Pocket Chip – Super Handy Fun Computer
Since the launch of the Raspberry Pi in 2012, the hobbyist community centered on low-cost, open-source, ARM-based computers has exploded dramatically. Every year, these small, hackable devices get cheaper and more powerful. In 2015, Oakland-based Next Thing Co. upped the ante by successfully Kickstarting a $9 computer it called “CHIP” to the tune of $2 million in funding. As part of its pitch, Next Thing Co. also showcased the PocketCHIP, a handheld version of the CHIP with a built-in keyboard and touchscreen display.
The PocketCHIP includes a 1GHz ARM CPU (with a Mali 400 GPU), 4GB of flash storage, 512MB of RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, a primitive keyboard, and a five-hour LiPo battery. With this device now shipping to Kickstarter backers, I thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at the gadget on my trusty workbench, and document my findings in this slideshow.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the PocketCHIP was “Game Boy,” and I think the similarity to Nintendo’s famous handheld is intentional. The height and depth of the PocketCHIP’s plastic case almost exactly matches that of the 1989 Game Boy, with only the width being off (the PocketCHIP is wider).
That brings me to an important point: “PocketCHIP” is almost a misnomer. At 6.4 x 4.4 x 1.125 inches (HxWxD), this device is almost too large to fit into any pocket I own. If I did manage to stuff it into a large pocket, I’d be afraid it would split if I sat down. In other words, it’s pretty huge compared to most modern pocket-sized devices.
Here we see the CHIP module (left) detached from the “console”—it plugs in via two double-rowed pin headers on the circuit board. The CHIP is the heart of the console—it’s the computer that makes it all possible. The CHIP itself has three ports: a Micro USB port for 5V power, a regular female USB-A host port for accessories, and a 1/8-inch combo AV phono jack that can be used for headphones or, with a special cable, to output both composite video and sound. HDMI and VGA breakout boards are available for the CHIP separately, but they won’t work with the PocketCHIP circuit board plugged in.
PocketCHIP’s smooth, angular plastic case feels fairly comfortable in your hands as you cradle it to type. Its translucent peek-a-boo nature is an enticing feature in a device that you can take apart, which you’ll see next.
In keeping with its spirit of hackability, the PocketCHIP is easy to disassemble into its constituent parts—if you ever wanted to do such a thing.
PocketCHIP is composed of five main parts: the aforementioned CHIP board, which is the same as you would buy for $9 separately; a five-hour LiPo battery; a 480×272 backlit LCD display; the plastic housing (including LCD bezel); and a white circuit board that holds it all together, which includes a keyboard (we’ll take a closer look at that in a minute).
If you’re coming from a Raspberry Pi angle, the PocketCHIP’s onboard 4GB storage is a big limitation, but it’s also a plus: With the Pi, you need a case, a power supply, an SD card, a display, a keyboard, and a mouse to get going (that often adds up quickly). PocketCHIP has everything you need built into one device, and it’s ready to go when you turn it on.
Click here for more information: https://getchip.com/pages/pocketchip
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