Next Thing Co.’s PocketC.H.I.P. handheld Linux computer garnered a lot of hype a few years back. It had an attractive design, a full QWERTY keyboard, great specs, an enticing software library, and it wasn’t based on a Raspberry Pi like most other competing products. But supply and production problems, along with poor management, caused NTC to fold and left thousands of people—myself included—with orders unfilled. Popcorn Computer recently tried to revive the C.H.I.P. hardware using NTC’s leftover components, but their crowdfunding campaign failed to reach its goal. Now Popcorn Computer is back with their all-new Pocket P.C. that fills the same niche as the Pocket C.H.I.P. did.
The first Popcorn Computer Kickstarter campaign, which we covered back in June, only managed to raise $5,000 of the $250,000 funding goal. Three different boards were available through the campaign: the Super Popcorn, the Super ‘8’ Popcorn, and the Original Popcorn. The Original Popcorn had the same Allwinner R8 SoC (Systeom-on-Chip) as the NTC C.H.I.P. had, and was the only board of the three that was pin-compatible with the C.H.I.P. The campaign likely failed because it wasn’t clear what advantages the Popcorn boards offered over other, more affordable single-board computers (SBCs), and because the Alwinner R8 was discontinued—meaning the Original Popcorn platform had a finite lifespan.
The new Pocket P.C. (“Pocket Popcorn Computer”) design ditches all relations to NTC’s C.H.I.P. products, and instead utilizes common and easily-sourced components. Those include a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, a 4.95” full-HD IPS LCD display, a large 3200mAh removable battery, and an Infineon OPTIGA TRUST M Secure Element to store encryption keys and the like. It has integrated 2.4GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and there is an upgraded option that has built-in LoRa communications capability.
Those specs are nothing to scoff at, but it’s the implementation that makes Popcorn Computer’s Pocket P.C. exciting. It’s a compact device that has a full QWERTY silicone keyboard with an RGB backlight. The keyboard is programmable, so you can customize it to add special functions or macros. Pocket P.C. is designed to run Debian 10 with Mainline Linux, which means you can also install just about any other ARM-compatible Linux distro you may want to use. If you want a complete Linux computer that fits in your pocket, the Popcorn Computer Pocket P.C. could be for you.
The Pocket P.C. is being crowdfunded through pre-orders on the Popcorn Computer website. The standard version will cost you $199 ($50 off the expected retail price), and the LoRa version costs $299. Popcorn Computer doesn’t specify how long they intend to accept pre-orders, so you may want to jump on this. However, they do expect to ship production units by May 1st, 2020.