It's the 21st Century, almost every office or enterprise is equipped with a desktop computer for managing their tasks and business, everywhere from small businesses to multi-billion conglomerates.
Smaller business owners need to manage their expenses more diligently, and when expanding one of the major expenses is in the need to set up computers for their employees to work, for various things such as typing up documents, calculating business finances, communicating via email, video conferences, etc.
A lot of money may have to be spent when having to set up such computers, with appropriate infrastructure, desktops, accessories, etc.
But as of today, a lot more affordable, efficient and cheaper computing options have entered the market. Such as single board computers (SBCs), which serve the same purpose as a large tower PC, but have all the necessary components on a single board, making it compact and cost-efficient.
But what difference does it make between buying a larger desktop and smaller single board computer?
Typical Desktop PCs are large, bulky, and consume a lot of power (usually 200-300w typical).
Single board Computers (SBCs) are tiny, often the size of your palm or credit card!
Lightweight, and extremely power efficient and can run on off a simple phone charger (10-15w).
They don't need a lot of dedicated space and can be stashed behind the desk monitor if needed, reducing the bulk present in a office cubicle or desk
They have similar ports to desktop PCs such as standard USBs, Ethernet for network, HDMI for displays etc.
Furthermore, they don't require any assembly and can work out of the box, with important components such as the RAM, CPU, GPU etc. are all in a single chip called a "SoC" or System on a chip, similar to ones you would have in your phone or tablet.
Most SBCs come with a small amount of storage onboard for running the operating system, but more storage can be added easily without much hassle and can even be done by end users.
Compare this to a typical Desktop PC which requires a lot more maintenance and IT support when it comes to using it for a long time. SBCs are much simpler, making them much more reliable and issues can be solved with the extensive documentation and FAQ available online.
There are many types of SBCs, x86 based ones running Intel or AMD processors which are quite similar to desktop PCs, can run windows, and almost have the same experience as desktop PCs but are much cheaper and efficient.
There are also ARM powered SBCs, which are much cheaper than x86, extremely efficient (these are the same ones that run in your phone), fast and snappy, but have a slightly different desktop experience, usually running Linux. Which is an operating system providing a very lightweight experience.
In a wrap, single board Computers are a great alternative for simple desktop PCs for doing the same thing, but it all boils down to what kind of software you will be running in your establishments.
Windows is the most popular operating system in the world, and so using an x86 based single board Computer will make no difference at all, as such it will be just like using a typical desktop PC.
But ARM SBCs are a bit different in the sense they run some versions of the Linux Operating system. ARM architecture is only becoming popular on the desktop front very recently (As seen with Apple's new M1 and M2 ARM-based Processors)
Not all software has been ported to work with these devices, but most everyday software does work, and there are free versions of more popular software available.
There is even Visual Studio Code for those who are involved in writing programs and need an IDE for programming (This makes it possible for SBCs to be a work computer for IT individuals too)
It's possible to check if the software you need is available or not by checking if the company making the programs available has a copy of the software made specifically for "ARM Linux"
Most open-source applications have some version made in ARM for them, most proprietary applications might not have versions made for ARM Linux.
So definitely, ARM based SBCs have their way with being able to serve almost everyone's preferences, costing only a fraction of large Desktops, and being multitudes more efficient!
A typical desktop PC will cost upwards of 400-500$ without any accessories and other peripherals like a monitor, keyboard, mouse etc.
x86 based SBCs are around 250-400$ in price, add to that the much lower power consumption compared to desktops, you could save up to 80% of the power consumed by a traditional desktop PC which will rack up savings over time.
ARM based SBCs take a step further, costing anywhere from 50-250$ in price, and being even more efficient, you could save as much as 90% of the power consumed from a traditional desktop PC.
Undoubtedly, going for SBCs as replacement desktop alternative can have large savings that save much more money over time.
If you are interested in replacing your office desktops with a more compact and efficient SBC, here are a couple of options to look at:
1 .Raspberry Pi 4b: very popular ARM single board computer
BCM2711 Quad core processor, up to 8GB ram, 90$ MSRP
2. Firefly ROC-PC: current flagship ARM single board computer
RK3588 Octa core processor, up to 8GB ram, 299$ MSRP
3. Khadas VIM4: ultra compact, fast single board computer
A311D2 Octa core processor, up to 8GB ram, 240$ MSRP
4. SeeedStudio Re_Computer: Affordable x86 SBC
Intel Celeron J4105, up to 8GB ram, 128GB SSD, 270$ MSRP