To start with, Single Board Computers are small computing devices that can be used for a host of different purposes, which include but are not limited to experimentation, learning how to program, robotics and home automation, building a media player or NAS drive, and performing computing tasks such as web browsing or word processing. To put it simply, a single-board computer is a typical computer built on a single circuit board and has all the required features for a functional computer.

Uses of Single Board Computers

The main use for single-board computers is usually in embedded applications. Embedded computers cannot be expanded upon and only contain the input and output capabilities they need for the task for which it is designed. The commonly used example to explain this application is a vending machine. Most vending machines have an embedded single board computer that will control their functions. Such machines don’t have a provision to add more hardware to the computer to expand its range of capabilities.

Why Are Single Board Computers Used

Now that we know the different uses of single-board computers, it’s time to see why people prefer them over normal desktop computers. Despite having limited functionality, these single-board computers have significant advantages over desktops in the “limited” areas which they cover.

The first advantage is that they are quite small and therefore compact. This makes it easier for them to be embedded in devices that have limited space. They are also more efficient than multi-board computers, which gives them the upper hand when it comes to power saving.

Comparing System-On-Chip & Single Board Computers

Just like the name suggests, System-On-Chip (SOC) incorporates different system components into a single silicon chip as compared to single-board computers that have the entire computer built on a single circuit board.

Advantages Of SOC

Compared to the single-board computer, a system-on-chip computer has various advantages, which include;

  • Small Size

Single-board computer may be small, but a SOC is even smaller. This makes it possible to fix it onto smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets.

  • Flexible

The SOC is quite versatile and can be incorporated for different uses. This flexibility stems from the earlier mentioned small size as well as other factors such as form factor and power, which make it compatible with different uses.

  • High Volume

For high-capacity products, SoCs are countless since it makes it so easy to defend the resources and engineering cost.

Disadvantages Of SOC

  • Time Consuming

The time taken to design a system-on-chip computer is a lot which makes it unsuitable for short-term projects. However, it is worth noting that despite taking a lot of time, they can be very cost-efficient.

  • Resource Limitations

There aren’t many resources that can be used with SoC which therefore puts certain users at a disadvantage.

Advantages of Single Board Computers

As mentioned earlier, the single board computers too have advantages of their own. Depending on your intended purpose, you may find its advantages worthy of overlooking its disadvantages.

  • Ease of Use

Single-board computers are way easier to use and therefore require very minimal training. If you intend to introduce it to your workforce, then be sure they will have no problem adapting quickly.

  • Verified Hardware

SoC is quite expensive to design, and there is the risk of hardware failure. On the other hand, single board computers are more reliable, so the risk during investment is lowered.

  • Shorter Time to Market

Unlike the SoC, Single board computers have a very short design time and can therefore be delivered to market for short-term projects.

Disadvantages of Single Board Computers 

  • Price

Due to its ease of use and quick time to market, single board computers come at a cost. However, if the end result will be worth it, it could be easy to overlook the prices.

  • Flexibility

When you want a lot of customizations, the single board computer may not be worthwhile, and you’d be better off choosing system-on-chip computers.

At the end of the day, the single-board computer is good for only a select group of people. It all depends on the functions you’re looking to achieve as well as the compromises you’re willing to make.