Best Single Board Computer For Gaming

Single Board Computers (SBCs) have as of recent years, gained a huge following thanks to the advent of Raspberry Pi and are now being used for a countless number of purposes including hobbyist robotics, music playing, programming and more.

Among all these uses, gaming especially has become a dominant mainstay when it comes to SBC usage among users (especially when it comes to retro gaming) and unsurprisingly, many around the world now flock to get an SBC of their own for this very purpose.

From Arduino to ASUS to NVIDIA, there are as many stars in our night’s sky as there are brands out there, all providing their own type of SBC. While variety is the spice of life, it isn’t always a force for good. In full honesty, this can be a tricky maze to navigate – they all look the same and claim to somewhat do the same thing so surely, they aren’t too different from each other right?

Unfortunately, this belief couldn’t be more wrong. Between each SBC are a myriad of nuances and variations that separates one SBC from the other so to help you pick a suitable SBC of your own for gaming needs, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best products you can get right now. Read on to find out more!

Best Single Board Computer For Gaming

Raspberry SC15184 Pi 4 Model B 2019 Quad Core

Raspberry SC15184 Pi 4 Model B 2019 Quad Core 64 Bit WiFi...

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The Raspberry Pi 4 is often touted as one of the best SBCs out there in the market right now for good reason – not only is this product at the top of the line when it comes to pure specs, but it also happens to be backed by a huge army of users who flood the internet with guides, tutorials and forums.

Anyone would be able to pick one up and start gaming, even beginners, when it comes to the Raspberry Pi. With a Broadcom VideoCore VI GPU @500MHz, a Broadcom BCM2711 CPU along with either 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, while this isn’t the flashiest or most compact SBC by any means compared to the competition, you’ll still be able to do any kind of retro gaming your heart desires.

And even if you’re looking for some additional power to speed up your Raspberry Pi, you can even purchase a Coral USB Accelerator to juice things up.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board

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Before you pull out the pitchfork and accuse us of even suggesting a more outdated Raspberry Pi model, hear us out for a hot second. We concede that the Raspberry Pi 3 may be older and is often outclassed by its more recent counterpart but for its lower price point, you’ll still be surprised at what this SBC can do in way of gaming.

With its HDMI compatibility (which the Raspberry Pi 4 lacks), range of available accessories and lower power consumption, you’ll be able to do almost anything the Raspberry Pi 4 could do.

Sure, it being lower speced may imply that it would be slower in theory given it’s 250-400MHz VideoCore IV GPU and 1.4GHz Quad core Cortex-A53, but unless you plan on pushing your SBC to what is technologically possible, you probably won’t notice too much of a difference!

Orange Pi 4 Single Board Computer 6-Core ARM 64 Bit

Orange Pi 4 Single Board Computer 6-Core ARM 64 Bit...

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One frequently cited alternative to the Raspberry Pi is – we’re still in the domain of fruity names here – the Orange Pi 4 which comes equipped with all you need for high-performance activities through its Rockchip RK3399 CPU, Mali-T864 GPU and whooping 4GB of RAM.

All this paired with its 16GB EMMC flash in-built storage practically guarantees that you’ll be able to easily support all your gaming desires in one fell swoop.

It also natively supports Android OS by default, but it shouldn’t be too tricky to opt for an alternate OS though what this means is that if you’re sticking to Android-supported games like Alto’s Adventure or even Minecraft or something more retro, you shouldn’t be facing any problems.

SmartFly info Rock Pi 4B RK3399 Single Board Computer Kit

SmartFly info Rock Pi 4B RK3399 Single Board Computer Kit...

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Impressively equipped with a Dual Cortex-A72 CPU and a Mali T860MP4 GPU along with up to 4GB of RAM, you’ll be pleased to find that the Rock Pi 4B is able to outperform even the Raspberry Pi 4 when it comes to raw CPU and GPU performance. And along with its identical weight, size and layout, it might just make for the perfect alternative if that’s what you’re looking for.

Now while its capability as a gaming SBC goes without saying, one thing you should seriously consider is the Rock Pi 4B’s lack of community support. Sure, it may make for an impressive SBC but the reality is simply that it isn’t as popular as the Raspberry PI just yet so beginners especially may find it especially tricky to find help online when facing a problem.

This paired with its slightly steeper price point may put-off some users but nonetheless, we still fully advocate for the Rock PI 4B’s impressive performance potential if given the opportunity.

ASUS SBC Tinker board RK3288 SoC 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU

ASUS SBC Tinker board RK3288 SoC 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU,...

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When it comes to reliability, then say no more for ASUS may just be one of the most trustworthy brads on our list. With a solid reputation painstakingly built by delivering high-quality products throughout the past decades, no one can say that this isn’t well earned.

Likewise, the ASUS Tinker Board encapsulates this quality by providing users with a powerful SBC featuring the universally loved 40-pin connector, 16GB eMMC, a high performance Quadcore ARM SOC 1.8GHz and up to 2GB of RAM. Along with its intentionally DIV friendly design (e.g. colour coded GPIO headers), even complete novices would stand to benefit from the Tinker Board.

However, there are two caveats to note: that it’s definitely one of the more expensive options on our list and that it lacks the huge range of software and community support you’d find with alternatives like Raspberry Pi.

NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit

NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit

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An equally reputable brand that has forged its global presence by producing nothing but the best when it comes to GPUs, NVIDIA’s stake in the SBC market is best represented through their Jetson Nano Kit.

Perhaps one of the most versatile products on our list, this product will not only be able to blast through any sort of SBC gaming you have in mind, but you’ll also be able to play around with all sorts of AI and machine learning applications as well!

This is all of course primarily supported by its impressive 4GB of RAM and 128 CUDA-core GPU though this comes at the cost of having a relatively high price point – $140.99 to be exact. Regardless, if you’re especially looking for an SBC that can not only satisfy your itch for gaming but do a whole set of other tasks, then consider the Jetson Nano as one of your best options right now.

 

Arduino MEGA 2560 REV3 [A000067]

Arduino MEGA 2560 REV3 [A000067]

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Though the Arduino Mega 2650 was most intended for robotics and 3D printers, it’ll still be able to do just about any standard gaming task you may be craving for. And coupled with its far more palatable price point when compared to the alternatives presented by NVIDIA and ASUS above, the Arduino MEGA makes for a good, solid competitor.

This little microcontroller powered with a 16GHz clock speed along with 54 digital pins and a flash memory of 256KB won’t exactly do you any favors if you intend on banging out the most graphically demanding games out there. But so long as you stick to more retro titles (think along the lines of Pong, Asteroids, Lunar Lander and Tank), you should be able to do just fine.

 

Khadas VIM3 Pro Single Board Computer SBC Amlogic

youyeetoo Khadas VIM3 Pro Single Board Computer SBC Amlogic...

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Another product that packs a powerful punch albeit from a small bag is the Khadas VIM3 Pro. With its in-built flash storage and NVMe SSD support in the form of a convenient little slot, this thing is not only able to perform as a respectable 4K movie player but can also be used for demanding tasks that require neural network inferences thanks to its pre-fitted neural processing unit.

Accordingly, it goes without saying that if you can afford its price point, transforming this SBC into a little nifty gaming device shouldn’t be too much of an issue and will certainly live up to its purpose and then some.

Buying Guide for Gaming Single Board Computers

So now that you’ve come to the end of our list and (hopefully) have read through all our suggestions, you still might have that lingering question floating around in your head – so which is the best SBC out there for gaming?

If there’s one thing you should have realized is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this deceptively simple question as each SBC we’ve reviewed all tend to do different things a little better and worse than each other such as the Jetson Nano when it comes to machine learning or even the Khadas when it comes to streaming movies.

Everything really just boils down to your specific needs including what you’re looking for, what your budget is and your level of technical knowhow. Breaking these three things down plainly, first off if you’re looking to whip out an SBC to load on and enjoy more recent game titles, you probably won’t be able to deal with this task through less equipped SBCs like the Arduino MEGA.

Conversely, if all you’re looking to do is convert your SBC into a retro gaming emulator then you won’t need something as powerful as the Tinker Board. This plays into our second point, budget. It may be tempting to pull out your wallet and purchase the priciest SBC on our list, thinking that higher prices means better performance (you’re not technically wrong), but this again, depends on what you’re looking for.

It could be overkill if all you’re looking to do is playing titles released in the 1960s. And thirdly if you’re a seasoned veteran to the SBC scene, you don’t need to worry about this but if you’re a beginner, having a large and active online community to support you through your journey is imperative so opting for a popular option like the Raspberry Pi would make the most sense. After all, nobody wants to deal with bugs as a novice and not have some needed help!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a Single Board Computer?

People often think of Raspberry Pis when the words Single Board Computer springs up and they’re not wrong. Much unlike your traditional motherboards, SBCs work as minicomputers that come equipped with all required functionalities (e.g. has in-built memory, a processor) fitted onto a single circuit board.

They’re just smaller, lighter and far cheaper than the larger alternatives out there though this comes at the obvious cost of being less powerful.

Why should I even consider using a Single Board Computer?

SBCs because they are more niche than motherboards, are often produced less frequently thus attracting a slightly higher price due to the law of supply and demand so this is a fair question. Now why you should consider SBCs is because it’s not just easy to use and small in size but is highly adaptable and customizable to your exact needs whether it be gaming or streaming Netflix, browsing the internet or even running entire scientific experiments.

Additionally, the fact that SBCs can both run on less power and are priced far cheaper than normal desktops adds a whole new dimension of affordability into the mix. You get exactly what you pay for when it comes to SBCs!