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Hardware Build Linux

C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better? ( 122

Make Magazine weighs in on an issue that's suddenly relevant in a world where less than $10 can buy a new, (nominally) complete computer. Which one makes most sense? Both the $9 C.H.I.P and the newest, stripped-down Raspberry Pi model have pluses and minuses, but to make either one actually useful takes some additional hardware; at their low prices, it's not surprising that neither one comes with so much as a case. The two make different trade-offs, despite being just a few dollars apart in ticket price. C.H.I.P. comes with built-in storage that rPi lacks, for instance, but the newest Pi, like its forebears, has built in HDMI output. Make's upshot? The cost of owning either a C.H.I.P. or a Pi is a bit more money than the retail cost of the boards. Peripherals such as a power cable, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are necessary to accomplish any computer task on either of the devices. But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.
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C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better?

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  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday November 28, 2015 @09:34AM (#51017305) Homepage Journal

    Unless you get your hands on the MagPi or live near one of the twenty-five Micro Center locations in the USA, you can't get one Pi Zero for less than $9 even when they get them back in stock in the Swag store. CHIP is not yet preordering, they are still just taking email addresses. We don't yet know how much it will cost to get one in one's hot little hands, although my name is in to be notified when it happens. element14 wants $13.50 for one, because for some reason people who haven't discovered eBay are willing to keep sending them money even though they lie about stock on hand in the best case — which is what they did during the first Raspberry Pi launch. They weren't even fulfilling orders in-house, and they had no idea how much stock was at the fulfillment center, but they were reporting stock on hand. Ask me how I know.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fuck, this is a total non-issue. Get 10 of each sub-$10 computer, link them into a goddamn BEOWULF CLUSTER, and quit your sissy whining!

      What's the problem? It doesn't fucking matter! The solution is BEOWULF CLUSTER!

      Got a pain in your joints? The remedy is BEOWULF CLUSTER!

      Your car won't start? Drive a BEOWULF CLUSTER instead!

      Can't find your pants? Just slip into a BEOWULF CLUSTER!

      Poop on the floor at work? Wipe it up with BEOWULF CLUSTER!

    • by Racemaniac ( 1099281 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @09:54AM (#51017337)

      Where does this bullshit keep coming from?
      Yes, some of the dealers started out only offering it as a bundle (with some extra cables etc...) at ofcourse an increased price. But for example pihut immediately sold it at 4£ which basically is the 5$ plus sales tax.
      So just wait for more to be produced, and you'll definitely be able to get it at the advertised price -_-.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Pound is worth more than you think! []

      • It's probably coming from here [].
      • I'm going to check on Monday what the Chip really costs to get one, but I don't believe that it will really be under $10. Rather, I expect the same sleazy BS that the worst of the late night sellers use, "plus extra shipping and processing". If I can get one for under $10 I will, but I'm expecting to not get one.
    • by dissy ( 172727 )

      Which one is sub-$10?
      Unless you get your hands on the MagPi or live near one of the twenty-five Micro Center locations in the USA

      The later being exactly what I did. The Pi Zeros were $5 each, and I now have two of them.
      The CHIP isn't being sold anywhere yet, either online nor Microcenter.

      So the answer to your question is "The Pi Zero"

  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @09:47AM (#51017327)

    This report [] claims it won't cost 9 dollar in the future. Those are only a bait to build a community, which later on becomes the product. The 9 dollar are a loss deal to boost sales.

    • This report claims it won't cost 9 dollar in the future.

      We discussed that here already, and CHIP's founder claims that at least two of their major assumptions are wrong. We'll see, I guess, but I'm always skeptical of these things when they don't come from someone with a reliable track record.

      • The loss-leader, if there is one, may well be at Allwinner's end. Look at the number of Kickstarter hardware projects that use a full Pi board because it's readily available. I reckon Allwinner see the C.H.I.P. as an opportunity to get their SoCs in front of the next generation of Kickstarter hardware makers in an easy prototyping form-factor.
        • Whether or not they can actually keep the CHIP at $9, if the project does actually get Allwinner SoC support mainline and GPL compliant it would be a fairly big win. All kinds of low cost hardware is built on Allwinner parts; but the software situation is kind of dodgy, since Allwinner doesn't seem to care and the people making hardware cheap enough to use Allwinner SoCs really don't care.

          With Rockchip and Mediatek in play, it's not as though they have a whole lot of room for 'mwahaha, loss leader and th
          • I think the thing in the Kickstarter gadget space is that there's no established, readily available prototyping environment for most SoCs. People tend to prototype of Pi, then stick with Pi for the full product, even though it is (or, rather, was) larger and more expensive than strictly necessary. The Allwinner chip seems to be so internally complete that a prototype rolled on CHIP should be able to go direct to production with the chip on a different board.
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      Looks like they're selling it for only $8 [] now. The $8 price sounds more like a loss/break even deal so I'd guess it's costing them under $9.
      • Looks like they're selling it for only $8 now. The $8 price sounds more like a loss/break even deal so I'd guess it's costing them under $9.

        I don't know about you, but I had an issue during checkout. My issue was that there wasn't one. They aren't selling anything yet at any price, just gathering email addresses and judging interest.

        • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
          Think you jumped the gun a bit - there's a countdown showing when you will be able to actual purchase them (on "cyber monday"),
    • 16$ for the allwinner is not true. I remember a few years back some of their cortex a9 chip made lots of problems for the industry that they sold it for around 5$. I wouldnt be surprised if its even cheaper now.

      But even if it were true, they havent offered a single CHIP for 9$ yet. Only 29$ + "free shipping". Shipping something like this from shenzhen would cost around 1$. So it`s really a 28$ module so far. Hardly a loss leader by todays standards. You can already today get android phones [] with touchscreen,

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't pay for software. Why should I pay for hardware?

    • "Don't worry, I can sell you the same piece of hardware for a much higher price."

      This is at least the attitude of apple.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @09:58AM (#51017347) Homepage

    Because it can EASILY be integrated into a project that needs very thin and small space used. No I am not interested in desoldering the headers. Plus the built in storage is useless. I would rather swap out a microsd card to update a system than upload changes to it.

    And nobody sane believes the advertised prices.

    • Precisely! Either that, or an Arduino, would provide all the items needed.
    • Because it can EASILY be integrated into a project that needs very thin and small space used.

      The problem with the Pi is that it has few USB ports and no wireless. The CHIP has WiFi and Bluetooth built in, which is very useful for a lot of IoT applications and HID peripherals.

      • Bingo. Bluetooth USB dongles are even overpriced so that a C.H.I.P. would be cheaper, unless I order the dongle from China I guess.

        What I hate about Bluetooth is that no desktop has it. Which is a first approximation, but good enough.
        I want bluetooth PCI cards for 10 euros, and 5 years ago. I can't believe that opportunity was missed. With a dongle on the desktop and a C.H.I.P computer, I would be able to send files in both directions without setting up a network like it's the late 90s and I've linked a Win

        • What I hate about Bluetooth is that no desktop has it.

          My 2008 iMac has Bluetooth, and the Bluetooth is just as disfunctional as on all my other Bluetooth devices.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        How is that a problem? I see that as a huge feature, I'm not forced to have wireless and a bajillion USB ports but I can easily add them without effort.

        • Well, it means that if you want to use it as a desktop or for IoT applications, your small $5 computer turns into a $50 computer with a big mess of wires and boxes hanging off it. If you don't mind that, no, it's not a problem. I do mind.

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      It really depends on the project. If I'm aiming for something small/light/mobile, I'll probably go with a Pi zero so I don't get extra stuff. On the other hand, for something that needs wifi and space constraints aren't as tight, the Chip is a better deal
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The big reason to go with the Pi is just like going with the Arduino - community.

      Community support is essential, and even more than that, continual community support. It's one thing to make a cheap board, another one to make a cheap board and get a community going around it. And quite another if you want that community to not die out after a couple of years.

      The RPi community looks to be an ongoing community - even this new board is supposed to look similar to the old boards so support should be ongoing.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @10:10AM (#51017363) Journal
    While it is extremely impressive that one could do so(given that such power for such price was unheard of until very recently), it seems rather pointless to compare these two boards on the basis that you are planning on plugging in enough peripherals to use them as your next desktop. Aside from the plummeting cost and wide availability of ludicrously overqualified x86s; the most stripped down ARM SBC is obviously going to require costlier and uglier peripheral tangles than the less stripped down ones(the CHIP has no 'sibling' designs; but is similar to Allwinner-based boards from others; the rPi zero has otherwise-identical models that add the USB hub and ethernet for you, or slightly punchier options).

    The only reason to go with either of these is because you have some more constrained purpose for which the low cost and small size make the difference. So, do you want HDMI support; at the cost of bringing your own NIC; or do you want the NIC; but HDMI as an optional extra? Depends on whether you are building a headless project or not.

    The other matter is the software support; which is as yet an unknown. The rPi has some Broadcom blobs that are very, very, unlikely to go away; but benefits from a known, solid, supporting ecosystem. The Allwinner A8 is a bit of an unknown quantity: the project claims to be aggressively mainlining everything(which would be extremely attractive); but Allwinner's GPL compliance has best in the past; and the MALI-400 is ARM's toy, not theirs, so they have limited control over that. If the CHIP's aspirations bear out, then it will have the distinct advantage of working with mainline kernel and u-boot. If they don't, or do only in part, then the question becomes one of 'which slightly oddball BSP is better?'
    • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @11:13AM (#51017537)

      On the subject of software, the rPi also comes with free (but licensed) Mathematica. Might not interest many people, but for me the idea of essentially treating it as a symbolic algebra coprocessor (via ssh) is the thing which is tempting me most towards getting a Zero.

      • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @07:53PM (#51019901) Journal

        i'm really curious about what could possibly be the use case for this. it seems like a giant pain-in-the-ass way to do symbolic algebra, so i'm trying to figure it out. apparently you need to regularly perform symbolic derivations which mma can do, but the free alternatives (octave, sage, etc.) cannot; however, your uptime and latency requirements are low enough that you are willing to deal with a duct-tape ssh solution. i really have no idea why anyone would want to do this. care to enlighten me?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Probably just as an educational tool. After all, that was the idea behind RPi's creation.

        • I'm not really in the target audience; but I know that sage, at least, can optionally use sage as a frontend to mathematica. I don't know how the feature sets compare; but if you are using the sage web interface it is pretty painless to interact with a copy of mathematica installed on the sage server; instead of, or in addition to, the OSS tools that it works with.

          It may just be added complexity, there may be something that mathematica handles particularly brilliantly that the parent poster has in mind;
        • by pjt33 ( 739471 )
          • There are a lot of OEIS entries which have programs in Mathematica but not in other languages.
          • One of the projects on my TODO list is to try to port the OEIS Superseeker from its current mix of C, Fortran, Perl, sh, ksh, Maple, and Mathematica to Sage. Having a way to run the original Mathematica components could be rather useful for checking that their ports work and that I haven't misunderstood something.
          • I'm fairly active on a code golf site which has Mathematica participants. It would be nice to be able
      • a symbolic algebra coprocessor (via ssh)

        That just made my brain hurt. From a technical point of view, there is no real usefulness in having the rPi take part of the computational load off of your main machine (which is the point of a co-processor) to perform these kinds of functions. And, if you're willing to bend over backwards to run something external to your device, then you might as well just use Wolfram Alpha online.

        • I think he's planning on using the free Mathematica on the RPi to make up for a lack of a free version of Mathematica... Or is there a free desktop version of Mathematica?

          • If you're really only doing symbolic algebra, there's very little mathematica can do that isn't commonly available as free software. This seems more like a solution looking for a problem. Even if this were necessary for some reason, you could locally emulate an ARM machine with qemu; it's not like mathematica can magically detect whether it's really running on a raspberry pi. (This would violate the license, but otoh, as it currently stands, running raspberry pi mathematica on a pi zero also violates the li

    • Exactly, unless you have an embedded project that needs to have the board be as absolutely tiny as possible it just makes more sense to buy something like this AIO board [] that gives you dual X86 with a decent GPU capable of doing 1080P over HDMI and with built in Wifi, USB (both 2 and 3), Sata/eSata and Ethernet. By the time you bought all that for one of these? You'd have sunk more money for a less powerful system.
      • Embedded projects are exactly what these boards are aimed at. If anyone is thinking of these as a general purpose desktop, they should think again. But as a dedicated device for an embedded project, these are very interesting. The CHIP's built-in WiFi and otherwise RPi-like specs make it compelling. I have more than a few Arduino projects that would be much more convenient to develop on top of Linux. A $10 board that can run Linux and can talk to a wide range of sensors and devices would be very tempting.

        • Dude have you not be on the Internet lately? there is a billion and one articles extolling using these Pi style boards for HTPCs which as GP pointed out and I agreed with is some serious dumb shit, but its the Internet so there is no lack of dumbshit.

          That said I have a buddy that does car PC installs and uses boards like I linked to and for THOSE kinds of embedded projects? They work VERY well, top draw on them boards when playing media is sub 12w, they are fanless, and as I pointed out all the I/O you coul

    • The CHIP has HDMI, Bluetooth and WiFi. That means that you can have a complete computer without using any of the USB ports.

  • Cynical? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @10:11AM (#51017365) Journal

    Maybe I'm just becoming increasingly cynical in my old age, but this article reads like a slashvertisement.

    Taking the time to look up DAVID SCHELTEMA and CHIP and Next Thing, either a) he's a committed hobbyist who out of altruism spends the majority of his time promoting projects that he genuinely feels are superior in dozens, scores, perhaps even HUNDREDS of articles for more than a year across nearly every conceivable media form from magazines to blogs to twitter, or b) he's a paid shill (or investor) in this project.

    • Maybe I'm just becoming increasingly cynical in my old age, but this article reads like a slashvertisement.

      Sing it, brother. That's exactly the impression I got too. But then I *am* old and cynical.

      With that said, I can honestly say that my cynicism has served me well and rarely led me astray. As Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up." And damn if she wasn't right.

      So yes, I bet this thing will sell for more than the price claimed, assuming it ever sees the light of day.

  • Perhaps it's just me, but most of the use cases that I can think of for a small embedded device like the Raspberry Pi Zero require either Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity (preferably Wi-Fi for a mobile applications) to remotely access and administer it.

    Since the CHIP has built in Wi-Fi, it just seems more useful for an embedded IoT type application. You could add Wi-Fi pretty easily to the old Raspberry Pi's with a USB Wi-Fi adapter, but even that is more difficult on the Zero because it doesn't have full size USB ports anymore.

    I think that I'll pass on this one, and wait for a rev with Wi-Fi.

    • The built-in Bluetooth is also very useful, since you can use it for keyboards, remote controls, mice, and even some sensors and power controllers.

    • a small embedded device like the Raspberry Pi Zero require either Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity

      One assumes that the Pi ONE will fix this shortcoming. Given the price of the ESP8266, I doubt it would cost more than $1 to add connectivity. The only reason I can think of for them not doing this in the first place is to wait for a better WiFi device to hit the streets.

      Once the Pi has WiFi, it will be difficult to beat at that price.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can this new Raspberry Pi, or the CHIP, support the linux gadget framework [] so you can make the whole board appear as a USB device, like a memory stick, when you plug it into a desktop computer?

    • I'd like to know too. I use one of my Arduinos for that. I think it's a Pro Micro. Obviously not the -Linux- gadget support, but they can be programmed as USB gadgets. Mine has been a keyboard (for brute forcing Android PINs) and a mouse (to keep a Chrome Box from going to sleep).

    • The answer appears to be no on the rPi. The BCM2835's USB port is OTG-capable, so it isn't master only; but I can find no mention of gadget device configuration actually being available. The CHIP is maybe: apparently [] OTG support was added in kernel 4.3; don't know how well it works, or whether the CHIP's mini-b port even has its data lines connected.
  • by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @11:44AM (#51017669)

    I have a stack of model b pis that I use for various projects. What I love about them is that all I need is an Ethernet cable to use them. No keyboard, mouse, display - just a standard Ethernet cable and an ssh terminal. You know, that cable that hasn't changed in decades and that I have spares of in spades?

    For the zero, I would need to invest in a collection of peripherals just to start it up. It's been years since I've had a USB mouse or keyboard (Bluetooth for all).

    This was a big miss.


  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:02PM (#51018087) Homepage Journal

    Seeing these two computers, the Pi Zero has the advantage that is already shipping. The real extra cost is everything you need to be able to use them, such as USB adapter and HDMI adapter, since otherwise the onboard sockets are two small for most standard cables.

    At the same time I look at these two computers and wonder how long before they simply simply print out credit-card computers? The main challenge would likely be the things like the video connectors and usb connectors, that would require something to physically soldered on. If they did get this problem sorted, then this could reduce the manufacturing cost dramatically.

  • []
    If you're looking for an embedded device, the Oak is Arduino with WiFi and very low power so much better.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday November 28, 2015 @01:39PM (#51018279)
    If I were some kid who's parents wouldn't buy him a computer and I effectively had no money then the whole thing would be about scrounging. With scrounging the key is the ready availability of parts. This then makes things like the more recent Model B units the ones that I would want. The key being that they have a standard hdmi along with the composite video. Also they have 4 standard USB plugs.

    I can probably scrounge up some discarded monitor which means the only thing that I am going to have to buy is an HDMI to DVI converter ($5). After that the world is awash in old wired mice and keyboards. It is also awash in things that put out 5V from the wall along with the USB cords. Internet is still going to be a problem so finding some USB Wi-fi is probably going to be the biggest challenge.

    But there is no scrounging the strange little mini-hdmi. I have never seen one of those in my life or career. And for some reason there is no great surplus of USB hubs, and I have never seen a USB hub that connects to that little USB connector. Thus that would be an adapter that would be hard to find.

    So I don't see this new Pi as something for the kid who has nothing, but ideal for people like me with money and giant parts' bins who are building IoT and robots.

    But I am way out in Canada. I can tell you the in store price for one of these nine dollar boards will be $19.99 and ordering it will probably push the price closer to $30. For example I was at an electronics's store going out of business sale and they "discounted" their Pi 1 A+ all the way "down" to $35.

    And for any Canadians reading this we also know about the "brokerage fees" that will probably be tacked on.
    • The key being that they have a standard hdmi along with the composite video. Also they have 4 standard USB plugs.

      The Pi Zero was a limited edition mainly designed to be 'given away' stuck to a magazine cover. Hence the low-profile ports and lack of a header socket on the IO. If it goes into full production it will probably be targeted at robotics/control projects where the lack of bulk is a plus.

      But there is no scrounging the strange little mini-hdmi. I have never seen one of those in my life or career.

      UK Pi resellers are selling kits with mini-hdmi and mini-usb adapters, and a few other odds and ends, for £6. In any case, they're all widely used on phones

      So I don't see this new Pi as something for the kid who has nothing, but ideal for people like me with money and giant parts' bins who are building IoT and robots.

      Ding!!! Reality: if the "kid who has nothing" can't scrounge a 1

  • I've just been investigating this very question. I'm develop a tertiary course in "software engineering process". Small teams will need to work together to build *something*. For a variety of reasons, we think that building an embedded system would be a good thing for them to have exposure to, so I'm trying to find a suitable platform to develop on. The current Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black both have their strengths and weaknesses, but both would do for the job. But they both cost at least 50 AUD,
  • But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P. [my bold]

    Well, yes - if you add the cost of the mini-HDMI-to-HDMI dongle to the Pi and conveniently ignore the fact that the CHIP needs a $15 daughterboard for HDMI. I gave up on fuzzy composite video connections sometime in the 80s. The CHIPs main advantage seems to be bluetooth & wifi - but many applications of the Pi Zero won't need it: just load up the SD card on a PC or another Pi, plug it in and go. Its all swings and roundabouts, and which is best is going to depend on your application. If you actually w

  • The current $5 price for the Pi Zero, assuming you can find one, is just the price at launch. In the long term it appears it is going to sell for more than that. Micro Center, for example, will only sell you one at the $5 price; if you want more than one they cost $10 each. And that's assuming you can even find any; they appear to have sold out for now.

    The $9 price of C,H.I.P. (plus shipping), on the other hand, appears to be intended to be its permanent price, at least if you buy it directly from Next Thin

  • If you care about Open Hardware, then C.H.I.P. seems the obvious choice. Their FAQ [] claims that "We are still in the process of testing and refining the whole C.H.I.P. family. As we hit design completion, we'll release our design files." and they've already released some stuff on github [].

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