Next Thing Co. launches CHIP Pro microcomputer module

October 12, 2016 | 09:45

Tags: #chip #microcomputer #pocketchip #smt

Companies: #next-thing-co #raspberry-pi

Next Thing Co., creator of the $9 CHIP microcomputer, has announced a new device aimed at engineers and device builders rather than the educational market: the $16 CHIP Pro.

The original CHIP microcomputer caused a stir when creator Next Thing Co. announced a crowdfunding campaign with a headline-grabbing $9 (£7) entry price. Despite considerable scepticism regarding the project's sustainability and profitability, the CHIP launched successfully, albeit with the need to buy AV cables or adaptor boards to actually use it, and was followed by the PocketCHIP hand-held portable computer.

Now, though, Next Thing Co. is looking to a new market: professional engineers. The freshly-announced CHIP Pro builds on its predecessor with a new and more compact board layout, suitable for use on a breadboard and with surface-mount technology (SMT) castillated edges which allow it to be soldered directly onto a host circuit board. The board is powered by a repackaged AllWinner R8 system-on-chip (SoC), dubbed the Next Thing Co. GR8, which includes 256MB of DDR3 and 512MB of NAND flash storage - significantly less than the 512MB and 4GB respectively of the mainstream CHIP - connected to a single-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor in a single module. External ports aside, the CHIP Pro retains the features of its maker-targeted predecessor including 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios.

Where Next Thing Co. is hoping to stand apart from the competition, including the Raspberry Pi Compute Module and ultra-cheap Raspberry Pi Zero, is in its openness: the entire design is open source and the GR8 chip can be ordered in single units for just $6 (around £5 excluding taxes and shipping.) Compared to the closed-source Raspberry Pi, for which the Broadcom BCM283x SoC family is simply not available to mere mortals, that's a pair of selling points that could make up for the part's relatively poor performance.

The Next Thing Co. CHIP Pro launches in December, priced at $16 (around £13 excluding taxes and shipping) in any quantity; an optional developer's kit includes two CHIP Pro boards, headers, and a breakout board for $49 (around £40 excluding taxes and shipping.)
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