The Raspberry Pi micro PC started as a program aimed at teaching UK schoolkids about computing, but has also taken off in the business market, including in digital signage, because it offers the prospect of a serviceable computer for $35-$45.
Even $45 seems crazily cheap for a basic PC, but there’s a crowd out there that will find that cost too high, and will be all over news of a $15clone.
The nutty race to the bottom on the cost of computer components now sees a Raspberry Pi knockoff, called an Orange Pi (sooo clever), selling on the Chinese online tech store Aliexpress for less than $20 with shipping (they’ll mail it from Shenzhen).
For that, you get a single-board computer that can run Android 4.4, or the Ubuntu or Debian versions of Linux. The units have an Allwinner Quad-core Cortex-A7 H.265/HEVC 4K CPU, a Mali graphics chip and 1GB DDR3 SDRAM.
Like the Raspberry Pis, you’ll still have to buy a case (or 3D print one) and a power supply, so it’s more like $40-$50 all-in.
A post I have had up for years now still gets 100s of page views a day from people looking for Raspberry Pi digital signage options, so there is a market out there for these ultra low-cost devices. When you are already spending less than $50 on a computer for your signage project, I’m not really sure what the attraction or motivation is to trim out even more costs, but there’s a crowd out there that will try.
A device with just a gig of RAM, even with a dedicated graphics chip, is not going to do much more than full-screen video and jpegs, but then, that’s all a lot of basic small business signs ever will need to do. You’re also not going to see anything like the developer community and information sharing that exists for the Raspberry Pi.