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Popcorn SBCs include a Chip reboot plus quad- and octa-core Amlogic models

Jun 10, 2019 — by Eric Brown 3,626 views

Source Parts has gone to Kickstarter to reboot the open-spec Chip SBC as a $49 and up “Original Popcorn.” There are also two “Super Popcorn” models that swap the Allwinner GR8 for a quad-core, Cortex-A53 Amlogic S905D or octa-core -A53 S912.

The nice thing about fully open source SBCs such as Next Thing Co.’s Chip (C.H.I.P.) is that if the company goes under, someone else can pick up the banner and move forward. The Cortex-A8-based (Allwinner GR8) based Chip, which briefly won fame for selling for only $9, has been available for the last two years only in a $49 Chip Pro Dev Kit. That, too, went bye bye last year when Next Thing closed its doors. Now a company called Source Parts has gone to Kickstarter to try to resurrect a improved version of the Chip with an optional “Stovetop” add-on board plus two related Super Popcorn boards.

Original Popcorn from multiple angles (left) and Super Popcorn
(click images to enlarge)

The $49 Original Popcorn has a Chip-like layout and footprint plus the same, single-core Cortex-A8-based Allwinner GR8 SoC. This SiP version of Allwinner A13 is available with extensive documentation.

The $69 Super Popcorn model builds on the Chip design with a 1.5GHz, quad-A53 Amlogic S905D, which is found on several popular hacker boards including the Odroid C2. There’s also an $89 Super 8 Popcorn model that moves up to a 1.5GHz/1.0GHz, octa-core Amlogic S912, a SoC that has appeared on the Khadas Vim2.



Since it launched on KS on June 5, as reported on Geeky Gadgets, Source Parts has barely scraped over the $4K line toward its ambitious $250,000 goal. Since this is an “all or nothing” campaign running only through June 27, potential investors may wonder why they should get involved in a project that has a limited chance of success. Then again, we have seen several failed, all-or-nothing KS projects that have been fulfilled by the vendor, which eventually launched the product commercially or tweaked it for a KS reboot.

Source Parts has no relation to the defunct Next Thing entity except that co-creator Jose Angel Torres was lead electrical engineer with Next Thing and helped develop the Chip Pro Dev Kit and keyboard-enabled PocketChip. In April, Source Parts launched a limited edition run of Kettlepop compute modules based on the Chip Pro COM implementation of the Chip. The Kettlepop, which added 8GB eMMC, was sold in 500-unit lots at $39 apiece.

Original Popcorn

Customers who remember the famous $9 Chip SBC might be turned off by the $49 price. Yet, it’s not that bad when you consider that it includes 32GB eMMC instead of 4GB NAND. In addition, the USB ports have upgraded from USB host and micro-USB-OTG to dual USB 2.0 Type-C ports — one with analog audio support — plus free USB cables.

The Original Popcorn is equipped with 512MB DDR3 and up to 45x GPIO, including RGB LCD, 1-Wire, UART, I2C, SPI, and PWM via the familioar dual headers. There’s also a Composite video output, battery charging support, and a wireless module with 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Stovetop board with (left) and without Original Popcorn
(click images to enlarge)

An optional “Stovetop” companion board works only on the Original Popcorn or existing Chip boards. It adds a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, an HDMI port with audio support, a USB Type-C power input, and a USB Type-C serial debug port that attaches to the SBC’s USB-to-serial adapter. The Stovetop is available for $39 or can be purchased with the SBC and an HDMI cable for $88.

Super/Super 8 Popcorn

The Super Popcorn boards appear to have the same 60 x 40mm dimensions as the Chip and the Original Popcorn. The Super Popcorn’s quad-core Amlogic S905D includes a Mali-450 MP3 GPU and the Super 8 Popcorn’s octa-core S912 has a Mali-T820 MP3.

Super Popcorn from every angle
(click image to enlarge)

Otherwise, the two boards appear to be identical, with 1GB DDR4, 32GB eMMC, and USB 2.0 host and Type-C OTG ports. The boards provide a WiFi/BT 4.2 module, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a DVP camera input. There’s also an analog stereo audio interface and a digital audio output and input.

The Super Popcorn SBCs are equipped with up to 62 GPIO, including RGB LCD, 1-Wire, UART, I2C, SPI, PWM out, and ADC. There’s a power input plus battery charging support.

Web-based flashing tools

The above packages ship with web-based tools for flashing, cloning, and backup, which are also available separately for $9. They work with any device with a Chrome or Chromium browser so users can flash, back-up, and clone the Popcorn devices using only an Android phone. There are also plans to launch a similar, cross-platform compatible off-line tool.

There was no mention of OS support, but the Original Popcorn presumably runs Debian Linux or Next Thing’s Debian-based GadgetOS. The Super Popcorn boards are likely to support additional Linux distros such as Ubuntu, and possibly Android.

The boards are touted as being 100 percent open source, and there’s the beginning of a community site here. The Chip project was known for going the extra mile on open specifications.

Note that the Popcorn boards have nothing to with Cloud Media’s Popcorn Hour NAS systems.

Further information

The $49 Original Popcorn, $69 Super Popcorn, $89 Super 8 Popcorn, and $39 Stovetop add-on for the Original are available on Kickstarter through June 27, with shipments expected in November. More information may be found on Source Parts’ Popcorn Kickstarter page.

(advertise here)

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2 responses to “Popcorn SBCs include a Chip reboot plus quad- and octa-core Amlogic models”

  1. CHUCKZ says:

    There was little support for Chip except for community support. Not getting burned again.

  2. sgjava says:

    I bought the first batch of 5 CHIPs for $9 each. Then I bought a second set of 5 for $9 each. I got stiffed on the third batch. I sold both batches to cover it, so I didn’t lose anything. I’m not paying $50 for a $9 CHIP. The CHIP ship has sailed. You can get way better stuff now.

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