Board maker's $US45 PC tries to catch up with Raspberry Pi on price

BeagleBoard Black is a barebones PC the size of a credit card and has a 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor

Open-source board maker BeagleBoard.org has introduced a bare-bones PC starting at $US45, bringing it closer to the popular Raspberry Pi, which offers basic models for $US25 and $US35.

The $US45 BeagleBoard Black has no casing and comes in the form of a motherboard with key connectors and components, just like the Raspberry Pi. The board is about half the price of its predecessor, which was $US89 when it was launched in November 2011.

The PC is targeted at enthusiasts, developers and hackers. The BeagleBoard has been used to test smartphone and tablet applications, and also for hobbyist projects like the Smart Pill Box, which is a device that sounds an alarm to remind memory-impaired patients to take medicine.

Beagleboard Black is the size of a credit card and runs Android, Fedora and Canonical's Ubuntu. The hardware includes 2GB of storage, 512MB of DDR3 memory, and USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Attachments like keyboards, mice and monitors need to be purchased separately.

The PC runs on an ARM Cortex-A8 processor with a clock speed of 1GHz, which is a boost from its predecessor, which had a 720MHz Cortex-A8 processor and 256MB of DDR2 memory.

The new BeagleBoard falls into a category of products called open-source hardware, in which hardware schematics are publicly shared so the designs can be replicated or changed by other companies. Much of the innovation in the open-source hardware community has been around Arduino microcontrollers, but enthusiasts are finding new ways to use such PCs. For example, the Raspberry Pi is used as a media-streaming device, a desktop replacement and also for robotics.

The new PC is available through BeagleBones' website. The hardware schematics are available via Circuitco's wiki page.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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