Get computers for less than $15

Announced in 2015 and mostly delivered in 2016, the 9$+ computers are now a reality. The first one  to be delivered was with a price of 14$ it is actually the most expensive device but also one with a nice list of addon. The kickstarter campain was a success even if it raised only 46K$.

CHIP was in the same period of time a great success with 2M$ raised on Kickstarter for 50K requested. And actually it still incredible to me to reach a such cheap price for a device with a such complexity.

Last but not least, the famous RaspberryPI zero is just starting to be distributed at the incredible price of $5 and is actually impossible to obtained under $20 on ebay auctions.

As a owner of these 3 different platform, I will publish in this post the difference we have between them and what we can expect from them.

Round 1 – what do you get in ?

These three different platforms have some main differences on paper so let’s review that

                  RPI Zero           CHIP  
CPU              ARM11 @1GHz      ARM A8@1Ghz      MIPS24K@0.4Ghz
MEMORY             512MB             512MB             64MB
FLASH               0                 4GB              16MB
GPU                 YES               YES               NO
GPU perf           100%               25% 
Video            mini HDMI         Composite            LCD
Audio               HDMI             GPIO              GPIO

Wifi                 NO          802.11B/G/N        802.11B/G/N
Ethernet           NO/USB           NO/USB         2 on exp board
Bluetooth          NO/USB             BLE               NO
USB                  1x               2x           3 on exp board
Serial               1x               1x                1x

GPIO           To be soldered        Ready         To be soldered
GPIO                 29                8                 31
I2C                   2                2                  0
SPI(CE)               2                0                  2

Size               65x30x5          63x41x15           72x34x5
Power               USB             LiPo/USB             USB
Power consumption 270-330mA          300mA            70-100mA 

OS                 Linux             Linux             OpenWRT
Price                $5                $9               $14
Open Hardware        NO               YES               YES

Total cost to       $14,5            $11,5              $16,5
power, boot and 
access Internet

First steps to get in

For all these platform the main problem is to get start : the video for all of them is complicated to access and you need the good adaptor (as for RPI Zero, it is once again a new one) or the good screen (as for CHIP you need composite … on my TV ?). By the way, the use of the serial port or network sounds the best !


Kickstart with Domino.Io is easy : the software is already installed and when you plug it on an USB power you automatically start a wifi access point you can connect to. The AP is Domino-xxx, the password is goodlife and the IP address is (yes it is … the doc is wrong). By connecting on HTTP you can setup a password. So here is the first question : Why should I select a 8 char password !!!! I do WHAT I WANT ! By the way, easy to setup.

After a reboot you get access to the system. The web interface allows to access the system status, upgrade firmware and access filesystem. It sounds limited but ssh is open and you can get access to it with root and the specified password.

There is no compilation suite on so if you want to create your own binary files I assume you have to install a cross compiling suite making it long and complex to work. You will be able to make routing, firewalling easily with this platform based on OpenWRT

Console can be accessed over USB at 115200 bps speed but it is not allowing to control the device by default.


You can plug CHIP to USB or to a LiPo battery. CHIP is requiring large power to get started so you need a strong USB port or a large LiPo – 3000mAh is recommended. Once started, CHIP is not configured as an AP so to access it … you need a screen and a keyboard/mouse… sounds not easy actually.

By-the-way, if you have a TV you can plug it to the composite input and use the TV USB to power the device. You also need an USB  mouse+keyboard to control it. The video quality is correct but not more. The device is booting and ready for use in less than 5 minutes. Nothing to install you are directly connected to the UI.

I recommend a software update. The Linux is debian based so you can process as usual. The password for being root is “chip”.

For using it, you have to use a qwerty keyboard as I did not found a setup entry to change the keyboard mapping. Do not expect to watch youtube with it, the codec are not installed.

Network setup is easy through the graphical interface. The sshd deamon is started at boot so you can connect to the chip without graphical screen as soon as your network is configured.

So, once you found a TV, chip is ready for use in less than 5 minutes. As it is debian based you can install whatever you want for hacking like gcc. For this you have about 3GB free flash drive.

Raspberry PI Zero

The raspberryPi Zero is like other RaspberryPi. For getting start you need to flash your own Linux distribution like a raspbian following the hundreds of existing tutorials. This step is not easy for beginners and takes long time (downloading, cloning, booting, setuping).

Once done you have a classical RPI environment and the performance of a RaspberryPi A/B with some extra GHz. This is good for many applications.

As RaspberryPi Zero do not have any network port, you will have also to connect and configure the network connection of your choice ; an extra step.

To be continued

As most of my post, this one will be updated based on the different usages I will have of these machine. Have fun and don’t hesitate to comment, complete…


4 thoughts on “Get computers for less than $15

  1. Hi,

    To add some information.
    No need to have a TV/Screen/keyboard and mouse for starting CHIP for the first time.
    Plug the usb into a laptop and use “putty” via COMXX at 9600 bds. Connect with chip/chip user/pwd.

    • I have tried different time to do this but every time I’m connecting to chip I got disconnected and it seems to go off.

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