Raspberry Pi has inspired many board computers, and Qualcomm is now offering one of its own with a range of features never before seen in the low-price end of the market.
The DragonBoard 410c is an uncased computer a little larger than a credit card, with all the important components on one board. With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location tracking and 64-bit Snapdragon chips, it offers many capabilities not yet available in other low-cost boards.
Qualcomm is best-known for its smartphone and tablet chips, but the board could be used to make robots, drones and wearables. The chip maker's high-end developer boards have been used to develop self-learning robots.
The board will ship in the US summer time frame. The company indicated it will be low-cost, but declined to provide an exact time frame or price. It likely won't be as cheap as the US$35 Raspberry Pi 2, but it should not be more than $200, which gets into the territory for high-end boards like Nvidia's Jetson TK1.
The DragonBoard 410c seems as if it will be a cheap and easy way for do-it-yourselfers -- also called makers -- to access hardware with Qualcomm's chips. Qualcomm's boards running on flagship Snapdragon chips have sold for more than $475, and the company also sells high-priced test mobile devices running on Snapdragon as part of its Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) program.
Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Advanced Micro Devices and Imagination Technologies are among other companies offering developer boards.
The DragonBoard 410c board will come with a 64-bit version of Android developed by Linaro. The board has a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor, which is designed for mobile devices. The chipset has four ARM Cortex-A53 CPUs running at clock speeds of up to 1.2 GHz.
But the board's real appeal lies in its wireless communication and tracking abilities, which could help makers bring communications abilities and maneuverability to drones and robots. It will have 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and also support iZat, which offers location tracking through GPS and mapping.
It also has an Adreno 306 graphics processor, which is not Qualcomm's latest, but is able to handle 1080p video. The GPU and digital signal processors will be able to handle 13-megapixel cameras attached to the board, and smooth visuals and images through post-processing features. For now, the camera is considered one way to give visual capabilities to robots and drones.
The DragonBoard 410c has USB ports, an HDMI slot and a micro-SD slot. It supports DDR3 memory and has other expansion slots critical to boards such as UART, SPI, I2S, I2C and GPIO.
The DragonBoard 410c was developed as part of Linaro's 96Boards initiative, which encourages the development of boards with open specifications. The other board available as part of the initiative is from HiKey, whose $120 computer runs on a HiSilicon Kirin 6220 chip, which has eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores.
The number of offerings available through 96Boards will grow as other chip makers release their own boards, said George Grey, CEO of Linaro, in an email.