The Raspberry Pi is a cool gadget. An affordable and very low-power computer, usable for everything from tinkering with peripherals to running an HD media center (with XBMC).
Wanting to host all my data myself ("Redecentralize the net!") and in the only place I can trust, I came to think about the right hardware for a homeserver. As I wanted to run my own mailserver, websites, file storage etc. all on the same machine, it soon became clear that the Raspberry Pi was not the right choice for that. It's got little memory (512 MB) and, at least in my experience using it as a media center, is running too unreliable, crashing every now and then.
So I asked myself whether there was an alternative which is better suited as a stable running server with more memory? Turns out that in the meantime several (ARM-based) alternatives with different strengths became available. Each one of them is more powerful (and also more expensive) than the Pi.
I did a feature comparison using information available from the net. Some of it was not readily available and needed a bit of digging and guessing.
Here are the facts. Beware: details have been left out in order to make this more clear.
|Raspberry Pi Model B||ODROID U3||CuBox-i4-Pro||Cubietruck||Improv|
|SoC||Broadcom BCM2835||Exynos4412 Prime||i.MX6 Quad||Allwinner A20||Allwinner A20|
|CPU||ARMv6 700 MHz||Cortex-A9 Quad-Core 1.7GHz||Cortex-A9 Quad-Core 1GHz||Cortex-A7 Dual-Core 1GHz||Cortex-A7 Dual-Core 1GHz|
|GPU||Broadcom VideoCore IV||Mali-400 MP4 @440 MHz||GC2000 (Quad-Core)||Mali-400 MP2||Mali-400 MP2|
|RAM||512 MB SDRAM||2GB LPDDR2 880||2GB DDR3@1066Mbps||2GB DDR3@480MHz||1GB DDR2|
|USB||2x USB 2.0||3x USB 2.0 Host, 1x OTG (micro)||2x USB 2.0||2x USB 2.0 Host, 1x OTG||1x USB 2.0 Host, 1x OTG (micro)|
|Video out||HDMI, FBAS||Micro-HDMI||HDMI||HDMI, VGA||Micro-HDMI, RGB/TTL|
|Audio out||3,5mm analog, HDMI||3,5mm analog, HDMI||Optical S/PDIF, ?||S/PDIF, 3,5mm analog, HDMI||- (?)|
|NVRAM||SD/MMC/SDIO||Micro-SD, eMMC||Micro-SD||NAND, Micro-SD||4GB NAND, Micro-SD|
|SATA||-||-||1x eSATA II||1x SATA II||1x SATA II|
|Network||10/100 MBit||10/100 MBit||10/100(/1000) MBit||10/100/1000 MBit||10/100/1000 MBit|
|Wireless||-||-||WiFi 11n, Bluetooth, IR Transmitter/Receiver||WiFi, Bluetooth||-|
|Power consumption||3,5 W||5 W||max. 7,5W + USB||~10 W||3,1-4,4 W|
|Price||39 EUR||~46 EUR||71-91 EUR||120 EUR||~58 EUR|
In conclusion, I decided on the ODROID U-3. Reasons were the large amount of RAM, the quad-core CPU and the possibility to use an eMMC as a system drive. Although quite expensive (compared to an SD card), eMMCs are running comparatively fast as normal hard disks while needing a fraction of the energy (and no cooling). Not to say they are so tiny as to be put directly in a board-mounted slot.
So I bought a U-3 with eMMC, case, power supply, HDMI adapter cable and UART interface for about 150 € altogether Admittedly, that's excluding VAT, but including the 30 USD shipping from South Korea (direct distribution only!).
Running Arch Linux and using Docker for deploying and segregating the different services, this thing runs great so far. More on that at a later stage!