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Raspberry Pi Zero Alternatives

Due to hardware limitations of rpi0 and issues with bulk orders we are looking for alternatives.
This post will collect all founded alternatives. Feel free to suggest your thoughts.

Our SoM requirements

  • :white_check_mark: Bulk price $25 or lower for 3000 pcs.
  • :white_check_mark: ~700-1000 MHz ARM processor (BCM28xx, i.MX6 ULL / ULZ, STM32MP1)
  • :white_check_mark: ~512 RAM
  • :white_check_mark: Linux 4.x support
  • :white_check_mark: Size not bigger than SO-DIMM module
  • :white_check_mark: Low power consumption <1Watt
  • :white_check_mark: 1 or more USB host/otg
  • :white_check_mark: SD-Card inteface
  • :yellow_circle: Optional WiFi/Bluetooth (only few broadcom chips is suitable)
  • :x: NO NEED ROM chip (eMMC/NAND)
  • :x: NO NEED Ethernet PHY
  • :x: NO NEED sound
  • :x: NO NEED graphics (LVDS / HDMI / 3D accelerators / etc)

Raspberry Pi Zero W


SoC: BCM2835
:white_check_mark: built-in WiFi and bluetooth
:white_check_mark: Good dimensions
:white_check_mark: Well tested and stables
:x: Impossible to buy in a bulk

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+/3+ Lite


SOC: BCM2837
:white_check_mark: well tested and stable
:white_check_mark: more interfaces the rpi0
:white_check_mark: Bulk purchase available
:x: No built-it wireles
:x: SO-DIMM connector, bigger size

Banana Pi M2 Zero


SoC: allwinner H2+
:white_check_mark: dimensions
:x: Not stable SoC, low quality Linux support

Arducam rpi compatible board


This is a strange board, because Broadcom deliver this SoC exclusively to raspberry pi https://www.arducam.com/24-24mm-coin-size-raspberry-pi-compatible-board/
SoC: BCM2835 (same as rpi0)
:white_check_mark: well known SoC
:white_check_mark: interesting design
:x: strange noname company, unpredictable quality
:x: unknown delivery terms

Onion Omega2S+


SoC: Mediatek MT7688
:white_check_mark: small size, low price 13$
:x: RAM: 128MB
:x: MIPS arch
:x: not support usb slave (bad usb)?

AM3352-SOM


AM3352-SOM
:white_check_mark: Good support of linux
:white_check_mark: USB OTG + 4x USB host (no need for the USB hub)
:white_check_mark: CAN
:white_check_mark: 2xEthernet
:x: size 61×38mm
:x: no WiFi
:x: Expensive: 26 EUR

Variscite DART-6UL

image
https://www.variscite.com/product/system-on-module-som/cortex-a7/dart-6ul-freescale-imx-6ul/
SoC: i.MX 6ULL Y2 (with video) or 6ULZ (without video)
:white_check_mark: cheap 24$ or cheaper for 6ULZ
:white_check_mark: Good support of linux?
:white_check_mark: Built in WiFi Sterling-LWB Cypress CYW4343W (strange chip, supported monitor mode?)
:white_check_mark: compact size and connector
:white_check_mark: built-in nand or emmc
:white_check_mark: 2 independent USB?? (not sure)
:x: Not tested wifi, probably not support monitor/injection

Emcraft SOM-STM32MP1


https://www.emcraft.com/products/1062#som
SoC: STM32MP157
The STM32MP157 features two Arm Cortex-A7 cores at 650MHz and an Arm Cortex-M4 core at 209MHz
:white_check_mark: 2 independent USB??
:white_check_mark: good small size
:x: 650 MHz CPU, not tested
:x: L1 32KB I / 32KB D for each core (i.mx6 have 128KB)
:x: no wifi
:x: expensive, from $32

Kontron SOM-STM32MP157


https://www.kontron.com/products/boards-and-standard-form-factors/som/som-stm32mp157.html
:x: same issues as Emcraft SOM-STM32MP1

Toradex Colibri iMX6ULL


image
:x: SO-DIMM connector
:x: expensive

Starterkit.RU SK-iMX6ULL-NANO / SK-iMX6ULL-MOD

image image
http://starterkit.ru/html/index.php?name=shop&op=view&id=154
SoC: i.MX6 ULL 800MHz
:white_check_mark: probably can be customized, need to contact

SomLabs VisionSOM-6ULL



SoC: i.MX 6ULL
:x: SO-DIMM connector
:x: not clear bulk prices

Adakta ADAKTA-mx6ull-xxx


https://adakta.ru/products/system-on-module-ADAKTA-iMX6ull-nano6
SoC: NXP iMX6ull Cortex-A7 500 MHz (m02c), 800 MHz (mX2i)
:white_check_mark: nice design and size
:x: not clear bulk prices

What about Rockchip devices? Can’t find any suitable for us.

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AM3352-SOM
:white_check_mark: Good support of linux
:white_check_mark: USB OTG + 4x USB host (no need for the USB hub)
:white_check_mark: CAN
:white_check_mark: 2xEthernet
:x: size 61×38mm
:x: no WiFi
:x: Expensive: 26 EUR

Why do you think that MIPS architecture is a bad parameter?

It’s not a good or bad, just another type of CPU.

For example, it is possible to use Wi-Fi MT7621 with 2Cores/4Threads configuration.
512 MB or RAM and a lot of peripheral interfaces.

https://gainstrong.en.alibaba.com/product/60734694122-803425557/mt7621_embedded_linux_mini_unlock_usb_wifi_module_hotspot_router.html

And there are a lot of good MIPS boards. Please don’t think about MIPS architecture as a disadvantage.

P.S. MT7621 has injection support with mt76 driver made by Felix Feitkau. So you don’t need any external module for 2.4Ghz injection.

Honestly I don’t know a lot about MIPS and don’t know why ARM is more popular in embedded Linux boards. For example why there are more Linux distros for ARM? There is a lot tools builded for ARM, for example Kali Linux have images for many ARM boards. And what big distros we know that have builded images for MIPS except OpenWRT?
Even Mediatek switched from MIPS to ARM, you can look MT7622 that is ARM already.
So from my side, MIPS looks kinda legacy.

Well… I think it’s a kind of mistake.
Because sometimes people oppinion is based on their imagination, instead of facts and statistics.

According to Wikidevi, MIPS is the most popular architectire for embedded boards.
Also MIPS was the first 64bit architecture for embedded devices. Before ARM.
ARM was popular for microcontrollers and only last years it becomes popular ror SoC and CPU.
So it is not fair to say about MIPS as about legacy.

Also according to the official stat page of the most popular linux distro, MIPS packages amount is very close to ARM.
https://buildd.debian.org/stats/
And if we look at the OpenWrt distro, MIPS is out of competition because of it’s popularity.

Nowadays ARM is fighting with x86. That’s why we see quad core and octa core ARM CPUs. They are very powerful and good if you need to build media center, laptop, tablet or small PC. Most of them have a video core, mpeg encoder/decoder and some peripherial you don’t ever need for embedded device.
Some of them fit very well (IPQ40xx from Qualcomm).

So I just want to say that it’s not good to create such artificial restrictions for the project. Because there are a lot of good boards with ARM, MIPS and even RISC-V.

If your personal preference is ARM, My little advice is to look at this board.
https://shop.8devices.com/Jalapeno
Not so long time ago encrypted frames injection was contributed to the ath10k-ct driver.

1 Like