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VIA Unveils $79 Rock and $99 Paper ARM PCs 158

Posted by timothy
from the what-no-scissors? dept.
Don't yet have one of those million Raspberry Pis, but you're in the market for a tiny, cheap ARM computer? An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from geek.com: "VIA has decided it's time to update the APC (ARM PC) board with new components and the choice of two configurations. The new systems are called APC Rock and APC Paper. The hardware spec for both boards is exactly the same except for the fact the Rock ships with a VGA port whereas the Paper doesn't. The Rock also costs $20 less at $79, whereas the Paper is $99. The reason for the price difference is the fact that the Paper ships with a rather novel case whereas the Rock is a bare board. The Paper's case is made from recycled cardboard attached to an aluminum chassis to help with strength, meaning it will keep the dust off the components and make it easier to carry while keeping weight to a minimum."
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VIA Unveils $79 Rock and $99 Paper ARM PCs

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  • What about (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dishwasha (125561) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:40PM (#42621521)

    scissors?

    • by siddesu (698447)
      They are available separately for $50, or in the "liberate your chips" kit, which sells for $120.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:51PM (#42621603)

      The APC Scissors will have superior specs and and be priced above the APC Paper's cost of $99, although it will also be inferior to and priced below Rock's cost of $79.

    • Yes. Scissors, $119.

    • That would be the Raspberry Pi, which underCUTs them by half. Or you might wait for Dell's hopefully not vaporware $50 PC (http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/01/16/2317205/meet-ophelia-dells-plan-to-reinvent-itself)

      • Re:What about (Score:5, Informative)

        by KiloByte (825081) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:11PM (#42621745)

        RasPi has very close specs, this one adds just a tiny 4GB flash card, which is obviously not worth the $44 price difference.

        You'd want this one [hardkernel.com] instead: more than 10x the performance, 2GB memory, $89 w/o disk.

        • Actually, it has a significantly better CPU. The Raspberry Pi CPU is an ARM11 (like the original APC) that, among other lacks, doesn't have hardware division. The Cortex A9 used in this thing is rather more sophisticated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex-A9_MPCore#Features [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:What about (Score:4, Interesting)

          by wmac1 (2478314) on Friday January 18, 2013 @12:00AM (#42623087)

          Why not Buy one of those Chinese A9 tablets for less than $60? They come with LCD, battery, USB and SD card extension. You can remove the case if you like.

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            Do they have video out? It seems that a lot of these tiny Android "PC's" are going after traditional desktop PC's by bringing tablet software to the desktop form factor.

            I'll personally admit that while it wouldn't be my first choice, a small Android device attached to a 23" monitor, keyboard, and mouse really wouldn't hinder my day to day (home) use that much.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You'd want this one [hardkernel.com] instead: more than 10x the performance, 2GB memory, $89 w/o disk.

          There are many boards coming out beating this one in both price and performance. The wandboard [wandboard.org] is another one. Cubieboard probably too.

          • by KiloByte (825081)

            The best wandboard has half the cores, half the memory, and half the clockage, for the same price. Oh, and you can't actually buy it yet.

      • Re:What about (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Above (100351) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:28PM (#42621857)

        The biggest problem with the Pi is the packaging. It was clearly designed to be cheap and thus use the smallest board area possible, but that makes it strange to put into cases and use in practical ways.

        Part of what VIA brings to the table here is packaging experience. Yes, the board is a bit bigger, but it was designed to go in a proper case. Depending on the application that may be important and worth the extra bucks.

        • Part of the reason that the Pi board is so small is that it's a 6-layer design. Lots of internal space to route traces.
        • Re:What about (Score:4, Insightful)

          by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:55PM (#42622681) Homepage

          To me the biggest question is the software support, andriod is ok for phones/tablets but for desktop and embedded uses I want decent support for regular linux and I want complete kernel source so that there is a chance of support in the long term.

          The Pi has that, last I checked the APC did not.

          • Which strikes me as sort of an odd omission on VIA's part: competing on pure price with the seething morass of anonymous and ill-supported(I'm not talking about 'slow to update', I'm talking about things like "the firmware flashed on the unit when you got it is the only known firmware for the unit" and "The amount of RAM quoted on the package is a total fiction" stuff) is a sucker's game. That morass is risky, and a certain amount of willingness to shop around is needed; but damn is it cheap...

            VIA, by contr

            • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

              VIA have been useless with support in the past. Their older CPUs has hardware video decoding acceleration but only an ancient hacked version of mplayer they released actually supported it. No proper patch submitted, and absolutely no Windows support at all.

              • Oh, compared to a real company, VIA's "support" isn't worth shit. However, they do at least have a 'support' apparatus that exists enough to mostly fail, and they have actually managed to work with other companies from time to time(a great many HP thin clients were or are VIA based, for instance, after Transmeta died and before Atom hit the scene). I'm not optimistic that they will; but if they actually want their fairly middling hardware to stand out against the cheaper fairly middling hardware that now in

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          And I thought a large part of the attractive of the Pi is that it is so damn small, so you can much easier build it into something to do whatever useful tasks you can think of it to do.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      scissors?

      Spock? Lizard??

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:21PM (#42621809)
      The problem is, you can't run with Scissors.
    • by Mabhatter (126906)

      I'm holding out for Lizard or Spock.

    • by AJWM (19027)

      No, because you shouldn't run [anything] with scissors.

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:45PM (#42621561) Homepage

    this [tabletrepublic.com] seems a far better product.

    • That thread didn't mention the price anywhere. Any idea what it goes for approx? Amazon didn't have any idea and some online sites seemed to suggest around $75 but that's not for sure.
    • Yep that is one cool tiny gizmo. I know that it is an over used meme but what if you did have a Beowulf cluster of these? Strip away the packaging and fill a rack with these tiny machines and set up a cluster. Or for that matter a room full of them, how would these scale?

    • Re:Overpriced (Score:4, Interesting)

      by polyp2000 (444682) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:52AM (#42623955) Homepage Journal

      why do none of these RPi alternatives have Sata? -- sure there are some high end - expensive ones - but is there something about SATA that add significantly to the price to make uneconomical ?

      • by makomk (752139)

        Guess there's not much of a market for it. Some of the A10-based boards do have SATA, including the Cubieboard, but not all of them and boards based on other SoC are harder to add SATA support to because there's no support for it on the SoC. (Most of them don't have PCIe support so there's not even anywhere to connect a SATA controller to.)

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        When it is in stock, the cubieboard is only $49. That's more than the R-Pi but the same price as the original VIA APC and with more RAM and CPU, and substantially less than these new VIA APCs.

        If you don't need video the best buy I know of is the Pogoplug Series 4 [archlinuxarm.org]. The Series 4 pogoplug is $40 and has 1xUSB2, 2xUSB3, and SATA along with 1xGigE. I run Debian on my Dockstar, which has 4xUSB2 &one is a male mini plug but that's not useless.

        However, IMO there is little reason for most devices that dinky to h

  • So this is better Raspberry Pi at three times the price? They just added a twice-as-powerful CPU and 4 GB of flash. Or am I missing something?

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      well its 3x as much as the stripped down pi, not quite as big of a difference for the 512 meg pi

  • by mark-t (151149)

    when 60% or more of the posts so far attempt to make an extremely obvious joke about scissors? This article even says its from the what-no-scissors? department, so the joke isn't even that inventive.

    For crying out loud... you guys call yourselves nerds?

    What I want to know is what about the lizard and spock PC's.

    • Spock finds your suggestion that scissors are too predictable, but that he and the lizard are not, highly illogical.

      Besides, I thought that everybody wanted a Rock to wind a multi-threaded string around.
      • by aiht (1017790)

        Spock finds your suggestion that scissors are too predictable, but that he and the lizard are not, highly illogical.

        Besides, I thought that everybody wanted a Rock to wind a multi-threaded string around.

        Hah! Finally, a non-obvious joke in response to this article! Thank you, Sir or Madam!

        *Goes back to winding string around rock*

    • by Dishwasha (125561)

      My post's font was larger. Do you really expect people to be able to read that tiny print in the title?

  • by tlambert (566799) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:14PM (#42621771)

    Have they fixed the memory controller yet?

    The biggest performance bottleneck for graphics on ARM systems has not been the GPU; I've used Mali-400 systems (like this one is supposed to be), and I've used the nVidia system. Graphics performance sucked on both.

    Part of this has to do with the fact that the graphics architecture in standard Linux penalizes you for not GPL'ing your drivers, but the Android graphics stack gets around this by duplicating some kernel interfaces with slightly non-GPL'ed versions - yet the performance is still terrible.

    The blame rests squarely on the memory copy speeds, which comes down to the memory controller. Apple has completely addressed this in their ARM chips (but are not sharing), and Samsung has partially addressed this in their ARM chips (and are also not sharing). Has VIA addressed the memory controller bandwidth issues in the WonderMedia, or does "WonderMedia" actually mean "I wonder when they will get media support in their ARM chips"?

  • Why is this good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:58PM (#42622045)

    I keep seeing on eBay these days you can get an Android tablet for about $40. And it has a screen, a touch screen at that. Presumably internally it is some kind of ARM PC with storage and everything. So why is a bare bones ARM PC, especially at these prices good? And what can you realistically do with the damned thing anyway?

    • Re:Why is this good? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dido (9125) <didoNO@SPAMimperium.ph> on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:34PM (#42622291)

      Interfaces. Flexibility. You can plug it into a 1080p TV and get video output that way. If you need more storage, a multi-terabyte USB hard drive is easy to plug in. Software is also your responsibility, and that means you can make it run just about anything with more or less effort depending on that. You'd be lucky if the $40 Android tablet even has an HDMI port, much less a USB port, and good luck getting it to run anything but the version of Android it came with. I managed to build a working HTPC with a Raspberry Pi within a few hours of it getting to me in the mail, and the only reason why I haven't yet turned it into a file server/torrent box as well is that I'm reorganising the several external drives I have, so I can repurpose one of them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You didn't click though, did you? It's running a keyboard and mouse optimized version of Android 4.0 and ships with a basic suite of apps - browser, mail, file system, etc. by using standard peripherals, you can recycle an old monitor, mouse and keyboard. Out of the box, it's enough computer for 80% of the population. As for the $40 Android tablets on ebay - they absolutely suck.

    • Sometimes less is more. I have a tablet hooked up to a monitor, but Android constantly gets confused about the two screens and their resolutions. That means you keep having to fiddle with the touch screen. A dedicated device like this always uses the connected monitor for its output, and the mouse and keyboard for its input. Also, this has better specs than low-end tablets; in different words, at the same price, you get better performance for not paying for a screen.

  • What about RFI? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by steveha (103154) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:04PM (#42622467) Homepage

    These boards don't seem to be worried about emitting radio frequency interference (RFI). That "paper" system case is slick but I don't think it effectively shields RFI.

    Is RFI somehow not a problem with these? Is it because they are very low-power, or is it because they are somehow not regulated by the FCC for RFI, or what?

    Would operating one of these make the amateur radio enthusiasts down the block from you curse you?

    • Re:What about RFI? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Thursday January 17, 2013 @10:29PM (#42622799) Homepage

      Some of those that are purely development boards may not worry about it but anything that is going to be sold as an end user product and where the company cares about the possibilty of lawsuits in the west* will need to pass FCC and CE RFI requirements (note: the requirements have two levels, one for "domestic" and one for "commercial", afaict manufacturers only have to comply with the "commercial" requirements provided they put a couple of lines of warnings about possible interference in a domestic environment in the manual).

      AIUI the RFI is kept down through a combination of careful PCB design, slew rate/drive strength control and avoiding having too much high speed stuff on the board at all. Still it can be a close shave sometimes, the rpf were put in a tight spot after their distributors decided that given the volume and demographics of the preorders it was too risky to try and claim it was not an end user product. Fortunately they got the board to pass with only minor firmware tweaks.

      * Some chinese vendors simply don't give a fuck :(

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Would operating one of these make the amateur radio enthusiasts down the block from you curse you?

      He'll be a lot more pissed about your unshielded kitchen appliances than about your minuscule, low-power unshielded ARM. They don't have to care what they emit because they're not radio transmitters.

  • My RasPi cost me a total of $35. Has HDMI and Composite. It's designed to work with a television set.
  • for $99 id expect a dual-core A9, 1GB of RAM, Gigabit ethernet, a FPGA and a well documented 16core coprocessor. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adapteva/parallella-a-supercomputer-for-everyone [kickstarter.com]

    If cpu power was not an issue i'd just use a raspberry pi.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      For some reason, VIA thinks that they have a good name.

      This is absurd, because to me they are still known as the company that made all those chipsets that made me cry for so many years. And cheap IEEE1394 chipsets that don't work worth a crap.

      Consequently they overprice themselves right out of the market at every opportunity, then wonder what happened. It's a miracle they still exist. Well, an anti-miracle. I can only assume that it is because they somehow manage to still get their chips bundled onboard man

  • That aluminum-cardboard fusion is kind of silly. If you made the sides of aluminum, why not throw a top and bottom cover from aluminum too. Or, then make the whole box out of cardboard.

    However I think the use of cardboard is possibly quite smart idea (ecologically). I assume this is much harder cardboard than what you would find from typical cardboard boxes. Computers have relatively short use age anyway and do not get beaten much, so they do not need cases that last forever.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It's a crap idea because humidity makes cardboard warp and sag. When the cardboard cover fails the user is just going to be left wanting another case. They're probably not going to buy it from VIA, but they may buy one.

  • One reason I am pro-Raspberry Pi is that is has a huge user base. When you are dealing with trying to get Linux stuff to run on ARM and the lower system capabilities of an embedded system, it is nice to have 100,000 friends who are messing with the same system and already worked out the issues.

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