When the Raspberry Pi came on the scene it was hard to imagine that you could get a fairly complete Linux system for such a low price. The Pi has gotten bigger, of course, but there are still a few things you miss when you try to put one into a project. Wifi, comes to mind, for example. The first thing you usually do is plug a Wifi dongle in, consuming one of the two USB ports.
The Orange Pi is a direct competitor and has a few variants. Originally, the board cost about $30 but sports WiFi, a 1.6 GHz processor, 8 GB of flash, and a SATA interface. There’s now a reduced version of the board for about $15 that deletes the flash and SATA along with the WiFi and one of the original’s 4 USB ports. Still, the Raspberry Pi doesn’t have built-in flash. And the $15 Orange Pi PC has the things you’d expect on a Pi (HDMI and Ethernet) along with other extras like an IR receiver and an on-board microphone. Not bad for $15 considering it has a quad-core processor, a GPU and 1GB of RAM.
The Orange Pi PC is compatible with the operating system loads intended for its big brother, so you can run Lubuntu, Android, Raspbian, and more. You can find some manuals and other tools there as well. Of course, if you are looking for community support, you’ll probably find more Raspberry Pi users, forums, and projects–at least for now.
You can see Debian running on a very similar Orange Pi in the video below. The actual hardware in use is the Orange Pi Mini 2, which has an extra USB port, but is otherwise nearly identical to the PC. Personally, for most projects we’d rather spend a little more and get the onboard WiFi (just about every Raspberry Pi project we cover has Wifi). But if you don’t need WiFi, it is hard to beat $15 for a pretty capable little single board computer.