The search for hardware below the 100 euro price tag
When you build stuff that needs some kind of computing power beyond the 20 euro PLC/Arduino scope, Android devices might be your first weapon of choice.
When I started to focus my attention on Android in 2010, the cheapest hardware you could find where the Apad tablets, offered for 130 USD, excluding the import costs.
Archos had already launched their first series of 7 inch tablets: running on a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor and with 128 MB of RAM, obtainable for around 190 euro in that period. And in the end I bought just that.
But for home made projects, where your “computer” is hidden in some closet somewhere, even 150 euro is still a lot of money. So I am patiently waiting for the hardware to drop below the 100 euro point. And this months (from Juli on) it has.
Two reasons why I prefer Android above other platforms
- Java and code portability – My (Java) code is not locked to one specific platform as is the case with – for instance – iOS and Symbian. If I do it properly: by abstracting and encapsulating platform dependent parts, I can compile and run that same code on any platform of choice, including Linux versions, the Mac and the PC.
- Price tag and competition – Android is not locked to one vendor or one producer. Anyone can build and sell Android devices. This means that there is more choice and more competition in the market. As one consequence, more and more “last year devices” (like the Yarvik and Arnova products) will continue to hit the market to target cheap skates like me, dropping in price as production costs drops on the long tail as well.
Two devices to toy with
- The 88 euro Yarvik TAB211 – It is on special offer and offers a (very) good deal for a good price.
- The 100 euro LG GT540 – I bought this phone for 200 euro when it came out in 2010 and the price has been dropping ever since. What goes for the Yarvik goes for the LG: good deal for a good price.
88 euro Yarvik Tablet: 256 MB RAM, 1 GHz ARM 11 processor
Yesterday I bought the Yarvik Tab 211. Yarvik is a sub-brand of Sweex, which specializes in OK hardware on the low end of the market. It is not the best you can get, but it is good for its price. And with the specifications and build of the Tab211 I think they hit bulls eye.
The tablet cost 88 euro in a special offer at “Computerland” (see image below), a retailer part of the same group that contains “Media World” / “Media Markt”.
It is the “high end” tablet in their range of two 7 inchers and below is a part of the list of its specifications:
The resistive screen is quite OK and it comes with a USB host cable included.
Yarvik USB Host
The USB Host was something I actually did not expect to get with the tablet.
It allows you to connect a keyboard, a mouse and a drive to the device. And if you use a USB hub (with an independent power source to feed the harddrive) you can use all at the same time, as I did with the Archos more than a year ago. (see this post of my “Hacking away with Android” series).
Brief: it works.
100 euro LG GT540: 600 MHz, 256 MB RAM
The LG GT540 has hit and went under the 100 euro price tag in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Unfortunately this offer has apparently expired and the cheapest offer I could find now (August 2011) is 103 euro.
GT540 and Android 2.2/2.3
The GT540 apparently still comes standard with Android 1.6 and can be upgraded to 2.1 (Eclair). As this phone is selling for over a year and gaining more and more user, there are mods as well to upgrade it to 2.2 (FoYo) and 2.3 (Gingerbread).
FroYo makes it possible to use this phone as a WiFi hot spot, using a data plan from your telephony provider..
I have done an upgrade for another “old” phone: the Samsung Galaxy I, and assume it will be equally painless for the GT540.