As the demand for low-cost, low-power, high performance ARM-based mini boards continues, alternatives to the ARM6 based Raspberry Pi have started to appear and they are proving just as popular.
Touting three times the CPU power of the Raspberry Pi and twice as much RAM, the board (which uses the Allwinner A10 Cortex A8 1 Ghz CPU) was available for just £40 UK pounds which is roughly $62 US dollars. It runs Android 4.0.3 out of the box, but support for Ubuntu and Arm Arch Linux is expected in the near future. It has 4GB of on-board flash and support for an additional 32GB via a micro SD memory card. On the connectivity front it has Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n, a mini USB port and HDMI out. It also comes with a charger included in the price!
Since it is an ARM-based board, its power consumption is low. The board uses just 4 watts when in use and only 2.3 watts when in standby. This makes it a perfect building block for enthusiasts who want to build Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers, media servers, or media players for use directly with a TV.
However there are some limitations… The first being that they have all sold out! The guys behind the Gooseberry only ordered 500 boards to start, and, as you can imagine, they went quickly, even though orders were limited to 1 per person. The next problem is that there is only 1 micro USB port which means you need to use a USB hub if you want to connect a mouse, keyboard and some form of external storage all at the same time. Finally, there is no LAN port, which could be detrimental when trying to use the device as a NAS.
The Gooseberry board guys ran a small competition to see who could come up with the coolest comment or video about how the Gooseberry can be used. The winner got a free Gooseberry board. Here is the winning video by Ryan Heatherly:
The demand for these low cost ARM boards is reminiscent of the home computer boom of the 80′s. Young adults and enthusiasts can get hold of these devices cheaply and plug them straight into a TV and start learning and playing. However, what I found odd about the Raspberry Pi (other than its underdog mentality) is that these ARM boards are readily available in cheap Android tablets. In fact that is where the Gooseberry owes its origin. The FAQ on the Gooseberry site clearly says: “The Gooseberry Board is a PCBA found within tablets. We have not designed nor manufactured this board. We have only recognized the potential it holds in both price and performance and so, have made it available and known to the public.” For their foresight and entrepreneurship, I congratulate them.
But here is the thing: you can buy (from China) a 7 inch capacitive touch screen Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with 512MB of RAM and 8GB of flash for less than $75. That is just £48 in UK terms. These devices can be connected to HDMI and use a mouse and keyboard exactly like the Raspberry Pi and Gooseberry board plus you get a touch screen and web camera! They have the same Allwinner CPU as the Gooseberry board and also include a free charger!
I know that there is something exotic about seeing a bare board hooked up to a bunch of leads and seeing little LEDs flashing as you hack away on your new gadget. But in terms of economics, it makes more sense to buy a cheap tablet and build your home projects around that. If you really want the exotic look, then take the circuit board out of the plastic case. The ARM based circuit board will look exactly the same as a Raspberry Pi or Gooseberry board. Trust me I know, that is what I did!
What do you think? Did you buy a Raspberry Pi? Do you want a Gooseberry board? Is my comment about buying cheap tablets and using those shear lunacy? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Like this post? Share it!
The important thing is not just the availability of hardware, but also information and community. It’s irrelevant that there are cheap tablets available if there is no support or documentation on how to get your code running on them.
That is an excellent point and maybe that is one of the key reason the Raspberry Pi has been successful.
But at the back of my mind was the notion that the Allwinner A10 board found in tablets is basically the same as the Gooseberry board (and so benefit from the Gooseberry community) and that the tablets already come with Android installed (and generally rooted). Plus the kernel source are available for the Allwinner A10 boards etc.
The company that make the A10 have quite a lot of info including source code and boot images here: http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/
But yes, a good observation.
As of now there is no “Gooseberry community”. These guys made and sold merely 500 boards. Whether there will be more remains to be seen.
One reason why Raspberry Pi has been successful (in my opinion) is its expandability. It comes with standard USB, HDMI, SD and Ethernet ports. No need to buy yet another bunch of adapters for mini/micro stuff.
I agreed that support is important. I got a pi because of xbmc. Android should be getting xbmc too but I am not sure how well it will support goose.
Indeed. I bought a Raspberry Pi myself, but not just because it’s cheap. Looking purely at specs, I could get much more bang for my buck getting an Ouya, a Beagleboard, or a cheap Chinese tablet. You know what I couldn’t get for any of those? OpenELEC support. Dozens of device specific peripherals with a hundred more freely available ideas documented. A device specific Linux implementation going under heavy active development. The list goes on.
RPi has an inertia that you would never get from an aPad or some other Chinese box.
Would you mind posting a link to that chinese tablet? :)
I have posted the link twice now and each time it disappears (how or why I don’t know). Sorry.
Yes please post a link to the Chinese tablet.
Please see reply to Shaan.
This has the same exact specifications as the MK802. That board is much smaller, comes in a cute little case, has both a mini-usb and full sized USB port and only costs $74.
Google Ainol Aurora. It’s a 7″ A10 Android ICS tablet from China with 1GB DDR4 RAM, 8/16GB memory with mini USB, mini HDMI, microSD slot & a excellent IPS LCD screen with many custom ROMs. I have one purchased in the UK from gadgetfreakz.com – excellent tablet with great aesthetics. Currently £99.99, or dual core equivalent for £30 more. Thoroughly recommended.
Do remember if you buy from China you will have to pay Vat! For us in the UK its 20% and as the gooseberry board includes vat it starts to look like a much better deal. Having owned one of these allwinner tablets, they’re very unreliable. The screen broke and there were overheating problems which caused the flash memory to corrupt repeatedly making it unusable. The Gooseberry board on the face of it is not plagued by these issues and is actually a fair bit cheaper. They sure have my order!
Also the pi has the i/o pins in a form factor that is easy to utilize for customized hacking scenarios or other projects.
Now an alternative to the gooseberry board. We have the same spec, but lower price.
An alternative to the gooseberry board, same spec, but lower price. Pls contact email@example.com
can you send me the detail. I am looking for cheap android board with wifi in it. The processing speed may be less. Doesnt Metternich much…
comment is entirely spot on and is exactly what I shall be doing.
my Rpi isn’t powerful enough and the operating systems are still buggy as hell,
the gooseberry doesnt have LVDS output to connect to a cheap netbook screen
so all I can do is either buy a £200, 7 inch display (not happening) or buy another cheap tablet and butcher this…. this is the conclusion I have already came to.
well done mate :)
the cheap tablet I gave away as it was pants, was called the iRobot. they are on ebay all very cheap
hackberry is also popular https://www.miniand.com/products/Hackberry%20A10%20Developer%20Board
t is a very good suggestion – to go for a low cost tablet.