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    Articles: The ARMini in a nutshell

    Saturday, July 16, 2011 - 11:19 PM, (8600 Reads)

    R-Comp Interactive's ARMini computer, which was released at the Wakefield show back in April has recieved little press coverage and potential buyers are still not too sure what to expect, so here's an article dscussing the new Cortex-A8 computer and its many features. The ARMini is available for purchase at around the ÂŁ600 mark and as of yet, I believe it is only available from RCI directly. Firstly, let me get one misconception clear, it's been flying around forums, mailing lists, newsgroups and through general word of mouth that the ARMini is essentially just a BeagleBoard in a shiny case, with a hefty price tag. This is not the case, it is based on the BeagleBoard but has some differences.

    The BeagleBoard is slightly modified, the Operating System and disc build are customised, meaning that the version of RISC OS 5 shipped with the ARMini is not the same as RISC OS Open's 5.16/17. The software (and there's a decent amount of it, saving you a pretty hefty amount of cash) that is shipped with the computer has been specifically modified and developed for the machine in order to make sure that everything runs very smoothly and plays straight out of the box.

    The ARMini's video capabilities exceed that of a standard BeagleBoard, it is also blessed with more USB ports and internal storage. These video capabilities excel at video playback and will, I'm told, be exploited in a commercial gaming release that is currently in its early stages of development.The machine plays video and gameplay very smoothly and I feel rather confident in saying that it is the fastest and most capable RISC OS computer currently out there, its speed and ease-of-use are, although apparent now, will not be completely exposed until perhaps a few years time due to the platform as a whole's current situation as far as web browsing, video playback etc. goes. This is by no means not a reason to shell out for this neat little (and little it is!) computer from R-Comp Interactive, the cutting-edge technology inside the Mini-ITX case ensures that this computer is future proof and will be standard for new software in the future, just as the Iyonix is currently, and the RiscPC before that. In the past few weeks, a significant number of updates for a variety of different applications have made them ARMini compatible and optimised for getting the best out of this funky new piece of kit.

    Inside the case sees a surprising amount of empty space, with a BeagleBoard-xM finding itself in the middle of crossfire of various cables. An RTC battery has been fitted onto the BeagleBoard but is still lacking CMOS RAM.

    The computer more or less plays out of the box and is a dream to setup, various pieces of essential software and modules are already in place, saving you time, hasle and even money. The iconbar sees various customised icons and the bottom right-hand corner sees a blue, 3D version of the RISC OS cog that you are all no doubt familiar with. The RISC OS Display Manager has been modified and a plug-in for Configuration (Alignment Exceptions On/Off) comes installed also. NetSurf 2.7 is the web browser of choice for the ARMini, Digital CD, KinoAmp, Zap, StrongED and PhotoFiler are amongst the various bits of software included with this shiny new machine.

    Here's what R-Comp Interactive boss Andrew Rawnsley had to say in ARMini's press release "Whilst we have long offered our high-performance RISCube range of computers, and RISCBook range of laptops, this is the first time we have been able to offer a RISC OS computer running on a native ARM cpu. For many, this is a matter of principal - their computer must be powered by a "real" ARM-derived CPU - of course, ARM themselves don't actually manufacture anything, but you get the idea!"

    R-comp also state that "The new computer typically runs software 50-100% faster (ie. up totwice as fast) as existing pure-ARM solutions, thanks to a faster processor with improved architecture. This is backed up by an array of USB 2 ports, and high speed networking. Internal storage is available in various forms - flash, solid state or conventional drives can be attached, and there is removable storage (SD and MS card readers) too. For graphics, both DVI and HDMI are supported for digital connection to modern LCD monitors and TVs."

    The ARMini is around four times larger than Advantage Six's absolutely tiny A9Home, but is still a small piece of kit, with it being just a little larger than a quarter of a standard Iyonix. You may be aware that, with Castle Technology no longer producing Iyonix computers, the ARMini and the A9Home are the only pure-ARM machines with RISC OS in mind, still available new. Now, even though the A9Home is considerably older in age, you cannot dismiss it completely, with both machines designed with different markets in mind. The A9Home is designed on being extremely light, fast and responsive, perfect for a developer and an enthusiastic builder (google DIY A9 laptop). Also, if you are sitting firmly on the RISCOS Ltd. side of the fence, the A9Home might appeal to you more than R-Comp's latest offering simply because it features RISC OS 4.42 (32-bit Adjust) and is (or will be) RISC OS 6 friendly.The ARMini however, running a modified version of RISC OS 5.17, might be more attractive to a RISC OS user that craves speed for day-to-day computing tasks. The ARMini excels at networking and video so if you depend on those two elements in a major way then the ARMini might be up your street.

    Here's the standard specifications of the ARMini, although each computer is built to your exact requirements, additionally features can be added, extra CD/DVD drives, hard drives etc.
    • Dual issue Coretex A8 processor running at 800MHz (scalable)
    • 512MB On-board Memory
    • 6 External USB Sockets
    • 4 Internal USB Sockets
    • Built-in SD & MS Card Reader
    • HDMI and DVI Video Out, supporting resolutions upto 1920 x 1080
    • Supplied with a range of modes suitable for most monitors out of the box
    • 100base Networking
    • Internal Flash Drive provides storage with no moving parts for totally silent operation
    • Running a copy of RISC OS 5.17 (easily upgradable)
    • Performance of around twice the speed of an Iyonix!

    There we go, I hope you're now far more informed as regards to R-Comp Interactive's new RISC OS offering. So to sum up, the ARMini is still subject to problems and niggles (so's the A9!) but I'm sure RCI will do their best to iron them out in the future. You can find more information regarding the ARMini from it's official website - http://www.armini.co.uk.

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    The ARMini in a nutshell | Log-in or register a new user account | 3 Comments
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    Re: The ARMini in a nutshell

    (Score: 1)
    by bhtooefr on Jul 17, 2011 - 07:21 AM
    (User information  | Send a message 
    How exactly is it modified, BTW?

    I'll assume the basis is the xM, and not the original BeagleBoard. So, how are the video capabilities better than a normal xM?

  • Re: The ARMini in a nutshell by apacketofsweets on Jul 18, 2011 - 02:33 AM
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