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$200 Intel MinnowBoard Takes a Stab at Miniature Computing

By Wesley Fenlon

Want to build your own tiny computer, but don't like the Raspberry Pi? Check out the Minnowboard.

"Hey computer industry," said the Raspberry Pi. "Did you know that you can build a computer and sell it for about $35?"

"What!" said the computer industry. "That's incredibly cheap! I want to buy one and use it for a my hacking projects or to run MAME! Also, you're going to put us out of business! We better make a Raspberry Pi, too."

And here we are: Intel just released the MinnowBoard, an x86 motherboard with a 1GHz Atom E640 processor (with integrated graphics) and 1GB of DDR2 RAM already onboard. It's equipped with a pair of USB ports, debug USB, DVI via HDMI, a microSD slot for expandable storage, PCIE, and SATA 2. Also, it costs $200 to the Raspberry Pi's $35.

Big difference. But Intel's MinnowBoard isn't exactly filling the same niche as the Raspberry Pi, even though they're both very small computers. The MinnowBoard is designed to be more expandable--it really is a motherboard that happens to have some key components already attached. It's clocked higher than the Raspberry Pi and x86 rather than ARM.

Minnowboard, like Raspberry Pi, is open source. Hobbyists can build their own Lures, cards that expand the functionality of the Minnowboard. WIth SATA and PCIE support, it's certainly a more flexible platform than the Raspberry Pi. But flexible enough to warrant that $200 price tag? Tough sell, especially when the Raspberry Pi already has a dedicated community coping up with cool open source projects.

Check out Intel's Minnowboard website if you want to buy one; the site also details its support for the Yocto Project, which promises Linux compatibility.