Up close with the Banana Pi


The Banana Pi hardware seems nice, and with the faster processor and larger amount of RAM, it definitely handles demanding tasks more easily than the Raspberry Pi. (You can easily see this performance edge by running the same task on each and watching the CPU activity monitors.) Although the Banana Pi is not quite as small as the Raspberry Pi, it is by no means large, and it still maintains a very neat package. Because of the more up-to-date Cortex-A7 ARM architecture in the Allwinner A20 processor, the Banana Pi is also capable of running a broader range of operating systems.

Having said all this, the Banana Pi still feels to me like a bit of a bizarre creation. The efforts to copy the Raspberry Pi are quite obvious, but these efforts have fallen short and thus the often-useful aspects of a cloned product (use of the same accessories and add-ons) are not present. What they have done is to create what feels like a poorly designed clone – which is almost, but not quite, a direct Raspberry Pi replacement. I think it would have been better for the engineers behind the Banana Pi to start fresh and make a board with a completely different design, operating system, and layout – as well as a more unique name.

The degree of copying gives me the impression that the principal intention of the Banana Pi team was to cash in on the success of the Raspberry Pi, rather than to promote computing, aid electronics education, and support the open source communities (which is what some of their marketing material claims).

If you are an experienced hardware guru who doesn't mind going it alone, and you are looking for a Raspberry Pi upgrade with a bit more grunt, this could be the board for you. However, if you are a beginner or someone like me who would rather use a proven device with a large and friendly community, lots of choice of fun add-on boards and accessories, and an ever-increasing range of fantastic tutorials and educational materials, you should definitely stick with the Raspberry Pi – at least for the foreseeable future.

Buy a Banana Pi

The methods I found for purchasing a Banana Pi are untested, so please proceed with caution and try to pay using PayPal or another credit card payment service where possible (rather than a bank transfer) to give yourself the maximum amount of protection should anything go wrong.

The following vendors have the Banana Pi for sale:


This article was written in partnership withThe MagPi magazine: www.themagpi.com

The Author

Aaron Shaw is a volunteer at The MagPi magazine (http://www.themagpi.com), a magazine dedicated to Raspberry Pi users. He also founded Pi Supply (http://www.pi-supply.com) with a Kickstarter-funded add-on board for the Raspberry Pi (http://kck.st/UVBXTE). Aaron has just finished his Automotive Engineering MEng degreee at the University of Leeds and has recently attended the Formula Student competetion at Silverstone. For help relating to this article, you can contact him through mailto:sales@pi-supply.com or via Twitter (http://@shawaj2).

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