Next Thing Co., creator of the $9 CHIP microcomputer, has announced a new device aimed at engineers and device builders rather than the educational market: the $16 CHIP Pro.
The original CHIP microcomputer caused a stir when creator Next Thing Co. announced a crowdfunding campaign with a headline-grabbing $9 (£7) entry price. Despite considerable scepticism regarding the project's sustainability and profitability, the CHIP launched successfully
, albeit with the need to buy AV cables or adaptor boards to actually use it, and was followed by the PocketCHIP
hand-held portable computer.
Now, though, Next Thing Co. is looking to a new market: professional engineers. The freshly-announced CHIP Pro
builds on its predecessor with a new and more compact board layout, suitable for use on a breadboard and with surface-mount technology (SMT) castillated edges which allow it to be soldered directly onto a host circuit board. The board is powered by a repackaged AllWinner R8 system-on-chip (SoC), dubbed the Next Thing Co. GR8, which includes 256MB of DDR3 and 512MB of NAND flash storage - significantly less than the 512MB and 4GB respectively of the mainstream CHIP - connected to a single-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor in a single module. External ports aside, the CHIP Pro retains the features of its maker-targeted predecessor including 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios.
Where Next Thing Co. is hoping to stand apart from the competition, including the Raspberry Pi Compute Module and ultra-cheap Raspberry Pi Zero, is in its openness: the entire design is open source and the GR8 chip can be ordered in single units for just $6 (around £5 excluding taxes and shipping.) Compared to the closed-source Raspberry Pi, for which the Broadcom BCM283x SoC family is simply not available to mere mortals, that's a pair of selling points that could make up for the part's relatively poor performance.
The Next Thing Co. CHIP Pro launches in December, priced at $16 (around £13 excluding taxes and shipping) in any quantity; an optional developer's kit includes two CHIP Pro boards, headers, and a breakout board for $49 (around £40 excluding taxes and shipping.)