MinnowBoard Raises the Bar on Embedded Computing

MinnowBoard Raises the Bar on Embedded Computing


At World Maker Faire last weekend, I got the chance to check out Minnowboard, a new Open Source microcontroller board that is going after the Raspberry Pi market not by emulating the popular RasPi, but by blowing it out of the water with a four-inch $200 mini PC running Ångström Linux on an Intel Atom CPU. It has a host of intriguing features like x86 compatibility, gigabit ethernet, and a gig of DDR2 RAM, as well as the GPIO pins that hardware hackers like.

As a brand-new platform, the MinnowBoard has precious few accessories to offer. However, they have released the MinnowBoard’s specifications for their add-on boards, called Lures, enabling fans to start building compatible open-source products.

At Maker Faire, they had a neat demo at their booth — a hobbyist robotic arm controlled by a MinnowBoard and equipped with a camera and OpenCV computer vision library, enabling the MinnowBoard to detect an object and direct the manipulator to pick it up.

YouTube player

Finally, you can see a fun video of MinnowBoards being manufactured in a pick & place.

20 thoughts on “MinnowBoard Raises the Bar on Embedded Computing

  1. Darrick says:

    Blowing the Raspberry Pi’s price out of the water isn’t so good.

  2. Me says:

    Blow the RasPi out of the water? At $200 what does this have to do with RasPi? It’s a completely different market!

    1. Jayneil says:

      I agree with you totally. BTW, the price has dropped down now to $189…

  3. Me says:

    Even at it’s price this board probably has it’s place given it’ sx86 compatiblity and other specs. I haven’t priced single board PCs in a while but I know this woudl have been quite good not too long ago. Bringing RasPi into it just clouds that and makes the reader automatically compare the price even though the two are kind of apples and oranges. Why not market it as an Arduino replacement? No.. really.. don’t.

    That being said, I think x86 compatiblity could be very nice. I’m kind of skeptical about that ugly proprietary looking connector though. Is that where the GPIOs live? So we have to buy their expansion board or else get ahold of some probably non-available and difficult to hand solder connector to use them?

    I’d be much more impressed if I saw a nice long row of .01″ pinheaders.

    1. Me says:

      Ok, I take back the part about the connector being hard to find. They actually give the DigiKey part number. But… it still looks at least a little painfuld to solder too WITH a printed circuit board. What if you just want to use perfboard or some other prototyping method? I still would prefer to buy something with pin headers.

  4. Alan Dove says:

    Analogous lede: General Motors is going after the bicycle market not by emulating bikes, but by introducing a product that costs an order of magnitude more and consumes vastly more power.

    1. tim dolan says:

      Wonderful comment Alan. Regards, Tim…

  5. Sallygobangbang says:

    Well, there are tons of computers that cost less than $200.00 and do a whole lot more. Why would anyone pay that much for this thing? Of course, why would thousands of people pay 4-8 times more for an Apple product than a comparable open-market device? No accounting for taste or sanity, it seems.

  6. tonyv says:

    Yes, this is rather a puzzling product. Why is it any better than an atom-based PC104 board, or many other x86 compatible single-board computers?

    1. Kerimil says:

      I agree entirely. It can’t beat beagle bone black and pcduino as far as features to price ratio is concerned. Don’t even compare it to the two because there are few GPIOs – it seems it’s even worse than Raspberry PI as far as this is concerned. Some have expressed opinion that it’s like comparing apples to oranges – ok but I’ve seen the specs and it’s really more impressive than other solutions, so what’s the point really ?

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net

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