stm32 based cortex-m based boards such as those st nucleo 
lines or leaflab maple (a 'clone' such as olimexino-stm32 ) comes to 
they have good industry and open source development tools support

i've got the beagle bone black as well as olimexino-stm32. the context for 
'upgrading' to boards such as beaglebone black is such that unless your 
application scenario fits nicely in the 'microcontroller' context e.g. is 
able to live in 20k (yup 20k not 20megs) of ram u may quickly run out of 
'headroom' for bulkier apps

and strictly speaking i'd not consider stm32 'cheap' but rather that it is 
a good and well supported / well understood (in the open source community) 
platform. e.g.

the other context is in your application scenario u'd prefer to have an 
'OS' take care of many of the 'mundane' IO tasks such as multitasking, 
scheduling, memory management etc. programming things 'microcontroller' 
style often means your app is both the 'OS' and the 'app' itself, it is 
literally 'bare metal' programming interacting directly with hardware / IO 
/ memory in a all-in-one app

my personal feel is that 'microcontroller' style development is possibly 
*much harder* for rather elaborate apps with all the 'bare metal' 
development. As an example in beagle bone black it is possible to run 
python scripts to blink leds, of course this is pretty much using a 'bulky 
app' to do a simple thing, but this luxury is simply impossible on those 
'microcontroller' small memory boards. 'bare metal' is possibly the choice 
left. and if one resorts to doing 'bare metal' i.e. C, C++ programming on 
beagle bone black for instance, the app can go much further than that of 
'microcontroller' scenarios such as to offer a full blown QT based Gui and 
user interface.

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