$9 computer has ARM SoC, docks with portable module

— 10:36 AM on May 11, 2015

At just nine bucks, Next Thing's Chip might be the cheapest single-board computer yet. The Kickstarted product blew past its funding goal and has raised nearly $700,000 in just a few days.

The Chip is a full-fledged computer squeezed onto a 1.5" x 2.3" circuit board. It's based on an Allwinner SoC with one ARM Cortex A8 CPU and Mali-400 graphics. 512MB of DDR3 memory and 4GB of flash storage ride shotgun, while 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 handle wireless duties. Micro and full-sized USB ports are included, as well, and the composite video output can fuel VGA and HDMI displays via optional adapters.

Cue the official pitch video:

Unlike similar devices, the Chip doesn't necessarily require a separate keyboard and display. The circuit board slides into the Pocket Chip, an optional accessory that looks a little bit like a homebrewed BlackBerry. This portable platform has a 4.3" resistive touchscreen with a 470x272 display resolution. The QWERTY keyboard is "super-clicky," according to the Kickstarter page, and the integrated battery is good for five hours of run time.

As one might expect, Linux is the operating system of choice. The hardware's source materials will be fully open, with the creators promising to provide schematics and other info on the design. That openness applies to not only the circuit board, but also the portable chassis.

Early backers who shelled out for one of the premium tiers will get pre-release hardware in September. The first production boards are scheduled to start shipping in December, with the pocket module coming in May 2016. That module adds $40 to the total, while the VGA and HDMI adapters are another $10-15.

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