Scaling Down to Scale Up: The Energy-Efficient Approach Using Le Potato SBC as a Raspberry Pi Alternative

Single Board Computers (SBCs) are carving out their niche in the world of computing with a blend of energy efficiency and sufficient performance for specific tasks. In this blog post, I dive into my recent experience where I’ve found success in deploying the Libre Computer “Le Potato” SBC to handle essential yet lightweight workloads.

One host - one workload!

A great Rpi replacement!


I went into this quest with a couple a requirements; essentially:

  1. A reasonable price per board, and no supply chain issue.
  2. A standard - or popular - form factor that would make finding cases and accessories easy.
  3. A well-performing platform, with low power consumption and good OS support available.

Let’s look at some options.

The Energy-Efficient Edge of SBCs

Here are some quick reference numbers on power consumption, that I could gather and that help put things in perspective:

  • Intel NUC: Ranges from 6W to 90W
  • ODROID H3: About 10W to 30W
  • OrangePi Zero: As low as 1W to 2W
  • OrangePI 5+: Around 2W to 8W
  • Le Potato: Generally around 5W

Operating System Choices for SBCs

A well-supported OS is crucial:

  • Ubuntu: Directly supports Raspberry Pi. Ubuntu for Raspberry Pi.
  • Armbian: Ensures top-notch support if your SBC is on the Platinum Support list, indicating close collaboration between the manufacturer and the Armbian project.

Beware of the lure of manufacturer-provided OS builds that may fall short in support and updates. My prior setback with an OrangePi Zero’s inadequate “LTS” label serves as a cautionary tale for diligent research prior to settling on an SBC.

Why Le Potato Got My Vote

The Benefits

  • Processor Advantage: The Amlogic S905X processor in the Le Potato aligns well with Pi3 applications, ensuring broad software compatibility.
  • Ecosystem: The shared form factor with the Raspberry Pi 3B+ grants access to a wide range of cases and accessories to house your unit.
  • Stock Reliability: No headaches over availability or inflated costs thanks to scalpers.
  • Hardware Compatibility: Offers robust EMMC connection options for storage.
  • Software Stability: Upstream support from Libre Computer to the Linux kernel translates to consistently good compatibility.
  • Energy Savings: Operates within the 2W range, ideal for low-energy, dedicated tasks.

The Operating System: Armbian

  • Debian Base: Armbian is built on Debian, renowned for its stability and security.
  • Timely Updates: Tracking Debian closely, Armbian provides security patches promptly.
  • SBC Optimization: The distro includes essential kernel patches and modules for Le Potato performance.
  • Open Source: Using an open source distro aligns with a commitment to transparency and community support.

Putting Le Potato to the Test

It hasn’t been long, but the results are in: great stability. My Le Potato SBCs run reliably under minimal load, managing tasks such as:

  • SSH jump host: A secure entry point into my network.
  • Ansible Tower: Automation for app deployment, updates, and inventory.
  • Netdata master node: Central monitoring interface for all of my infrastructure.

Additionally, I’ve designated one unit as a backup DNS server, and it’s met expectations flawlessly. Up next is deploying another unit for failover support in my FreeIPA setup.

For small loads and as a failovers, they’ve been a suitable choice – Le Potato efficiently idles away, consuming minimal power. Here’s a glimpse of the server load. Not much to see, and that’s how we like it! A snapshot of the server’s light workload

Stay tuned for further insights as these tiny but mighty workloads continue to perform on the Le Potato SBC.