When the Raspberry Pi 3 was announced, one of the features that struck a chord with more than one .Net developer was that the Pi 3 would support Windows 10. This turned out to be a half truth with the Pi not supporting full Windows 10, but instead a specialized version known as Windows 10 IoT Core. This was far from full Windows 10. I for one was very disappointed.
Last year, the DFRobot team released the LattePanda, a truly full Windows 10 single board computer (SBC) with options for 2GB of memory or 4GB. Even if you are not a Windows fan, you should be excited. Like most other SBCs, at its core the LattePanda has more in common with your laptop than it does with your Arduino. It runs a real OS, it can be plugged into a monitor and used like a normal computer, and it has support for other external devices like flash drives and webcams. To help out with real time operations, the LattePanda includes an Arduino-compatible secondary processor that can communicate back to the main OS and any apps running in it. This is of course a great way to handle IoT tasks.
Before coming on board to handle reviews and whatever other craziness Make: decides to throw at me, I was a .Net developer. Before the hardcore among you start throwing too much shade my way, there are a lot of us out there, and having an SBC that fully supports the .Net environment means a lot of Windows devs can make projects that require a device like this without needing to exit Visual Studio. Accessing the ample number of GPIO pins even has a library thanks to a custom version of the Firmata firmware on the Arduino side of the package.
So, okay, you’re not a .Net developer. Or even if you are, you’re not sold as to why this might be a board you are interested in. Let’s go in a totally different direction — the reason why I really got excited about an SBC running full Windows 10: streaming video services! I have an Apple TV, a Roku, an XBox, even a Chromecast. These are all great devices for streaming video from services like HBOGO, Netflix, or Amazon Video, but not all services work on all boxes. You know where they all do work? On Windows! For years people have been building home theater PCs, trying to find ways to make them take less space and have better power consumption. The LattePanda uses at max 10 watts (it has a 5V 2A power USB power supply) and is about the size of a deck of cards, or about the same size as my Roku or Apple TV. The GPIO means projects like ambient lighting other home automation tasks don’t need another controller to make things happen.
While there hasn’t been much buzz about it yet, I think the LattePanda has been overlooked and could be a solution to many home theater and IoT projects for makers more comfortable with Windows.