First there was Intel, now another "big name" in the embedded computing sector followed Arduino’s footsteps launching a new platform designed for open hardware enthusiasts: it’s the taiwanese company VIA Technologies, which introduced a new line of open hardware kits under the brand VIA Springboard.

All circles around the VAB 600, a little board (7 x 10 cm) based on an ARM Cortex A9 800 MHz processor, quite similar to the CPU inside the first generation iPad mini.

The VAB 600 board

Like Intel with Galileo, VIA Technologies designed a board with plenty of interfaces and functions, if compared to the traditional Arduino minimalist approach. Without expansion modules, the VAB 600 can support a wide range of open hardware applications thanks to one Mini HDMI port, two Mini-USB ports, one Fast Ethernet LAN interface, two COM ports, one MicroSD slot for storage card, 4 GB of flash memory, 1 GB of system DDR3 RAM, video playback up to 1080p resolution and one slot for SIM modules.

If it’s not enough, you can add other options via two expansion modules. The VAB-600-A I/O Extender Card, a daughter card connected directly to the main board, adds audio I/O, two standard USB ports, a power on/off button and a led power indicator. The VNT9271 Springboard USB WiFi Module let the VAB 600 board communicate via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n.

The I/O expansion module (below) and the Wi-Fi connector with its antenna (above)

The new VAB 600 can be configured with Android 4.0.3 or Linux Debian (no, it's not compatible with Arduino). For both operating systems VIA Technologies provides a free Software Development Kit.

The VIA Springboard Kits can be purchased directly. A base kit with the VAB 600 board and the daughter I/O board costs $99, $30 more and you can get the complete kit (with the Wi-Fi module).


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