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Mini Linux PC breaks $100 barrier

Sep 27, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Taiwanese integrator E-Way Technology Systems is shipping a tiny, 200MHz x86-compatible mini PC for $99, in single quantities. The TU-40 is passively cooled, comes with 128MB of RAM, and can run lightweight versions of Linux, such as Puppy, the company says.


The TU-40

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E-Way says the TU-40 is suitable for use as a low-end embedded system, industrial controller, set-top box, or thin client. It could also be used in vertical applications, such as electronic signage and industrial control, the company suggests. Cost drops to $85 in large volumes, the company adds.

The TU-40 is based on an unspecified 200MHz processor said to be x86-compatible — possibly an SiS550. It comes standard with 128MB of RAM, of which up to 8MB can be shared by the integrated graphics processor.


The TU-40, shown with optional serial ports and coax connector

I/O includes:

  • 15-pin D-type female VGA connector
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 44-pin EIDE interface header
  • CompactFlash Type I/II slot
  • 1 x front and 2 x rear USB ports
  • PS/2 keyboard and 6-pin mini-DIN mouse port
  • AMI BIOS
  • Battery-backed RTC (real-time clock)
  • AC-97 V2.1 compliant CODEC
  • MIC-in & line-out phone jacks
  • 0 to 108 deg F (0 to 60 deg C) operating range

Additionally, the system is optionally available with pre-installed flash and microdrives, a mini-PCI slot, and an 802.11b/g WiFi module.

The TU-40 appears to be physically identical to another sub-$100 PC announced last month, and said to be capable of running Puppy — NorhTec's MicroClient Jr. (pictured at right). However, the TU-40 has a 200MHz CPU, instead of the 166MHz CPU previously reported available in the NohrTec PC.

Like the MicroClient Jr., the TU-40 is housed in a tiny, square case 4.5 inches (11.5cm) to a side, and 1.4 inches (3.5cm) high. It weighs 1lbs., 2 ounces (500grams), draws up to 3 amps of 5-volt power, and comes with an AC adapter. The TU-40 system is CE and FCC certified, and complies with RoHS requirements, according to E-Way.

E-Way president Stephen Frieberger said that the company started six years ago, as an embedded Linux consultant to customers that included “the world's top three notebook manufacturers, the top two Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers, the Taiwan Phone Company, and many top tier factories including Acer, Tatung, [and] Gigabyte, and even the Taiwan Air Force.” The company developed its own embedded Linux kernel, Frieberger said, which can auto detect hardware and boot in about 25 seconds, while supporting systems as slow as 166MHz, with 64MB of RAM.

Currently, E-Way manufactures its own hardware designs in Taiwan and China, with the goal of offering “quality systems at world's lowest costs,” Frieberger said. The company has grown 250 percent per year for five years, and plans a NASDAQ IPO in 2007, he claims.

Availability

The TU-40 is available now, at $99 in single quantities, with pricing as low as $85 in larger quantities.


 
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