'Bunnie' Huang is crowd-funding open Novena laptop

April 3, 2014 | 16:01

Tags: #andrew-huang #bunnie #crowd-funding #crowdfunding #fpga #laptop #maker #open-hardware

Companies: #andrew-bunnie-huang #arm #freescale #novena #xilinx

Novena, the open hardware laptop designed by Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang, has entered the final stretch with the launch of a crowd-funding effort to produce the first models for general availability.

Introduced to the world back in December 2012, the Novena laptop was never intended as a commercial product but instead created to address what noted maker Bunnie saw as limitations and restrictions in off-the-shelf hardware. 'It occurs to me that maybe other people might also be interested in owning a laptop like this, but don’t want to go through the trouble of fabricating their own circuit boards,' he mused at the time. 'If it seems like a few hundred folks are interested, I might be convinced to try a Kickstarter campaign in several months, once the design is stable and tested.'

Months stretched into a year, but not without progress: in January this year Huang showed off a late-model prototype which reflected much of what he wanted to device to be, along with its new name Novena. Based around a high-resolution 13" display and featuring an ARM-based processor and Xilinx field-programmable gate array (FPGA), the device - true to his original promise - offered much for makers, including access to its internals with only two screws and full low-level component documentation for all parts without the need to sign a restrictive non-disclosure agreement (NDA.)

Now, Huang and his team have decided Novena is ready for public access and are launching a crowd-funding campaign where backers will have the chance to own one of the first truly open laptops themselves. The bare board, which includes a 1.2GHz quad-core Freescale ARM processor and 4GB of RAM, is priced at $500; $1,195 install it into a case with a 1920×1080 IPS display - a downgrade from the 2560×1700 resolution Huang was testing back in January; $1,195, meanwhile, gets backers the promise of a laptop variant with built-in battery and 240GB SSD - although, oddly, no keyboard. A final $5,000 pledge level - which nobody has yet exercised - offers an 'Heirloom' edition, which boasts a hand-crafted wood and aluminium case. UK pricing for each level, then, is around £300, £718, £1199 and £3,011 respectively, excluding shipping and taxes.

'This is not a machine for the faint of heart,' Huang warns. 'It's an open source project, which means part of the joy – and frustration – of the device is that it is continuously improving. This will be perhaps the only laptop that ships with a screwdriver; you'll be required to install the battery yourself, screw on the LCD bezel of your choice, and you'll get the speakers as a kit, so you don't have to use our speaker box design – if you have access to a 3D printer, you can make and fine tune your own speaker box.'

The project aims to raise $250,000 in the next 45 days, with a view to shipping the bare boards in November, the desktops in December and the laptops in January. More details are available on the Crowd Supply page.
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