Beaglebone vs Raspberry Pi - Choosing the Right SBC

Both the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi family of boards provide solid, affordable single board computer options for your embedded systems project. If you want to add robust and secure OTA system updates to your devices then Mender.io will support both.

Which board to select for your project?

Which board you select may boil down to a few factors such as your level of reliance on community support to get one of these boards integrated with OTA, your level of experience with booting these models and being able to navigate through what might be a tricky boot process, or your power support preferences - whether your custom build requires USB 3 or maybe USB 2 is enough?

Comparing Raspberry Pi 3 to Beaglebone Black

Our engineers Kristian Amilie and Ole Orhagen both have great familiarity with using these boards. They share some of their experiences with using Beaglebone Black in comparison to the Raspberry Pi families in the following comparison:

Raspberry Pi 3 Raspberry%20Pi%203

Raspberry Pi 4 Raspberry%20Pi%204

Beaglebone Black Beaglebone%20Black

Specifications compared for Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black

The processor speed on the Beaglebone Black is faster at 1Ghz compared to 700Mhz for the Raspberry Pi. It’s a ARM Cortex A-8 processor as opposed to an ARM 11 based one. The importance of processor speed depends heavily on the use case but no doubt a 300Mhz can be significant.

There are many more GPIO pins available on the Beaglebone Black with 69 compared to 12 for the Raspberry Pi. The Beaglebone also has 5 UARTS for transmitting and receiving serial port data as opposed to 1 UART in the case of the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi has 2 USB 2.0 master ports on boards as opposed to only one USB 2 in the case of the Beaglebone Black. The main advantage of this is that there is no need to connect an extra USB hub to the unit. This would of course make your assembly bigger if you had to connect an extra USB hub. This is assuming you actually need 2 USB ports to begin with. If you don't, then it is of no importance. If you need to connect. say, a camera and small rotating engine or something, then you're already at two, so it's pretty common to need it.

For I/O pins, the Beaglebone sports 65 digital and 7 analogue pins, while the Raspberry Pi has only 8 digital pins and zero analogue pins. It goes without saying that the more the pins the larger the number of peripherals which can be connected to the device. Digital pins are used to connect with other digital devices, while analog pins allow connecting of peripherals which output analog values. This periphery is usually cheaper. Do note that not all pins are created equal and the diversity of protocols exposed through the pins is as important as their number if not more.

Raspberry is superior when it comes to support for multimedia capabilities. For audio output, the Raspberry Pi is superior with support for both HDMI and analogue audio output, whereas the Beaglebone Blacks supports analogue only. There is no specific video output on the Beaglebone but the Raspberry Pi can do both HDMI and composite output for video.

Reference integrations available for both boards

If you want to do OTA software updates with Mender for Beaglebone Black, there is an official reference integration on Mender Hub.

Beaglebone Black and Mender has been tested and verified for supporting a Yocto layer integration. The Mender integration completes without errors and outputs images in a Yocto build for versions Zeus, Warrior, thud and sumo. The runtime integration check list has also been verified to ensure that Mender works with Beaglebone Black boards including U Boot-based boards.

A Raspberry Pi with custom Raspberry Pi OS can also be prepared to support robust system updates with Mender. The following 3 models are supported:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
  • Raspberry Pi 4 Model B+

An 8 GB or larger SD card, a universal power supply and internet connectivity - Ethernet or Wi-Fi for your Raspberry Pi are also required.

A full description of how to use Mender with a Raspberry Pi is available in this tutorial. The tutorial covers the prerequisites, the flashing of the Raspberry Pi, the optional configuration of the wireless network and enabling SSH in headless mode.

Read these articles on Beaglebone in an embedded Linux project: