Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Raspberry Pi $35 mini computer to ship in late February

Raspberry Pi Model B

The first batch of Raspberry Pi computer units is near completion and will be available for purchase by the end of this February for just $35.

Want a $35 computer? Good news, your dreams are about to become reality! After a delayed release date, the low-cost USB computer units are finally leaving factories on February 20 and will be available on the market by the end of the month.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation team announced yesterday that since production began last month, manufacturing teams faced a short setback when they ran into problems sourcing a specific model of quartz crystal package.

“The quartz crystal package we had chosen when we thought we were manufacturing in the UK is readily available over here in Europe, and was the cheapest we could find,” the Foundation’s official blog said. “But it turns out that in China, that crystal package has been overtaken in price and size by a smaller, cheaper one, so the one we’d designed for has been a bit hard to find.”

The team has since been able to source the crystals and the first batch of units are expected to ship to the United Kingdom by the 20th for final inspections before hitting the consumer market by this month’s end. As we’ve previously reported, users can anticipate the $35 Model B version of the tiny PCs from this first wave while the cheaper and less advanced $25 Model A continues to undergo production. These deliciously named micro-boards are as technologically capable as some of the market’s latest slew of smartphones, but expect these mini-computers to be pretty bareboned as users will need to supply their own monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse at the very minimum to get Raspberry Pi running. 

Along with yesterday’s announcement, the Foundation also released a datasheet of the BCM2835 system-on-chip (SoC) integrated in the boards in the interest of more advanced Raspberry Pi users. The abbreviated datasheet is a mere 205 pages long, and details the components that allow Raspberry Pi to perform complex tasks such as playing HD-quality videos, supporting AirPlay and running Quake III. The datasheet will also be helpful for those who want to port their own operating systems, or are up for a long read on the boards’ Linux kernel sources.

What can you do with a $35 computer the size of a credit card? Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton originally envisioned kids using the machine to learn programming in cash-strapped high schools, but the project also has possibilities far beyond that original goal. The low power requirements mean it can be used for always-on applications, like powering a digital picture frame or virtual signage. The HDMI output and 1080p decoding capability mean it could be used as a compact, noiseless home theater PC. According to Raspberry Pi, there’s even plenty of interest in using the computer to build robots.

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