Can anyone recommend some hardware which meets the following criteria:

  • USB port (more than 1 would be handy but a USB hub could always be used)
  • Suitable for running a reasonably small Linux distribution (No GUI needed. Want to run MySQL and some other custom bits. I'm not quite sure how one goes about installing Linux and configuring on a device without a video out.)
  • Reasonably small (thinking a small router)
  • Low power consumption (less than 10W, ideally closer to 1W)

Just a little background: I'm currently working on some home automation projects and having some USB/serial devices I want to capture data from and log to MySQL.


4 Answers 4


The classic device for low-power Linux usage is the Raspberry Pi. Either the model 1 B+ or the model 2 B will meet your needs: 4 USB ports, can run headless just fine, is about the size of a deck of cards, and draws about 3W.

  • Thanks, I was aware of the Pi, but I was wondering what else could be a good, or better, substitute... :-) Sep 21, 2015 at 17:59
  • Go for the Raspberry Pi B+ it has a very low price in these days. Sep 21, 2015 at 22:16
  • 1
    Will a Pi be able to handle home automation and a MySQL database?
    – Andy
    Sep 22, 2015 at 19:53
  • 3
    @Andy, MySQL? Easily, assuming you're not trying to do something like make a local copy of Wikipedia or host a multi-thousand-user forum. Home automation? Depends on what you're trying to do.
    – Mark
    Sep 22, 2015 at 20:00
  • I'm just clarifying based on the OP's requirements.
    – Andy
    Sep 22, 2015 at 20:01

English is not my native language so please be patient.

At work we use the Raspberry Pi 2 (model B), this device meet all your especifications.

There are many boards that may be suitable for your needs. You can check in http://www.bigboardlist.com for more options than Raspberry Pi.

Almost all of them come with at least one USB and a Ethernet Port, the performance and price varies, but I think the all meet your especifications.

Now we're seeking to buy the ODroid C1+, because for the same amount of money we could have a better processor (Maybe not the best Architecture, but best frecuency), better RAM, an OTG USB port, build-in heat sink and better GPU.

So if you plan to make a small server (like we do) you could use the Raspi2 or the Odroid C1, both of them at very low price.

(Based on the answer of @Gilles)


These days there is a lot of talk about Butetooth Low Energy in home automation so you might opt for the Pi 3 which is still 35$ but comes with a BLE transceiver.

Also the PINE64 is a very cheap and poewrful alternative, with 1 GB RAM at 19$: https://www.pine64.com/product#pricing


There are a lot of SBCs (Single Board Computers) similar or competitive to the Raspberry Pi that will fulfill your requests. They are pretty broad, and the market is pretty hot right now, so you have lots of options. Like most, I've played around mostly with Raspberry Pis of various sort. Aside from the B, B+, and 2, you have:

  1. I have an ODROID C1+, and it has greater specs than the Raspberry Pi 2, with which it competes. I loaded Android to it, but it also has Ubuntu available.
  2. I have a Beaglebone (I don't think it's the black version though), but I have not done anything with it. It's somewhat competitive in features with Raspberry Pis, I think the original B and the B+. This device is usually meant to run headless, though they do have HDMI ports.
  3. I have a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is neat. I don't think it has any lower power conspumption, and it's required adapters may negate the savings of the board itself, but it is physically small, which may be a boon for your project.
  4. I have looked at the Banana Pi whilest browsing SBCs.
  5. Continuing with the fruit pies, is the Orange Pi, another full featured cheap SBC, though this one makes a point of being extremely low cost.
  6. The pcDuino combines an arduino and PC components and has various flavors including USB ports.
  7. The CHIP computer is a $9 SBC that hasn't started fully shipping yet, but it's another low cost, low power SBC sure to catch your eye. They should start taking regular orders in the fall if I recall correctly.

SBCs all have slightly different features, which is good and bad. I have come across a blog that keeps up with all sorts of little devices called Liliputing. You could scroll through it and see if there are any other devices which might suit your tastes.


Mark mentioned community support. I've seen some grumblings in the FOSS communities that people don't understand the allure of the Raspberry Pi, because there are more powerful, more feature rich alternatives. Keep in mind that while the community is large, a good chunk of it are n00bs asking the same questions over and over again presumably getting stuck on known issues. Those known issues can be with the OS, the board, or while they are trying to realign the squishy parts to wrap their squishy part around the concept of Linux and/or Linux around the Pi. My point is that a community of problems is not a beneficial community to the newcomer. I'm a newcomer, and this is my gripe. Also, I imagine that a lot fo Raspberry Pi How tos will work on other similar SBCs.

  • Note that apart from the Beaglebone, none of these has anything like the Pi's community or track record.
    – Mark
    Mar 3, 2016 at 22:46

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