Mele A1000 is a $70 hackable, Linux-friendly ARM-based PC

The Raspberry Pi folks have been getting a lot of attention for their $35 PC with an ARM-based processor and support for some open source software. But as the cost of computer components continues to drop, the Raspberry Pi is hardly the only inexpensive PC capable of running Linux.

The Mele A1000 is a system that sells for $70 and up and which features a number of components that the Raspberry Pi lacks — including a SATA port, a case, and a faster processor.

Mele A1000

Powered by a 1 GHz Allwinner A10 ARM Cortex-A8 processor, the Mele A1000 should be noticeably faster than the Raspberry Pi, which has a 700 MHz ARM11 chip.

While the Mele A1000 is described as a TV box, it’s basically a little ARM-based computer with HDMI, VGA, USB, and Ethernet ports, as well as support for an external SATA hard drive.

Ali Express is selling the box for $70 plus shipping, or you can spend $100 to get a version from DealExtreme with a remote control, external hard drive cover, and Android 2.3 software.

Now for the most interesting part (if you happen to be a free software enthusiast): The folks at Rhombus Tech have been working on a free and open source platform based around the Allwinner A10 chip.

The project is entirely GPL compliant, and the goal is to work with a Chinese company to produce a PCMCIA-sized computer which is capable of running Linux-based software without any proprietary, closed source drivers. Rhombus Tech hopes the platform can be used in all sorts of devices including tablets, notebooks, desktop PCs, and in-car systems. Theoretically the price could be as low as $15 per unit… assuming an order size of 100,000. Right now the cost is higher.

But thanks to the efforts of the folks at Rhombus Tech, developers have access to all the drivers needed to make use of any device with the Allwinner A10 processor, and that includes the Mele A1000.

Some folks have already started to port Ubuntu Linux to run on the set-top-box.

With a little more work, it’s not hard to imagine the Mele 1000 becoming a $100 desktop PC running Ubuntu or another Linux distribition, or a media center PC capable of running the new Ubuntu TV software.

thanks aftermath!

  • John Morris

    Interesting.  I was really puzzled by the hard drive poking out of the top until I remembered another tidbit I had read recently.  I read that in Asia these days the bootleggers were selling hard drives preloaded with stuff.  So I guess they are treating hard drives like cartridges now?

    At any rate, this is a very fascinating gadget.

    • turn_self_off

       SATA helps greatly, as it can be hot swapped. And now that you mention it, i keep seeing multi-drive “docks” from asian companies these days.

  • turn_self_off

    neat

  • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

    noticably faster???

    the cpu in the allwinner is a monster compared to the pi

    • Tony G

      Yes, but both devices suffer from lack of proper documentation regarding GPU and for A10 – the memory interface. So nobody can use A10 by just buying the part and reading the docs. Video drivers are closed source and X.org is mostly unaccelerated.

  • http://profiles.google.com/merlino37 m w

    ..no sound in, so no skype..

    • John Morris

       You are forgetting the pair of USB ports.  Buy a USB headset or Skype handset and yer good to go.

  • brian

    Just too tempting.  This is a raspberry pi killer on the software side.  I personally could care less about the embedded controller stuff, the sata makes io not the bottleneck.  Now just hoping this is fully hacked, the lima driver is developed and the next gen hardware is sub $50.

  • http://www.cnx-software.com/ Cnxsoft

    The 15 USD price is the target BOM cost, so the final price would be higher (at least double price).

  • http://twitter.com/horsebones Leke

    Shipping: US $58.53 to Finland Via EMS

    Urmm…No thanks.

  • madjr

    cool

  • http://rct.me.ht/ crashsuit

    With Android and a remote, this sounds like a great replacement for my current set-top, which I mainly use for Netflix and streaming from a NAS.

  • HalCasteel

    It needs Bluetooth. Why have something small like that and then need USB mouse and keyboard. Also VGA? where is the HDMI?

    It looks great, reminds me of the Sheeva Plug from Marvel with more ports.http://www.globalscaletechnologies.com/t-sheevaplugs.aspxIt looks like a good step in the right direction but the http://www.fxitech.com/
     I think might be better.

    Quad Core ARM® Mali™-400MP Graphics Processing Unit– Quad-core ARM Mali-400MP 720p / 1080p OpenGL ES v2.0
    – 30M Polygons, 1.2 GPixels / sARM® Cortex™[email protected]– NEON extensions
    – TrustZone extensionsConnectivityWifi 802.11 b/g/n
    Bluetooth 2.1 + EDRMemory 1GB DRAM
    Up to 64GB memory local storage (microSD)Software– Android– Ubuntu– Virtualization client for Windows, Linux, Mac, embeddedVideo / Audio / Media Support– 480p/720p/1080p decode of MPEG4-SP/H.263/H.264 AVC/MPEG-2/VC1
    – MP3, AAC, AAC+, Real Audio
    – JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG
    – Additional video, audio and image formats can be supported through 3rd party codecsConnectors– USB 2.0 male form factor for power and connection to devices that supports USB mass storage– HDMI 1.3a with audio for connection to devices that does not support USB mass storage– Female micro USB (2.0) connector for connecting USB peripherals to your Cotton Candy Operating systems supported to date include Android Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich as well as Ubuntu. 

    • http://www.cnx-software.com/ Cnxsoft

      You can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with this device. The company also sell a 2.4GHz “smart” remote (Mele Fly A10).

      The device supports HDMI, VGA and composite output.

      FXI Tech Cotton Candy has much better features but costs 200 USD.

      Mele A1000/A2000 will receive an Android 4.0 update in due time.

  • Nataraj B

    Hi All….
                 http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/hacking_the_mele_a1000/In the above link they specified ‘how to change U-boot for SDCARD/MMC boot of A1000 mele box. For that they ask me to change the file “include/configs/suni4.h” in U-Boot directory.
     I’ve downloaded U-boot from ” git clone http://git.hands.com/u-boot.git” as they said..
    Can any one say that the file(include/configs/suni4.h) is missing with my u-boot directory or some other procedure to change u-boot.
    Thanks in advance

  • Tiwipewo

    1.6 firmware update is out but link is wrong. Here is the correct one.
    http://www.mele.cn/download/mele_HTPC_v1.6.rar

  • shaurz

    Odd shape.

  • artinvent

    All of these tiny board computers look cool. The thing that often strikes me about them is that, well, every single computer I’ve ever EVER used had a hard drive hooked up to it eventually. And these things just scream out to me, build a cheap file server or media server box. It would be nice to see one of these things with a case where a drive actually just slides in.

    It could also help eliminate unsightly duct tape.

    • http://nortonpeabody.blogspot.com/ Norton Peabody

      A little neatly applied Gorilla tape can be quite
      aesthetically pleasing to the discriminating eye….cheers….

  • Nitin Gupta

    Can we have independent display simultaneously in this board or rather to say dual display ?