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EETE FEB 2015

BOARDS & DEVELOPMENT KITS Best single-board computers under $200: the readers strike back By SCabe Atwell ingle-board computers (SBCs) are quickly becoming a staple in the maker world as the go-to development board. Professional engineers may use SBCs for prototyping as well as hobby tinkering. So exactly what is an SBC and why do so many makers use it in their projects? A single-board computer is just that — a complete computer built on a single board. They can be fairly large like Nvidia’s Jetson TKI or incredibly small like the iMX233-OLinuXino-Nano and are popular development tools that for the most part, are incredibly cheap. Makers and engineers often use SBCs as an affordable alternative over notebooks and desktops to design everything from home automation to robotics or just about anything that can be imagined. Let’s take a look at some of the SBCs for under $200 that have been suggested by EE Times’ readers. Pete220 is one such reader and his alternatives include the ZedBoard’s MicroZed development board. The MicroZed ZedBoard The MicroZed ZedBoard is based on the Xilinx Zynq-7020, which packs two ARM Cortex-A9 cores, 1GB of DDR3 RAM and 128MB of QSPI flash storage along with a microSD card interface. The board also features 100 user I/O headers, which are inactive in stand-alone mode but, when plugged into a carrier card, automatically conforms to what the card’s programming. ZedBoard’s MicroZed SBC is one of the higher priced boards topping out at $199 but it is rich in features. Intel’s MinnowBoard Max ZedBoard’s MicroZed development board features Xilinx Zynq- 7020 SoC that packs 2 Cortex-A9 processors. (Source: ZedBoard) Another SBC pete220 suggested for the under $200 price mark comes in the form of Intel’s MinnowBoard Max. This board is actually a collaboration between Intel and CircuitCo (manufacturer) and comes in two flavors — a single core for $99 and a dual core for $139. The higher priced version features Intel’s Atom E3825 (clocked @ 1.33GHz) APU. While the board is designed for anything from hobbyist projects to embedded applications (due in part to the many ports), it can also be used for file servers and network applications as the board comes with a PCI-E port, Gigabyte Ethernet and SATA support. Intel’s D2500HN Atom D2500 mini-ITX The final SBC suggested by pete220 is the Atom micro-ITX. While he wasn’t specific on which model, I’m going with Intel’s D2500HN Atom D2500. Intel’s D2500HN Atom D2500 mini-ITX features just about everything a full-size desktop would have, only in a much smaller package. (Source: Intel) This board has it all — an Intel Atom dual-core processor (clocked @ a modest 1.8GHz), two SO-DIMM slots for up to 4 GB of DDR3 memory and a mini PCI-E slot. It’s also packed with an array of connection options that include 8 USB 2.0 ports (4 internal/external), VGA port and a PS2 port for a keyboard or mouse. Like most desktop motherboards, it also features connections for external speakers or headphones powered by Intel’s HD audio. The cost for Intel’s D2500HN hovers around $90, which isn’t bad for this featurepacked SBC. EMAC’s iPac-9X25 While it may not look ‘flashy’ like some of the others mentioned in this list, EMAC’s iPac-9X25 has a massive amount of headers for digital applications. Suggested by rossi007, It isn’t pretty but EMAC’s iPac-9X25 is certainly no slouch as it packs Atmel’s AT91SAM9X25 processor along with a massive amount of GPIO connectors. Source: EMAC Inc) EMAC’s SBC features Atmel’s AT91SAM9X25 microcontroller (clocked @ 400MHz), 16Mb of serial flash, 128Mb of DDR2 memory and 4 GB eMMC. What sets this board apart from the other is its massive amount of digital I/O headers- 20 GPIO SAM9X25, 16 SPI Expander Based Digital I/O lines, and 8 x High Drive Digital Intel’s MinnowBoard Max features the company’s Atom processor in single or dual core flavors. (Source: MinnowBoard. org) 26 Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE FEB 2015
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