I just got my first BeagleBone Black, the latest variant of Beagleboard open-hardware single-board embedded computers, released at spring 2013. One can say that BeagleBone is just a one alternative in the long list of credit card size development boards. What makes BeagleBone special, is the industrial grade components selection, especially the TI Sitara AM335x CPU with ARM Cortex-A8 core.
Most of the other development boards I have got, are based on CPUs dedicated for consumer electronics or mobile phone industry. BeagleBone is the first one that I know having similar long life-cycle CPU that my company uses in professional embedded designs. Actually, Espotel Industrial Computer platform has a CPU from the same Sitara Cortex-A8 family.
BeagleBone provides very good performance per buck –ratio. Running at 1 GHz, the Black is pretty powerful, at the price of $45 (36€). 512 MB RAM and 2GB integrated flash enables use of many advanced software. uSD slot provides more storage space if needed. BeagleBone is very well supported by different Linux distributions. In addition to the factory loaded Ångström, number of different Linux distros are ported for the device, including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo, and more. Even Android support exists. Some non-Linux OS ports exists as well, like QNX and FreeBSD.
How about RaspberryPi?
|RaspberryPi vs. BeagleBone Black|
RaspberryPi is also nice, I’m running several RPi’s for home automation and entertainment (set-top-box). However, RPi was originally intended for educational purposes. You get that at the price of limited connectivity. RPi provides only limited set of IO through single 26 pin expansion header, and the form-factor of RPi does not make it ideal for mechanical mounting. RPi has two ZIF-connectors for flexible flat cable, providing camera and display connectivity. Need for special FFC makes it more difficult and expensive to integrate RPi as a part of any bigger embedded system.
BeagleBone, in contrast, is designed having connectivity in mind. It has two 46 pin extension headers, located symmetrically on both edges of the board. With help of the software controlled pin mux at the processor, it is possible to access almost every IO-line of the CPU. There are 4 symmetrically located holes in corners of the board for screw towers, providing sturdy mechanical attachment. BeagleBoard may be considered as a CPU-module as a such for small scale production.
There is a nice video comparison of the two boards in Youtube http://youtu.be/Tbk_Z_8macI detailing differences.
I conclude the same way as TheRaspberryPiGuy says on the video; if you do anything serious, I’d select the Black.