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Android Linux Hardware

Tiny $45 Cubic Mini-PC Supports Android and Linux 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the market-saturation-approaching dept.
DeviceGuru writes "SolidRun refreshed its line of tiny 2 x 2 x 2-inch mini-PCs with four new community-backed models based on 1.2GHz multi-core Freescale i.MX6 SoCs. The CuBox-i devices support Android 4.2.2 and Linux, offer HDMI, S/PDIF, IR, eSATA, GbE, USB, WiFi, and Bluetooth interfaces (depending on model). All the models offer 1.2GHz clock speeds, OpenGL/ES 2.0 3D support, and video acceleration for 1080p video, while the two higher-end ones supply more robust GPUs that add OpenCL 1.1 support."
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Tiny $45 Cubic Mini-PC Supports Android and Linux

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  • How much RAM?

    • Re:How much RAM? (Score:5, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:34PM (#44751917) Journal
      There are 4 models; 512MB, 1GB, 1GB, and 2GB of RAM.
    • Up to 2GB, apparently. (In a 32-bit address space, you won't use much more of it anyway.)
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:33PM (#44751905)
    I'll be more impressed when I can actually buy a sub $100 PC... Too many broken promises.
    • Re:Pre-Order... :( (Score:5, Informative)

      by KiloByte (825081) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:00PM (#44752061)

      I'll be more impressed when I can actually buy a sub $100 PC

      Here, for $89. [hardkernel.com] Helluva better CPU than these: 4*2.0 instead of 1*1.0 ($45) or 4*1.0 ($120).

      Sadly, it has no eSATA (just some extra-fast eMMC), and 100Mb ethernet instead of 470Mb you get in the $95 and $120 CuBox models.

      Other competition seems to be several times as expensive and have terrible specs.

      • My biggest problem with these mini computers is the interface. Sure you can get a tiny computer for cheap now, but touch screens (the only interface that would remotely work and be supported at the same time) are still $200 minimum. Size of the screen has little effect on the price and there are very few choices so you have to adjust your application to fit the part rather than the other way around.

        What we need is a smart-phone that's not a phone, runs on 12volt DC and has a back brimming with I/O ports.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          You can get any one of dozens of quad core ARM tablet PCs in 7" with 10-point capacitive touch that run Ubuntu or Android for under $100 delivered. SDHC and HDMI out at 1080p for the second screen, usb if you must have wired network, keyboard and mouse or whatever. For $200 you can get 10". Admit it: your complaint has an unstated "with Windows". That, you can't have.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Other competition seems to be several times as expensive and have terrible specs.

        What are you on about? You can get a MK908 for $65ish from various sources, the GPU is only a bit slower, the CPU is slightly faster. I would have bought an Odroid U2 but they only offer a four week warranty. That does not demonstrate confidence in the product.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          they only offer a four week warranty

          The cost of shipping to Korea and back, together with customs fees, makes warranty pretty moot.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The cost of shipping to Korea and back, together with customs fees, makes warranty pretty moot.

            Uh what? I don't care if they want the hardware back or not, that's their problem, but if it fails in less than 28 days I damned sure want a replacement.

      • I got: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mini-PC-TV-Box-AV-Android-4-2-AML8726-MX-1G-8G-HDMI-SPDIF-Remote-Control-/221275964220?pt=US_Cable_TV_Boxes&hash=item338513433c [ebay.com]

        Under $70 shipped. I believe it can also run linux, but I want android for XBMC Full HW accel (thanks to PIOS team) and full Netflix HW accel in 1 box. Also that 70 has enclosure. Yes only dual core, but it has played everything I've thrown at it in XBMC and streamed from multiple sources fine, plays netflix great.

        I'm really satisfied with it fo

    • check out Cubieboard [cubieboard.org] because it has lots of great features including a SATAII port but it doesnt have wireless. you can get the newest model for $60.

    • Here's a $88 PC, it's an old model (still has a compact flash slot) but it is a small, self-contained IBM compatible PC that uses a handful watts.
      http://www.norhtec.com/products/mcjrsx/index.html [norhtec.com]

      A $120 one which is much better (has a FPU for a start), a lot more RAM.. 512MB, and is bundled in a keyboard like an 8bit or 16bit computer.
      http://www.norhtec.com/products/surfboard/index.html [norhtec.com]
      Looks fun! But doesn't look powerful enough to play youtube videos (it will run any x86 stuff too, as long as it's not i686)

  • Will buy it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stanlyb (1839382) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:45PM (#44751987)
    Will buy it, but will not preorder it. I have a bad experience with such a business strategy. And lets face it, preorder is like giving away a lot of money with the hope that the seller will fulfill his promise, to deliver....i hope you got the picture.
  • 1) it's a small PC which is cool but there is something to be said for mechanical stability, which is why all those android sticks plug directly into an HDMI port. i'm not saying they should do that but they need to do something.
    2) eSATA enclosures are costly (nearly the same price as the CuBox) so why not just have SATA port and offer larger cases that incorporate everything you need, like a power system so that you you can run this using your 2.5" or 3.5" drive? it would even solve the mechanical stabi

    • Smaller is ALWAYS better. Period. I can think of so many uses for these cubes my mind is racing.
      • by Shavano (2541114)
        I can think of several more if they changed the form factor so it would fit in my pocket. 2"x2"x2" is about the most inconvenient possible form factor for a device of this overall size.
      • by drkim (1559875)

        Smaller is ALWAYS better. Period. I can think of so many uses for these cubes my mind is racing.

        Agreed. The minute I saw the pic I was picturing a wearable with this... or maybe a gamer/VR or AR backpack with four inside.

    • by kesuki (321456)

      imagine a beowulf cluster of those... with hdmi dongle there is a problem of needing an hdmi connection for every node in your cluster. usb and ethernet are both better. at least PoE is great for small clusters. i do not know which devices support PoE but it is great at reducing cable clutter for a beowulf cluster

  • Check those numbers (Score:5, Informative)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:29PM (#44752261)

    I'm underwhelmed. The top end quad core device is $130, and they want another $38 for "shipping" (Stated as "$18 to $38). Clearly a 2x2x2 device, even well packed, should cost a lot less to ship. And on top of that, the Android microSd card is "optional". In that price range I can buy a damn nice quad core tablet with HDMI output. Might not have eSATA support, but will have USB support and will have a color touch screen, battery, accelerometers and position sensor (and maybe a Gyro or even GPS) and a lot more utility. Or if you want to go completely low end you can still get low end tablets for close to the base price of this device.

    You would be much better off buying a Pi, or hacking a ChromeCast or ever a hackable Linux based router. This looks to me like another "me too" device to profit off the community funding model.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      I agree. It seems they just want to push their profit margins while forgetting the early adopters (us) have a pretty good understanding of what we're [thinking of] buying. Build your market and following and THEN focus on profits when you've got a market. Here's what will happen, especially in Linux/Android based devices. Someone will ALWAYS be cheaper and they will use some of your ideas in the process. May as well accept it now. You will not own or dominate your section of the market without fans an

    • But that tablet lacks wired ethernet and eSATA and all that shit (display, battery, acceleromter, GPS) is useless if you use it as a desktop or server.

    • by ardor (673957)

      Um, a RPi is much less powerful than even the $45 model.
      The ChromeCast uses a Marvell SoC. Marvell is notoriously uncooperative when it comes to documentation and details about their hardware, unless you are Google. (So is Broadcom btw.)
      Freescale is much more open and forthcoming.

      This one combines eSata with gbit ethernet (limited to 470 Mbit though, yes) and a pretty powerful video engine. Seems very nice as a DVR/HTPC combo, and/or a box for transcoding media.

  • The picture shows it supports OpenGL ES 2.0 but how much video RAM do the various models have?
    http://files.linuxgizmos.com/freescale-imx6q.jpg [linuxgizmos.com]

    Anyone have any specs on the GPU such as texture fill rate, bandwidth, etc?

    Aside, while the Arduino has a RTC (Real-Time Clock) the Raspberry Pi doesn't. At least this i.MX does.
     

    • by Narishma (822073)

      They don't have dedicated VRAM like a graphics card in a PC, they just allocate some portion of the main RAM as VRAM.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:46PM (#44752681) Homepage

    I want a car-puter that's worth a damn and I'm flexible about what I would find acceptable in that regard.

    1. I want it in a car (obviously) but that means it requires some things other computing devices will not but among these are power/heat management and tolerance most might begin to realize is completely hostile to computer devices.
    2. I want it to meet current expectations in software and in hardware. (For example, 1280x800 minimum display, not 800x480 and Android 4.x, not Android 2.x! I am looking at YOU Parrot! You insult us all with your specs.)
    3. I want it to be flexible and more general purpose even if it is limited by its use in a car. This means having a wide range of peripheral inputs and outputs and the ability to use a variety of displays and display types. It also means keeping it open and not restricted. (Parrot, could you explain to me your parrot store or whatever you call it? I get that things *can* be side-loaded, but I think that was more of a concession than anything else.)
    4. I want it to be open as Android was intended. This means we will buy your hardware, but don't try to tell us what we can do with it. We KNOW what's on your mind and we don't approve. It's not so much about "quality control" as much as it is consumer control. Parrot, once again, I'm looking at you. There are competitors coming hard and fast and you don't want to be forgotten simply because you thought being among the first means you can take advantage of the lacking consumer choice. Some consumers have a short memory while others like me do not. I will NEVER buy Sony again, for example. Sony doesn't respect consumers. I won't buy into that ever.

    I can't believe there isn't a market for what I want.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      yawn. It's about $125 for an installable 10" touch panel with hdmi adapter and under $100 for an android HDMI device, get one of the bigger ones and not a tiny one. done and done

      I can't believe there isn't a market for what I want.

      Well, there isn't. Most people are happy plugging their phone into their stereo.

  • Why do these newer small computers always seem to lack a serial port? Do you have to connect a physical keyboard and monitor to configure sshd before you can get in through the ethernet or wireless interfaces and run it headless? Or can you get console IO through the USB ports?

    Related question: is GPU acceleration available without connecting a physical monitor? Some systems seem to require a dongle to fool the computer into thinking a monitor is attached before loading the drivers that provide access to

    • Dang, replying to my own post here... just a little research revealed that you can get console IO through the USB ports: http://www.solid-run.com/mw/index.php?title=CuBox_serial_port [solid-run.com]

      Still haven't found anything about GPU acceleration in a headless setup.

      • by ardor (673957)

        GPU acceleration in a headless setup? More details please? What is the use case? They do mention OpenCL being supported in the more expensive models.

        • One use case is a top-of-camera video encoder-streamer like the miniCaster or Teradek Cube. Hardware accelerated H.264 or other encoding via the GPU instead of a dedicated chip combined with networking support would be much cheaper than the commercial devices.

          • by ardor (673957)

            But there is already the VPU in the SoC. It can encode and decode. So why do you want to encode with the GPU?

  • by LoRdTAW (99712)

    Why didn't they break out the PCIe port on the imx6? I understand that cost is an issue but how much extra could a mini PCI port cost to add?

  • This looks like it would make a great DVR frontend device IF it has usable video acceleration. The summary says that it does, but there is a huge difference between hardware capable of a feature and functioning Linux support for it.

    What video formats does it support? Only H.264, like most recent devices? Or, will it do MPEG2 (the U.S. broadcast HDTV standard)?
    Does it have Linux drivers for the video acceleration? VDPAU API support?

    There are tons of devices out there that look great on paper, but very fe

    • Or, will it do MPEG2 (the U.S. broadcast HDTV standard)?

      I expect it's fast enough to do that in software, certainly for SD. My ancient netbook can do 1080p MPEG2 just fine. I tested it once.

    • by ardor (673957)

      I have been playing around with the Freescale VPU. It is very powerful, can do 1080p easily, Linux support is solid. It can also encode in hardware. Supported formats I know of are: h264, mpeg-1/2/4, vp8, vc-1,wmv3,mjpeg. I think h263 too, not sure though. It also has deinterlacing and hardware scaling and color space conversion capabilities (think YUV->RGB).

      No VDPAU support. But VDPAU is nVidia only. You probably meant VA-API. I do not know if this is supported. There are GStreamer plugins for it, XBMC

  • What I'd really want is a small ARM-based board that's good for a low-power server; something that can run a simple web site, Tiny Tiny RSS and keep a few git repositories.

    The boards we're seeing now are getting close; they have 1-2GB memory, networking and SATA interfaces. What's really missing is the software support over time. Unlike an embedded system you do want security updates and OS updates over time, so you really want a platform that is a regular target for a major distro, whether Red Hat, Ubuntu

  • by echusarcana (832151) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:04PM (#44753101)
    I like the idea, but at the high end with shipping you are almost up into the Celeron price range. This would be for a 14W motherboard/cpu combo which should outperform this and would be a much more flexible system.
  • by eriks (31863)

    Something like this might be just the thing I'm looking for -- There are other tiny android boxes I've been looking at to replace my (aging) htpc. I want to be able to use my nexus 7 as a remote -- to control *everything* on the TV -- that's local video, netflix & random web stuff. Also I'd like to have a single audio output to my sound system for everything, but not have to have the TV on to listen to music. I've yet to find anything truly ideal. Even this probably won't be perfect, but at least it

  • low ram only 512 in base and max out at 2GB?

  • by coder111 (912060) <coder@[ ]ail.com ['rrm' in gap]> on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @01:57AM (#44753855)
    All these ARM SOCs are nice but they all have weird closed up GPUs that have crap close sourced drivers that barely work.

    There are projects to reverse engineer Adreno (Qualcomm) and Mali (ARM) GPUs and implement drivers for them, but these projects are nowhere near production ready. And as far as I know Qualcomm has other issues with openness- they are denying release of hackable Android for their devices because it contains some secret proprietary BLOBs, without which it won't work.

    So when it comes to Linux hardware support on ARM, it feels like 90s all over again... I'd rather buy a small x86, it will be larger, more expensive, it will consume much more power, but at least open-source hardware support is going to be nice and I won't need any BLOBs.

    --Coder
    • by ardor (673957)

      The i.MX6 inside uses a Vivante GPU. Vivante drivers work rather well, but for some reason, that company can't version their drivers, which is annoying. However, Freescale takes care of this. When working on Sabre SD boards, I always had stable OpenGL ES and OpenVG support. Newest Vivante drivers even support desktop OpenGL (only 2.1 though).

      There is also an opensource driver project called etnaviv https://github.com/laanwj/etna_viv [github.com] it has come pretty far. People have been running GLQuake and others with it

  • Once you start browsing the web site for these cubes, it's surprisingly shallow. There is no real information, the forum has a total of 6 posts and the wiki is empty. If you want to find out what video codecs are supported, or what linux distributions are ported to this device, your search will turn up nothing.

    This may all change, but once you're getting your product up on sites like SlashDot, you really should have things like this taken care of. Right now it has a vaporware scent all over it and it may ju

    • by ardor (673957)

      All you have to do is to look for the i.MX6 specs. That gives you the infos you want. Having worked with Sabre SD devices (which also use the i.MX6 and performed very well), I am pretty excited about this.

  • After a ball or compact rounded shape, the cube is the worst shape for passive cooling efficiency.

    Also the shape must have been chosen only for aesthetic and not with any pratical considerations: this is not what I call design.

  • I'm sick of all these mini SoC that only have hardware decoding to do 1080p video but only JUST enough grunt/ram to run XBMC. Gimme something that can actually handle XBMC + Aeon or a skin other than Confluence at a decent clip, then I'll be impressed.
  • So it's a Choose Two corollary: Cheap, Fast, Fully Open - choose two.
  • Now we know where all those unsold OUYA units went.

  • by dremspider (562073) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @01:09PM (#44758057)
    I have their older 700MHz unit (single core) 2 GB of memory I bought not too long ago (of course, that is how it always works). So far the unit has actually exceeded my expectations and is a lot of fun to play with. For me I wanted something that I could install Kali Linux on (the successor to Backtrack Linux) to do some simple type attacks on a network (I teach part time at a community college an information security class). First what I don't like: The shipping comes for Isreal. The price of shipping is $30 which raises the cost of the product. That they came out with a new one shortly after I already bought one that includes a lot of features I wanted. What I like: Gigabit ethernet They have this thing called u-boot which is pretty slick. You stick a file on a usb memory stick and stick it into the top USB port. Connect the ethernet and then boot up and it asks you what OS you want to install. You can select Ubuntu, Opensuse, Fedora, XBMC and a bunch more and it just installs them to the SD card. Very slick. It has the ability to serial into the unit so you don't have to set up a mouse, keyboard and monitor to install OSes. Works in Linux and Windows (with putty fine). I can then do SSH X forwarding really easy from the network if you want a GUI. I have been able to run a slew of python things on it and the performance is reasonable. I really have been having fun with it.

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