VIA, a company that at one time competed with AMD and Intel in the low-end CPU market and was also known to churn out a graphics card or two, has launched a miniature, super-affordable PC that may throw a serious spoke into the Rasberry Pi’s wheels.
Essentially a motherboard with an SoC soldered on, the company’s tiny APC (Android PC) is a $49 (around £31) Neo-ITX board with some very impressive features for the price. Connectivity-wise it offers VGA and HDMI for video, no fewer than four USB ports, an Ethernet port and headphone plus microphone jacks. There’s also a microSD card reader.
Nor are the onboard specs anything to be ashamed of, with an 800MHz ARM11 processor plus HD video decoding, 512MB of memory and 2GB of expandable onboard Flash storage. All of this is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which may sound a little disappointing when Android 4 AKA Ice Cream Sandwich is already popping up all over the place, but keep in mind that we’re talking about a sub-$50 device here.
Other limitations include a maximum video output of 720p, though the hardware should be able to handle Full HD content so your entire library will run given the right media player. So all you need to add to the VIA APC is an interface (i.e. mouse and keyboard) plus screen, and you have a fully working Android computer. Better yet, it’s as frugal as a pair of energy-saving bulbs, using under 14W at load.
Is it worth the extra over the $30ish Raspberry Pi or would you rather have the MK802 Android 4.0 ICS PC on a Memory Stick? Let us know in the comments.