BeagleBone Blacks Still Not Available, Here’s Blue Steel


The BeagleBone Black has been featured in an improbable number of awesome project, ranging from driving thousands of LEDs for a video display, to 3D printer controller boards. There’s a lot you can do with a tiny Linux board that’s much more powerful than the Raspberry Pi – if you can find one, that is. The BeagleBone Black has been out of stock everywhere for months now, with little sign of when distributors will receive some new stock.

Luckily, the BeagleBone Black is open source. Anyone can make them. Finally, someone did. It’s called Blue Steel, and notwithstanding the inevitable Zoolander references, it’s pretty much the same as the BeagleBone Black we all know and love.

There are a few differences between Blue Steel and the BeagleBone Black: Blue Steel doesn’t have an HDMI output, and the 4GB of on-board Flash featured on the BeagleBone isn’t found on Blue Steel. Still, it has the same processor, same amount of RAM, and the same connectors found in the BeagleBone Black.

You can pre-order Blue Steel here, with the boards eventually shipping at the end of the month. It’s the same price as the BeagleBone Black, not ideal considering the missing HDMI port and Flash storage. Still, you can actually buy it now, something you can’t say about the BeagleBone.

63 thoughts on “BeagleBone Blacks Still Not Available, Here’s Blue Steel

    1. I would guess that they’re “scalping” the BBBs – buying a bunch up, drying up the supplies at the normal distributors and selling them at a higher price, taking advantage of a shortage they’re helping create.

    1. They had 100+ of the 4GB version in stock a couple weeks ago. This board seems too popular for 3+ boardhouses to keep up with it. It doesn’t help that it’s a low margin product. Supposedly, before the upgrade + price increase, it was a zero margin (breakeven) product.

  1. I think the text is a bit misleading, BlueSteel is made by CircuitCo which also produces the BBB , it is a stripped down version that exposes more pins as HDMI and eMMC is not populated. There are a few full-blown BBB clones (even rev C) by Element14, Embest and obviously non-branded Chinese shops. The official one is indeed out of stock everywhere…

    1. I think the big irk most people have with it is its lack of open-source schematics. Not that I mind personally. I have one sitting on my desk right now, waiting to become the new brain of my RPi laptop.

      Another problem for some would be the lack of a sizeable amount of I/O. It has some, but nowhere near as many as the beaglebone or an arduino mega.

      Don’t forget the Odroid has relatively high-power, functional 3D acceleration on standard linux! That’s a pretty awesome feature for a board in that price range.

      1. There’s also the extremely poor quality of Samsung’s opensource software support for the Exynos chipset family.

        Hardkernel is even worse, since they provide their Android BSPs as 2GB megatarballs. Last but not least, back when Hardkernel first started publishing Jellybean builds for the previous Odroid-U2, they were violating the GPL for months by not providing any kernel source.

  2. What’s so special about the Beaglebone? There are tons of linux based boards out there, readily available and cheaper.

    I am just delving into embedded Linux, so this is a sincere question.

    1. The CPU has some PRU’s, small realtime cores that can be controlled from the main CPU. Means you don’t have to hook up an arduino or other 8 bit micro.

      I agree if you just want an ARM core faster than the RPi there’s other boards, not many good quality ones (e.g. not Allwinner) in the same price category though. RiOT board looks like a good alternative.

    2. Device Trees, Capemanager, Multiple Timers(for PWM and ICP), Multiple Uarts, Multiple i2c, Multiple spi, A/D Converters, a managed Linuxkernel, 3,3V I/O not 1,8V, Multiple Realtime Units, Usefull Datasheets of the Chips used, A Powermgmt and PowerControl Chip on the Board with PWR_GOOD, Multiple CAN Bus, and other Stuff.

    1. Not a great loss: BBB’s video output is limited to 1280×1024, therefore no 1080p, and small HDMI capable monitors aren’t that cheap. I never understood why they chose a limited HDMI over a VGA.

      1. You can pick up 720p 7″ LCDs with HDMI boards and USB touch for under $40!

        It would be nice if there was a more industry standard way of talking to displays low level. I find very little success re-using old displays. Perhaps more panels will start coming with eDisplayPort?

      2. There is more to the world than using a small Linux board for video. I have used BBBs in small industrial control projects, for prototyping a consumer product, etc. At some point with all of those project I have attached a monitor to the BBB so I could configure something or debug the code in the field directly. I could care less if it could play 1080p video directly.

        My RaspberryPi makes a really lousy coaster though…

  3. Sadly the embedded flash is one thing that makes it better than a Raspberry Pi – even though a Black costs ~$5 more than a Pi, on a Black you don’t need an SD card to boot linux, it’s shipped there in the flash – real costs are about the same – plus when you plug it in out of the box linux is already there, it boots, comes up, in 30 seconds – faster than the SD card

    The other reason IMHO it’s better than a Pi is the mechanical setup for capes – more like an arduino shield with two sets of connectors, the single Pi GPIO connector can be a bit wobbly – capes carry an standard i2c rom interface that can be shipped to load drivers/etc

  4. Adafruit recently started selling the BBB Rev C, which now has 4GB of flash and runs Debian by default. They get a shipment in every once in a while, you just have to request to be notified. They are in stock right now, actually They’ve had them in stock for at least two weeks.

    Sparkfun is also taking backorders, and expects some on July 23rd. Come on HaD.

    1. Come on HAD, what? There isn’t a shortage? There is a shortage! it’s been talked about weeks now. Just because some larger, more influential(sp?) shops got their hands on some doesn’t mean it not true. I don’t think it’s HaD’s job to scan the web to see if any shops still have them. and as you pointed out sparkfun is taking backorders. That itself implies it may be a shortage….

  5. Really, they are expecting to sell this at rev. C price? (55$)
    I bought a rev. A5C at 45$ and still it has HDMI and 2GB eMMC… I don’t see why they would sell this cut-down version at full price (other than for marketing purposes).

    1. They have said the standard beaglebones will not be supported for use as a component in a product. This new board is targeted specifically at people that want to embed a beaglebone into a product. There is an industrial temp grade version coming out too.
      So people that want to embed beaglebones into their products don’t get low profit margin price that is intended for hobbyists but get something they can use within a product. If you’re embedding a beaglebone you might want to use the GPMC which can be done on the BBB but is hacky. You probably don’t want the HDMI output either.

      It’s like every time a vendor in this market comes out with something that isn’t targeted at the readership of sites like this people get on their “why didn’t they make it exactly like I would want it” soap box.

        1. Look at the price difference in kits like the Launchpad and proper evaluation kits for the same chip.. launchpad ~$20, evaluation kit ~$300. Different target, different price.
          Of course it’s going to be more expensive (relatively) if they are going to support it’s use in other people’s products.

      1. May be the people/companies using it inside products are the ones that have been buying it in large volume drying up the supplies and making it hard for individuals.

        Separating out the markets seems like a reasonably way to do it. One have to pay for the parts and cost for a production run ahead of a sale. (i.e. one have to be the bank!) Higher volume embedded might also mean that the inventory level has to be higher, but might also have a higher risk of the larger stock sitting on the shelf if the customer(s) decided to buy something else shiny.

        1. That’s exactly what was happening, which is why they decided to introduce a stripped down version and changed the eula to exempt production use.

          it’s started happening to the PI as well, which is why I think it was the main reason for the new raspi compute module.

    1. And from a quick search, the Wandboard is twice as expensive as the BBB, and larger. There is no one board to rule them all. Each board is a balance of price, form factors, and features. The RPi and BBB hit the sweet spot for a lot of different uses, but they aren’t for everyone.

      If I wanted to build a small server, or HTPC, or needed advanced I/O, then I would consider the WantBoard or the like. However the vast majority of projects I do the RPi/BBB are more power than I need.

      And on projects where size is a factor even those are too big and then I use the Aria G25 ( And if/when the Intel Edison SD sized computer becomes available I will take a serious look at them.

      1. I agree on the “right part for the right task”.

        There’s plenty of wiggle room, but in many cases, I think a specific board is shoehorned very aggressively into a project when a different one would serve the task better.

    1. So $20 to $30 more expensive, doesn’t appear to be an official clone, and you have to wait for it to arrive from china.

      Can we agree that the post was somewhat incorrect. It isn’t out of stock, it is just in high demand, in short supply, and you may have to pay extra. Is that ok?

  6. To the people disputing the supply of BeagleBone Blacks, I would just like to point out the following: Mouser, Digikey, and Newark/Element14 are all out of stock. Adafruit, Arrow, whatever places that seem to have them are in limited supply and restricting the amount you can buy.

    So if you are like me and need 5 of them for a client, well then it feels pretty out of stock. I found a way to get all 5, which involved buying from three different vendors, pulling my only spare, and buying one from a friend with the promise to replace it.

    1. >So if you are like me and need 5 of them for a client,

      So you’re doing exactly what you’ve been told not to do with the beaglebone (commercial project) and bitching because people that are buying up stock to use in commercial projects are draining the stock so there are none available…

      1. Wait a minute now. No one forbids you to use them in commercial project it is just that they don’t certify them for that — because CircuitCo/TI doesn’t want the liability. There is a big difference between the two.

        Nor am I bitching about anything, I was pointing out the situation to those who said there was no problem with the BBB supply. I wish there weren’t a supply problem, but those who deny there is a problem are simply wrong.

        Last year I bought 7 BBBs clients, this year I bought 6. I made some custom capes for them and retrofitted some very old industrial machinery to have modern UIs and connect to a network so job files can be shared.

        So yeah, I am the problem….

  7. the benefits are:

    * no restrictions on commercial usage
    * volume price discounts
    * all I/O is available on the expansion header
    * Commercial Third Party SDKs

    as an OEM/ODM developer, the BeagleBone Black present a great starting point, however it does present a number of obstacles, in that has significant restrictions on the use of the BeagleBoard logo. In addition, there a limited set of authorized distributors who can sell BeagleBone Black, and are limited in the number of boards they can sell to a single customer. Another aspect is that most OEM/ODM developers who are including the BeagleBone Black (in violation of the terms of use) want to have the full set of I/O on the expansion header so that they can implement their own features on a daughter board. it is far easier to add a feature you need on a daughter board, than to take one off you don’t need off the main board. In addition, many third party SDK vendors have not advertised or released support for BBB, since they see no direct way to commercialize it as a product. since BlueSteel is intended to directly be used by OEMs and ODMs, these third party SDK now have incentive to come on board with offering support and products for BlueSteel.

    couple of links and info:

    1. I see what you mean, but so far, it looks like you’re the first to air that impression, so I don’t think there was much confusion on that. It’s just that the demand has been exceeding supply that they’ve been a bit hard to get.

          1. OK, that makes sense. But those figures do somewhat bear out the issue. The numbers for the two months where rev C was available, the numbers are down by 5,000 a month vs. the months before, about a 40% less produced a month.

    1. The last time I looked at Radio Shack they had a $90 version that included a lot of stuff that would be handy for someone just getting started, but many/most HAD readers wouldn’t need. It doesn’t really address the general shortage of BBBs out there…

  8. Has anyone checked out the shipping costs of the Blue Steel? BoardZoo wants to charge the following rates to ship a single board from Texas to Virginia. Insane!

    United Parcel Service (Shipping & Handling) – Please allow 1-2 business days for the order to be processed UPS Ground $19.50
    UPS Second Day Air $36.88
    UPS Next Day Air $77.10
    Pick up at Facility (Richardson, TX) Free $0.00

  9. After looking around for stock I got my BBB revC from Special Computing a couple of weeks ago, shipped straight away, no problem. They appear to still be in stock there.

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