Utilite ARM-based Linux computer coming in August for $99 and up

Compulab plans to launch a mini-computer with an ARM Cortex-A9 processor and support for both Ubuntu Linux and Google Android. It’s called the Utilite, and the computer’s expected to go on sale in August for $99 and up.

Utilite

The base model will feature a Freescale i.M6 single-core processor, but dual and quad-core versions will also be available. The system will also support up to 4GB of RAM, up to 512GB of built-in storage thanks to an mSATA solid state drive slot, and up to 128GB of removable storage via the SDXC card slot.

This little desktop PC also features 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, HDMI and DVI ports, S/PDIF and stereo audio jacks, 802.11b/g/n WiFi/ Bluetooth 3.0, and 4 USB 2.0 ports as well as two RS232 serial ports.

The Utilite isn’t the first tiny desktop computer from Compulab. The company also offers the Fit PC and Trim Slice line of little desktops, and Compulab is the manufacturer of the MintBox, a little desktop PC designed to run the Linux Mint operating system.

But the Utilite is the first ARM-based model from the company to feature Freescale’s i.MX6 processor family. While they’re hardly the most power chips around, Freescale offers far more documentation about its processors than most companies that make chips based on ARM designs. And that makes it much easier to run Ubuntu and other GNU/Linux operating systems on devices like the Utilite.

The $99 starting price is one of the things that could make this system more attractive than a higher-end computer with a more powerful x86 processor. Another advantage is the low power consumption. Compulab says the Utilite will use just 3 to 8 watts of power.

via FanlessTech

  • Arrdee

    Hopefully their Android build is optimized for a 2-foot keyboard/mouse experience. Then again it looks like users are either left to their own devices (build your own OS) or at the whim of resellers since they don’t say anything about supplying any OS at all. Doesn’t mention a VESA kit either.

  • digi_owl

    Looks interesting, wonder how hard it will be to get hold of in Europe.

  • zefyx

    Wow, it’s about time one of these ARM devices were purpose built. I can see this unit selling to the enthusiast market very well. As you say, the processor isn’t the fastest. But its the most compatible, at least for now. I can see XBMC, ClearOS, pfSense users, among others, jumping all over this. The lack of at least one USB 3.0 port is the only drawback imo. As for me, the news of this Utilite has postponed my ODROID plans and I look forward to picking up one of these when released for a nginx and XBMC server. Thanks to the smart thinking by this companies engineers, the sky is the limit!

    • John Morris

      As with all these products, the real test is going to be video. Will it support full accelerated 2D, 3D and video? If it does this box will be in demand, otherwise it is just another nice piece of hardware that isn’t all that practical because one poorly ported and never updated Android is the only the OS that really works.

      Doesn’t really matter which chip is fastest, which video does how many fps, etc. if the only OS is Android. Android is ok in a phone or perhaps a tablet but I wouldn’t want it on a real computer or even on my HTPC.

      That second HDMI is really only a DVD-D but it looks like both can run at 1920x1200p60 so that is really interesting.

      • Ian Tester

        Yes, it’s interesting to see two video outputs on an ARM-based computer. Maybe this would be useful for digital signage?

      • Arrdee

        I might be reading too much into the wording at their web site, but it looks like this is meant as a low-end desktop computer for the masses (home and business) rather than a TV box or anything meant for “enthusiasts” – a tiny market at best anyway. So web browsing, email, light word processing, various Android apps, etc. rather than being primarily a multimedia or embedded processing device.

      • Ian Tester

        I’m sure that’s their main target. But if they can make a small change (as long as it doesn’t add too much cost) and make the device usable by a new market, they will do that.

        Oh, and playing video is not a problem if you can use the VPU to do the decoding (and GPU to do the rescaling). Then it likely uses less CPU power than those “light” tasks you listed.

    • Noloqoq

      Better get a cubieboard2 for a nginx/xbmc server the processor is a little less powerfull (not really less), but drain far less power, and the video processor (CedarX), is able to decode 4K2K video, you also have a SATA port, it’s far less expansive and well supported by a large community of developers and users for Linux for more than one year.

      • Noloqoq

        oops, this one has only One cortex A9, the cubieboard2, has 2 cortex A7, so it’s more powerfull. Only the need of memory usage could be the final choice.

      • Ian Tester

        It says there will be dual and quad core versions. I don’t know why they start with only a single-core version, it will be very underpowered. Even my two year old Atrix phone has a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, so that should be a bare minimum.

  • benjobradley

    Wow this looks pretty good. I’ve been wanting some sort of low-power TV stick/box to replace my old Zotac Ion Atom HTPC build. The problem is I’m not really interested in running Android and would prefer a full Linux OS. Most of these TV sticks don’t have the hardware decoding support fully nailed under Linux yet.

    Not too bothered about internal storage either as I have all my stuff stored on the network. So enough for the OS is fine.

    Could this handle 1080p decoding, or is there anything else out there that I should perhaps look at that has better Linux support for hardware video decoding?

    Cheers, B

    • Tim

      The site says it supports hardware decoding of 1080p H.264, VC1, RV10 and DivX videos. No mention of actual specs of the video other than 1080p (ie. video profile, bitrate, reference frames, CABAC and other specifics). Also, who knows how well the drivers work. You may not get any acceleration at all under Linux.

      Right now, anything ARM isn’t worth the hassle for desktop use. Even if the Android image they provide works okay and they actually provide updates, Android isn’t exactly well suited for desktop tasks.

      This may cost $99 up front but that doesn’t include all the time you’ll probably have to spend getting things working.

  • max

    2 NiCs, wow. Would make a pretty good firewall for home network.

  • Sean

    How are updates handled? Are these Freescale SoCs supported by the upstream Linux kernel (not just the GPU but all the SoC controllers)?

    Even if you can just grab the latest upstream kernel and install your choice of desktop environment and other software, what kind of experience will you get from these chips? Would it even be worth putting up with?

  • nards barley

    While I thought having Android on these mini-computers would be adequate for using as a desktop computer if they had a VGA or DVI connector, especially in poorer parts of the world where many use Android on their phones, you can´t connect a USB printer directly to it, since there are no drivers.

    I am not a Linux person, but I assume most new printer models come with Linux drivers. Anyone?

    • ddevine

      Drivers should not be an issue for printers that support a “generic” network printing driver such as PCL or direct PostScript printing.

      • Sleep

        And yet, most printers that offer linux drivers, do so with closed source blobs that are only compiled for Intel x86 and x64.

  • PonderThis

    This is what I’ve been waiting for… should make for an excellent XBMC client.
    BTW, anyone know where to get a good deal on a new 30GB or less SSD? An XBMC client machine with a DLNA server behind it needs 30GB max. All of the newer SSD’s are way bigger than I need, and I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble finding 30GB’s on the cheap!

  • Xiao Jia

    This is ideal for general computing, and for industrial/commercial uses.

    However with Mad Katz coming out with their Tegra 4 based micro-console MOJO, that seems to be the one to beat in terms of multimedia capabilities.

    Now all that remains to be seen is the pricing.

  • Peter Bauer
  • Sleep

    When performance is good enough, and drivers are that mature, then I’ll buy one of these not-so-thin-clients.

    Show me a recording of someone using a mouse and keyboard, watching videos on youtube with firefox, in either debian or fedora. Then, I’ll buy it.

  • haathi

    Hardkernel Odroid is much cheaper and powerful than this..

    • Duckeenie

      The Odroid doesn’t appear to come with a case or SSD which obviously goes some way to explaining the price difference.

      Interesting Looking board though.