There’s a glut of relatively cheap single-board computers (SBCs) available for hobbyists, and these are typically positioned as either more powerful than the Raspberry Pi, or weaker than the Raspberry Pi, but at a cheaper price point. The Atomic Pi targets the same $35 price point as the current Raspberry Pi model, though does so using an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 rather than an Arm-based processor common to SBCs.
Using an x86-64 processor gives the Atomic Pi the ability to use any modern Linux distribution, without having to rely on complex pre-built, device-specific images to operate. Comparatively, OS images for Arm-powered devices rely on complex device trees to ensure that drivers and associated hardware are loaded and initialized properly. This is a manual and intensive process–while the Raspberry Pi benefits immensely from the strength of their user community, competing Arm-powered SBCs have smaller communities, making users more reliant on vendor support.
SEE: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
As mentioned, the Atomic Pi is powered by an Intel Atom x5-8350, a quad-core CPU with a base clock speed of 1.44 GHz, and turbo speed of 1.92 GHz. The x5-8350 is a Cherry Trail-T series 14nm CPU, equipped with a Broadwell series graphics subsystem, featuring 12 execution units at 500 MHz, supporting DirectX 11.1 / 12, OpenGL 4.2, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL ES 3.0, and hardware-accelerated H.264 and VP8 encoding and decoding, as well as HEVC decoding.
For I/O, the Atomic Pi includes an HDMI 1.4b connector, with two USB 2.0 connectors, one USB 3.0 connector, one full-speed gigabit ethernet (RJ-45) connector, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and, uniquely, a 9-axis inertial navigation sensor with compass. It also includes an RTC, and includes 2 GB DDR3L-1600 RAM and 16 GB eMMC flash.
Oddly, the system also includes a secondary XMOS audio output with class-D power amp, allowing the Atomic Pi to drive two 5W speakers if sufficient power is supplied to the system.
Power, specifically, is the most DIY part of the Atomic Pi, with a breakout board available to help in powering the board. Care is needed when wiring in manually, as reversing polarity can potentially damage the board. A full explanation is available here, while the Atomic Pi is available on Amazon or from the manufacturer, Digital Loggers.
For more, check out TechRepublic’s guide to the best Raspberry Pi alternatives, and a look at this bot-building kit that aims to be the ‘Raspberry Pi for robotics’.