The Internet of Things or IoT is a term that describes smart devices. Generally, this includes a connection to the internet, although this isn’t necessarily required. Most people will be aware of prebuilt IoT products such as smart speakers but it’s also possible to build your own. As part of this, you need an IoT microprocessor, mounted on a circuit board. We’ve drawn up a list of our top 5 cheap IoT boards, to help you start your own IoT project.
Note: All prices are in US Dollars from Amazon US except where otherwise specified, for new models offered by official sellers and are correct at the time of writing.
The ESP32 costs $10.99 and features Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth. It has a single processing core and also offers a number of RF enhancements such as a balun, amplifiers, and filters. It’s designed to work with the Arduino IDE, or Integrated Development Environment.
Nvidia Jetson Nano
The Nvidia Jetson Nano costs $99.00 making it a more expensive option but it’s designed specifically for AI workloads. The Jetson Nano uses a 128 CUDA-core Maxwell-based GPU to accelerate the neural networking and deep learning tasks it’s designed for. The 4GB of memory is intended to provide ample storage space for the datasets being processed. The board includes a decent selection of IO including USB, HDMI, and gigabit ethernet.
Raspberry Pi 4
Image courtesy of PiShop.us.
The Raspberry Pi 4 costs $35 for the 2GB RAM variant. It’s probably the best known IoT computers packing a lot of processing power in for a low price. The CPU is a 64-bit quad-core running at 1.5GHz. It supports dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Gigabit ethernet.
You should be aware that this is just the board and doesn’t include a power cable, Micro-HDMI adaptor, or a Class 10Micro SD card that serves as the hard drive.
The Adafruit Flora costs $15.60 and is designed for use with “wearables”. Wearables are IoT devices that are designed to be embedded in an item of clothing. It’s just 44mm across and weighs 4.4 grams. The connector pads around the outside are designed to work with conductive thread and alligator clips.
Raspberry Pi Zero W
The Raspberry Pi Zero W costs $10. It includes a built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip, an SD card slot, Mini-HDMI port, and dual micro USB ports. The Pi Zero W has a 1GHz single-core CPU and 512MB of RAM.
Like the full-size Raspberry Pi, you need to purchase a separate 5V power supply, SD card, and other adaptors to be able to use this IoT board.