If you have anything to do with engineering, chances are you’ve heard of single-board computers (SBCs) before. SBCs are powerful vehicles of creativity that provide the basis for a wide variety of engineering projects. And from Arduino to Raspberry Pi, there are plenty of options to choose from.

What are Single-Board Computers?

Single-Board Computers


In this short guide, we’ll answer all your questions about single-board computers – including, what they are, how they work and more.

What are single-board computers?

Single-board computers (SBC) are complete computers built on a single circuit board. This means that their components – such as microprocessors, memory and more – all fit on one circuit board, roughly the size of a credit card.

Contrast this with desktop computers, which use motherboards, RAM, GPU and CPU within a tower. With an SBC, all these components are packaged directly onto the board.

How do single-board computers work?

SBCs operate similarly to desktops and laptops, requiring operating systems (OS) to function. These are often run from external media such as microSD cards, eMMC modules, flash drives or traditional hard drives. The OS then gives a platform from which to run applications on the SBC.    

What are single-board computers used for?

You can use them exactly like you would a laptop or desktop – simply connect a mouse, keyboard, and display. Yet, if this was all you used SBC’s for, you wouldn’t come close to utilizing their full potential.

SBCs are low-cost, powerful computers that come with few restrictions. It’s these qualities – as well as their high modifiability and compact size – that make them ideal microcontroller substitutes for all kinds of development projects, such as:

  • Building a home media center
  • Powering an audio player
  • Creating a garden sensor data collection system
  • Building a remote-control robot
  • Making a smart home

What are the benefits of single-board computers?

SBCs offer a range of advantages over traditional computers, including being smaller and more energy efficient. Moreover, since they have fewer components, they’re more reliable. But by far, the biggest advantage of SBC computers is customizability, making them the perfect basis for hundreds of hobbyist and industrial projects. 

In addition to this, there are a variety of different SBCs on the market, each with its characteristic benefits. From the OKdo ROCK 5B’s media facilities to the versatile connectivity features of the BeagleBone Black, you’re sure to find something that suits your needs – no matter the nature of your project.

Single-board computers: springboards for creativity

Low-cost, customizable and with almost unlimited potential uses, single-board computers are the perfect way for passionate engineers to exercise their imaginations and bring their visions into reality. 

If you have an exciting project and the determination to carry it through, the question isn’t if you should have an SBC – but rather, which SBC should you choose?

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About the Author: Patricia Davis Brown

Patricia, like her blog, is not a one-dimensional designer, which is evident in her accolades of 17 national design awards. Over a 38-year career in the industry, she has carved a niche in several areas of design. Licensed in interior design and certified in kitchen and bath design, she offers a full menu of design services ranging from whole house interior design, kitchen and bath design, lighting design, full remodels, commercial design and universal (ADA) design. Patricia is a sought-after speaker in the industry and has been published in many publications as seen on her interior design firm’s website, https://www.patriciadavisbrowndesigns.com/. She writes for such publications as QuinStreetinc, Relaxed Remodeler, and eHow.com talent offering design tips.