[Bunnie] Launches The Novena Open Laptop

Today [Bunnie] is announcing the launch of the Novena Open Laptop. When we first heard he was developing an open source laptop as a hobby project, we hoped we’d see the day where we could have our own. Starting today, you can help crowdfund the project by pre-ordering a Novena.

The Novena is based on the i.MX6Q ARM processor from Freescale, coupled to a Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA. Combined with the open nature of the project, this creates a lot of possibilities for using the laptop as a hacking tool. It has dual ethernet, for routing or sniffing purposes. USB OTG support lets the laptop act as a USB device, for USB fuzzing and spoofing. There’s even a high speed expansion bus to interface with whatever peripheral you’d like to design.

You can pre-order the Novena in four models. The $500 “just the board” release has no case, but includes all the hardware needed to get up and running. The $1,195 “All-in-One Desktop” model adds a case and screen, and hinges open to reveal the board for easy hacking. Next up is the $1,995 “Laptop” which includes a battery control board and a battery pack. Finally, there’s the $5000 “Heirloom Laptop” featuring a wood and aluminum case and a Thinkpad keyboard.

The hardware design files are already available, so you can drool over them. It will be interesting to see what people start doing with this powerful, open computer once it ships. After the break, check out the launch video.

60 thoughts on “[Bunnie] Launches The Novena Open Laptop

      1. For $2k I can buy a macbook, a usb analyzer and a extra ethernet dongle and have money to spare and run more operating systems. It may be technically open but it is closed by obscurity.

          1. What are you talking about? You can run Linux, Windows, and OS/X on a macbook. You can write your own programs without going through an app store on the Mac. The Mac uses standard parts for the CPU, and GPU.
            Your statement while over the top is could apply to IOS, Windows RT, and WIndows Phone devices, it does not apply to Macs.
            Back to the open laptop. This is a good example of economies of scale. Very few people will want this lap top so it will be very expensive to build. Now if there was a market for a few million of them it would be cheap. You see the same thing is software. Office is reality cheap because the market is huge. A much less complex vertical program to run a storage building business will cost a lot more because the company has to make a profit from only a few thousand customers verses millions.

    1. You are missing the point. This isn’t a machine to compete with big guns from Dell or Lenovo that you would game on or do your Powerpoint slides.

      However, try to do some serious reverse engineering or diagnostics where you need high-speed interfaces on a regular PC/laptop. You are completely screwed without additional acquisition hardware that often costs 2-3x the price of the PC. And it is completely closed, proprietary mess. And requires crummy, Windows-only software and drivers. Etc. Oh, and you need it portable? Forget it – the hw exists only as PCI-E card, so you have to lug a desktop machine around.

      That’s the niche that this “laptop” is trying to fill – that is what the FPGA is there for as well.

      1. What expensive hardware to reverse engineering do you need?
        A logic analyzer? Even with that novena you will need one, or are you hopping that someone will write a nice logic analyzer core for the FPGA and throw in a nice GUI all for free?
        Programmers? Grab one from ebay, oh, you might be a bit screwed if the software is x86 only..

        1. Xilinx already has a logic analyzer core with a decent GUI. For free. And what programmer? I sincerely hope that it can be programmed by the ARM directly. Xilinx’s virtual cable’s been out for a while: I haven’t needed a programmer in forever.

          1. The xapp058 xsvf library is cake to port to the platform of your choice. That said I’d rather throw a BeagleBone or similar at the problem tethered to a normal PC.

    2. Right now its 23 claimed of the laptop sku on the crowdsupply-campain ;).
      Bunnie wasn’t going to make this thing for sale at all (because it would be very expensive), but there it is due to demand.

      I’m not in that exact niche, and won’t order one, but I still like bunnies work enough to donate $10 to the cause.

      Comparing low-run specialized niche hardware to normal consumer relatives and complaining about the price difference seem to be something of a global sport among internet commentators.

    1. Up to the “desktop” point, the price is not too bad considering the low volume, messy logistics part of getting the parts, manufacturing and case panels made.

      There is no reason why one has to “buy” the “laptop” version. A good quality RC battery pack and good charger can be bought from a hobby store far less than that. If someone really want to, the files are there for the official charger/controller.

    2. If (unlike Eric ;) you listen/watch/read carefully, the “laptop” package also includes a 240GB SSD, so that’s where the extra cost comes from (although the markup on the SSD still seems a bit high given that it’s probably well under $200 at quantity).

    3. You do realise that is trying to make money to facilitate mass production, that is why it is more expensive because not only are you paying for the reward but you are investing in the project…

      1. ok, but a 240gb SSD + RC battery pack, that’s max 300 usd retail , the price difference between “desktop and “laptop” (which is desktop + charger board + ssd + battery if i’m correct) is 800 usd.

        So 500 usd for the battery charger board? Seams a bit excessive…

  1. Its a bit over-priced, when bunnie started the design/first prototypes, it was more on par with current laptops(1, 2 years ago? ), and my hat off, its just the work of two guys, but I was expecting it be a little less expensive, even the base board for 500$ is a tad on the heavy side, maybe ditch the fpga for a cheaper version?

  2. If you look close at the second picture on his site, you can see the “Approved by PT Barnum” sticker.

    Just kidding, but at that cost, come on, they deserve it.

  3. If I had the money laying around I would definitely buy one of these… For me you’re not just buying a bunch of thrown together hardware but a collectors item that was created by one of the people that gave a lot to the hacking community.

    I can see one of these end up in some museum in 40 years from now :)

  4. Expensive, yes. But this very ambitious project is delivering on its goals. That’s pretty impressive in its own right. Well done.

    The base64 mime-encoded blipvert behind Bunny decodes to “crowdsupply.com/novena-puzzle” in case anyone else was curious.

  5. Given that the i.MX6 uses a Vivante GPU, going with a newer Intel Atom would have resulted in a more open source computer all around. Not to mention the benefit of having an x86 64 architecture. Don’t get me wrong, this is cool, but you could likely build something very similar for a LOT less money by utilizing one of the many ARM SBCs on the market.

  6. The real problem is, that if you have the skills required to get the most out of this hardware you could probably build your own. I’d say that if they could have priced the board alone $100 cheaper they would have made a total killing. I do hope that they do well, I’m trying to justify buying one to learn, but I personally can’t justify it.

      1. Nope. Broadcom/RaspberryPi haven’t released any details on it yet. The RPi screens attached to other ports like SPI, HDMI and composite. The DSI connector is still completely unused.

  7. As an open source software/hardware fan, I really love the laptop, and I wish I had $5000 I could spend on a complete one.

    What bugs me a little is that hardware has been designed with Altium, instead of using a free tool like KiCad or gEDA. I cannot blame bunnie though, as a gEDA user myself, I know free electronics CAD have an extremely long way to go until they can compete with professional privative alternatives.

  8. Why not raspi, papillio fpga and/or knjn flashy boards and cpld/fpga for analog? Off the shelf and modular with worse case addition of atrix lapdock to get laptop like functionality…

  9. The shift in community tone from the initial announcement (SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY) to the actual product funding (If only it were $100 cheaper…!) is comical to behold.

    What’s up with the lack of EMI shielding in the heirloom edition? Maybe they’re keeping it simple for the promotional shots.

    1. Taking the “$100 cheaper” fully out of context and perverting the meaning, yes it does sound dumb. The comment was more on selecting a better supply and demand price point Nowhere in my comment did I say that I would buy the product if only it were $100 cheaper. If I did buy it I would use it mostly to learn FPGA, and I can pick up a board for way less than $100 cheaper. Or make my own, still at a much cheaper price point. I just did a quick mental sum of all approx BOM, added in a generous profit margin, allowed for testing and excluded shipping and all R&D costs as R&D would be picked up at volume on the lower price point with a lot more ease.

  10. I do have to say, I like the case, the unit itself is costly and you can get most of the functions using an off the shelf modified chrome book or even a low cost modified notebook/netbook for less than $500, you will need some USB adapters among other things. The idea is sound and it I do see a market for it, a small one but a market. I use a modified Core2 tablet/laptop (SSD+ HD bay adapter, extended internal battery 6Hr, and extended external battery 14Hr, dual wifi/nic) and a Pentium M gateway (405ROG) to do a lot of my sniffing/modding/flashing alt firmware ect. both of which I picked up for less than $100 (at different times) and put in less than $300 of used/new off the self components to make them do what I want,

  11. So many in this thread fail to see the larger picture. Bunnie is paving the way for Open Hardware to move past small Dev boards and the maker market and push its way into the consumer market. Is this particular hardware going to do that? No. But the example is there.

    This proves that there is interest in the market and that Open Hardware is a virtue when developing new products. It provides a base of design standards that others can learn from instead of hording away the secret sauce like all laptop manufacturers are currently doing.

    1. Bunnie was *already* in the consumer market when he made the Chumby. So not sure you are really making a point with this niche “product”.

      This “laptop” is not a consumer product. This is what he wanted and a few others think they want after hearing about it. Your average consumer laptop won’t have FPGA in them. It is price at that range because of low volume and NRE overheads. It is a very vertical aka niche market. There are no safety/FCC type of certifications which kinda surprised he can “sell” it.

    2. Agreed.

      I don’t get why people try to compare it with macs and pcs, it’s not in the same category, wtf?

      And dont give that “I could built it with less money and something better” , go ahead and build it then. It takes time and effort to make something like this, and it is just a shame to see those kinds of comments. thats bs.

  12. My take on it,

    the dude wanted to build his own laptop, kudos. Other people wanted this laptop, so he posted it up for sale, kudos. If you dont want to pay that much, its not for you move on, if you are willing, then back it.

  13. $500, $1195, $1995, $5000 … Yikes, that seems a little steep (for an open-source project, when a decent mid-range laptop be less than $1000 — and it’s not just the board)
    if the price for a complete kit were reasonable — I might be interested in it, since the photo (shown) looks cool.

  14. Moveover, if the laptop (being a clamshell design) is meant to have the screen lift up and expose the electronic board inside, then, I would like to see a underside enclosure to protect it.

    1. I’d guess there has to be one. For one, that’s where the keyboard goes. And obviously you don’t need your ridiculously expensive new laptop baring it’s guts if there’s bits of molten solder flying about. As well as tiny clippings of wire, and maybe some tiny SMDs.

      Actually laptop or not, that’s gonna be a worry. Hopefully there’s some scheme where you can get proper access to the necessary parts, without exposing too much of the rest to damage. Equipment comes in cases for a reason!

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