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Arduino vs Raspberry Pi vs BeagleBone vs PCDuino

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I’m sure you’ve been reading a lot about the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and the PCDuino boards. But you might still be wondering which one is for you.

I’ll try to show you the difference between those boards, the specifications and by the end of this post I hope you find the right one for you.

What’s The Difference?

The Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and PCDuino may look quite similar for you, but they are in fact very different devices.

The Arduino is a microcontroller. A microcontroller is just one tiny part of a computer. The arduino can be programmed in C, but can’t run an operating system.

On the other hand, the Rasperry Pi and PCDuino are computers. Those devices can run an operating system alone.

So the questions is: “Which one is perfect for your projects?

Arduino

Arduino-uno-board

The Arduino is simply perfect for electronics projects and prototyping. You can easy connect some LED’s, sensors, motors into the board directly. With their user friendly board it easy to do that. To program the Arduino you need their software (that can be download for free here). Basically with that software you can upload your source code directly into your Arduino through USB.

After you upload the Arduino code you can unplug the USB cable attach a battery to your Arduino Board and It will run your program forever. (Read 5 ways to Power Up your Arduino).

The heart of the Arduino is ATMega3280P microcontroller.

The most common board is the Arduino UNO. But you can choose a wide range of options. See here more options.

Specifications:

Microcontroller ATmega328
Operating Voltage 5V
Input Voltage (recommended) 7-12V
Input Voltage (limits) 6-20V
Digital I/O Pins 14 (of which 6 provide PWM output)
Analog Input Pins 6
DC Current per I/O Pin 40 mA
DC Current for 3.3V Pin 50 mA
Flash Memory 32 KB (ATmega328) of which 0.5 KB used by bootloader
SRAM 2 KB (ATmega328)
EEPROM 1 KB (ATmega328)
Clock Speed 16 MHz
Price: $20

Raspberry Pi

On the other hand The Raspberry Pi is a complete mini computer. It needs an operating system to work.  All the Storage is provided from a SD card. You can connect this to your network with an Ethernet Cable.

RaspberryPih

Below I’ll show the specifications for the Model B.The brain of the Pi is a ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz. It has graphics it  has a HDMI output. You can plug in a keyboard and monitor, load up Linux, and the less technically savvy might have no clue how tiny the machine driving everything really is. The Pi is an incredibly powerful platform in a very small package it’s credit card sized and perfect for embedded systems, or projects requiring more interactivity and processing power.

Specifications:

Chip Broadcom BCM2835 SoC full HD multimedia applications processor
CPU 700 MHz Low Power ARM1176JZ-F Applications Processor
GPU Dual Core VideoCore IV® Multimedia Co-Processor
Memory 512MB SDRAM
Ethernet onboard 10/100 Ethernet RJ45 jack
USB 2.0 Dual USB Connector
Video Output HDMI (rev 1.3 & 1.4) Composite RCA (PAL and NTSC)
Audio Output 3.5mm jack, HDMI
Onboard Storage SD, MMC, SDIO card slot
Operating System Linux
Dimensions 8.6cm x 5.4cm x 1.7cm
Price: $35

BeagleBone Black

product_detail_black_sm

It’s similar to a Raspberry Pi but It’s more powerful, Based on the TI Sitara AM335x, an application processor SoC containing an ARM Cortex-A8 core. You have more pins to control. They recently won “2013 Top Embedded Innovator award”.

The BeagleBoard community is perfect for developers and hobbyists.

They also sell other boards that you can see here.

Specifications:

Chip TI AM3359
CPU 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8
GPU PowerVR SGX530
Memory 512 MB DDR3
Pins 2x 46 pin headers
USB 2.0 USB 2.0 type A host port. Dedicated single mini-USB 2.0 client port (no additional 2-port hub)
Video Output microHDMI
Audio Output microHDMI
Onboard Storage 2 GB 8-bit embedded MMC on-board flash versionmicroSD card 3.3 V Supported (No Card Supplied)
Operating System Linux, Android, Cloud9 IDE on Node.js w/ BoneScript library, plus more
Dimensions 86.40 × 53.3 mm (3.402 × 2.10 in)
Price: $45

PCDuino = “PC + Arduino”featured-image

This board is similar to the Raspberry Pi, it’s becoming like the new choice of developers. It has all the features of the Raspberry Pi but it’s more powerful. Which ultimately makes it more expensive. It already comes with 2GB of flash memory. And you can add an SD card up to 32GB. Which is a really advantage over the Rpi.

They also sell other models, but this one is the most popular. Click here to see more models.

Specifications :

CPU: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8
GPU: OpenGL ES2.0, OpenVG 1.1 Mali 400 core
RAM: 1GB
Onboard Storage: 2GB Flash, SD card slot for up to 32GB
Video Output: HDMI
OS: Linux + Android
Extension Interface: 2.54 mm Headers compatible with Arduino
Network interface: RJ45 and USB WiFi Dongle
Price: 59 $

Where to buy?

You can either buy directly from their websites, where they show their distributors. Or you can buy on Amazon.com.

 

That said, the Arduino is perfect for beginners. The other boards are significantly more complex for simple electronics projects.

For example, on the Arduino, blinking an LED is simple as connecting an LED and resistor to two Arduino pins, installing their IDE. then uploading a few lines of code. It’s done. On the boards are a bit more complicated. You need to install an Operating System (a Linux Distro or Android) make a few configurations and setup everything. Then install some libraries that will help you control the GPIO pins. After that, you need to complete your circuit, write your program and compile before running it.

Basically you can accomplish the same thing with the Pi or other boards, but with an Arduino is much easier. The Arduino also has a wide variety of shields that can make your job much easier. (Ethernet shield, wireless shield, motor shield, etc)

Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone or PCDuino?

I choose Raspberry Pi. It will do almost everything you need, is cheaper and more popular within the open source community. If you want something more powerful simply go with the BeagleBone or PCDuino. Any of these boards are a great choice!

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Leave a comment saying which one you prefer!

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28 Comments

  • Robert L. Pendergast

    Reply Reply December 5, 2013

    I only use Arduino and a reason is that it is the only one that works with Apple iMAC. I don’t have or want a PC so I enjoy myself with my friend, Leonardo

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 6, 2013

      you don’t need a PC.
      All the board are like a mini computer than runs with it’s own OS.

  • Tasha

    Reply Reply December 5, 2013

    Thanks for the quick rundown on the boards. I was wondering what the difference was. I use the Arduino cause I’m just learning electronics and Arduino. I’m using Uno and Duemilanove. I will be learning the others once I feel I’m ready. Probably the Raspberry Pi next. Thanks again.

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 6, 2013

      I’m glad you found useful!
      I started using Rapberry Pi this week. It’s great I’ll be posting a few tutorials in just a few weeks with Rpi.
      All the boards are great I wish I had time to try the others… (BeagleBone and PCDuino)

  • Jerry

    Reply Reply December 6, 2013

    I would like to think the PCDuino uses the Arduino Mega in its board, but I suspect it only uses the Uno with fewer I/O ports. The Mega pinouts would be a dream machine. Any thoughts?

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 7, 2013

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Jerry!

      You’re totally right the PCDuino only has the Uno Pins.
      If you want more pins go with the BeagleBone is a great board!

  • Zahra

    Reply Reply December 8, 2013

    i still confuse which one i have to use between arduino and Raspberry Pi.
    i gotta do expert system application and MySQL database in it, which one i should choose between them? please help

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 8, 2013

      With an arduino you can’t create a database… or access one.
      At least I’ve never heard about that.

      With a Raspberry Pi (BeagleBone Black or PCDuino) you can.
      You can easily great a webserver, host a website, create your own cloud.

      So It might the best option for your project.

  • Walter

    Reply Reply December 9, 2013

    Hi Rui,
    Really intresting article, I rewritten your post in italian on my blog.
    I linked the source.

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 10, 2013

      Hi Walter!
      Again thanks for sharing ;)

      All the best,
      Rui Santos

  • Nicolas

    Reply Reply December 9, 2013

    Arduino is not only the Uno. There are new boards now, the Yun, for example, which is also like a mini-computer, running Linux OpenWRT.
    It is less powerful than the other mini-computers but has Wifi embedded (no need for a Wifi dongle).

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 10, 2013

      Hi Nicolas,
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Yeah I know all those boards.
      I’ve mentioned in my post that the Arduino has many boards to choose from.
      I just focused more on another options that are also popular.
      The Arduino Uno was mentioned to show the contrast between Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

      The Yun is also an awesome board definitely!
      Thanks for sharing,
      Rui

  • Nuno Ferreira

    Reply Reply December 9, 2013

    I believe you miss Cubieboard – http://cubieboard.org
    I don’t have one but based on it’s spec I’m seriously considering to buy one to start playing with it!

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 10, 2013

      Thanks for sharing Nuno that board.
      It’s also a great option.
      There are plenty of options right now that you can choose from !

  • Desiree

    Reply Reply December 10, 2013

    Hi,
    I am from Brazil and I liked a LOT your post !!
    Just add some things, I know that microcontroller can’t run operation system, but it’s a computer, because it has all parts inside the chip to became a computer. Another point is about the price rasp. vs BeagleBone black, but if you compare qnt. of GIO that you have and if you want convert anolg./Digital … BeagleBone black is most voted, but I know that it depends on N thinks. So thanks :)

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply December 10, 2013

      Hi Desiree!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment!
      I’m from Portugal :)

      Yeah you’re right the BeagleBone is the best option when it comes to control Hardware and Sensors.
      But the Raspberry Pi is a better option for a media Center with the XBMC distro for example.
      (The Rpi has better graphics than the BeagleBone.)

      So I agree with you that BeagleBone Black might be the best option (Price vs Quality! for some projects)
      Each board has their advantages and disadvantages.

      Obrigado pelo feedback,
      Rui Santos

  • Ray B

    Reply Reply January 10, 2014

    Excellent summary, other posts I’ve seen elsewhere suggest that the Pi may not be as accurate or capable of the same “repeatibility” on it’s analogs as the good old Arduino.
    With the arduino products there are excellent clones available on ebay e.g. Leonardo Pro Micros for US$6 each which are usable as stripped down controllers when compared to UNO and have their own onboard USB, not like the earlier Pro Mini which requires an external USB/TTL converter which is the subject of many sync errors.

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply January 12, 2014

      Thanks Ray for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Yeah that’s true, the best way to read analog is still the Arduino.
      The BeagleBone is also better than the Rpi for that.
      Yeah to do simple projects, or even more advanced the Arduino is the way to go!
      We can find awesome clones as you said for really cheap

  • Edward

    Reply Reply March 28, 2014

    What you said about all of the steps necessary to get started with the more advanced systems is not true of the pcDuino. That system comes preloaded with Linux and the libraries to control the pins are already included for several languages (Python and C++ at a minimum). If you want to flash an LED you just create a script or program in any language (BASH, python, C, you name it) to write a “1″ to the pin and then write a “0″ and just loop that. Since it’s Linux the pins are readable and writable just like any other file. The pcDuino also emulates an Arduino UNO and it has the Arduino IDE installed so you can write Arduino sketches on the pcDuino and run them right there and get the same result as you would on an UNO. On the newer versions the pins are lined up with the Arduino pins as well so it is directly compatible with Arduino shields. pcDuino allows you to do both Arduino/low level programming and linux system administration on one fairly cheap device. So for those trying to decide between Arduino and RaspberryPi, get a pcDuino and get the functionality of both.

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply March 29, 2014

      You’re right Edward!
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a really helpful comment for someone still figuring out which one they should choose.

      Have a nice day.
      Rui

    • Daniel W

      Reply Reply March 30, 2014

      Thanks for this comment,

      It was really helpful as I’m a electronic newbie that want to do a pretty complex project, so I’m searching for something easy to work with and yet powerful.

      Thanks !

      • Rui Santos

        Reply Reply April 5, 2014

        I’m glad I could help Daniel,
        Have a nice day,
        Rui Santos

  • Jamal

    Reply Reply April 15, 2014

    bref: Arduino boards are micro-controllers,
    Rasp PI, Beagl, Pcduino: are mini computers (have processors) => OS

    we all know the diff between micontrollers and microprocessors functionality and domain of use.

    but I am waiting the board of Arduino Tre which combine both (microcontroller+ processor ARM 8) in one board, so you can use all arduinos’ shields with this board which will allow you to process all your data with the same board.

    and thank you Rui Santos for this article and your preserving time to discuss the comments.

    • Rui Santos

      Reply Reply April 16, 2014

      You’re welcome Jamal,
      Yes the Arduino Tre is something that we’re all looking for.
      Price is something that I’m concerned about the Arduino Tre, but we’ll see!

    • Nicolas

      Reply Reply April 16, 2014

      You have already the Yun that makes it: the same microcontroller as the Arduino Leonardo + a Linux processor with integrated Wifi, both integrated on this board.

      • Rui Santos

        Reply Reply April 18, 2014

        yeah the Yun is a great choice.
        Plus all their API’s interfaces makes it a really handy!

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