Pentaform, a London-based computer company, is developing the Abacus PC, a computer complete with Windows 10 that fits on a keyboard. The project recently raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter to build the concept, which only costs $149 each.
Pentaform’s Abacus is similar to a stick PC, but packs all the components into a sleek keyboard/trackpad device, a nod to Sir Clive Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum, a 1980s personal computer that was equally compact and affordable.
The only additional component needed to make this a usable PC is a screen. This mini PC supports 4K resolution at 30fps (frames per second) when connected through its built-in HDMI port. There is also a VGA connection so older monitors can be used, keeping costs to a minimum. You can even detach the computer part from the left edge of the keyboard for easy connection to a TV, while using the keyboard and trackpad on a sofa, or it can stay attached to the keyboard when using it within reach of a monitor.
The Abacus PC is a complete solution as it comes with Windows 10 installed, works with Microsoft Stores and is even compatible with Linux. Hardware includes an Intel Atom X5-Z8350, 2 to 8 GB of memory, and 16 to 128 GB of storage. The Intel Atom processor can usually only access 2GB of memory, but Pentaform has found a way to expand it to 8GB of capacity. A MicroSD card also allows you to add removable storage.
As you might have guessed, the Intel Atom chip that the Abacus uses was first released in 2016, so this isn’t going to be a fast computer. The focus was on keeping the price to a minimum.
The device supports Bluetooth 4.3 and Wi-Fi 5 802.11 ac for wireless connections. A trackpad is included to the right of the keyboard, and there’s even a built-in speaker.
Rounding out the connectivity is a 3.5mm headphone jack, gigabit ethernet, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, and USB-C for powering the Abacus PC. For experimenters and developers, a 40-pin GPIO allows hardware access for custom accessories.
Pentaform’s Abacus PC Case is molded from durable, recycled ABS plastic with plans to source the material from ocean debris collectors. The Abacus PC is estimated to use only 31 kilowatts per year if plugged in constantly, so this low-cost PC is also an environmentally friendly solution.
As with any crowdfunded product, there is a chance that production may be delayed or even prevented for some unforeseen reason. Pentaform says the biggest challenge is securing enough semiconductors to meet demand. The Abacus PC was introduced in a Kickstarter campaign last month, and the demand was so high that the project was fully funded within 2 hours. The first computers are expected to ship in January 2023.