PC & Tech Authority, Issue 230

PC & Tech Authority Issue 230PC & Tech Authority, Australia’s top technology magazine, has published a reprise of a review I originally wrote for PC Pro in the UK: the NextThingCo CHIP and PocketCHIP microcomputers. Here’s what I had to say on the topic when the review was originally published.

NextThingCo’s crowdfunding launch was met with considerable scepticism, and with good reason: at a time when the Raspberry Pi had only just proven you could sustainable sell a fully-functional single-board microcomputer with desktop-ish performance for under $30, NextThingCo was claiming to offer the same thing for $9 – and with integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radio connectivity to boot.

The campaign succeeded, and to critics’ considerable surprise nobody was ripped off: NextThingCo’s CHIP did indeed ship and, as of earlier this year, is now available to purchase direct. While certain corners have been undoubtedly cut – just like the Raspberry Pi, it comes devoid of cables and accessories – and its performance can’t hold a candle to newer Pi models, it’s functional, available, and if you’re willing to supply the extras needed to get it up and running yourself does indeed cost $9.

The PocketCHIP, meawhile, is a fantastic example of what you can do with a CHIP: an open-hardware hand-held computer, complete with clever though painful-to-use bubble-based keyboard, with a very 1990s transparent casing. The screen may be low resolution and resistive rather than capacitive touch, but if I said I didn’t have a blast using the PocketCHIP I’d be lying.

For my full verdict on the device, of course, you’ll have to head to your nearest PC & Tech Authority stockist, whether that’s a newsagent, a supermarket, or one of the digital distributors like Zinio you can browse from the comfort of wherever you’re reading this.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 171

Linux User & Developer Issue 171In this latest issue of Imagine Publishing’s popular Linux User & Developer you’ll find my two-page review of NextThingCo’s clever CHIP single-board computer and PocketCHIP hand-held computer, combined into a single piece thanks to their similarity.

The CHIP was launched to crowdfunding enthusiasts as the world’s first $9 single-board computer capable of running a fully-functional GNU/Linux desktop user interface, long before the Raspberry Pi Zero hit the market. It was met with considerable scepticism, but launch it did – and, earlier this year, became available to buy outside crowdfunding for the first time.

NextThingCo also launched the PocketCHIP, a demonstration of just what you can do with the matchbox-sized CHIP. An entirely open hardware design – meaning you can take the PocketCHIP and tweak it to your needs before building your own – the PocketCHIP acts as a carrier to a CHIP board running a custom operating system and adds a built-in touch screen, keyboard based on cheap but awkward bubble technology, and an audio output.

The software is limited, to be sure – there are only six overall applications available, and while you can install your own you won’t find them appearing in the PocketCHIP’s menu system nor are they likely to play well with the extremely low resolution screen – but I can’t deny having had a seriously fun time playing with the device and its 90s aesthetic.

For the full review, including benchmarks against the rival Raspberry Pi Zero, you’ll want to head to your local newsagent, supermarket, or pick up an electronic copy via Zinio or a similar distribution service.