What if you had a device that let you repair a broken laptop or even upgrade it just by swapping out a card? What if that card IS your computer, completely modular and able to be upgraded quickly and swapped between devices?
Those questions have been answered and that device now has a face, a name and is currently available for purchase.
Rhombus-Tech has developed Libre Tea, an “EOMA68-compatible computer card with an Allwinner A20 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash pre-installed with the Parabola GNU/Linux-libre operating system.” The first devices tap the PCMCIA form-factor and connector for easy integration into laptops, desktops or used by itself. To be honest, I haven’t use a laptop with a PCMCIA port in a long time, but before we arge port support, let’s have a closer look..
The Libre Tea is essentially a computer-on-a-card outfitted with an Allwinner A20 dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 SoC (running @ 1.2GHz), 2 GB or RAM and 8 GB of NAND storage. It also features micro HDMI, micro USB-OTG and microSD ports, as well and comes pre-installed with either Parabola or Debian depending on preference.
Granted, the specs are not that great and should not be compared to an Intel Core-I7-based system, however the hardware isn’t too shabby and is expected to improve in the near future. The Tea is designed to be modular and upgradable with faster hardware and storage when the need arises.
Along with the Libre Tea, Rhombus-Tech is also offering a 3D printed laptop housing (as a kit) the card slides into, which features a 15.6-inch LCD display (1366 X 768p), 10,000 mAh battery and several USB 2.0 ports. The laptop also features a 4.3-inch capacitive touch display rather than just a normal trackpad.
Rhombus is also releasing a laser-cut Micro Desktop Housing for using the Tea as a stand-alone PC, allowing you to connect it to any display with a VGA port. It also comes outfitted with a pair of USB 2.0 ports, micro SD card slot for external storage and a 20-pin internal GPIO header for connecting additional development boards for any number of DIY projects.
Rhombus has successfully crowd-funded the Libre Tea and their other components on CrowdSupply with pledges starting at $65 for the Tea, $55 for the Micro Desktop Housing and $500 for the 3D printed Laptop Housing respectively. Those looking to get their hands on one of them can still do so with a reported ship date of May 2017. Until they switch to USB 3 or type C, PCMCIA is the new-old hot-thing.