The M5Stack Cardputer is a tiny computer with a keyboard, display, wireless functionality, and a built-in microphone and speaker… all of which makes it sound more impressive and functional than it really is. The display is a 1.14 inch TFT LCD screen. Its keyboard is designed for thumb typing (and doesn’t look very comfortable to use). And its processor is an ESP32 microcontroller, which isn’t exactly a speed demon.

But the Cardputer is an interesting little device for a few reasons. It’s the size of a (very thick) credit card. It costs just under $30. And it’s the latest in a line of products from modular electronics company M5Stack.

According to the company, this “card-sized portable computer” is “perfect for engineers” and can be used for “rapid functional verification, industrial control, and home automation systems.”

But honestly it looks like a toy for tinkerers.

At the heart of the system is an M5StampS3 microcontroller with a 240 MHz dual-core 32-bit Xtensa LX7 microcontroller, a RISC-V co-processor, 512KM of memory, and a wireless radio with support for WiFi 4 and Bluetooth 5.0.

The system has a 1.14 inch, 240 x 135 pixel TFT LCD display, a 56-key keyboard (with buttons that look more like something you’d find on a remote control than a BlackBerry), microSD card reader for storage, a USB-C port, and 120 mAh and 1,400 mAh batteries.

There’s also an infrared emitter that allows you to use the pocket-sized computer as a remote control for a TV, air conditioner, or other devices. There’s also a HY2.0-4P interface for adding I2c sensors including temperature, humidity, light, or pressure sensors. And interestingly, the base is also “compatible with Lego hole expansion.”

M5Stack says the Cardputer measures 84 x 54 x 17mm (3.3″ x 2.1″ x 0.7″)  and weighs 114 grams (4 ounces), making it roughly the size of a Raspberry Pi Model B single-board computer.

via CNX Software and LinuxGizmos

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  1. Well, the M5Stack Cardputer has several advantages over my Timex Sinclair ZX81, but I miss having access to the system bus. 🙂

  2. Very cool! I’ve been tinkering with some of their camera boards this year as my introduction to arduino. Might have to grab one of these just to see what it can do.

  3. Credit card size you say? The REX 6000 has entered the chat:-)

    It was also an insertable Type-II PC Card. I kinda’ feel that even today, it’s more useful.

    1. That’s an interesting device. I imagine it was rather difficult to do much with a screen that small and low-resolution, as well as the tiny amount of memory. I wonder how quickly users managed to find those limitations, for example how large a document is too large to properly edit on it. I doubt anyone would try to have a text editor and calendar running on this device, although there’s no reason you couldn’t do so as easily and probably more conveniently given the Bluetooth connectivity for local syncing and the 2.4 GHz WiFi for syncing data when away from the computer. Theoretically, the right software could make this just as powerful as that was, but since we now all have a smartphone if we want one, probably nobody will write that software. I also wonder how bad the battery life will be with this, although I don’t have any good way to estimate it.

      1. couldnt it be used as a thin client and have a pi 4 or 5 as the power back home also adding vps to the mix of uses

  4. This actually seems pretty impressive for less than $30.
    I could imagine putting ESPHome on it (I don’t know if all the hardware would be usable though), connecting some I2C sensors, displaying temperature on the screen, turning on a speaker system with IR before attempting to play audio, and it could function as a Bluetooth extender.
    I really don’t like the look of it though, I’d want to build a case to hide the ugly. But that may be necessary anyway to manage/hide I2C devices.