Banana Pi was created to fill the need for more powerful hardware than the Raspberry Pi supplied. There are a lot of single board computers spinning of the Raspberry Pi success. Even though Raspberry Pi got the throne much thanks to it's simplicity and relatively ease of use, compared to for example the Odroid, it has been lacking hardware vice for some applications. Raspberry has maintained it's position thanks to it's growing community and further development. With the release of the Raspberry Pi 3 they have at least done a good catch up in terms of performance but are still lacking in other hardware areas.
The Banana Pi I used for the first time today is the very first Banana Pi. This particular one is a bit of a globe-trotter! I ordered it from Chine over a year ago, while I was still living in Sweden. Un-boxed it, put it in it's case and put it away in a drawer. When a moved to California last year it got stuffed in one of the moving boxes and I finally had time to use it. Even though it's first generation and old it still leaves the Raspberry Pi behind in some ways. Back in the day the dual core 1Ghz processor was a step up from the Raspberry Pi so was the 1Gb memory that was twice the size of what the Raspberry offered at the time.
Putting the Banana Pi along side the Raspberry Pi 3 we see that Raspberry is back on the throne when it comes to performance. It has also added on board wifi and bluetooth which makes wonders for my bedroom Kodi install but the Banana Pi isn't beaten yet if you ask me. It still have a 1Gbit ethernet port while the Raspberry still only supplies you with 100Mbit. Why would this matter? When I started testing BitTorrent Syncing for my geo-location backup I ended up not using a Raspberry Pi for just that reason. Since my data was on a NAS the indexing of files over a 100Mbit connection was just to slow. In the end the 1Gbit ethernet connection on a Odroid-C1 performed so much better then the Raspberry Pi.
Another feature that I really like with the Banana Pi is the SATA port and SATA power connector included on the board. The ability to connect a SATA hard drive directly to the board without using USB opens up for some interesting implementations. In the end I really like Raspberry Pi and Odroid and Banana Pi.... They all share a great base to stand on and are good for different applications. The Raspberry Pi is my first choice for "mainstream" applications like Kodi, OpenVpn servers or Transmission bittorrent servers. But when it comes to building the little more specialized stuff there are other, and some times better, options out there.
When I did the first run of the Odroid (also over a year after I bought it!) I realized it was a bit more complicated then the Raspberry Pi. No sleek easy config tools already on the image. Not as much safety nets to prevent you from messing up your kernel etcetera. So taking out my Banana Pi I expected the same! First I realized that Raspbian is available for the Banana Pi as well! And the sleek easy, step by step setup and configuration was available as well!
If you have ever used the CLI config tool on the Raspberry Pi you will feel right at home! One addition that I really liked is that it forces you to change the root password, in my opinion that should be implemented on the Raspberry Pi as well! You would be amazed how many unsecure Raspberry Pi's there are connected to the internet with SSH ports available. When I first started looking into that I was actually surprised since this isn't something that the regular consumer buys and plugs in to there network.
The tool will also let you configure the following:
- set your timezone
- set your locale
- set your hostname
- set which hardware your on, Banana Pi - Banana Pro etc...
- expand your root file system
Then just reboot the system and make sure that everything is up to date!
apt-get update apt-get upgrade
From what I have read so far, and tested my self, you can more or less run anything on the Banana as you can do on the Raspberry. I'm really looking forward to setting up some implementation utilizing the SATA port. What are your thoughts on this feel free to comment either here or on Google+.