Low-power computing specialist VIA has announced its answer to the Raspberry Pi: an ARM-based neo-ITX system running Google's Android operating system.
Based around a WonderMedia ARM11 processor running at 800MHz - 100MHz faster than the stock Raspberry Pi BCM2835 chip - and with 512MB of DDR3 RAM - twice that of the Raspberry Pi, and faster to boot - the APC 8750 is certainly impressive at first glimpse. Additional features above and beyond that of its credit-card sized competitor include 2GB of on-board NAND flash storage, four USB 2.0 ports, microphone input as well as analogue audio output and an analogue VGA connection in addition to HDMI.
Not everything about the APC 8750 will impress Pi fans, however: for no readily apparent reason, the device is limited to 720p output (1280x720) through its HDMI port, while the Pi manages 1080p (1920x1080) or higher. The system also requires an external power supply, adding to its already sizable dimensions. Finally, the device is also more expensive, costing $49 to the Pi's $35.
VIA is targeting a subtly different market with the APC 8750, however: its clever neo-ITX form factor, measuring just 17cm by 8.5cm, allows the device to be housed in any standard mini-ITX or micro-ATX chassis. The Pi, by contrast, is significantly smaller but requires custom cases to be constructed.
Where the Pi is targeted at education and curious hackers, the APC 8750 has its eyes firmly on the developing world.
'APC brings the familiarity and convenience of Android to the PC at a $49 price point that will open up exciting new markets and applications,' claimed VIA's Richard Brown at the device's unveiling. 'Like a bicycle for your mind, APC will enable more people than ever before to explore the vast online universe.'
The APC 8750 comes pre-loaded with Android 'Gingerbread' 2.3, a somewhat outdated version of Google's smartphone- and tablet-oriented operating system. While that means it's ready to go as soon as it's unpacked, there's no news yet as to whether VIA will be opening up the bootloader to allow other operating systems to run on the device - another tick in the Pi's favour.
The company has indicated that the APC 8750 is to be but the first low-cost low-power device in a new APC family. Details of future devices, however, are not yet available - but it's easy to imagine a more powerful, dual- or quad-core version with integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth launching in the near future should the initial device prove a success.