Windows 10 On A Tiny Board

Over the past few months, a number of companies and designers have started picking up the newest Intel SoCs. Intel has to kill ARM somehow, right? The latest of these single board x86 computers is the Lattepanda. It’s a tiny board that can run everything a 5-year-old desktop computer can run, including a full version of Windows 10.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a tiny x86 board in recent months. Last October, an x86 board that takes design cues from the Raspberry Pi 2 hit Kickstarter. These are proper PCs, with the ability to run Windows 10, Linux, and just about every other environment under the sun.

The specs for the Lattepanda include a quad-core Cherry Trail running at 1.8GHz. the RAM is either 2GB or 4GB depending on configuration, and 32GB of eMMC Flash. Peripherals include USB 3.0, Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, and integrated graphics supporting either HDMI or a DSI connector.

But of course a computer is just a computer, and you can’t sell a machine that only runs Skype to the ‘maker’ market. The Lattepanda also includes an ATMega32u4 as a coprocessor, giving this board ‘Arduino functionality’. In my day we walked uphill both ways to get a parallel port, but I digress.

While these tiny x86 boards might not be available in a year’s time, and the companies behind them may fall off the face of the planet, the introduction of these devices portends a great war over the horizon. Intel wants the low-power SoC market, a space until now reserved entirely for ARM-based devices.

An Intel Atom CPU In The Raspi Form Factor

For years now, people have been trying to stuff an Intel processor on a credit card sized board. An x86 board that can fit in your pocket is an intriguing device – after all, that’s what Gumstix, the forerunner of the Raspberry Pi, were. Efforts to put x86 on a dev board have included the Minnowboard, the Intel Galileo and Edison, and even the Intel Compute Stick. These have not seen the uptake you would expect from a small x86-powered board, but that tide may soon turn. The UP board is exactly what you would expect from a Raspberry Pi-inspired board with a real Intel processor.

The feature set for the UP board is impressive for a credit card sized board; it’s powered by a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8300 CPU running at 1.84 GHz. The board comes equipped with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of eMMC Flash, Gigabit Ethernet, five USB 2.0 ports (one on a pin header) and one USB 3.0 port. Up also includes a real-time clock, HDMI, the same 40-pin GPIO pin connector found in the Raspberry Pi Model B Plus, and DSI and CSI connectors for the Raspberry Pi camera and touch screen.

To be fair to all the previous attempts at making a board built around an x86 chip that borrows heavily from the Raspberry Pi, there haven’t been many chips out there that have been suitable for credit card-sized applications. Only in the last year or so has Intel released chips suitable for an x86 single board computer, and the growing market of Windows 10 tablets bears this out. While it remains to be seen if the UP board will be a success, more than a few people will pick one of these up for a miniature Skype box.

Tiny x86 Systems With Graphics Cards

The Intel Edison is out, and that means there’s someone out there trying to get a postage-stamp sized x86 machine running all those classic mid-90s games that just won’t work with modern hardware. The Edison isn’t the only tiny single board computer with an x86 processor out there; the legends told of another, and you can connect a graphics card to this one.

This build uses the 86Duino Zero, a single board computer stuffed into an Arduino form factor with a CPU that’s just about as capable as a Pentium II or III, loaded up with 128 MB of RAM, a PCI-e bus, and USB. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the 86Duino. We first saw it way back at the beginning of 2013, and since then, barring this build, nothing else has come up.

The 86Duino Zero only has a PCI-e x1 connector, but with an x16 adapter, this tiny board can drive an old nVidia GT230. A patch to the Coreboot image and a resistor for the Reset signal to the VGA was required, but other than that, it’s not terribly difficult to run old games on something the size of an Arduino and a significantly larger graphics card.

Thanks [Rasz] for sending this one in.

Continue reading “Tiny x86 Systems With Graphics Cards”

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.

The Intel-powered Arduino

Dev boards based on microcontrollers and ARM System on Chips are everywhere, but finding a small pocketable computer based on an Intel processor has been difficult to find. [Massimo] of Arduino just unveiled a new Intel architecture Arduino-compatible board at the Rome Maker Faire. It’s called the Galileo, and it has everything you’d expect from a juiced-up Arduino running x86.

The main chip is an Intel Quark SoC running at 400MHz with 256 MB of DRAM. On board is a Mini-PCIe slot, 100Mb Ethernet port, Micro SD slot, RS-232, and USB host and client ports. Here’s the datasheet for the Galileo with all the applicable information.

The Galileo can be programmed with the standard Arduino IDE, but from the getting started guide, it looks like this board is running Yocto, a stripped down Linux for embedded environments.

Realistically, what we have here is a board with about the same processing power as a Raspberry Pi, but with Arduino compatibility, and a Mini PCIe port for some really fun stuff. It will be interesting to see what can be made with this board, but if you have any ideas on what to do with a Galileo before it’s released in two months, drop a note in the comments.

Running x86 apps on Windows RT devices

Windows RT, the version of Windows being loaded onto ARM-powered tablets and netbooks such as the new Microsoft Surface, has one drawback: there are tens of thousands of apps written for x86 hardware that simply won’t run on this new ARM-powered architecture. While this may present a problem for hospitals, banks, and other institutions needing a proper Wintel platform, we’re wondering how to get classic games such as Civ III and Age of Empires running on these new tablets.

It seems with a lot of black magic, [mamaich] over at the XDA Developers forum has a solution for us. He’s created a tool for running x86 Win32 apps on Windows RT. Basically, he’s created an x86 emulator for ARM devices that also passes Windows API calls to Windows RT.

So far, [mamaich] has been playing some classic Windows games on his Windows RT box, including Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Space Cadet Pinball from Windows 95. A few utility apps such as 7Zip and WinRAR also work.

[mamaich]’s plans for his build are to make x86 emulation more automatic without the need for a separate launcher tool. Then, finally, we’ll have the perfect portable platform for RTS games.

Gizmo Board, a tiny x86 dev board


With the Raspberry Pi and sever other ARM dev boards seeing their time in the lime light, it’s no surprise other chip manufacturers would want to get in on the action. AMD is releasing a very tiny x86 dev board called the Gizmo, a four-inch square board that shrinks a desktop computer down to the palm of your hand.

The Gizmo is powered by a dual-core x86 Brazos CPU running at 1 GHz with an included Radeon HD 6250 graphics engine. Also on the board is 1GB of DDR3 RAM, a SATA, Ethernet, USB, VGA, Audio, PCI and PCIe ports, and a ton of GPIO pins that include ADCs and DACs. All this in a four-inch square package that boasts about twice the performance of a Raspberry Pi.

While the price of the Gizmo – $200 for an explorer kit – will probably preclude it from being as popular as a Raspberry Pi or other ARM board, sometimes you just need an x86 platform to do the job. With the powerful graphics potential of the Gizmo, we could easily see this board being used in a few computer vision or autonomous robot builds.