Sure, there’s a chance you could turn your old smartphone into a pocket-sized Linux computer by replacing the operating system. But if you’re looking for a purpose-built device with a touchscreen display, a QWERTY keyboard, and features you won’t typically find on phones (like 4 USB ports), the folks at Popcorn Computer have you covered.

Maybe.

The team has unveiled plans to launch a new pocket-sized computer, appropriately called the Pocket P.C.

It’s set to go up for pre-order through a crowdfunding campaign beginning November 24th. Prices will start at $199 (or $249 for a model with a LoRa radio). And if everything goes according to plan, it could ship by May 1st, 2020.

The designs are said to be complete, and there are working PCB prototypes, keyboards, and firmware — but mass production won’t begin until after crowdfunding is complete.

Popcorn Computer, by the way, is the same group that attempted to revive the C.H.I.P. single-board computer earlier this year… but only ended up raising $5,091 toward a goal of $250,000.

I guess the good news is that unlike some folks who set unrealistically low crowdfunding goals, the company behind the Popcorn Computer brand seems to know how much it actually costs to go from prototype to product-ready-to-ship.

So there’s a chance that the Pocket P.C. may never see the light of day. But hopefully there’s not too much risk that you’ll end up paying to back a campaign for a product that’s never completed.

Alright, now that the caveats are out of the way, let’s talk specs.

The Pocket P.C. is expected to feature a 4.95 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD touchscreen display, a 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53, 64-bit processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage.

It has a 3,200 mAh battery — which is removable. There are four USB Type-C connectors (one with USB Power Delivery for charging, two host ports, and one that works with a USB-to-Serial converter for console output).

The backlit keyboard features 59 silicone keys and 25 RGB LED lights and an ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller.

Other features include 2.4 GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 support, an Optiga Trust M secure element, and an internal microSD card connector with support for up to 256GB of removable storage.

The handheld computer supports Debian 10 with the mainline Linux kernel.

There’s no word on whether the team has reached out to Microsoft to make sure they won’t be sued for the use of the name “Pocket PC,” which is the name Microsoft used for early versions of its operating system for handheld computers… although maybe that’s the reason Popcorn is branding the new device as Pocket P.C. (with periods between P and C).

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11 Comments

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  1. Silicone keyboard seems like one in small wireless keyboard for TV/SBC, really horrible.

    I love pocket computers WITH KEYBOARD, but keyboard must be good enough or it will be a real torture.

    On silicone keyboards identical to what I see in this pictures, even typing a web address is painful, to type something more would be a real torture.

    I suppose a simple silicone keyboard is cheap, while a good pocket computer is much more expensive to manufacture, specially in small number.

  2. Would have been interesting if this had built-in LTE, mouse pointer and was a foldable/slider. It seems the target audience for this is extremely niche. Maybe not even a 1000 or so people would buy this.

  3. Yeah, I clicked on this thinking it may be a UMPC I’d be interested in. However, I’m not sure how I would use this beyond a console/SSH terminal. It doesn’t seem to be designed for actual Linux desktop use. There’s no mouse pointer (touchscreen is only a supplement), no speakers/headphone jack (I still don’t use USB Type-C or wireless headphones), the LoRa radio seems like an odd feature to have (cellular connectivity would be more useful) and 2 GB of RAM is pretty limiting.

    Even for terminal use, the keyboard needs some more keys. At least I don’t see additional characters on the keys for use with the Fn key. Plus, I use arrow keys a lot in a terminal. Not sure if remapping keys would be sufficient since you’d be removing existing keys when doing that.

    I don’t know, this seems like one of those DIY put a Raspberry Pi or similar compute module into some 3D printed case with a USB keyboard project. There are several of those and they’re not that useful beyond a nice hobby project to put together.

  4. I wonder what would people use the LoRa radio for this kind of device for. Would have been nice if they could have stuck an LTE (US Verizon for me) modem in it or used an SoC with built-in LTE instead.

    I guess the slab design is easier and cheaper to make but makes it not as pocketable compared to a slider or clamshell design. I wonder how well this performs running Debian and desktop applications. Seems like it’d be slow.

    Well, it seems that I’m probably not the target market for this. I am the target market for a handheld pocketable UMPC with LTE though. I clicked on the article because the form factor seemed close.

  5. I’m not too keen on that keyboard design, kinda reminds me of the ZX Spectrum. Yes, it was better than the ZX81, but that was not a very high bar to reach.

    …oh, wait… I _am_ Keen. Okay, never mind! 🙂