The Raspberry Pi was released Feb. 29, 2012 with the intent of creating an easy-to-use platform to teach computer science in classrooms around the world. The Model B, Rev. 2 of the Pi boasts some impressive specs. While these may seem quite lackluster given today’s bleeding edge computers, consider the size – a roughly credit card sized computer that you can program to do almost anything you can imagine, a completely self-contained system in the palm of your hand. The specs for the Pi r^2 are as follows:
- CPU: ARM11 clocked at 700mhz
- GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV, w/ 1080p output
- SDRAM: 512MB
- USB: 2 x USB 2.0 integrated hubs
- On Board Storage: SD / MMC / SDIO expansion slot
For a learner’s board, this is fantastic – a low-cost system to use as a platform for programming learners, from basic to advanced – even professional applications. The Pi was delivered to a market in need of a low-cost, moldable and fully programmable unit that could be used not only for education but real-world applications. At a cost of around $50 for the Rev. B, the Pi certainly delivered.
However, Texas Instruments has released its own self-contained device, the BeagleBoard – or, the most recent revision, the BeagleBone Black. The BeagleBone Black is a stronger alternative to the Pi, sporting an updated CPU, updated RAM (DDR3), HDMI output and a low cost of $45.
The specs for the latest Beagle, the B.B. Black, are as follows:
- CPU: AM335x 1GHz – ARM Cortex-A8
- GPU: SGX530 w/ 3d graphics accelerator
- DDR3: 512 @ 400mhz
- On Board Storage: 2GB eMMC flash
- Expandable “Capes” for additional functionality
With their lineup, Texas Instruments claims their BBB boots Linux in under ten seconds – and that a programmer can begin software development in under five minutes. The BBB also includes 2 46-pin headers, which can be used to expand the BBB by means of “capes”, or simply Optional Expansions. Some of the Capes currently available include: BeagleBoard Zippy and Zippy2, a “Feature Expander”; Beagletouch Display, a touchscreen OLED panel with drivers built in for Linux, @ 4.3” size; BeagleJuice, a Li-on battery pack for portability, designed by Liquidware, and finally the WLAN adapter, which opens up the Beagle to the wondrous world wide web.
While the Raspberry Pi delivered on their promise for a Low-Cost teaching platform, TI and their Beagles are definitely making waves with their newer, heavier hitting boards. Aside from hardware upgrades, the BeagleBones also support Android operating systems, creating a playground for developers. The Pi is still viable and useful within its markets, but they are no longer the prime selection. As always, competition breeds a better product. In this case it has bred a more adaptive and powerful board – yet time will tell whether Pi strikes back, or if the Beagles will run the show.