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This brilliant $150 device stuffs an entire PC into a keyboard

Pentaform, a London-based computer company, is developing the Abacus PC, a complete Windows 10 computer that fits in a keyboard. The project recently raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter to manufacture the concept, which only costs $149 each.

Pentaform’s Abacus is similar to a stick PC, but integrates all the components into a sleek keyboard/trackpad device, giving a nod to Sir Clive Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum, a 1980s-era personal computer that was equally compact and affordable.

Pentaform's budget PC is a complete computer.

The only extra component needed to make this a usable PC is a screen. This mini PC supports 4K resolution at 30 fps (frames per second) when connected via its built-in HDMI port. There’s also a VGA connection so older monitors can be used, keeping costs at a minimum. You can even detach the computer portion from the left edge of the keyboard for easy connection to a TV, while you use the keyboard and trackpad from 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 in that it comes with Windows 10 installed, works with Microsoft Stores, and even supports Linux. The hardware includes an Intel Atom X5-Z8350, 2 to 8GB of memory, and 16 to 128GB of storage. The Intel Atom processor can usually only access 2GB of memory but Pentaform has found a way to expand it to 8GB capacity. A MicroSD card allows removable storage to be added as well.

As you may have guessed, the Intel Atom chip the Abacus uses was first released in 2016, so this won’t be a fast computer. The focus was on holding 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 at the right of the keyboard, and there’s even a built-in speaker.

Pentaform's Abacus PC can connect to TVs.

Rounding out the connectivity, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, gigabit ethernet, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, and USB-C for supplying power to the Abacus PC. For experimenters and developers, a 40-pin GPIO allows access to the hardware for custom accessories.

Pentaform’s Abacus PC case is molded from tough, recycled ABS plastic with plans to source the material from ocean waste 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 crowd-funded product, there is a chance that production might be delayed or even prevented for some unforeseen reason. Pentaform says the most significant challenge is securing enough semiconductors to meet demand. The Abacus PC was introduced in a Kickstarter campaign last month, and demand was so high that the project was fully funded in 2 hours. The first computers are expected to ship in January of 2023.

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Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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