via apc 1 VIA announces ultra affordable $49 Android PC, we go hands on

Google's Android OS has so far ended up in just about every device imaginable, but apparently one market has so far been ignored, the humble desktop. Taiwanese VIA Technologies spotted this omission though and has developed the APC – or Android PC – which actually is more of a motherboard than a complete solution.

Google's Android OS has so far ended up in just about every device imaginable, but apparently one market has so far been ignored, the humble desktop. Taiwanese VIA Technologies spotted this omission though and has developed the APC – or Android PC – which actually is more of a motherboard than a complete solution.

Rather than coming up with a really compact solution like FXI's Cotton Candy, VIA simply sliced a mini ITX motherboard in half and ended up with a 170x85mm motherboard which more or less fits in a standard mini-ITX chassis, although you'd need a couple of supports for one side of the motherboard.

via apc 1 VIA announces ultra affordable $49 Android PC, we go hands on

The hardware is fairly basic as VIA has tried to keep the price as low as possible and as such the company went with an ARM11 SoC from its Wondermedia subsidiary in the shape of the WM8750. This is an 800MHz chip and it won't be breaking any speed records as such, but it does at least feature hardware assisted 1080p video decoding. A fair few features of the WM8750 weren't implemented in this specific solution, but VIA did at least kit out the APC with 512MB of DDR3 memory as well as 2GB of flash memory for the OS.

As this is a "PC" it also has a BIOS chip, an audio controller and an Ethernet controller which we were told was offering Gigabit speeds, but the press release talks about 10/100Mbps, so we're entirely sure what is supported here. The APC can either be powered by an external 12V adapter, or via an internal 4-pin 12V connector. The board also has a standard USB 2.0 header and chassis connector pin header.

via apc 2 VIA announces ultra affordable $49 Android PC, we go hands on

Around the back the board has a 12V power connector, a D-sub and HDMI connector, four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a pair of audio jacks and a microSD card slot. Storage would have to be added via USB or the microSD card slot, which should be enough for the target market, but it might not be to everyone's taste.

One hardware limitation of the WM8750 SoC is that it doesn't support resolutions above 720p and although the APC was mostly working flawlessly during our short demo, this is a little bit disappointing in a world of 1080p displays, no matter if it's your computer screen or your TV. Admittedly this is a low cost solution and it didn't have any problems playing back video from locally stored files nor streaming from YouTube.

via apc 4 VIA announces ultra affordable $49 Android PC, we go hands on

The power draw of the APC peaks at 13.5W; although idle power is a mere 4W and VIA claims that this is ten times less than your average PC and we have no reason to doubt them here, as although desktop PCs have become more power efficient, 135W is still not all that much power.

Although not a lot in terms of software was installed on the demo unit we were shown, VIA has tweaked Android – and we think the APC was running Android 2.3, but we actually forgot to ask – to make it work better with keyboards and mice. The company is still doing a lot of hardware compatibility testing with devices such as USB Wi-Fi dongles and so forth and should be providing more details closer to launch.

Speaking of which, the APC will officially launch in July for the very affordable price of US$49 (S$65) and it will come with a 15W power adapter as well as Android pre-installed on the flash memory. You might have noticed that below the product name on the PCB it reads "A bicycle for your mind" and VIA is sort of trying to say that the APC is so cheap and there are so many things you could potentially do with it, that it's just your mind holding you back.

via apc 3 VIA announces ultra affordable $49 Android PC, we go hands on

As for more advanced hardware in the future, well, we'll sadly have to wait and see, as VIA wants to feel the waters with the APC first to see if there's enough market for a product like this. If the company decided to make a higher-end product at some point down the road we'd like to see a more powerful SoC and the inclusion of a SATA port, but we have a feeling that this would bring up the cost of the product quite significantly.

Source: VIA