The $40 x86 Arduino


Every week the Hackaday tip line receives an email about a new dev board. The current trend is towards ARM devices, and only once have we seen an x86-based device. Today that count went up to two. It’s called the 86Duino and stuffs an old Pentium II-class machine capable of running DOS, Windows, and Linux into the space of an Arduino,

The 86Duino Zero features, of course, an x86 Vortex86EX processor running at 300 MHz. This board also features 128 MB of RAM, 8MB of Flash and the usual compliment of Arduino pins in a Leonardo-compatible layout. Also on the SoC is a PCIE bus, Ethernet, a USB 2.0 host, and an SD card. There’s a lot of stuff on this board for such a small size.

Compared to the gigahertz-fast ARM boards around, the 86Duino isn’t really that fast, but that’s not the point. There’s obviously a market for extremely tiny x86 boards out there as evidenced by the Intel Galileo, and this board is $30 cheaper than the Intel offering.

There’s no video out on this board, so someone will have to figure out how to attach a graphics card to the PCIE connector before we build a miniaturized old school DOS gaming rig. Still it’s a very neat piece of hardware. If you need to have it now, here’s a vendor.

Thanks [sohaib] for sending this one in.


  1. George Hahn says:

    I wonder what the PCIe support is like. Can I remove the headers and stuff it into a laptop using a mPCIe to PCIe adapter? Can I use it to get GPIO out of my desktop PC?

  2. Gray says:

    George, much as the connector appears device-side, I have the impression that’s PCIE host, so not easily. Repurposing a legacy PCI slot would be a good way to do that.

    I’m looking forward to seeing someone hook up some cool toys. How about Fibre Channel? World smallest (and worst) SAN–NAS gateway anyone?

  3. lucrecelu says:

    86Duino One has PCIe connector can plug PCIe VGA card (at back side)

  4. lol says:

    Stick a 4 port usb host chip and Ethernet on it… and you’ll have liftoff.

    However, I’ll stick with the 4 core 1.8 GHz + GPU powered HDMI + 1 GB Ram at the same price.

    China’s ARM knockoff chips have pounded x86’s in the low end for years.
    Microsoft just provided extra Win8 brand lube.

    • does your cheap chinese arm soc has pciexpress? i bet i can beat their performance if I setup a quad SLI configuration with this x86 arduino.

      • cantido says:

        A lot of them do. Some of the android tv stick products have pci-express, gigabit ethernet etc but it’s not always available on the board… but some sticks have those things broken out to test pads so they have a lot of hack potential.

        • h_2_o says:

          but there is one huge problem that can seen throughout the entire android hardware market doing this. I have yet to see anyone use standalone gigabit, they offload it onto the usb ports making it useless and drag the entire thing down. Now i’m not saying 100% of them do this but the vast majority of them do, heck even look at the ouya, the tegra soc they used even has the ability to offload it onto a network card so that it wont get bogged down with heavy Ethernet traffic. So what did they do, they designed the Ethernet around the usb instead of doing it correctly. OK it probably saved them like .07 cents per unit but at a huge loss for the consumer wanting to run/use it as a media center device.

          • cantido says:

            >Now i’m not saying 100% of them do this but the vast majority of them do,

            Can you name the devices that do to back up your “majority” claim. WiFi is generally via USB because those cheap WiFi modules are available and it apparently makes the certification easier to use a module.. but ethernet is usually used if the SoC supports it. An external PHY isn’t that much more work or more expensive than wiring up a usb ethernet chipset so if the Ouya did that it’s probably for some other reason than cost saving.

          • h_2_o says:

            well I will put it this way, I have yet to find one that does not use the USB as a host for ethernet when looking for an android based entertainment center device. So yes if in my looking and it has been a lot i’ve not found one that doesn’t use the usb host for ethernet then i would say most do.

          • cantido says:

            The issue with the comment depth here sucks..

            You haven’t looked hard enough I would say. The wandboard runs Android and the gigabit ethernet comes straight out of the SoC into an atheros PHY.

          • Max Siegieda says:

            example devices being the raspberry pi, the odroid line, most of the RK3188 based devices like the minix neo X7 iirc, not sure about this one but the beaglebone too? It seems it was basically agreed that a USB PHY and hub combination is as cheap as a simple hub chip so everyone does it. Most of these chips have onboard sata too but you never see that in the wild for cost reasons. If someone does find a board with ethernet coming from the SoC do speak up :)

          • cantido says:

            @Max Siegieda

            >not sure about this one but the beaglebone too?

            Both of the beaglebones use the built in ethernet. They actually have two ports for external PHYs but the second one is not usable from the cape headers..

            >It seems it was basically agreed that a USB PHY

            A USB PHY is for USB and not for ethernet. The USB ethernet chips out there are usually an ethernet MAC and PHY in one.

            >these chips have onboard sata too but you never see that in the wild for cost reasons.

            The Wandboard starts at $80 and has SATA on the entry model IIRC.

            >If someone does find a board with ethernet coming from the SoC do speak up :)

            Wandboard, SABRE Lite..

          • lwatcdr says:

            “he Wandboard starts at $80 and has SATA on the entry model IIRC.”
            No it doe not according to

            you have to pay $129 for the board with SATA. Unless you need the lower power of the Wandaboard you may be better off with an x88 board. You can one with a printer port for digital IO or use USB for IO. Here is an ITX that would do the job Price $80.
            I would really like to see an ARM board with an SODIMM slot, Giga E, 4 or more Sata slots, and a price tag like this. A PCIe slot would be nice as well. Just goes to show you what economy of scale can do.

          • Kris Lee says:

            @cantido Freescale i.MX6 that Wandboard uses maxes out at 470 Mbit/s.

            “The theoretical maximum performance of 1 Gbps ENET is limi
            ted to 470 Mbps (total for Tx and Rx) due to internal bus
            throughput limitations.”

        • Bogdan says:

          Here’s one:
          Here’s the performance:

          I’m thinking of getting one as well.

      • inmmmkie says:

        And a 20 dollar bill is worth more than a fiver. So what?

    • Hack Man says:

      “and only once have we seen an x86-based device”

      And there are lots of reasons for this.

    • lwatcdr says:

      I wouldn’t be so quick. There are still DOS apps out in the world for things like CNC controllers. For a real time app DOS still has some benefits like the fact that it is a RTOS. Well it is a DOS that gets out of your way.
      While the ARM stuff is very cool this could be a really useful solution for some people.

  5. bobfeg says:

    I’ll stick with cheaper and more useful ARM SoCs

    I love assembler, but coding asm on an X86 was frustrating back in the old days.
    The insane addressing scheme, Oy Vey!

  6. cantido says:

    Or just buy a beaglebone, cubie, whatever..

  7. This sucks because I will have to learn new stuff all over again. I prefer staying in my 8-bit confort zone. much better. because I say so.

  8. Tired Juan says:

    These would make a nice retro BBS box, if someone can get Win95/98(Maybe even 2k?) on them. My parents threw out there old P2 (333MHz/128MB RAM-Might have been 256MB?) only 6 years ago, and I kind of miss some of the old crappy games.

  9. genki says:

    Hello old DOS games in your pocket!

    • Lord Nothing says:

      can you say dosboy? of course you need to solve the sound and video problems, in a way that works with old dos games.

      • Eirinn says:

        Hehe, i wouldn’t be surprised if it’s easer than we think. They didn’t have a lot of sophisticated hardware back then :)

        • Lord Nothing says:

          you can probibly have a single fpga handle your sound, video (output to lcd), and pcie interface. emulating dos era hardware should be pretty easy. would be nice if we could throw in 3dfx emulation for old 3d accelerated dos games. that would be awesome. its certainly a thing i want to see (though probibly outside of my skill set).

      • Greenaum says:

        To be fair, you’re probably much much better off emulating. Just use an ARM and whatever LCD you can drive quick enough. It’s all much simpler than the horror of actually building a real PC. And something like this is probably 500x faster than you’d need for DOS games, you’d spend 99% of your cycles running Moslo or somesuch.

        Quickest way is probably a Nintendo DS Lite with a Supercard DSTWO, a 360MHz MIPS CPU with 32MB RAM, squeezed into a Nintendo DS cartridge. And a little room for a Micro SD card. There’s already a PC emulator for that, and the guy’s a genius for doing it.

  10. polossatik says:

    ok, now waiting for the first SoundBlaster ™ shield :)

  11. Nice Hello DoS

  12. neaoio says:

    > There’s obviously a market for extremely tiny x86 boards out there as evidenced by the Intel Galileo,
    Is there really a demand? I thought it was just intel feeling left out of the whole rasp pi movement.

    • Robert says:


      There being a market for tiny x86 boards is exactly what the existence of the Galileo does *not* prove. The Galileo is simply Intel getting scared and attempting to dump a product on a market using a large publicity budget used to buy the “featured articles” you see everywhere.

      Let’s not even go into the ridiculousness of their Quark product.

  13. fartface says:

    This thing is the ultimate robotics platform. there are a TON of linux and DOS robotics software out there.

  14. fartface says:

    Why did they not do the MEGA board size? the module on it supports more IO pins than the mega has. I wonder when we will get a reputable seller for these in the states.

  15. Vlad says:

    Well, I hate cross-compilation.

    But there are more sensible problems with ARM boards.

    How about opensource bootloader? Or open graphics acceleration driver? Is there any ARM board that matches these criteria?

    • Oliver says:

      Yes, Check out Olimex A10/A20/A13 boards, opensource bootloader, can use the opensource LIMA driver and even has early work done on opensource Video Decoder. To top it off, opensource boardschematics thanks to Olimex too. The olimex LIME is really really interesting.

  16. hyena-of-doom says:

    To be honest, I think the module itself is more interesting than the Arduino adapter board. The listed vender sells it separately for $32 and it brings all its pins out to 1.27mm headers and has more functions than the Arduino adapter brings out. the module at a quick glance seems to have SATA, PS/2, CAN bus, audio in/out, USB, Ethernet, parallel and serial ports and the PCI-E host/device. if we could find a PCI-E GPU IC or a smallish GPU card (or spin a custom one on an FPGA) it could be made into a nice portable DOS game player.

  17. voxnulla says:

    I could find some use for boards like this, only if they were able to accept old buses like ISA or Localbus. There is a ton of ancient hardware, still in use, that depends on awkward driver boards and suitable old iron is getting scarce.
    It’s scary how many science labs and production facilities still have some 386 running in the background with a double full-length ISA card driving some key process.

    • F says:

      If you look around you will find companies that sell motherboards that have modern processors and old style buses. They are very expensive because the quantities are small but you CAN upgrade that old beast.

      • voxnulla says:

        I know, but this is often not an option not only due to price but often quirky hardware. Some of these boards are very particular about the system they run on. Some boards I came across could only run on a system with a 50Mhz clock. If an 86duino could provide a hackable chipset and clock with a simple 86 cpu, it would be far more viable to build new machines for this hardware.

  18. rasz says:

    >evidenced by the Intel Galileo

    Really? because the only thing Galileo proved was that Intel has to GIVE AWAY their x86 FOR FREE because NOBODY WANTS IT

    We dont need 20 years off back compatibility, quirks (3 addressing modes? really?) and hacks in embedded platforms.

  19. ssshake says:

    Ya I guess this is cool if there a particular x86 app that you reall must run on a tiny footprint, but will also run on underpowered hardware. However I wish x86 would finally die. Its an outdated architecture. It’s wasteful. If anyone disagrees, go research it. Or to simplify, think about the reasons why you can take an arm proc with the same clock speed as an x86 chip, but it performs better and doesn’t produce enough heat to require a fan. Think atom vs snapdragon or something like that. Windows even had to go arm, no one wants a fan in a tablet. Just stop for a moment and let it all soak in…

  20. Chris Krug says:

    I use the DX version of this chip at 800mhz with 512 ram. Runs Win XP SP3 for industrial computers. Takes forever to install and configure but once it’s working it works pretty good.

    • Greg Kennedy says:

      One step higher is the Vortex86MX (aka PMX-1000. aka Xcore86), which is faster and also has on-chip video, sound, and IDE. This thing is practically a DOS gaming rig on a chip.

      Vortex86MX – 1 GHz, the CPU core itself hardly differs from the Vortex86DX. This version drops conformance to ISA and integrates a GPU and a HD Audio controller, it also integrates a UDMA/100 IDE controller. The consumer grade version is known as the PMX-1000. Current models of the Gecko Edubook use the Xcore86, a rebadge of the Vortex86MX.

  21. Ren says:

    I just want to say, using a cloverleaf in the logo to represent “86” was a neat ideal.

  22. potatoman412 says:

    Meh. Half of me is glad for another x86 board, the other half is pretty over it without even using it. The P2 was unspectacular imho. My P233mmx ran circles around those boxes for years… It was nice to get the crappy celeron after that to oc (melt) to our hearts’ content. This was of course after the 486 overdrive lol. I remember thinking you could run a post stamp country on a dx4 lol. T’other thing that bothers me about this device is having to pony up for a PCIe vid card, but it is not uncommon it seems in the field. I guess it is so they (or HaD’s favorite evil she-capitalist) can make a vid shield and sell for more bucks. I have to admit I am surprised that the market can sustain the amount of dev boards that are currently present.

    @ some of the above comments: being a bottom-feeding repair grubworm that I am, I had many years of squeezing the last life outta P2s. It is entirely possible to run XP on a p2 with 32megs of ram. You will want to turn off the cute graphics options and will want to set it as a server to prioritize dumb system processes, but it will run without too much griping, although mobo bottlenecks can affect it greatly. Not a head turner, but it will do it. As usual a decent gfx card to do the heavy lifting will help immensely.

    Best to all and happy tinkering :)

  23. dex says:

    This is the sort of device DexOS was coded for

    • Greenaum says:

      Aw dude, if I’d written my own OS I’d document it somewhere better than Youtube! Most of the people who’d be interested in something like that are able to read and write. Unlike most Youtube users, as evidenced by the moronic comments it’s full of.

  24. Andrew says:
  25. Annoyed English Teacher says:

    “Evidenced” is not a valid Verb form because “evidence” is not a Verb. The correct word to use is “evinced”. Would those of you who use “evidenced” kindly stop sodomizing the English language? Thank you.

    • Ah, an annoyed English teacher that can’t be bothered to pick up a dictionary. We meet again.

    • voxnulla says:

      And what is wrong with sodomy all of a sudden? Just out of principle I’ll start using “evidenced” more in conversation.

    • Greenaum says:

      “To evince” means to show something, to reveal it, most often in the phrase to “evince an interest”. “To evidence” means “to prove an argument by providing evidence”.

      The words are different. If you’re gonna be a grammar Nazi, and it’s a fine profession, please don’t let the side down by ever being wrong. It just makes us all look stupid.

  26. Chris G. says:

    Or a Gameduino. Gameduino 2 is coming out soon and has open source drivers…

  27. android.lin says:

    There is a fun video for this board: (86Duino runs DOS old games)

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