Popcorn Instead of C.H.I.P.s?

A “Final” Limited Edition GR8-based C.H.I.P Compatible Board

Alasdair Allan
2 years agoInternet of Things

The final demise of Next Thing Co. left a good number of C.H.I.P. owners really rather annoyed. Predictably perhaps, that meant some of them tried to build a replacement. In the year since the company went under we’ve seen at least one straight copy built around the same GR8 as the original C.H.I.P. Pro. briefly for sale on Amazon.

However now it looks like the company that produced it, called Source Parts, is back with something that isn’t quite a clone. Called the Kettlepop, the new board is built around the GR8, but there have been some significant changes.

The Kettlepop is based on the 1GHz-clocked Cortex-A8 GR8 System-in-Package, with 256MB RAM, and between 8GB and 128GB eMMC, and offers onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.

While the board is both pin and software compatible with the original C.H.I.P. Pro board, it’s not going to be around for long as the manufacturer has the last remaining stock of the GR8 available, as they say, “…last year, after Next Thing Co. was liquidated, I was able to obtain 662 GR8 System-in-Packages which happened to be the last stock available on Earth.

Initially anticipating making a direct copy of the C.H.I.P Pro, changes were made to the open sourced design of the board due to the compromises inherent in the original design, there to save pennies, and keep the cost of the original board down as far as possible.

“The memory chosen for C.H.I.P Pro was 512MB Toshiba NAND Flash Memory because it was about a dollar cheaper than it’s more reliable counterpart eMMC Memory when you buy direct from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, without an initial order of thousands of pieces one has to resort to the open market to source this component. I found that the cost of this component on the market was higher than 8GB eMMC direct from the manufacturer Longsys…”

The Kettlepop joins the other C.H.I.P derived board produced by Source Parts, the Popcorn Computer, based around the Allwinner R8, which is pin-to-pin compatible to the original C.H.I.P. rather than the C.H.I.P. Pro.

Although still I’m not entirely sure why this new board exists, other than because they could build it, because it really doesn’t have a future. Source Parts is currently offering “…500 units of Kettlepop for $19,500 USD at a price of $39 each.

But once they’re gone, they’re gone.

There really isn’t a future for this GR8 design, so if you’re looking to replace your C.H.I.P you might want to look at a Beagle-ish copy that, while it shares the C.H.I.P form factor, has been built around the Octavo Systems OSD3358 better known as the “BeagleBone on a chip.”

Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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