The Raspberry Pi is the star of the Linux micro-computer scene, and while it’s a great product, it’s not the only small computer you can buy to play around with Linux on. In this list, we’ll go over some excellent Raspberry Pi alternatives that you can run Linux on.
Make sure you have an SD card
Before we go over some great Raspberry Pi alternatives, it’s important to discuss SD cards. SD cards are very important, and you’ll likely need to purchase one alongside one of the devices on this list.
While it is true that some devices we cover in this article have built-in internal storage, you’ll still need an SD card. Why? Many of these devices use SD cards for booting and other essential tasks.
For best results, try grabbing one of the following SD cards below.
- Samsung (MB-ME32GA/AM) 32GB 95MB/s (U1) microSDHC EVO Select Memory Card
- SanDisk 16GB Ultra MicroSDHC UHS-I Memory Card with Adapter
Best Raspberry Pi Alternatives for Linux
We’ve done our research so that you don’t have to, so here are the best Raspberry Pi alternatives Linux users have.
1. ODROID XU4
If you’re not satisfied with the Raspberry Pi, but still require something with excellent performance, the next best thing is the Odroid Xu4. It’s an impressive single-board ARM PC that has some excellent specs, such as an 8 core 2Ghz CPU (Samsung Exynos5422 Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A7), built-in eMMC 5.0 storage, 2 GBs of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, dedicated USB 3.0 ports, and more!
With Raspberry Pi alternatives, nobody does it better than Odroid. Out of all the micro-computers competing with the Pi, Odroid delivers a decent Linux community, and as a result, you’ll find support for a wide variety of Linux operating systems like Lakka, LibreELEC, Ubuntu, Debian, and more.
While using the ODROID XU4 we found that we could run many different Linux operating systems on the device, and run them well with little to no fuss. What fuss we found was fixable thanks to the excellent Odroid community.
- Has a large community of users like the Raspberry Pi and users will easily be able to find a support network and technical support.
- Loads of mainstream ARM Linux OSes support Odroid, including RetroPie, LibreELEC, Lakka, etc.
- The built-in CPU cooler may be a bit too loud.
The Raspberry Pi ushered in micro-computers into the Linux community. Ever since that happened, people have been buying the Pi to use it for everything from TV set-top boxes, to homebrew video game consoles, and much more. However, the Pi is not fully open. It has some hardware that is considered “closed-source.”
If you’re a huge fan of the RPi, but care about open hardware, consider checking out the Libre Computer Board instead. All development of the Libre Computer Board is transparent, and the project contributes their code upstream to Linux. Under the hood, it’s a competitive piece of hardware with impressive specs such as a Quad 64-bit 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A53 Processor, Micro SD support, a 4K Ultra HD ARM Mali-450 GPU, 2 GBs DDR4 RAM, USB 3.0, and gigabit ethernet.
The Libre Computer Board has decent support for most ARM Linux operating systems out there and it can run everything from Debian to Ubuntu Bionic, and even Retropie. However, be warned that these operating systems need to be custom configured by the manufacturers so compatibility is limited.
- Fully open-source, and developers regularly contribute their work upstream to various Linux projects.
- Has various custom-built OS images available for use.
- Mainstream ARM oses might not work on the device if the manufacturer chooses not to support it.
The EleDuino BeagleBone Black is a small single-board computer much like the Raspberry Pi. However, unlike the Raspberry Pi, it is not targeted at school children and hobbyists. Instead, the EleDuino BeagleBone Black is a development and programming board, but many hobbyists have found excellent use with it.
Under the hood, the EleDuino BeagleBone Black is very impressive. By default, EleDuino BeagleBone Black comes with Debian Linux. It has 4 GB onboard eMMC flash storage, an ARM Cortex-A8 core operating at up to 1GHz, support for serial interfaces, GB ethernet, a USB host for development, and much more.
There’s no question that the Raspberry Pi line of devices has inspired ARM development and programming projects. That said, the Raspberry Pi is more targeted at hobbyists, and school children. If you’re a programmer, do yourself a favor and check out the EleDuino BeagleBone Black instead.
- Comes with Debian Linux out of the box.
- Ideal for developers and even has a USB host port for development purposes.
- Some might find the 1 GHz CPU is not powerful enough.
4. Orange Pi Lite
There are many Raspberry Pi “clones” on the market. These clones often capitalize on the fact that the Raspberry Pi is popular and well-known. Orange Pi Lite is one of those clones, but that’s not a bad thing. As it turns out, Orange Pi Lite is actually an incredibly impressive alternative to the Raspberry Pi for those on a budget.
Orange Pi Lite is budget-friendly. And while the Raspberry Pi 4 is 35$ USD, this device packs in some pleasant features for the price. These features include 512 MBs of DDR 3 ram, a Quad Core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, ARM Mali, dedicated WiFi, USB 2.0 support, and full HDMI support.
While running the Orange Pi Lite we found that it runs best with Armbian (Raspbian). The official Orange Pi Lite OS images did not work, and the developer’s state in the documentation that users should only use Armbian.
- Incredibly pricing for what you get.
- Dedicated WiFi antenna.
- Only supports 512 MB of RAM.
5. ODROID HC2
Many users turn to Raspberry Pi to create an affordable file server. It’s easy to see why this is a popular use for the Pi, as it is much more efficient than building a dedicated server. However, the Pi platform is not the only good micro-computer that users can turn into a server. Introducing the ODROID HC2, a dedicated micro-computer that you can use to create an inexpensive file server.
The Odroid HC2’s specifications make it adequate for a Linux server. It has a 2 GHz Exynos 5000 CPU, a Mali-T628 MP6, and 2GBs of RAM. And while those specifications are excellent, that’s not why the Odroid HC2 is worth checking out. Instead, the reason that this device deserves your attention is one key feature: the dedicated SATA port.
This means no more plugging in external USB hard drives to make your file storage solution work. Just plug in your favorite 2.5-inch SATA hard drive and go!
- Has a dedicated SATA port and users can connect their favorite 2.5-inch drive for super-fast storage.
- Very small form factor despite the case it comes in.
- Odroid does not discuss the device much on its website and users may need to turn to forums to find out what OS is best.
In this list, we covered some of the best Raspberry Pi alternatives available to run Linux on. However, as micro-computing is getting bigger and bigger each day, more alternatives pop up all the time. So, what is your favorite Raspberry Pi alternative to use? Let us know in the comment section below!