In the race to build the world's most affordable computer, Next Thing's CHIP could be the next small thing. Just launched on Kickstarter, CHIP is planned to be a $9 Linux PC that packs a 1-GHz R8 processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. Unlike the $35 Raspberry Pi, though, this tiny device will have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in.
Targeting everyone from tinkerers and early adopters to students and grandparents, the CHIP (which is about one-quarter the size of a banana) is powered by a version of Debian Linux and can run everything from LibreOffice and the Chromium browser to Scratch for learning programming. You can also play games using a Bluetooth controller.
To connect the CHIP to a display, you could use the integrated composite video port or spring for the VGA adapter or HDMI adapter, which respectively add $10 and $15 to the Kickstarter base price of $9.
Those who pledge this Kickstarter project at the $150 Kernel Hacker Level should receive a CHIP by September, but those who pledge just $9 or more won't get their unit until December. The adapters won't be available until May 2016.
Next Thing has also introduced the $49 Pocket CHIP, a handheld computer that the CHIP can plug into, complete with a 4.3-inch resistive color touch screen (470 x 272 pixels), a 3,000 mAH battery and "clickey" keyboard. The device, which is powered by an Allwinner system-on-a-chip, promises 5 hours of battery life.
The Pocket CHIP is not meant to replace a smartphone, but it could bring portable computing to the masses for a very affordable price.
CHIP has already blown past its initial funding goal of $50,000, raising $662,000 with 26 days to go. We hope to get our hands on a CHIP soon to bring you our hands-on impressions.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.