By Alexandra Burlacu | May 18, 2012 02:59 PM EDT
Tiny and inexpensive micro-PCs have made their way into the market this year, and gained a lot of attention for their small yet intriguing designs and capabilities. The cheap Raspberry Pi started shipping in mid-April for just $35, and the FXI Cotton Candy is on its way. The latter, a $200 Android PC-on-a-stick, will face a new rival: the Chinese-made AllWinner A10-based system that costs only $74, and has already gone on sale online on Chinese Web sites.
Just like the FXI Cotton Candy, the AllWinner A10 mini-PC, also known as the MK802, is powered by ARM processors and supports Android 4.0 or other ARM-compatible Linux operating systems. Due to a Mali 400 GPU - the same as the Cotton Candy - the mini-PC can also output 1080p videos through HDMI.
The MK802, however, has a less powerful, single-core 1.5GHz AllWinner A10 processor, compared to the Cotton Candy's more powerful dual-core 1.2GHz Exynos chip. Also, while the Cotton Candy micro-PC offers 1GB of memory, the MK802 only has 512MB. The AllWinner PC does, however, offer two USB ports - one full-sized port with host support for input devices, and one micro-USB port. The gadget also includes a microSD slot for additional memory, and an internal 802.11 b/g WiFi antenna.
Another difference found between the two gadgets is that the MK802 features an HDMI port, not an HDMI plug, which means that it requires a cable or a male-to-male plug to connect to a HDTV or monitor. On the other hand, a single Cotton Candy micro-PC costs almost as much as three MK802 - a cable is quite a small price to pay.
Another thing worth mentioning is that if you purchase an MK802, as Geek.com points out, you will have to manage with your own APKs or a third-party marketplace such as the Amazon Appstore, at least for a while. The good news is that with such an appealing price tag, Android developers will likely get on board soon enough and hack the tiny stick PC in support for Google Play. In addition, cheap ARM processors, combined with the wide popularity of Google's Android operating system have made such gadgets very appealing, and hobbyists can now benefit from more embedded computing solutions.