The CT-PC89E is based on a Samsung S3C6410 but the processor board
is actually upgradeable without having to redesign the entire machine.
Its specifications are pretty similar to the EEEPC 901, with an 8.9in 1024x600
LCD, stereo speakers, 802.11 WIFI and it has a cutely named embedded OS from
Mid-Fun. It has everything you'd expect from a netbook, yet could be priced
well below the £200 to £220 retail price of an Intel Atom system.
In part, that is due to the low-power ARM processor (less than 1 watt), which
means that a fan and heatsink are not needed, nor is a massive battery (saving
cost and weight: the machine is only 720 grammes). Overall, a simpler more
reliable design, with no moving parts except the keys, power switch, mouse
buttons and the lid.
One of the most noteworthy features of this machine however is that
it has room inside for two USB-based mini PCI-express cards (50mmx30mm).
One slot ships from the factory with a low-cost RALink RT2070; the other
can be filled with a 3G modem or even an Intel WIMAX card, providing
Internet Access whilst on the move. There is even a slot for a SIM card,
near the SD card slot.
The second most noteworthy feature of the CT-PC89E design is that its
processor, main memory and NAND flash are all on an "SO-DIMM". Normally,
you expect just the RAM to be on an SO-DIMM, however the ARM processors
are so small, integrated and low-power that it's actually possible to fit
the CPU onto the same SO-DIMM as the memory! The implications of this
are somewhat astounding: it means that the entire machine is upgradeable
at the factory to a faster and better specification, without having to
throw away or redesign the entire system. As the design is quite new,
a request has been made to upgrade the CPU to the same one that is used
in the iPhone 3G: the 833mhz Samsung S5PC100. This CPU takes DDR2 RAM
rather than the slower DDR1 memory. Ironically, by doing such an upgrade,
the cost of the entire system will come down by about $5 to $10! The
"older" slower DDR1 is simply that much more expensive, as DDR1 is now
no longer that common.
Whilst this processor-upgradeable approach may seem strange and may at first
appear to have significant performance limitations and bottlenecks, that
simply isn't the case. The most important link critical to speed is
between the processor and its main memory, and the second most important
link is between the processor and its storage space. Thanks to the use
of components "traditionally" used in embedded designs, all three key
components - processor, RAM and NAND storage - can fit onto the same
30mm x 70mm SO-DIMM. All that is then required is for there to be routing
to all of the peripherals, such as USB WIFI, USB slots, Ethernet Controller
and Video / LCD Controller, none of which are impacted in any way by
the processor being on its own upgradeable card. Overall this is truly a
much better and lower-cost way to design computers.
Chitech CT-PC89E Pricing
This is a new system, and we're dealing direct with the factory, not with
a retail store. Pricing is therefore at the mercy of component supply
and demand, at the time. We can say, however, that from component prices
in volumes of 20,000 as of 22nd Feb 2010 that Chitech have looked up, that
the cost per unit would be $102, for the specifications below (minus all
"optional" stuff). In those volumes, of 20,000 units, the VGA chip will
be an extra $USD 2, and a 0.3M-Pixel webcam will also be an additional $2.
Putting that into perspective: if this system was available retail in the UK,
it would be an estimated £99, and in the U.S. it would be an estimated $160.
Samples: due to the shortage of LCD panels, Chitech had to put in an
industrial-certified (appx $65) LCD just before Chinese New Year and so we
ended up paying $148 each for 20 units. It's an absolutely stunning
display, though: the AUO B089AW01 V.1 - but in volumes of 20,000 you simply
can't put in a screen that costs as much or more than the rest of the
machine! So, we anticipate a consumer-grade (appx $35) LCD to be
shipped by the factory, at those volumes.
Key Specifications at time of writing
8.9in 1024x600 LCD (samples using a $65 AUO B089AW01 V.1)
Samsung S3C6410 667mhz ARM11 processor (factory upgradeable)
256mb DDR1 RAM (factory upgradeable)
2gb NAND Flash (factory upgradeable)
2 USB2 ports
2 USB2-only internal PCI-Express slots (50x30mm)
RALink RT2070 802.11b/g/n PCI-Express WIFI (24x30mm)
Full-sized SD Card slot
SIM card slot (only if 3G or EDGE PCI-Express modem is added)
Stereo Speakers, Microphone, Headphone and Mic Sockets
10/100 Ethernet on a Micro connector (requires RJ45 dongle)
2-button Mouse Trackpad
80-key QWERTY Keyboard
Optional VGA out on a Micro connector (requires dongle)
Optional built-in Webcam
2100mAh Lithium Battery giving approximately 3 hours continuous use
Weight: only 720 grammes (0.72kg)