The uConsole is pocket-sized computer with a 5 inch IPS LCD color display, a QWERTY keyboard, gaming buttons, arrow keys, and a mini trackball. It’s bigger than a typical smartphone, and probably less powerful than most. But thanks to a modular design, it’s also incredibly versatile: there are four different processor options available.

Clockwork is positioning the uConsole as a “fantasy console” made real. But like all of the company’s devices to date, it’s basically a portable, modular computer that can be used for a variety of purposes. The uConsole is up for pre-order for $139 and up and should begin shipping in about three months.

The uConsole is the latest in a line of modular devices from Clockwork, which is the same company behind the DevTerm portable terminal and Gameshell modular DIY handheld game console.

At the heart of these devices is a modular board system that allows you to choose from several different system-on-a-modular solutions including:

  • Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 Lite: 4 x ARM Cortex-A72 cores @ 1.5 GHz / VideoCore 4 GPU / 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • ClockworkPi A-04: 4 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.8 GHz / Mali-T720 GPU / 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • ClockworkPi A-06: 2 x ARM Cortex-A72 cores @ 1.8 GHz / 4 x Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.4 GHz / Mali-T864 GPU / 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • R-01: 1 x RV64IMAFDCVU RISC-V core @ 1 GHz / no GPU / 1GB DDR3 RAM

Prices for the uConsole range from $139 for a kit with the R-01 module to $209 for the uConsole Kit A-06, although you can pay extra for an optional 4G cellular modem, or save some money on some models by opting for a DIY kit without a system-on-a-module, allowing you bring your own if you already have a Raspberry Pi Compute Module, for example.

The new ClockworkPi v3.14 revision 5 board at the heart of the system measures 95 x 77mm and is compatible with Raspberry Pi CM3 and CM4 series modules (with an adapter board), as well as Raspberry Pi’s own modules.

The board has integrated WiFI 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 support, an antenna, a USB Type-C charging port and three USB Type-A interfaces and internal connections, a microSD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, micro HDMI port, 40-pin MIPI screen interface and 40-pin GPIO and 52-pin extension connectors.

Clockwork’s optional cellular module supports 4G LTE Cat 4 data and includes a SIM card slot, 3.5mm audio jack.

The device features a 1280 x 720 pixel IPS LCD display panel and a 74-key backlit keyboard with adjustable lighting. Keyboard firmware can be reprogrammed and customized.

Clockwork says the uConsole is powered by a pair of rechargeable 18650 batteries. A single battery could theoretically provide enough power to run the console for a brief period of time if you wanted to swap batteries one by one, although the company says this can cause instability and recommends shutting down the device before changing batteries.

But it’s still nice to see a portable computing device with removable batteries. The whole system is designed to be assembled, disassembled, repaired, or upgraded at home.

The all-metal case is held together with screws that can be removed using a 2.5mm hex key. There’s no glue or adhesive involved. And the 3D design files are available at Clockwork’s GitHub page in case you want to 3D print or manufacture your own case or accessories or modify the designs.

Clockwork says the uConsole should support a range of operating systems including the Linux-based Debian, Ubuntu and Raspberry Pi OS as well as the company’s own ClockworkOS. There’s also support for a range of gaming software including Pico-8, DOSBox, and RetroArch, as well as more general-use applications including Chromium, Libreoffice, Vim, and VLC… although I suspect performance will vary greatly depending on which system-on-a-module you opt for.

Now that Intel, Google, and others have largely given up on the idea of this sort of modular device, it’s nice to see companies like Clockwork and Framework keep the dream of modular computing alive… even if Clockwork’s products are a little more niche than Framework’s.

via BoingBoing and @Hal_clockwork

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  1. As someone who went all in on the Clockwork Gameshell on KS, I can’t recommend strongly enough that DIYers STAY THE HELL AWAY from their products.

    They’re fine if you want to feel like you’re learning something for literally five minutes as you physically assemble them. That’s literally all. For all their talk of modular designs and and upgradeability, they’ve made no attempt to provide the kind of support or to foster any kind of community around their base product platform. The forums were effectively dead at launch, and they can’t even be bothered to answer basic questions from those of us who might be a bit more adventurous on our own. Beyond the basic apps made available at launch, there’s really not much you can do with these things. It’s a real bummer, but they need to either focus more on community building/management, or hire someone specifically to do that if they ever want to find greater success in the DIY makerspace.

  2. Seems like something I’d play with for a few days and then put in a drawer to never be used again.

    I wonder what people will actually use this for.

  3. So that modem can theoretically make phone calls, but I expect the people who developed this device never put ANY work into getting that to function beyond checking that the “console” could receive data as wired. So if you want that you’re probably going to have to do a lot of hacky nonsense and load custom firmware onto it just to trick the calls into going through.

    1. So use one of the USB ports. You can get a USB audio input interface for very cheap. A lot of devices these days don’t have analog audio in ports because, when designing a computer, they aren’t planning to make a part of a ham radio setup. Most users will not be using that port, so you have to add it. If you’re really intending it to be part of such a setup, you’ll have cables all over the place and a small adapter won’t be much of a problem to integrate.

  4. This keyboard will not even last 5 years of intensive use. Why they didn’t put mechanical keys in there.

    I wonder how much it runs on these two batteries. Probably 2-3 hours ;(

  5. I’d buy one of these types of things just as a neat portable curiosity that you can play games on in a heartbeat except for one thing. It doesn’t seem like the people that design these have ever actually seen or touched a control pad even once in life. How are you suppose to play anything on it with those horrible controls?

    1. Yes, it’s a very poor choice for gaming, when things like the Anbernic RG351V with nice buttons and joysticks exist for half the money. But it could be interesting for SDR or wardriving sorts of things I suppose.

  6. Oh wow, basically a modernized Pocket C.H.I.P.

    A cool toy, but not very useful I don’t think.

    1. no ethernet rj , no gpio, no mic input
      I dont know for who this device is.

      ugly keyboard for console working, small working time…. (not weeks but two hours).

      not useful in real scenario

          1. What is going on with people expecting weeks of working time from a computer on portable battery? There are zero such devices for a reason. That reason is that no computing is without recharge…. For long

          2. @AdamS That’s really one person, who ususally just mashes the keyboard every time for the Name field on this Site, instead of just using this name when I’m pretty sure these are the same person. This user has been pretty consistent about asking for week long battery life, a specific kind of connector for batteries on any SBC, Mirasol displays, and blob-free kernels, all in the same consistently incorrect English.

          3. @AdamS powiedz to ukraincom siedzacym bez prądu.
            Psion 5 has a battery life of a week. When the power goes out like in Ukraine you will appreciate the ability to work on some device when all the cells are no longer working.
            Times are changing and so is the way we use computers. Why would anyone need a mobile computer said someone who worked at ICL

      1. There is a GPIO header, but it’s a ribbon cable port so you’d need an adapter. It does exist though, and is likely pin-compatible with the RPi layout with a suitable adapter.

        I’ve gotten nearly three days on a Pi 4 with a 6-cell 18650 pack, with more or less constant use via SSH and the official RPi 7″ touchscreen. I can definitely see 6-8 hours of heavy use with the included 5″ IPS LCD with 1/3 the number of cells. Also, a single 18650 might last an hour or two because it needs to be boosted from 3.7v to 5.1v, whereas two cells in series is 7.4v being bucked down to 5.1v; there are no losses in conversion going that way and in fact it will pull less current draw than something that runs at the full 7.4v the two cells together can provide.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the expansion port is just a standard mini PCIe header, in which case one could design an add-in board that offers gigabit Ethernet or a complete sound card. This device seems geared towards makers.

          1. The screen backlight would drain the battery. Why do you expect a week of battery life?

          2. @AdamS
            Every device must have some use. In my opinion, in such devices that can not compete with the system and convenience even with cell phones. The only reasonable parameter is precisely the length of operation.
            Linux is tailored to run on very few resources. Even the work of a programmer requiring a C compiler

            If we want to change the world, to use green appliances, then we should pay attention to power consumption. Ecology is not just about reducing plastic straws or advertising slogans.