Let's Make Robots!

Raspberry Pi vs BeagleBone Black

Hello everyone!!
Posting a forum topic after a long time. This topic is to get an unbiased opinion on what to choose between a BeagleBone Black and a Raspberry Pi. As I was away, I don't know if such a forum has been made before and would like you to post links to it if it has been made.
Forum Question-

The question simply is as follows- which is a better board to buy for development- A Raspberry Pi (RPI) or a BeagleBone Black (BBB). For me (and all other Indians), both the boards are provided via Element14, and there is very negligible difference in price (BBB is cheaper than RPI however, that may be a way for them to sell off their boards with older processors which they mention in the Manual). Hence, at first glance, BBB looks like a better option. But, I'd like a review from the community and as both the RPI and BBB communities will be biased towards their respective boards, I though asking here will be a better option. Which one is better in your opinion and why?

Datasheet and Technical Manual for BBB-

Datasheet and Technical Manual for RPI- Please give me links.

Some points of difference I've noticed so far (will be updated)-

  • BBB has a better processor as compared to the RPI. After the initial stock is cleared (which come with Rev2 of the old BeagleBone's processor), a new processor will be used which will have a clock speed at 1GHz (manual says 800MHz). It will be better than RPI outright (700MHz if I'm correct). I'm not comparing overclocked frequencies as we are still unsure about what the BBB can overclock to.
  • From unreliable sources, I've heard that the RPI has better video processing capabilities than the BBB as its processor was made so.
  • Both RPI and BBB have 512MB RAM. However, RPI has the older SDRAM while BBB has newer DDR3 RAM (606 MHz). So increase in speed is what should be expected.
  • BBB comes with 2GB of internal memory via eMMC. Not present in RPI.
  • As Maxhirez and Mogul have mentioned, the RPI community is very large. The BBB community is just about starting to grow, and it will take ages before it comes up to the status of the RPI community. There's lot more help to look to when you consider getting an RPI up and running and getting a BBB up and running. However, I'd like to mention that the amount of documentation available for BBB is certainly large but requires experts to read and understand it, certainly not noob friendly.
  • BBB has ARM7 while RPI has ARM6. So BBB can run any ARM OS straight off while for RPI, it has to be squeezed. Only RPI supported distros run on it.
  • RPI has extra connectors for Video and Audio. BBB can process video (and maybe audio, doubted) through its HDMI, but it doesn't have the extra connectors for lower end devices like RPI does.
  • BBB has many more GPIO pins than the RPI.
  • RPI has 2 USB ports while BBB has 1 USB port and 1 Mini USB client port (not supported yet, but there are people working on making this as a second USB Host port).
  • Both use similar power sources and similar Ethernet ports.
  • Both boards give 3.3V output on the GPIO pins.

So, what do you guys make out of it? 

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It depends on what you want to do with it of course.  The RPI is better for applications that need video and things like that.  The BBB is better if you need IO capabilities.  One way to think of this is to compare BBB to RPI+arduino.  If you would not include an arduino in your project if you used the RPI, then you probably don't need the BBB.

Pros for RPI

  • better video and audio
  • more support - it's been out longer and has a large user community
  • lots of software easily available

Pros for BBB:

  • much better IO - like adding an arduino mega to a RPI
  • faster processor, more memory
  • lower power usage (? due to DDR3 ram)
  • Support for real-time IO processing

Some corrections on other points:

  • The BBB does support video. It has a built-in HDMI connector with it's own decode engine. However, it only does the lower resolutions and does not support VGA.  Correct that BBB does not do audio directly. There are ways to work around that however.
  • BBB does have 2 USB ports, but one is host mode and one is client mode.  So the BBB can be a USB device, or it can have devices attached to it.  You need an external hub it you want to have more than one USB device attached.
  • The IO on BBB is 3.3v, and is not 5v compatible (from what I've read).  You can get 5v power, but you have to do level shifting if you want to use TTL IO.

Note: I don't own either of these boards, but I have read the information available.


  1. I meant to say that BBB doesn't have lower end connectors. Sorry if you thought I meant it didn't have Video capabilities.
  2. Again, I said that it has 1 USB port (host) and 1 mini USB client port.
  3. On this topic, I'd say, you're right. I went back and checked the manual (link above). Page 25 says that there are 7 power rails on the board out of which 2 are unreserved both being 3v3 rails. So most probably, these are the rails connected to the GPIO and will require a Level Shifter (as you mention).

I have to say the rpi is ridiculously simple to get up and running as a computer. Even for a linux noob like me. I have not gone any further with it so I can't say how simple or suitable it is for robotics but the list of pi robots is growing. Especially on LMR lately, great to see.
Initially the beagle series boards were too pricy and I wasn't too sure about the community which I hear people say is thriving, but quite centralised if you ask me. Now with the BBB and it's generous array of IO it makes me wonder if I didn't already have a pi which one I'd go for.
I really can't say but think about this. I jumped in early and got my rpi pretty quick. This was both good and bad because then they brought out the 512mb model to replace the 256mb model.
So if you can't decide, I'd say it's ok to wait and you never know what will happen next.
The competition at the embedded level is heating up. The BBB seems like an attack on the rpi, who knows if they won't strike back with an upgrade and then there's always the possibilty some dark horse comes up on the outside with something that blows both out of the water.
Have fun!

From a robotics or embedded development standpoint it could be crippling to use something that doesn't have a readily availalbe datasheet (imagine trying to design a Linux device driver for a peripheral you can't get technical info for).  To my knowledge the RPI requires a signed agreement (NDA) to get access to the datasheet, where the beaglebone MPU doesn't (http://www.ti.com/lit/ug/spruh73h/spruh73h.pdf).  Please correct this if I'm wrong, and post a link to a datasheet for the  RPI's MPU.

This is really a hard discussion because it really depends on the purpose for the board... If you want to use the board as a mediacenter like many of my friends have done reasently, the BBB won't do because of the lack in video processoring which the PI has and does very well... But as mentioned by others the BBB is from a robotic point of view (which is really important.. Hehe) really good because it has more GPIOs and it has build-in PWM modules for motorcontrolling. And the 5V level just make it most more compatible with CMOS and µprocessors...

I, myself, has a PI and I really enjoy working with it but it takes some hardware modules to make it control a moving platform.. But the community is really good and it is easy to find help.. The community for BB and BBB might not be big but if the boards is great for robotic this site might be the community start.. hehe

When it comes to software and programming modules for linux (my preferred os for these boards) it will be no different which board is used. The code is almost the same, you just need to find the right compiler.

So summa summarum I would go with both boards if I had the money for it.. It really depends of the use..

(The thoughts from a newbie to this site)


BBB has video capabilities via a mini HDMI port and the on board HDMI chip. However, the chip is not so great so 1080p is out of question but it can run both videos and audio. There is, however, no other AV connector on board but with so many IO ports, you're free to add one if you like.