an SD card)
  • Raspberry Pi Model B+ w/ 8GB ‘NOOBS” SD Card: $40.00
  • RIoTboard: $79.00

These costs do not include shipping or tax. If you buy these products from a retailer (such as Amazon or Adafruit), your cost may be higher.


Winner for Cost: Raspberry Pi Model B+ w/ 8GB ‘NOOBS” SD Card

If you really are cost constrained, $40 gets you into the world of hobbyist SBCs.




For some projects, space is a concern. For those projects, finding an SBC that has a small footprint is going to be high on the priority list. When you set at all four of our contenders beside each other, one thing is immediately apparent: the RIoTboard is twice the size of the other three contenders. As for the other three contenders, do any of them fit inside the Altoids tin?


(Altoids is a trademark of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company or its affiliates. Use of an Altoids tin here does not constitute their approval; the tin shown in this review was purchased from my local grocery store and the mints within were enjoyed.)


Board Dimensions (PCB Only)Total Dimensions (Includes Port Overhang)Fits in Altoids Tin?
BeagleBone Black86mm x 55mm90mm x 55mmYes
Raspberry Pi Model B (No SD Card)85mm x 57mm87mm x 65mmNo
Raspberry Pi Model B+ (No microSD Card)86mm x 57mm88mm x 59mmNo
RIoTboard121mm x 75mm123mm x 80mmIt could hide the tin...


These are my measurements based on the samples that I have, so they may not match “official” measurements.


If you measure just the PCB dimensions, the BeagleBone Black and both Raspberry Pi models are within millimeters of each other. When you include the port overhang, the both Raspberry Pi models are shorter lengthwise, but the BeagleBone Black is shorter widthwise. However, the BeagleBone Black PCB is rounded such that it just fits within the Altoids tin. Therefore…


Winner for Smallest Footprint: BeagleBone Black

It wins “by a nose” (pun intended) because it fits inside the Altoids tin.


Honorable Mention for Smallest Footprint: Raspberry Pi Model B+

Both Raspberry Pi models are very close to the BeagleBone Black. I am granting honorable mention for smallest footprint to the Model B+ because the change to a 4-pole 3.5mm jack for video and audio, as well as the switch to a microSD card interface, bring the total dimensions for the Model B+ within reach of the BeagleBone Black.


GPIO - Analog


There’s no competition in this category. The BeagleBone Black features seven 0-1.8V (max) analog inputs located on header P9, whereas the data sheets for the other contenders do not mention any analog inputs. This review is only focused on what is included in the box, so by default…


Winner for on-board Analog Inputs: BeagleBone Black

They’re 0-1.8V and only have 12-bit resolution (inputs scaled to 0-4095 counts), but the BeagleBone Black has seven of them.


GPIO - Discrete


You’re probably about to start telling me, even if I can’t hear you (monitors are such lousy transmitters of sound), that, “the BeagleBone website says the BBB supports up to 65 discrete points.” And yes, you are correct — but those 65 discrete points come at a cost of the other types of I/O that the BeagleBone Black supports, as well as the use of the eMMC and HDMI.


So for the GPIO discrete category, as well as I2C, Serial, and SPI covered in the next two categories, I am going to look at the I/O provided by the default pin settings.


What discrete I/O does each board provide by default? (Note that this is based on my count of the respective pinouts, and as such is dependent on the accuracy of the data sheets.)


DiscretePWMUser LEDs
BeagleBone Black1544*
Raspberry Pi Model B710
Raspberry Pi Model B+1610


By default, the BeagleBone Black still has 15 discrete I/O points, plus four Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) outputs. A far cry from the “up to 65” claimed, but a healthy number compared to the other competitors. One note about the user LEDs: while the BeagleBone Black System Reference Manual claims there are four user LEDs, it seems as if they are all used by the OS.


The Raspberry Pi Model B+ is a marked improvement over the Model B, with more than double the discrete I/O points. Both models only have one PWM output, at least by default.


The RIoTboard has three PWM outputs by default, but only eleven discrete I/O points. It also appears as if both user LEDs are available for your use.


Winner for GPIO - Discrete: BeagleBone Black

With one less discrete I/O point in the default configuration than the Raspberry Pi B+, the BeagleBone Black makes up for it with four PWM outputs.


Runner-up for GPIO - Discrete: Raspberry Pi Model B+

The Raspberry Pi Foundation listed to its users, and added more discrete I/O points, among other enhancements.


GPIO - I2C and SPI


As with the discrete I/O section, I am looking at the available I2C and SPI resources with default settings. Since some of these boards reserve an I2C bus for expansion board identification EEPROMs, I have separated the counts to reflect the I2C busses that may not be at your complete disposal.


I2C - AvailableI2C - ReservedSPI
BeagleBone Black111
Raspberry Pi Model B101
Raspberry Pi Model B+111


With default settings, there are 2 I2C busses available on the BeagleBone Black, Raspberry Pi Model B+, and RIoTboard. However, on the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi Model B+, one of those I2C busses is not completely available for your use. No such restriction is documented for the RIoTboard — both I2C busses are yours to use.


The RIoTboard has two SPI busses configured by default, whereas the other competitors have one each by default.


Winner for GPIO - I2C and SPI: RIoTboard

With 2 I2C busses and 2 SPI busses configured by default, the RIoTboard should make it easy for applications that use peripherals for either bus.




The last type of GPIO to examine are the UARTs available in the default configuration. And those are as follows:


2 Pins (TX/RX)3+ PinsSerial Debug Header
BeagleBone Black30Yes (FTDI)
Raspberry Pi Model B and B+10No
RIoTboard30Yes (TX/RX/Ground)


Both the BeagleBone Black and the RIoTboard have three UARTs on their expansion headers configured by default, as well as one serial debug header. The only difference being that the BeagleBone Black uses an FTDI-style debug header, whereas the RIoTboard uses a three-pin debug header.


The Raspberry Pi Model B and B+ only have one UART configured by default, and no dedicated serial debug header.


Winner for GPIO - UART: BeagleBone Black and RIoTboard (tie)

They each have three UARTs on their expansion headers, and they each have a serial debug header.




If you have an application that requires a lot of memory, then you will need to buy an SBC with enough memory up-front — unlike most PCs and like all smartphones, these hobbyist SBCs don’t have upgradable RAM.


The Raspberry Pi Models B and B+, as well as the BeagleBone Black, all have 512MB of RAM. When running Linux, and especially if you don’t need a graphical desktop environment, this amount of RAM will go farther than you might think.


However, some applications may need the extra memory, and for others, it may be a big bonus. The RIoTboard features 1GB of RAM.


Winner for Memory: RIoTboard

The RIoTboard has twice the amount of on-board RAM as compared to the other three competitors.


Memory Card Interfaces


Perhaps your application needs some flexibility in memory card interfaces. Let’s look at which interfaces are available on each board.


SD Card InterfaceSD Card Interface Bootable?microSD Card Interface?microSD Card Interface Bootable?
BeagleBone BlackNoN/AYesYes
Raspberry Pi Model BYesYesNoN/A
Raspberry Pi Model B+NoN/AYesYes


The BeagleBone Black has a MicroSD card slot available. It can be used as additional storage. It can also be used as the boot device by holding down the “USER/BOOT” button.


The Raspberry Pi only has one memory card interface, which is required for boot. For the Model B, an SD card slot is used; for the Model B+, a MicroSD card slot was chosen.


The RIoTboard features both an SD card and a MicroSD card interface, both of which may be used at the same time. However, only the SD card interface can be used instead of the eMMC as the boot device.


Winner for Memory Card Interfaces: RIoTboard

Considering you can use both an SD and a MicroSD card at the same time (though you can only boot from the SD card slot), the RIoTboard wins for the Memory Card interfaces available.


On-board Flash


Both the BeagleBone Black and the RIoTboard feature a 4GB eMMC chip on-board, so no external flash memory is required to use either board. The BeagleBone Black sample that I have uses a Kingston eMMC, and the RIoTboard sample that I have appears to use a Micron eMMC. Since neither manufacturer specifies a particular eMMC on the board, it is likely that multiple suppliers may be used. [And in the case of the BeagleBone Black, one reason for the recent upgrade to a 4GB eMMC part was to ensure multiple sources for eMMC parts.]


The only Raspberry Pi to include on-board flash is the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, but that model is not included in this review as it requires an external carrier to use. To use any of the other Raspberry Pi models, an external SD/microSD card is required.


Winner for On-board Flash: BeagleBone Black and RIoTboard (tie)

Both currently ship with a 4GB eMMC chip on-board. So unless I find data that says that the eMMC used by one is significantly better than the other, the result is a tie.


Operating Systems - Android


If you search the web to see if our competitors support Android, you will find that the RIoTboard ships with Android pre-installed, the BeagleBone Black claims to have Android support, and that some people have gotten Android to run on the Raspberry Pi. Right there might be enough to claim the RIoTboard as the winner, since it ships with Android pre-installed.


And yes, this Mac and iOS user has tried to stay well far away from Android. So let’s see how these competitors stack up with each other on Android support.


Support Claimed?Version (as of 8/17/2014)Install Method
BeagleBone BlackYesJelly Bean 4.2.2"pre-built images"
Raspberry PiNoN/AN/A
RIoTboardOh yeah!Jelly Bean 4.3pre-installed


A closer inspection of the Raspberry Pi’s Android situation reveals that while some folks have gotten Android versions 2.3 and 4.0 running on the Raspberry Pi, they are not ready for use.


I did find a “pre-built image” of Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 for the BeagleBone Black on TI’s website. However, unlike the images linked on, which I would consider a pre-built image ready to copy onto an SD card and install, the Android Images require a “ubuntu linux machine 8.04 or above” to run a script to partition and format the SD card, then copy images to the correct partition. And unfortunately, my Linux box is out of commission.


As for the RIoTboard, Android Jelly Bean 4.3 is pre-installed (and by default configured for 1280x720 at 60Hz). And if I need to update Android, it looks like one can do so from Windows. (And I am embarrassed to admit that I do have a working Windows PC. For playing games.)


One hiccup I should note: the RIoTboard didn’t want to work with the first monitor (OK, it is actually a TV, but Newegg sold it as a computer monitor) that I plugged it into. While the monitor manual claims that 720p is supported, the screen remained black. I then swapped to another monitor, and the RIoTboard started booting Android… meanwhile, the monitor claimed the refresh rate was 53Hz.


Winner for Operating Systems - Android: RIoTboard

Not only because Android comes pre-installed, but it is Jelly Bean 4.3.


Operating Systems - Linux


This one is hard to compare. This chart will start to explain why:


"De-facto" DistributionKernel Version of "De-facto" DistributionOther Distributions on Manufacturer Website
BeagleBone BlackDebian3.8Angstrom
Raspberry PiRaspian (Debian Wheezy)3.2

Pidora (Fedora Remix)



Arch Linux

RIoTboardUbintu3.10None listed provides images for two different Linux distributions on their website. Due to the need for device tree support, both are based on Linux Kernel 3.8.


The Raspberry Pi has a total of five Linux distributions available for download on The default distribution Raspian, which is based on Debian Wheezy, is using Linux Kernel 3.2. Two of the available distributions, OpenELEC and RaspBMC, are specifically for turning the Raspberry Pi into an XBMC Media Center. And if you’re not sure which one you want, you can download the NOOBS image and try them all. has one Linux distribution listed for the RIoTboard, which is Ubuntu. It appears as if the version of Ubuntu supported is using Linux Kernel 3.10, likely because of the need for device tree support.


However, unlike Windows, being back on Linux Kernel 3.2 is not necessarily a bad thing. If the concern is over security vulnerabilities, then the important thing is that the distribution is supported. However, if you need functionality only present in a newer kernel, then being back on an older kernel would be an issue.


Winner for Best Linux Distribution Assortment: Raspberry Pi

Having one general-use distribution and one XBMC Media Center Linux distribution would be enough to win this award, as none of the other competitors have an XBMC distribution linked. But that wasn’t enough, as the Raspberry Pi foundation has made it easy to download and try five different distributions, including two XBMC-centric ones, by use of the NOOBS image.


Winner for Operating Systems - Linux: You Decide

Sorry, I’m not going to declare a winner here, as this is a no-win situation. If I pick RIoTboard because of Linux Kernel 3.10 support, then I’ll hear from those that don’t like Ubuntu. (Oh wait, I’m in that boat…) However, if I pick BeagleBone Black because I prefer Debian, then I’ll hear from everyone that thinks distribution x is better than Debian because of y.


Power Input


If you have a project that requires power, then you need a SBC that can handle a power supply to match. From my research, the maximum power supply ratings for each board are as follows:


  • BeagleBone Black: 2A
  • Raspberry Pi Model B: 1A
  • Raspberry Pi Model B+: 2A
  • RIoTboard: 4A?


The BeagleBone Black supports a 2A power adapter. It also has only one USB port, so being able to power the one USB port should not be a problem when using a power adapter.


Power availability on the Raspberry Pi Model B was always a common complaint, as it had two USB ports, but only supported a 1A power adapter. It appears as if the Raspberry Pi Model B+ can use a 2A power adapter, but they also doubled the number of USB ports to four.


The RIoTboard apparently supports up to a 4A power adapter, but you can start with a 1A power adapter. If you need a lot of power — the case if you have 4 USB devices drawing 500mA each — then the RIoTboard looks like the best choice.


Winner for Power Input: RIoTboard

Per Embest, the RIoTboard can use a 4A power adapter. This should be able to comfortably power the RIoTboard and four power-hungry USB devices.


Real-Time Clock


For some applications, booting up to the correct time is vitally important. Unfortunately, this is an area that all of our competitors fall short — even when you consider that the BeagleBone Black and RIoTboard have on-board real-time clocks. (Just look at the SoC data sheets.)


The problem is, neither the BeagleBone Black nor the RIoTboard have a way to power the real-time clocks that are present on the SoC after power is removed.


To hobbyist SBC manufacturers: If you’re using a SoC that has a built-in RTC, would you please try to at least include a header to attach a 3V battery — even if I had to solder the header pins?


Winner for Real-Time Clock: none


SoC (CPU/GPU) Performance


I thought I had everything I needed to compare these four boards. I even bought a monitor that supports 1080p at 24Hz just for the BeagleBone Black. However, I failed to notice that a serial debug cable is required to change the resolution of the RIoTboard, at least in Android.


Look for a follow-up review once I get the needed serial cable.


Video Output - Options


Lots of projects involve graphics or video of some sort. How do each of the competitors stack up in how you can connect a display? Let’s find out.


CompositeDSIHDMILVDSMulti-Display Support Claimed?
BeagleBone BlackNoNoYes (microHDMI)NoNo
Raspberry Pi Model BYesWhen the time comesYesNoNo
Raspberry Pi Model B+Yes, requires cable to break outWhen the time comesYesNoNo


The BeagleBone Black is the least capable of the three. It only supports an HDMI display without additional hardware.


The Raspberry Pi looks like the most capable of the bunch, as you can use a display that supports composite (RCA) or HDMI video. The Raspberry Pi also has a DSI port that could be used to connect an LCD or OLED display. However, I am not aware that any displays exist that are compatible with the Raspberry Pi’s DSI port. Note that while the Raspberry Pi Model B has an RCA jack for composite video, the Model B+ will require a cable to separate the composite video from the audio.


The RIoTboard supports HDMI and LVDS displays, and it does appear as if multiple displays can be used at once. While I don’t own an LVDS display or an LVDS adapter, it does appear as if compatible LVDS displays/adapters do exist.


Winner for Video Output - Options: RIoTboard

I would feel differently of I were trying to reuse an old CRT display; however, the possibility of multiple displays tips the scales in the RIoTboard’s favor.


Honorable Mention for Video Output: Raspberry Pi (either model)

If you want to reuse an old CRT display, then the Raspberry Pi is your choice. This is better than disposing of the display, if it still works. [Please don’t throw CRT displays away in the garbage. They need to be recycled especially due to their lead content.]


Video Output - Resolutions


Heads Up: The BeagleBone Black struggles in this area. The BeagleBone Black supports the fewest resolutions compared to the rest of the boards under review, and only supports 1080p at 24Hz — a frequency not supported by most computer monitors or low-end TVs. Be sure that the resolution you need to use is supported by the BeagleBone Black and your display. Also, the BeagleBone Black is limited to 16-bit color output (this was done to preserve available I/O on the headers); if your project requires 24-bit color output, the BeagleBone Black is not an option.


The BeagleBone Black System Reference Manual only claims support for five resolutions: 1024x768,1280x720, 1280x1024, 1440x900, and 1920x1080@24Hz. Note that only 1280x720 and 1920x1080 support HDMI audio, as those are the only CEA resolutions. However, I have seen websites that claim a few additional resolutions as supported by the BeagleBone Black: 640x480, 800x600, 1152x864, and 1324x768.


The Raspberry Pi and RIoTboard don’t have such limitations documented. Unfortunately, since I can’t change the resolution of my RIoTboard (it is still running Android), I can’t compare support between the Raspberry Pi and RIoTboard.


Winner for Video Output Resolutions: Raspberry Pi and RIoTboard (tie)

Unless I read or discover differently, both of these boards should be able to handle any resolution up to 1920x1200.


Video Playback


Heads Up: The TI AM335x processor used by the BeagleBone Black does not contain hardware video decoding capabilities.


To review video playback, I need to be able to set all of the SBCs to the same resolution. As I admitted previously, I can’t do so at the moment as I don’t have a serial cable to change the resolution of the RIoTboard.


I owe this review…




I wasn’t initially going to include weight in this review, as I couldn’t come up with any Internet of Things projects where weight could be a concern. But I have been known to be wrong, so I decided to weigh the samples that I have on my kitchen scale, with a plate used to tare the scale. The measurements I recorded were as follows:


  • BeagleBone Black: 39g
  • Raspberry Pi Model B (no SD card): 42g
  • Raspberry Pi model B+ (no microSD card): 42g
  • RIoTboard: 77g


I suspect an enterprising hobbyist could de-solder unused headers from any of these boards to reduce their weight. Since I only have one Raspberry Pi Model B+ and one RIoTboard, I decided against trying to determine how light each board could go. And since I am not an electrical engineer, I don’t know if there could be a negative impact to removing certain headers.


Besides, I already said that reviews would be based on what is in the box, and removing headers goes against that. So without further ado…


Winner for Lightest Board: BeagleBone Black

If every gram counts, the BeagleBone Black is the winner, weighing in 3 grams less than either Raspberry Pi — and that’s before adding the weight of the required SD or microSD card.


Honorable Mention for Lightest Board: Raspberry Pi Model B+

If your project is going to involve areal photography, then you probably want the Raspberry Pi Model B+. The microSD card is not going to add much weight, and the Raspberry Pi camera is lighter than the BeagleBone Black HD Camera Cape (I don’t have either to weigh, but it’s a safe guess based on a small circuit board with a ribbon cable vs. a large circuit board with two long rows of header pins).


Wired Networking


Especially for Internet of Things projects, Internet connectivity is critical. While some projects may need Wireless Ethernet (a feature none of the SBCs in this review feature), wired Ethernet may be preferred or required for other projects. Let’s look at wired networking on each SBC.


Wired Ethernet SpeedSource
BeagleBone Black10/100SoC
Raspberry Pi Models B and B+10/100USB to Ethernet Adapter in USB Hub


Note that I don’t expect SBCs at this price point to include multiple Ethernet ports, nor do I expect wireless Ethernet. And the feature sets of these products prove my expectations.


The BeagleBone Black and the Raspberry Pi both support 10/100Mbps Ethernet. However, the BeagleBone Black Ethernet port is supported by the SoC, whereas the Raspberry Pi Ethernet is coming from the USB to Ethernet adapter feature on the USB hub.


The RIoTboard supports gigabit Ethernet from the SoC.


Winner for Wired Ethernet: RIoTboard

With gigabit Ethernet, the RIoTboard has the best wired Ethernet support of the bunch.




You've either skipped to the end because you want to see which board won (which means you didn't read the Review Methodology very carefully), or because you had a TL;DR (too long; didn't read) moment. In either case, let me summarize the winners, honorable mentions, and heads-up warnings for each category:


CategoryWinner(s)Honorable Mention(s)Heads-Up Warning(s)
Audio Input/OutputRIoTboardRaspberry Pi
Camera InputRaspberry Pi and RIoTboard (tie)
CostRaspberry Pi Model B+ w/ 8GB ‘NOOBS” SD Card
FootprintBeagleBone BlackRaspberry Pi Model B+
GPIO - AnalogBeagleBone Black
GPIO - DiscreteBeagleBone BlackRaspberry Pi Model B+
GPIO - I2C and SPIRIoTboard
GPIO - UARTBeagleBone Black and RIoTboard (tie)
Memory Card InterfacesRIoTboard
On-board FlashBeagleBone Black and RIoTboard (tie)
Operating Systems - AndroidRIoTboard
Operating Systems - Linux, Best AssortmentRaspberry Pi
Operating Systems - Linux, OverallYou Decide
Power InputRIoTboard
Real-Time Clockno winner
Video Output - OptionsRIoTboardRaspberry Pi
Video Output - ResolutionsRaspberry Pi and RIoTboard (tie)BeagleBone Black
WeightBeagleBone BlackRaspberry Pi Model B+
Wired NetworkingRIoTboard


As I have researched, reviewed, and used the four SBCs in this review, I have come to the following conclusions:


  • The BeagleBone Black seems to be best suited for applications that don’t require video, but that do require large amounts of I/O. It is also suited for applications that can take advantage of some of the advanced features of the TI AM335x SoC (such as the PRU units), which is an area I was not comfortable reviewing.
  • The Raspberry Pi seems suited for applications that are cost-sensitive. if I had children, I wouldn’t hesitate to let them experiment with the Pi. It is also a good platform for beginners due to its large worldwide user base. In fact, I consider it a “gateway SBC” — using the Raspberry Pi lead me to try the BeagleBone Black looking for something better, and so on…
  • The RIoTboard seems perfect for the Internet of Things and Android development. On paper, the Freescale i.MX6 SoC is a capable performer, and I expect that once I buy the serial cable I need, I will find that its real-world performance will match. Android support is obvious, seeing as it ships with Android pre-installed. And it has gigabit Ethernet and 1GB RAM.


Final Notes


This is the first time I have tried to review products in a way to help you determine which one is right for your application. Please let me know how well I did, and especially let me know if there is anything I left out or overlooked. Thanks.