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A single-board computer (SBC) is a computer which is a complete computer in which a single circuit board comprises memory, input/output, a microprocessor and all other necessary features. However, unlike a personal computer, it does not rely on expansions for other functions. A single-board computer reduces the system's overall cost as the number of circuit boards, connectors and driver circuits are all reduced.
Single-board computers are designed differently from standard desktop or personal computers, as they are completely self-contained. They often make use of a wide range of microprocessors and have increased density for the integrated circuits used. They are currently available in two configurations, namely with slot support or no slot support. They are also available with a wide range of capacities, although some are slow and limited compared to personal computers, as they are used to control simple processes.
There are many advantages to using single-board computers. Their features are well integrated due to nearly everything being native to the machine. Slots are often provided for interconnection, and slot configurations and backplanes are available. SBCs can easily be produced and have a quick time to market compared to personal computers or laptops. They are lighter in weight, compact in size, more reliable and much more power efficient then multi-board computers.
However, single-board computers also have their limitations. Their standard format may not suitable or considered a good fit for a customer's particular needs. They also may be difficult to use for applications which require cable elimination or use of special input/output connectors.
Single-board computers are mostly used in embedded applications. They are also used in applications for process control, like complex robotic systems and processor-intensive applications. They are often considered an excellent alternative to microcontrollers.