MinnowBoard Raises the Bar on Embedded Computing



By John Baichtal

At World Maker Faire last weekend, I got the chance to check out Minnowboard, a new Open Source microcontroller board that is going after the Raspberry Pi market not by emulating the popular RasPi, but by blowing it out of the water with a four-inch $200 mini PC running Ångström Linux on an Intel Atom CPU. It has a host of intriguing features like x86 compatibility, gigabit ethernet, and a gig of DDR2 RAM, as well as the GPIO pins that hardware hackers like.

As a brand-new platform, the MinnowBoard has precious few accessories to offer. However, they have released the MinnowBoard’s specifications for their add-on boards, called Lures, enabling fans to start building compatible open-source products.

At Maker Faire, they had a neat demo at their booth — a hobbyist robotic arm controlled by a MinnowBoard and equipped with a camera and OpenCV computer vision library, enabling the MinnowBoard to detect an object and direct the manipulator to pick it up. 

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  • I just knew this was the direction this comment section was going to take.

  • @Tommy - THIS site has the complete GPU specs. To my amateur eye, it looks like the unit has both encode and decode for H.264 in hardware.
    However, I have been wrong before. ;-)

  • Great Joe,

    With the funding they got, it is possible they have actually set up sufficient manufacturing to be successful.

    I look forward to hearing your experiences with it.

    Please post here, or better, you might consider doing your own Blog on it when you bring it up.

    As Tom, Lorenz and a lot of us already know, for "vision" based relative navigation it is going to be very important to have a highly capable SBC.

  • @Gary - Just got an update from UDOO. They intend to start shipping the quad version to their backers (me!) next Thursday, October 3, 2013. That should mean I'll be seeing mine within a week after that.

  • Hi All Tom, You did a great thing sticking in this BLOG, this is now the best selection of currently available up scale SBCs I have ever seen.

    The Wandboard and the UDOO seem to have almost everything in common including pricing for the various sizes.

    And Lorenz I am sure your take on ODROID is spot on, though some of the larger ones look more interesting to me.

    And Jack - - probably the ultimate less is more genius - - sometimes more is more :-)

  • @Joe: Thank you for the info. But "supplied video codecs" sounds like a software encoder.....?

  • Tommy, the UDOO's Vivante gpu will encode and decode H.264 using the supplied video codecs. So maybe that means yes? So since the CPU doesn't handle the load, maybe that's a "yes"? I'm just a talented amateur getting back into hardware after a two decade hiatus - lots of catching up to do! :-)

    The main things I like about the UDOO are it's Linux and Android compatibility along with an in-built Arduino Due as well. Since I've been playing a lot with Arduino recently, and I've been running Linux as my OS for about eight years, the combo attracted me, especially since I've been considering delving into Android as well. Kind of made it a no brainer for me because all I do since retirement is play and tinker. :-)

  • Developer

    In that spirit I would like to point out the A20 SOM module that Olimex is going to release for 35 EUR:


    And being in a module it's very easy to embed it into a project.

  • Admin

    Hi All,

    The intent of this blog post was to generate exactly what we have been discussing: other cost effective embedded solutions and the shortcomings of this embedded system versus other embedded systems.


    TCIII Admin

  • Developer

    5 RPi or 1 MinnowBoard. It's not even competition as the RPi is aimed at powerful and cheap way into computing as an experiment. I think the RPi reference helps marketing, yet they serve different market segments. As LM states, the odroid looks much better, you can beat ARM for power consumption vs processing power.

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