To supplement my previous article on extremely portable computers under the price tag of $100, I decided to prepare another list for those who can afford a bit more. The ceiling price for these new breed of little computers, the size of a credit card or a thumb drive, seems to be around the $200 mark, at least for now.
Here are 5 products that you can pick up between $100 and $200.
Cotton Candy ($199)
Cotton Candy is powered by a powerful dual-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor on an Soc (System on a chip) by Samsung, featuring a quad-core 200 MHz ARM Mali-400 MP GPU, 1GB of RAM, Audio and Video Decoder hardware engine, and TrustZone Cryptographic Engine and Security Accelerator (CESA) co-processor.
It has a USB plug on one side, which is used to power the system, and an HDMI plug on the other side, which allows it to be plugged into a display. It also has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth radios for connectivity and supporting input devices. The system can boot standalone and operate as a complete computer when plugged into a display. It’s also possible to plug the Cotton Candy into a conventional computer and boot from it like you would from a regular USB mass storage device.
FXI Technologies claims it will run both Android 4.0 and the latest Ubuntu Desktop Linux operating systems.
Cotton Candy is available for pre-order at $199.
CuBox is powered by a 800 MHz dual issue ARM PJ4 processor and 1GB of DDR3 memory with a 1080p Video Decode Engine, Gigabit Ethernet, SPDIF (optical audio), eSata 3Gbps, 2xUSB 2.0, micro-SD, micro-USB (console) and Infra-red receiver, all housed inside a cube 2 × 2 × 2 inches weighing less than 100g.
It comes with a 2GB microSD card preloaded with Ubuntu, but can also dual-boot with Android. Despite being just about 2-inch-square device size, the platform can stream and decode 1080p content, use desktop class interfaces such as KDE or GNOME under Linux, all in less than 3 Watt and less than 1 Watt in standby
You can pre-order CuBox for $135.
The BeagleBoard, first introduced in 2008 by Texas Instruments, has undergone several improvements. The current BeagleBoard called the BeagleBoard-xM has a 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor capable of 720p video output, 512 MB of DDR RAM, onboard Ethernet jack, audio jacks, and 4 port USB hub. The board has plenty of display connectors – HDMI, DVID and S video output so you can plug in almost any monitor or TV into it. In addition, the board carries a camera port and a 46-pin expansion port. The BeagleBoard-xM lacks on board NAND and requires the memory and OS to be stored on to a microSD card.
The board doesn’t come preloaded with any OS but has been demonstrated to run a range of operating systems including Android, Linux, Risc OS and Windows CE. Using the expansion port, BeagleBoard can connect to a various equipment from sensors to electric motors, making it well suited to controlling electronics and robotics.
BeagleBoard-xM is priced at $149.
The PandaBoard, another offering from Texas Instruments, features a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, a 304 MHz PowerVR SGX540 GPU, a C64x DSP, and 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM. The PandaBoard ES uses a newer SoC, with a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU and 384 MHz GPU. Storage is via an SD Card slot allowing SDHC cards up to 32 GB to be used. The board includes wired 10/100 Ethernet as well as wireless Ethernet and Bluetooth connectivity. The board can output video signals via DVI and HDMI interfaces. It also has 3.5 mm audio connectors. It has two USB host ports and one USB On-The-Go port, supporting USB 2.0.
The computer comes prebuilt with either Android or Ubuntu. PandaBoards have been used as media centres streaming 1080p, as control units for robots, as a wearable computer, to run a gesture-control interface, and as a general-purpose Android dev tool.
PandaBoard is priced at $180 ~ $200 depending on which retailer you buy from.
Gumstix offers a range of single-board systems under the brand name Overo. The main Overo boards provide the CPU and memory, and the rest are mounted with expansion cards connected via one or both on-board buses. This allows Overo to be customized according to requirements.
Gumstix motherboards come in two different configurations – Overo Earth and Verdex Pro. The Overo Earth uses a TI OMAP 3503 processor running at 600 MHz and have 256 MB of SDRAM, while the Verdex Pro motherboards use a Marvell XScale PXA270 processor running at 400 MHz or 600 MHz with up to 128 MB of SDRAM. Both boards run Linux 2.6 with the BusyBox utilities, and use the OpenEmbedded build environment to provide a full-blown Linux environment and a large range of Linux applications.
Gumstix is used in a wide range of applications – such as helping control mini-satellites and humanoid robots, as well as being clustered into a supercomputer to track botnets online. Ongoing projects are using Gumstixs to develop real-time computer-vision processing in a wearable system and an e-reader with a flexible display.
The Gumstix Overo Earth board is available for $149. Additional expansion boards such as Ethernet, imaging and GPS has to be bought separately.
Come on. I am a dummy. How do I build a working pc out of these?I want to add a display monitor, and a keyboard, Connect Internet and get going. The article is not clear as to how I can do it.
Cotton Candy, CuBox and Pandaboard all come preloaded with operating system (Android or Linux). They are really plug-and-play. Just connect a display and keyboard/mouse and they are ready to use. All of them support either Ethernet or WiFi or both for internet connectivity, which you can setup easily from Android and Linux.
BeagleBoard and Gumstix are for experimental types. You have to install the OS and make it work yourself.
The nice thing about choosing one of the Android-compatible models is that if you already have a lot of apps that you've purchased for your Android cell phone, you'll most likely be able to use them on the new device. So that's definitely a plus for everyone out there.