Via announces $49 PC with Android OS

The new PC is a mini-motherboard designed to run basic Internet tasks.

The price bar for PCs keeps dropping, with chip maker Via on Tuesday announcing a US$49 APC computer with a customized version of Google's Android operating system.

The PC is a mini-motherboard without a case, but has the components necessary to make it a functional PC. The APC PC will go on sale in July, according to the company's website. However, the keyboard, mouse and monitor need to bought separately.

Via is pitching the low-cost PC as a replacement to Windows desktops for basic Internet and productivity applications.

"Expensive, overpowered CPUs and bloated software are no longer relevant. With this awareness, we were able to drop power consumption to the point of making an energy-saving light-bulb jealous," the company said on its website.

Similar low-cost PCs with Linux such as Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone have also been used by hackers and do-it-yourselfers to write and test programs. The APC PC can also handle high-definition video and potentially be a low-cost home theater replacement in homes.

The $49 price, however, does not beat Raspberry Pi's PC, which is available in the price range of $25 to $35. However, it is not as expensive as the BeagleBone, which is priced starting at $89 and runs on a faster ARM processor. Raspberry Pi's PC ran out of stock when it went on sale in February, and the nonprofit organization that built the PC has had trouble keeping up with the demand due to component supply issues.

For its price, Via's APC PC has integrated memory, storage, and four USB 2.0 ports so that a keyboard, mouse and external storage can be attached. The PC also has VGA and HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) ports) to attach TVs or monitors.

The PC has a WonderMedia ARM processor-based ARM11 design, which is older than ARM Cortex processors. Via offers mini-motherboards based on x86 and ARM, and many tablets under $200 are available based on the ARM11 design running Android 2.3, code-named Gingerbread. Via's chips with ARM processors are also used in low-cost tablets.

The APC PC is able to play high-definition movies with the help of video accelerators. The PC fits into any standard Mini-ITX chassis and draws only four watts of power at idle mode and 13.5 watts at maximum mode. That is significantly lower than a standard PC, Via said in a statement.

The PC comes with 2GB of flash storage and 512 DDR3 RAM. It also has a 15-watt power supply.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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