First Thoughts on the LattePanda Alpha
Back at the tail end of 2015, the LattePanda by DFRobot, a single-board computer built around a Quad-Core Atom processor, landed on Kickstarter. Usually I stay clear of x86-based boards, as they normally turn out to be too expensive, and just run a little bit too hot, to be particularly interesting. However, the low end model of the LattePanda started out at £45 (~$60), and somewhat unusually shipped out the box with Windows 10 pre-installed. It occupied the relatively sparsely populated low-end of the x86 SBC market.
Two years later, DFRobot is back on Kickstarter with two new boards, the LattePanda Delta and the LattePanda Alpha, but they’re aimed at entirely the other end of the market.
The LattePanda Delta is built around a Quad-Core Intel Celeron N4100 running at 1.1—2.4GHz, with 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC. While the higher-powered Alpha is built around Dual-Core Intel Core m3–7Y30, running at 1.6—2.6GHz, with 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC. Both have onboard Gigabyte Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, a USB Type-C port, and HDMI output.
My main worry with these boards, like most x86 boards aimed into the maker market, is the cost. These are not low end boards — the Intel Core m3 is the the same processor used in the Apple 12-inch Macbook. That means that unlike the original LattePanda board, they’re also not cheap, and will run hot. The only real differentiator between these boards and a PC motherboard being the 2×50-pin GPIO connectors which amongst other things breaks out I2C, I2S, USB, and RS232, and the onboard ATmega32U4 co-processor.
But for what these cost, you can pick up a tablet or even a low-end laptop. While DFRobot claims they’re aimed, as pretty much every board these days seems to be, at the Internet of Things, they seem overpowered and far too expensive for those sorts of applications. It’s sort of unclear to me in a market increasingly driven by highly competitive pricing what niche these high end boards fill?
If you do want to pick up a LattePanda Delta or Alpha, they’re currently raising on Kickstarter now. With the cheapest early bird Delta boards weighing in at CA$166 (~US$129) without a Windows 10 license, or CA$217 (~US$169) with a license. While the cheapest early bird Alpha boards cost CA$346 (~US$269), although that’s without any eMMC or Windows license, and the Alpha weighs in at CA$462 (~US$359) if you want 64GB of eMMC and an activated Windows 10 license. Shipping is an additional CA$22 (~US$17) worldwide.