I think you may need to be clearer about what you’re asking, but here’s my ramblings based on yours.
The Pi is popular because it is a cheap computer with lots of hackability.
Most people are not, yet, fully aware, or not prepared to care, about what the difference in this freedom means. As such, cheaper will be seen as “better”.
By contrast, the BeagleBoard has been around for several years longer, but isn’t quite as popular. Why? Easy, the boards are about double the price or more. I would say they are also better in most respects, but most people won’t get that far. I believe hardware wise, they are significantly more open than the Pi, or at least they started out as such. I’m less familiar with their newer boards.
I have an assortment of ARM based computers and typically if it will easily run Linux, I’m pretty happy with that. What I use it for, depends upon it’s capabilities. I got a Pi-Top-3 to use as an introduction to computing tool for my kids. I don’t personally have need for a laptop, but this works in the rare cases where one would be handy for me.
What to recommend to someone, like with any computer system, is 100% dependant upon that individual’s needs and opinions. There are a lot of options out there and you could probably spend weeks researching and cataloguing them without actually having a complete list.
If you are specifically looking for the most open processor, then you already know where to research further. This is an interesting read along those lines.