Smaller, faster, cheaper! Single board computer (SBC) innovations are jumpstarting a whole new wave of DIY devices.
If you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you can be forgiven for not knowing about the revolution that's been happening in micro-computing, such as the introduction of the Raspberry Pi models, but this emerging trend has the potential to radically change the DIY tech scene. Originally designed to teach computer science and coding skills, these single board computers aren't just for kids or students anymore, as they've evolved into tiny machines capable of handling quite a few common IT tasks at home, such as streaming media or serving as a control hub for other smart devices.
Megan has covered the Raspberry Pi a number of times on TreeHugger, including the most recent model, the $5 Zero unit, and while that device has earned its place as a standard for affordable computing, a recent upstart, the $9 C.H.I.P. unit, promises to give the Pi folks a run for their money. But another contender in the sub-$20 computer category (something that seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream just a few years ago) is looking to break into the game with a 64-bit processor.The PINE A64, which features a quad-core ARM A53 64-bit processor running at 1.2GHz, is said to offer "up to 20-30% better performance" than other 32-bit opensource alternatives, and could be the brains of a tablet, a media center, a robotics control module, or even a low-power desktop computer. According to the folks behind PINE, the A64 "provides the same power of desktop computing at a mere 2.5 to 3.5 watts," which contrasts with typical desktop units requiring anywhere from 75 to 300 watts, and because the A64 is compatible with a variety of accessories and adapters, it could serve as the core of a very versatile DIY system.
"Build your own computer, 3D Printer control panel, video game console, 4K streaming media player, robotics project, connected home device, and more… Run apps immediately out of the box such as Angry Birds, Minecraft, office productive software, or add a camera and run Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and more." - PINE64
The PINE A64 runs its operating system from a removable microSD card, which can easily be swapped out and/or updated, and the unit is designed to run open source platforms such as Android, Ubuntu, or OpenHAB IoT. Backers of the wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (currently at $820,000 on its original $31,000 funding goal) have the choice to pick up an A64 for a pledge of $15, an A64+ for $19, or additional accessories for higher pledge amounts. The units are expected to ship in March of 2016.