$49 barebones ARM board has HDMI, USB, SATA

The folks behind the Raspberry Pi mini computer board are moving production to the UK. They’ve also come up with a new revision that adds mounting holes, a reset circuit, and a few other tweaks to the $35 ARM-based platform. Those are nice additions, but they’re not quite as compelling as some of the extras found on the Cubieboard, a potential new contender in the world of barebones ARM devices.

Although the Cubieboard website clearly needs some work, it does provide some interesting details about product. The Cubieboard is based on an Allwinner A10 SoC, which features a 1GHz Cortex-A8 CPU complete with support for ARM’s NEON extensions. ARM’s Mali-400 GPU handles graphics duties and powers the HDMI output at resolutions up to 1080p. The CPU and GPU share a gig of DDR3 RAM clocked at 480MHz.

Unlike the Raspberry Pi, which lacks local storage, the Cubieboard comes with 4GB of NAND. If that’s not enough, the board offers not only a Serial ATA port, but also a memory card slot. There’s also a 10/100 Fast Ethernet jack, dual USB ports, and what looks like a couple of analog audio connectors. Android and Ubuntu are both supported, according to the site, although further details are scarce.

The Cubieboard is similar to the Via APC introduced this spring at the same $49 price point. Over at Hacker News, there’s some debate over whether the newcomer is legit. For what it’s worth, the Cubieboard’s specifications certainly don’t seem outlandish given the price.

Amusingly, the website calls the Cubieboard "another open ARM box," highlighting the fact that a number of comparable devices have popped up recently. I’ve been tempted to get one for a no-frills media system, but waiting might not be a bad idea. These little boards seem to be getting more robust, and it would really be nice to have one with integrated WI-Fi.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    I’m wondering why the folks who make these things don’t bundle a case to go with these. That would save the buyer a lot of trouble looking for a suitable case that’s small enough to take advantage of the small circuit board. The boards may fit larger cases, but then the advantage of a small board quickly fades away.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      Radio Shack has several project cases that can be used. Also, like with the Pi, it also gives 3rd party manufacturers the opportunity to create such a case and in the end makes more options available to the end user as to the type they want. You also have to keep in mind that not everyone is going to use these as a stand alone device but they may be integrated into other devices where having a case maybe a hindrance.

      I just wish they would be a bit smarter with the layout of the boards. I would gladly accept a bit larger of a board if they would put all external connectors on only one side of the board (two might be OK if storage was on one side and video/power/audio etc was on the other).

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    cant they make an smp version with two processors?

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      That would just increase the cost. I would rather have a true 1 Gbit ethernet port on it.

        • Joe Miller
        • 7 years ago

        I doubt it the cpu is powerful enough to feed gigabit ethernet port. My old laptop with Sempron 1800+ is too slow for that.

          • Deanjo
          • 7 years ago

          The CPU would be powerful enough. There are several ARM NAS units out there that can easily saturate a GBit ethernet port. If they were to hook it up to the USB like the Raspberry Pi then no it wouldn’t but that is a interface bottleneck.

          You should also have no problem getting your old Sempron 1800+ to hit full GBit speeds. If you are not, you are probably hitting a disk speed limitation or running into the PCI bus bandwidth limitation due to it being shared or just a poor NIC.

          The problem lies in the A10’s lack of a PCI-e interface unlike the mv6281 and others.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    They should make models with and without the header for like the 20 something pin ribbon cable. Like variant A and B. Those take up waaay too much space and while a lot of hobbyists will use them, a lot of people wont (like myself). I would personally rather have wireless like Geoff said and another ethernet port so it could be setup as a cheap router.

    I’m sure there are other peripheral ports people would rather have then a 20 pin ribbon cable.

    Male hands or female? Why one long finger nail?

    • SonicSilicon
    • 7 years ago

    Perhaps the long nail is for fingerstyle guitar picking.
    The pulgar, indice, medio, and annular for tip (flesh) picking and the chico for nail picking. Honestly, a removable metal / plastic fingerpick would make more sense.

      • Diplomacy42
      • 7 years ago

      Build the case out of legos.

    • Shinare
    • 7 years ago

    Who’s the owner of the coke-snorting pinky only fingernail in the picture! lol

    • anotherengineer
    • 7 years ago

    Neely has 3 on order all ready 😉

    edit : that guy has a long pinky finger nail, unless it’s a girl with man hands?

      • WillBach
      • 7 years ago

      He’ll install [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOSBox#Ports<]DOSBox[/url<] and use it to teach his kids x86 asm 😉

        • tfp
        • 7 years ago

        x86 asm? Would be hard project on an ARM

          • dpaus
          • 7 years ago

          If his kids can’t do that, they don’t deserve to be the children of a fanboi!

          • SonicSilicon
          • 7 years ago

          Searching around, I found that DOSBox has many ports to non-x86 platforms. Its x86 simulation definitely goes as low as system calls, but I couldn’t find anything outright stating support for assembly.
          [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOSBox#Ports[/url<] [url<]http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3915041/assembly-language-for-8086-resources[/url<] [url<]http://www.cplusplus.com/forum/lounge/66135/[/url<]

            • WillBach
            • 7 years ago

            It does, up through 16-bit code. DOSBox has a [url=http://www.dosbox.com/<]website[/url<] with the title, "DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS" 😉

            • SonicSilicon
            • 7 years ago

            All I had found was a mention in the wiki of an “assembly fpu core” being added in 0.65.
            [url<]http://www.dosbox.com/wiki/Version0.65[/url<] Going back to websearch I did find this entry for Eclipse Pacman in the compatibility listing: [url<]http://www.dosbox.com/comp_list.php?showID=3959&letter=E[/url<] I suppose that's confirmation? I just found it strange for a simulator not to have an easy to find list of features it simulates.

            • WillBach
            • 7 years ago

            I found that strange, too, to be honest. But it does have x86 in the subtitle, and DOS does run (and only run) programs compiled into x86 16-bit (with legacy support). If you go to first principles, DOS isn’t an interpreter, it runs programs compiled to machine code, x86 machine code.

          • Narishma
          • 7 years ago

          That’s why he said he’ll install Dosbox…

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      Me?

      Am I becoming a krogoth..?

        • chuckula
        • 7 years ago

        If you’re becoming Krogoth, then SSK is becoming you, and I’m becoming JDaven, and everyone else is becoming really confused!

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Not confused, just BI-nary curious.

          • mutarasector
          • 7 years ago

          Great… just what we needed – a bunch of TR Transformers!

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        It would be interesting if Krogoth turned out to be female.

          • internetsandman
          • 7 years ago

          The whole ‘not impressed’ attitude takes on a completely new persona coming from a female

    • holophrastic
    • 7 years ago

    And welcome to the end already. “I’ve been tempted…but waiting…[for something better]”.

    It’s $50. It’s the lowest price point for any computer. It’s actually $35. If you’re still putting your plans on hold for something better, then maybe your paper route doesn’t pay you well enough.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Well, the something better could be faster CPUs or graphics. The A10 as a CPU is decent, but it’s main draw and the reason it’s so widespread is it’s cheap. Something like this with a dual or quad core Cortex-A15 class CPU would surely be faster. The Mali-400 is good but getting old at this point too.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Well there are faster options. A Pandaboard has a dual-core OMAP 4430 and 1GB of RAM. They’re quite a bit more expensive, though.

        [url<]http://pandaboard.org/content/resources/references[/url<]

        • holophrastic
        • 7 years ago

        Are you crazy? You couldn’t possibly have missed my point. You can always wait. For $35, buy it now, and have something until the next one, then buy that next one too. If your budget doesn’t cover $35 for the next N months to get through the waiting period, then you ought to divorce your wife, dump your girlfriend, sell your house, your blood, and any other bodily fluids they’ll take because clearly you can’t afford to breathe.

        Look at it this way, the amount of time that you’ll spend engaged by your $35 device will save you in terms of the meals that you’ll miss, and the movies that you’ll skip, and the restaurants you won’t frequent.

        What’s cheap enough to just buy for fun to you? Penny candy?!

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      It still needs a case. I’d like to see somebody turn it into a netbook for 100-150, then I’d be interested.

        • holophrastic
        • 7 years ago

        so then you’re not interested in this product at all. because that’s just not what it is. the barebones is actually the feature.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Well for a media box, wifi might actually be really important.

        • willmore
        • 7 years ago

        $7 USB stick, done.

        • holophrastic
        • 7 years ago

        Of course, for a box that you’re going to put into a room and never ever move, you really want to have intermittent connectivity problems, otherwise life mught be too easy.

        You should contact the modern home security companies around here. They’ll sell you a wireless security system for you home, with a central panel also wireless, and plugged into power only. They call it a feature because you can put sensors anywhere without the expense of wiring things.

        Of course, then your house keeper, or your dog, can accidentally unplug your security system. Oh yeah, the battery backup lasts for the first 24 hours of your vacation.

        They, much like you, have forgotten about the HUGE advantages of the term “hard-wired”. It’s criminal to cut the wires into someone’s house. It’s not even illegal to unplug your neighbour’s central panel when you visit the day before he leaves for vacation.

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    I hope someone builds the profile to put OpenWebOS on this 🙂

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    The SATA port is a pretty big differentiation between this and all the other similar boards or complete devices…hopefully we see more of that. Perfect for a carputer!

    Their website looks to be down as well. I wonder if it’s gotten too much traffic.

    And what’s up with the crazy pinky nail in the promo picture? Eek!

      • bthylafh
      • 7 years ago

      A quick Google says it’s probably a fashion statement in the Far East; indicates that the wearer is wealthy and sophisticated or summat.

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        If he has more money than brains, wouldn’t he be buying an UltraBook(tm) instead of a $49 ARM system??

      • Alexko
      • 7 years ago

      Coke spoon.

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        Just when I’d finally managed to forget the 80s!

        • NeXus 6
        • 7 years ago

        LOL. Looks like a female hand.

      • jdaven
      • 7 years ago

      Fingernail clippers broke after four fingers?

      • notfred
      • 7 years ago

      A lot of the ARM SoCs that I’ve seen have support for SATA, it’s just that it may not be brought out on the board.

      I suspect the Ethernet is yet another USB attached one rather than actually part of the SoC – the SoC ones tend to be Gigabit.

      WiFi in this space tends to be done via SDIO, again a lot of the SoC’s have the capability, it’s just not brought out to a sensible connector or got a module built in to the board. The PandaBoard [url<]http://pandaboard.org/[/url<] has wireless on board, including a little chip antenna.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        If a SoC feature isn’t implemented or accessible on a board it might as well not be there. It’s like fused off transistors in a GPU. In this case, unlike most inexpensive little ARM boards/small SoC devices I’ve seen there is an actual usable SATA port.

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      You just got a hand-model fired. How does that make you feel?

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        It makes me feel pretty. Oh. So. Pretty.

        Witty too.

        But not gay.

      • yogibbear
      • 7 years ago

      Maybe they just failed at photoshop? Or they wanted the hand to look like it could be either gender?

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