Single board computers have made it possible to get all of the computing power of a regular desktop computer at a fraction of the size. These computers are not meant for standard personal use but for industrial and commercial uses instead.
Those who are unfamiliar with single board computers and their uses may not entirely realize what they are capable of. Consider the various uses and implementations, as well as a full guide to single board computers below.
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How do Single Board Computers Work?
A single board computer (SBC) like the Okdo Rock 5 from RS is a computer mounted on a single circuit board. It has memory, a microprocessor, and even input/output options. The design is to contain everything in one circuit board rather than a much larger PC case.
A single board computer has all of the essential components of a desktop computer. That said, they are much better for applications where space is limited or conditions are much more harsh. They are inexpensive, small, and cheap to run, all without sacrificing performance. Let’s get into some of the important considerations to make as far as SBCs go.
Things to Consider When Buying an SBC
Whatever the case may be, ensure that the SBC you choose is suited for the environmental conditions. Some are meant to hold up against harsh conditions but they have limitations. Check minimum and maximum operating temperatures, the socket types, the size of the device it will be used in, and a number of other factors.
They aren’t quite as flexible in terms of expandability when compared to multi-board designs, but there are a ton of single board computer options (and expansion slots) becoming available. There is also a litany of specialized designs that provide powerful solutions for applications where space isn’t particularly abundant.
SBCs don’t have the kind of high-end performance that desktop computers offer, but the versatility is definitely the biggest benefit. They are quite accessible, allowing developers to install an entire computer on a small circuit board while still having practical expansion possibilities. Prices have dropped over time, making SBCs even more affordable than ever. With a bit of SBC knowledge, they can be used for building practical appliances, experimenting with devices, and a number of other purposes. That can’t be done using a standard desktop computer.
The “best” single board computer is much like choosing the “best” of anything else. It all comes down to personal preference. Think of it like making a consideration between iOS, Android, and Windows. It depends on what you are looking to pay, what you need it for, and how powerful you need the SBC to be.
Age of the unit, delivery times, and physical size can all play a role in the choice. A good place to start is to consider what you need it for and compare the specifications of similar units. The top-end SBCs are quite similar in most ways, so there shouldn’t be a major drop-off from one to the next.
SBCs are most often used in embedded applications. These units cannot expand and have input and output capabilities strictly for that intended use. A great example of this is in a vending machine since there is no need to install any additional hardware. They can be used on backplanes, too, allowing for devices to be attached.
Single board computers are great for office tasks though they generally have trouble maintaining office software suites. The best use is in experimentation and education. They can be used in class settings because they are cheap and replaceable.