If you’re in the market for a small computer board but the Raspberry Pi isn’t your thing, the Improv might be up your alley. The board runs an ARM processor and Mali graphics, and is available now for $75. With the small board comes the Mer operating system and the ability to expand it into a full computer system or use it on more tailored projects.
The Improv features a modular design and is easy to open up. The hardware is composed of an ARM Cortex-A7 dual-core 1GHz Allwinner A20 processor and ARM Mali 400 graphics. Memory is a decent 1GB and storage comes in at 4GB. There are a few connectivity options, including a micro USB port, Ethernet jack, GPIO pins, UART pins, and a micro USB port.
If the stock hardware isn’t quite enough, you can have a VGA adapter and a keyboard kit included once they’re made available — they’re currently in the works. As mentioned, the operating system included is Mer OS, a Linux distro with a small footprint based on the better-known MeeGo operating system. If you’re looking for something a bit more robust, the Improv can also run Android, Linaro, and Debian.
You’re going to have to be comfortable with the command line, since that is how the Improv boots when you receive it. If you’re wanting an interface, you can install X.org or a similar graphical UI to make things relatively easier to use. The target audience, obviously, are those who are looking for a brain for their own projects, or who need something cheap and small to run a server or, perhaps, a low-end media device.