back to article Hordes spaff cash on Chip titchyputer to rival Pi (maybe)

The success of the Raspberry Pi has spawned a cottage industry of imitators, but the budget hobbyist computer's $35 price tag is looking downright expensive compared to the latest arrival – the $9 Chip bare-bones computer. Chip promo vid The Chip comes with an Allwinner A13 ARM-based 1GHz processor, 512MB of DDR3 RAM and 4GB …

  1. Christian Berger

    The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

    I mean there's lots of single board Linux computers, but having a portable Linux computer with a kinda decent keyboard and screen running Debian is something the world actually needs badly. Add the possibility to stick in an LTE stick and you've got probably the most exciting mobile device on the market.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

      "a portable Linux computer with a kinda decent keyboard and screen running Debian is something the world actually needs badly"

      That's the part that caught my attention too. Colour me stupid for not being able to shape cheap android tablets to my needs and wants - but Keyboard + Debian + Screen and I'm in.

      1. skuzzzy

        Re: The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

        For a micro device, there's always openpandora.org - designed for emulation, but probably does almost everything else (linuxy) that you need.

        (Quite a) bit more expensive though.

        1. Christian Berger

          Re: The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

          "For a micro device, there's always openpandora.org - designed for emulation, but probably does almost everything else (linuxy) that you need."

          Absolutely, however it would be nice, for a change, to have something to choose from.

    2. boba1l0s2k9

      Re: The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

      I'm not so sure. One can get Android mobes shipped from China for $40 which have specs not entirely dissimilar to the $75 version of Pocket Chip. It seems to me they're taking a landfill Android and selling it to you in installments. The baseboard, video, screen....and still no LTE chip.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pirate

        Re: The "Pocket Chip" is the interresting part

        You beat me to the punch because just days ago I inherited a useless 4.3" tablet with no LCD because the LCD went to repair the other useless 4.3" tablet that had more flash. SBC was my best idea for doing something fun with the 2.75x2.25x0.25" board which has specs *very* much like the Chip (A13, 512MB, 4GB, a/b/g, others). I can grab a whole new one for $50, probably less (of course then I get the screen too which I found for $12 with unknown s&h from China) so the Chip by itself seems a sweet deal for hackers who aren't quite as much into recycling and re-purposing. Too bad about the ongoing GPL thing... it has some real potential and some footgun potential.

        Also, srsly Chip? Is that going to come right up on page 1 in Google? Is that trademark even registrable? I would at least misspell it a little...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          actually not the worst namespace collision

          too late to edit: it's spelled C.H.I.P. all over the KS page. So that's good. The article's fault, I tell you! I- I... should have followed the link sooner.

          1. Crazy Operations Guy

            Re: actually not the worst namespace collision

            Still a stupid name. But I think that that's because someone might be a mite too obsessed with a certain pair of motorcycle highway patrolmen....

  2. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Interesting, but

    I have to wonder how large the intersection of "Folks who like to solder random electronics to GPIO pins" and "Folks who are fine with systemd and Gnome" is. I have a big enough backlog to wait until it ships and see what reality is like. It's not like doubling the price would be a deal breaker.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting, but

      I'm game. Bashing together technologies is what keeps me entertained. Take CHIP and RDP into my server... (SSH is for wimps at this scale ;-).

    2. Christian Berger

      Re: Interesting, but

      Actually as far as I know you can still install Debian without systemd or Gnome. In fact my Debian laptop even runs without NetworkManager.

    3. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      Re: "Folks who are fine with systemd and Gnome"

      If it'll run Debian you can probably get other linux distros to run on it just fine.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: If it'll run Debian you can probably get other linux distros to run on it just fine.

        Yeah, but can I wipe it and put PROPER windows on there?

        1. Crazy Operations Guy

          Re: If it'll run Debian you can probably get other linux distros to run on it just fine.

          Wouldn't be surprised if 10 ran on it, maybe Win 8 RT if you can get a copy. Although I don't think it'd run anyway as the chip is probably missing the required security features.

  3. Captain DaFt

    Looks good, but...

    Is the company trustworthy?

    They play a bit fast and loose with the GPL: http://linux-sunxi.org/GPL_Violations

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looks good, but...

      Is the company trustworthy?

      ...according to its developers, both the software and hardware are "totally open source."

      "1Ghz R8 ARM processor, an ARM Mali-400 GPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of eMMC"

      Lima or liar?

      1. DropBear
        Unhappy

        Re: Looks good, but...

        "Lima or liar?"

        That might actually matter were it not for the fact that the English translation of the "totally open source" bit is "we really intend to make it open source at some point in the future, honest! Please stop bugging us about any information until then!". Also, the fact that the "$9 computer" is actually $29 shipped and the crew is apparently intentionally ignoring the 10001 "at least let me buy several of them at once with that kind of shipping charge" cries does not bode well.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Simon Harris

            Re: Looks good, but...

            "What is the real point of bringing the price down to such a level that something inevitably has to be compromised?

            Unless you are aiming at the developing world, $75-100 is an affordable price for a DECENT single board machine, as long as it ships with open, or at least documented, hardware."

            Or maybe you want to dabble in the "Internet of Things" (or use some as offline controllers if you prefer not to be connected). If you're distributing a bunch of sensors around the house, or want to build a networked toaster (well, someone might want to!) then $9 is closer to a reasonable price for each controller than $75-100.

            1. Dr. Mouse

              Re: Looks good, but...

              If you're distributing a bunch of sensors around the house, or want to build a networked toaster (well, someone might want to!) then $9 is closer to a reasonable price for each controller than $75-100.

              Exactly what I was thinking.

              I have had a big HA project in mind for a while now. The problem I always hit is cost. If you are deploying 10 units, even the RPi starts to look expensive. I know I can do the job with lower cost uCs, but then you hit the snag of connectivity, and adding it brings up the cost again.

              $9 each with built in wifi and BT, and it becomes a worthwhile project.

            2. j-g

              Re: Looks good, but...

              If it's for IoT style things, the domino.io board looks better: http://domino.io/ and https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/706167548/dominoio-an-open-hardware-wifi-platform-for-things/

              Lower power consumption, more gpio, really open source afaik, likely to ship in the next few weeks rather than in a year, ...

          2. Nick Pettefar

            Re: Looks good, but...

            What has happened to the well-intentioned BSD people porting BSD to the Raspberry Pi? It seems to have died or at least is having trouble breathing. I'm still waiting...

            (Actually I'd prefer to have Solaris 10 running on it!)

  4. Johnny Canuck

    perfect

    I was considering a Raspberry Pi for the job of hammering torrent users on my network, but this looks way better. I administer a wireless network in a large rooming house (90 users). Presently I use a cheap computer to monitor network traffic for torrents and redirect that traffic and any subsequent traffic to 127.0.0.1., forcing the offender to come to the office to get de-listed from my ban-hammer. Its for our protection as we are a small internet provider.

    1. anontom
      Big Brother

      Re: perfect

      Umm... I hope you're not in the U.S. If so, you just publicly admitted to a criminal act. The FCC has said that an ISP can NOT inhibit any legal traffic, and can take (limited) action only upon complaint of a copyright holder. It's called "Net Neutrality" here.

      1. Chris 244

        Re: perfect

        His handle is Johnny Canuck, so I suspect he lives a bit to the north

  5. Mark #255

    Shipping and graphics output

    The $9 version only gives you composite video out (fine for anything headless...), but VGA and HDMI outputs are $10 & $15 extra respectively. And shipping to the UK is $20. So that's $44 for the HDMI version to my door, which (once you've added import charges) is around £40.

    (This post from the my-specific-use-case-is-not-being-catered-for department)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shipping and graphics output

      True, this is better suited for Americans given the location. You'd be better off looking for an earlier Pi which will likely be locally sourced.

      I took a look and it seems comparable in CPU/GPU specs to the Pi-B, which I personally found to be a bit underpowered as a media player client, especially at high resolutions (the B I used tended to keep crashing).

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        Re: Shipping and graphics output

        " this is better suited for Americans"

        Since they are from Oakland, I doubt that they even are aware that the world is more than the Bay Area and LA (and their arch-nemesis, Brooklyn, NY)...

  6. Mondo the Magnificent
    Go

    Cheap as...

    Chips?

    Looks good from the onset and as an owner of two generations of Pi, this would certainly be added to my little collection

    The deal maker here are the built in WiFi and forthcoming "Pocket Chip" add on, something the Raspberry needed in my opinion, a small but functional keyboard and monitor combo, no ribbon cables, USB, HDMI connections needed, an all-in-one add on to get it going anywhere.. come November when the "Pocket Chip" is scheduled for release..

    Sure the VGA and HDMI interfaces are optional, but it's a small price to pay..

    It seems that these "hipsters" have thought things out, this seems to tick all the boxes in regards to power options, portability and power (LiPo battery option)

  7. Zola
    Linux

    software and hardware are "totally open source."

    This claim seems somewhat unlikely considering it's based on AllWinner hardware - just Google for "AllWinner GPL Violations" to see what kind of attitude AllWinner have towards "open source".

    Anyone that ships AllWinner hardware and releases software is, by definition, going to be in breach of the GPL too as AllWinner deliver binary blobs to their hardware customers, so it's impossible to release "all software" and be GPL compliant.

    I'm aware of hardware companies that have had to move their projects away from AllWinner (to Amlogic, Freescale, HiSilicon etc.) just to avoid the GPL stench that pervades AllWinner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: software and hardware are "totally open source."

      I'm told that HiSilicon isn't a stranger to a little dubious IPR use either.

  8. CaNsA

    Life moves pretty fast....

    Will this not be considered old hat by the time people get their paws on it?

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Life moves pretty fast....

      Well extrapolating current trends, I'd say that in a year this will be considered magical alien technology from the past, particularly the "Pocket Chip". If current trends prevail, mobile devices will probably turn into something like multi-channel interactive TVs, devices which throw ads at you, intermingled with a bit of information or entertainment.

      Or of course the mobile world gets into a stasis where nothing changes any more... which is actually likely since we already have mostly identical devices.

  9. Richard 33

    MK802

    If you want to buy something similar, now, for hardly any more money, look up "MK802" on el Goog.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: MK802

      For the record, there are different models of MK802, and the earlier ones used the infamous Allwinner A10 (newer models use Rockchips, which appear to be more open). The model IV looks pretty potent with a quad-core CPU and Android 4.2 onboard (there's a variant model IIRC that can run Ubuntu or a variant thereof).

  10. raypsi

    give me 64 chips and I gots a super computer yea

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hipsters

    Indeed they are.

    My favourite is the enigmatic "Wynter". He wears a hat indoors while playing his guitar. You can't get much more hipster than that.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: He wears a hat indoors while playing his guitar.

      Probably bald......

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there any documentation? Estimated chip lifetime?

    With chip suppliers like Allwinner you traditionally don't get documentation. Maybe you get a reference design if you're lucky (e.g. you are buying in serious volume).

    Six months later your chip goes obsolete and the next generation comes along, newer, shinier, and (obviously) not quite compatible in hardware or software terms.

    Do either of those matter much in the alleged target market? I'd have said yes to both, but what do I know.

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