Recently, there has been a steady growth in the ultra-tiny ARM-based motherboard market, starting first with devices like the $35 Raspberry Pi, which has recently even started to see use as a possible Nexus Q alternative. The reason why these boards are so popular is that they allow you to learn a lot about PC building and technology and are very flexible, even if they have been on the weak-side when it comes to hardware.
If you like the idea of a tiny, flexible ARM-PC that can run Linux, and even possibly Android, but want more than 500-700MHz of power, there hasn’t been much to choice from- until now. A Korean hardware company called Hardkernel is launching what is probably the first high-end ultra-mini ARM motherboard. This thing comes with an impressive amount of technology, such as a Samsung Exynos 4 Processor, which is a quad-core that runs at 1.4GHz. The board also has a quad-core Mali 400 GPU, 1GB of RAM, six USB host ports, ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks, and an SDHC card slot.
The unit measures 3.5×3.7-inches and because of its very powerful specs, it is ideal for those that want really tiny computers for functions like media players, but want more power and functionality than devices like the Raspberry Pi (at 700MHz single-core) can offer.
The Hardkernel board is based on a Cortex-A9, and therefore is open to both Ubuntu and Android without any problems. Unsurprisingly, all this extra power comes at a much greater cost, at $129. Considering it is a little more than three times the cost of the Pi, the Hardkernel board might not appeal to the same crowd as the Pi, which is folks who want to experiment with different ranges of functions while not spending very much at all, but it could open up doors for enthusiasts that want a computing device smaller than micro-ITX for media players, HTPCs, and other special uses.