The Arduino popularized the use of microcontrollers by (almost) everyone with an easy to
use software development system and relatively simple hardware design features. While inexpensive, it is a low end controller board (20 Mhz to 80 Mhz clock speeds) but with plenty of analogy and digital i/o pins.
Since then, newer, faster boards have become available from others including the Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone Black boards.
The Raspberry Pi features a 700 Mhz processor, 512 MB RAM and a GPU that can decode 1080p30 h.264 video streams, HDMI output, Ethernet and USB ports and 8 digital i/o pins.
The BeagleBone runs a 1 Ghz clock speed processor and is similar but has 63 digital i/o pins. Both support flavors of HD video although only the Raspberry Pi supports up to 1920×1080.
Both of these are quite a bit more powerful than Arduino boards and can be programmed in most any programming language including Java, C, C++, Python, Perl, etc since you can install Linux on the boards. Obviously, these high end boards target a different need than the Arduino.
A comparison of the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone Black is here at MAKE.
You need an HDMI input TV or monitor (potentially with an HDMI to DVI converter); the Raspberry Pi also supports a composite video output.
- Raspberry Pi boards can be purchased for about $40 from Amazon: RASPBERRY PI MODEL B 700Mhz; 512Mb RAM (this is a bare board – extra parts needed to put to use)
- BeagleBone Black boards (different system, 1 Ghz clock speed) about $55: BeagleBone Black DevKit (this is a bare board – extra parts needed to put to use)
- A complete RaspberryPi kit with all the parts needed to make it functional and build some stuff is here: