Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is BeagleBone Black a potential gamechanger?

Last week a new board joined the ever-growing family of low cost ARM boards - the BeagleBone Black. Like the original BeagleBone, it's powered by a TI AM3899 and has a similar form factor and expansion connectors, so it can be used with all the expansion boards ("capes") available for the its predecessor. There are several differences between the old BeagleBone and the new one, but the most important one is the price. With a 45$ tag price it's only 10$ more than a Raspbery Pi (Model B). Taking into account the fact that it has built in Flash memory makes this gap even smaller, since no SD card is required anymore.

At first sight, it looks like a Pi killer. But the Black, like its old brother, the original BeagleBone, falls short in one important area - video. It doesn't offer any decoding (not to mention encoding) acceleration leaving it to the processor core. Additionally, the built in HDMI interface can't handle 1080p video at all. These facts leave the Black out of media player game and send us back to the good old Pi.

Nevertheless, I think that the new board is great a opportunity. With built in storage and direct LCD panel interface it is a great for standalone GUI applications, as well as applications that require more processing power provided by the Raspberry Pi.