Way back in 2007, I made the hilariously inaccurate prediction that the Apple iPhone would never be successful. I reasoned that typing on a touchscreen would never catch on, because it is an experience that is inferior to using the kinds of tactile keyboards that were available on BlackBerry smartphones at the time. Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the general population’s willingness to use touchscreen keyboards, but I still maintain that tactile keyboards are better. That’s why the YARH.IO Micro 2 handheld Raspberry Pi computer stands out to me, because it features a real keyboard.
There are still some companies out there who believe in the superiority of phones with tactile keyboards. The Unihertz Titan is one example that I reviewed a year ago. But those are few and far between. The YARH.IO Micro 2 is a device that you can build right now and it offers a full Linux user experience. While it is definitely larger than a smartphone — even one as massive as the Unihertz Titan — it does still fit in your hand. Despite the compact size, the YARH.IO Micro 2 packs quite a lot of horsepower. Unlike similar devices that are often build around the relatively slow Raspberry Pi Zero W, this handheld contains a powerful Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ with its 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor and 1GB of SDRAM.
That Raspberry Pi has to be modified slightly to slim it down, but that only requires the removal of the Ethernet port and swapping the double-stack USB ports out for a single-stack. A Pimoroni Hyper Pixel 4” 800x480 IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen provides plenty of real estate for your work. The attractive 3D-printed enclosure has rubber corner bumpers for protection and gives you easy access to the various ports so you can slap on whatever accessories you need. The 3500mAh lithium-ion battery cell is removable so you can replace it when you’re out and about. An Arduino Pro Micro monitors the battery and sends its status to the Raspberry Pi via I2C. It also controls the status LEDs and has a real-time clock to provide the Pi with the current time.
The keyboard is, of course, the star of the show here. It is a miniature Bluetooth keyboard that can be purchased as a self-contained device. When building your YARH.IO Micro 2, you will disassemble that keyboard and then fit the PCB and rubber membrane into the case. Membrane keyboards aren’t exactly perfect, but they’re still much better than tapping at an on-screen touchscreen keyboard with your fat thumbs. All of the STL files you need to build the YARH.IO Micro 2 are available along with detailed assembly instructions, so you can get started on making your own right now if you also miss tactile keyboards.