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$45 BeagleBone Black is a more powerful Raspberry Pi alternative

BeagleBoneBlack01_smallThe mini-computer market just got a bit more crowded today. DIYers and students looking for an affordable single-board computer that packs a little more punch than the Raspberry Pi – but who don’t need all the bells and whistles of the UDOO – should take a look at the $45 BeagleBone Black announced today by the BeagleBoard.org community.

About the size of a credit card, the BeagleBone Black is game for anything, including your robot-making projects. BeagleBoard co-founder Jason Kridner told Ars Technica that it’s essentially a Linux computer with a powerful 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor from Texas Instrument (SitaraTM AM335x), 512MB RAM, and 2GB of on-board storage.

Unlike the Raspberry Pi which relies on its SD Card slot to load software (including its operating system), Linux and Cloud9 IDE are preloaded onto this BeagleBoard so it frees up its microSD Card slot for whatever you need. It even offers an upgraded Web interface for Arduino-like controls. The mini-computer also supports other flavors of Linux like Ubuntu and Fedora, as well as Android for users who need a development device for the mobile platform.

Other connectors and ports that are baked onto the BeagleBone Black board include Ethernet, USB, micro-HDMI to plug into your HDTV, and two 46-pin headers that are compatible with over 30 plug-in boards called “capes.” These capes are especially useful if you’re working on more advanced projects that need a LCD touchscreen, for example.

The BeagleBoard community has been putting together low-cost mini-computers for education and development since 2008, so it has an experienced crop of DIYers and hobbyists to help you with your projects. In fact, its most recent effort was the $90 BeagleBone computer with a 720MHz processor that was released in 2011.

At half the price and with a more powerful processor than its predecessor, the $45 BeagleBone Black is available now in limited quantity from select distributors, with more units available in May.