Over the decades, computers have revolutionized from anonymous processing systems to single units that perform better and faster. These single board computing devices work independently without the need for peripheral functions or expansions to operate. This is because they incorporate a wide array of microprocessors, including static RAM to run. Typically, some single-board units are often designed for demonstration purposes or used as embedded computer controllers.
What Are Single Board Computers?
These are small computing devices built on a single circuit board equipped with microprocessors, I/O, memory, and other features needed for a computer’s functionality. These boards are applied in various applications and used across different purposes, more so in robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). Some of the SBCs available today include the Raspberry Pi 4B, Odyssey X86J4105. Odroid-C4, LattePanda, Tinker board, and Rock Pi.
Unlike modern computers, the SBC operates without plugging additional memory, storage, fans, or a thread of power cables to boot. However, these devices are designed based on the purpose but incapable of performing various functions like a PC. They solely focus on a range of services, including educational, industrial, and commercial applications. Typically, they are often found in ATMs, automated checkouts, and virtual slot machines.
Industrial Application of Single Board Computers
Single-board computing devices are often used commercially, more so in the tech industry besides being used for educational purposes. Typically, they are used in rackmount format for controlling processes or embedded with other devices essential for interfacing. Due to their high level of integration, SBCs have reduced connectivity levels making them useful and compatible. Among its applications, industrially include deep-sea and outer space exploration facilitated by their size and power efficiency.
Differences Between an SBC and MCU
MCU (Microcontroller Unit) can be interchanged with the SBC, but the two have an important distinction. In definition, the MCU is an embedded system that incorporates the whole computer into a single chip. It features a processor, storage, memory, programmable I/O pins. However, they aren’t powerful and readily reprogrammable like a single-board computer. MCU thus plays an essential role in the tech industry by providing various devices crucial for everyday operations.
MCU’s primary benefit is that they can be manufactured in numbers within a given number and applied in various tasks where a fully-fledged computer fails to do so. A great example of an MCU is a television remote without the operating system or programs, but it remains operational for days without consuming power. When a button is pressed, it sends signals among its connecting pins to generate the signal’s right range. Like SBCs, MCUs are embedded in different computers and used in various industrial applications.
Types and Standards of SBCs
Notably, SBCs use standardized computer form factors channeled to be applied in a backplane enclosure. It involves CompactPCI, PICMG, VMEbus, and PXI, incorporating various components that facilitate its operations. Though they are single-unit computers, SBCs are built around different internal processing structures ranging from micro-processing architectures, intel, and reduced power usage systems such as SPARC. The combination of all these components allows for the board to become the smallest unit of a computer system essential for executing data.
These boards’ intelligence is placed in a plug-In board, including an interface inserted into the backplane. The resulting system resembles a motherboard though it determines slot configurations. Besides, backplanes are available with various slots, often 20 or less, making it ideal for different rackmount encloses. Some single-board computing devices come with connectors allowing a stack of circuit boards with expandable hardware without traditional backplanes.
Raspberry Pi 4 Computer
The Raspberry Pi is a series of SBCs developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in partnership with Broadcom. Initially, the company focused on teaching computer science in schools through the use of SBCs. However, the original unit computer board gained popularity, making the company consider SBCs used industrially, such as robotics. Other sectors such as healthcare also considers these single board computing devices crucial for their operations.
The second board type release saw these computer boards become among the most preferred, which led to the latest release of the Raspberry Pi 4 computer. Successive generation of single-board computing systems led the British company to sell millions of units globally. This SBC has become the leading educational tool, but its applications are far more. Besides offering an impressive processor speed, it accompanies various features, making it the best SBC among the electronics community.
- Processor: The Raspberry Pi 4 comes with a Broadcom BCM2711 processor, coupled with quad-core Cortex-A72 64-bit SoC running at 1.5GHz.
- Memory: It has a memory of 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB LPDDR4, which depends on the SBC design model.
- Connectivity: Raspberry Pi 4 accompanies various connectivity functions ranging from a 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz IEEE 802.11 b/g/ac wireless LAN. It also includes Bluetooth 5.0, BLE Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and 2 USB 2.0 ports.
- GPIO: The SBC also comes with a standard 40-pi GPIO header making it accompany a fully backward-compatible feature consistent with previous devices.
- Video and Sound: Raspberry Pi 4 comes with various video and sound support capabilities. These include two micro-HDMI ports of up to 4Kp60, a 2-lane MIPI DSI display port, a 2-lane MIPI CSI camera port, and 4-pole stereo audio and composite video port.
- Multimedia: Raspberry Pi 4 features a H.265 (4Kp60 decode), H.264 (1080p60 decode and 1080p30 encode) and OpenGL ES, 3.0 graphics.
- SD Card Support: It also includes a micro-SD card slot for loading operating systems and data storage.
- Input Power: With an environment operating temperature of between 0-50 degrees Celsius, the Raspberry Pi 4 has a power input of 5V DC via USB-C connector or GPIO header. It also allows for power over Ethernet, which is crucial for powering this SBC.
Since the dawn of single board computers, most industries have adopted their use more so when embedded to facilitate various operations. However, Raspberry Pi 4 has remained the best option for most users. This is because it features multiple specs making it suitable for different applications. Therefore, it is crucial to get insights about SBCs and why choosing Raspberry Pi 4 computer is the best choice.