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

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 "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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  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:14PM (#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"?

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

    by Above ( 100351 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:28PM (#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.

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

    by countach ( 534280 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:58PM (#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:What about (Score:4, Insightful)

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Thursday January 17, 2013 @10:55PM (#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.

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

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Thursday January 17, 2013 @11:29PM (#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 :(

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