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AbacusBasic The Intel Cherry Trail SBC in a Keyboard

AbacusBasic x86 home computer
(Image credit: Pentaform)

Pentaform a UK based company has unveiled the AbacusBasic computer. From a distance it looks like ye olde 1980s home computer, and yes, this is an affordable home computer in a similar form factor. However, the AbacusBasic wields an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 Cherry Trail CPU, sports 2-8GB of RAM, and 16-128GB of storage, ready to plug into your HDMI TV and compute. Pricing starts at £120 (including taxes) so we would expect it to list in the US at around $120 (not including sales tax).

On its website, the London-based company talks about the philanthropic reasons for designing and producing the AbacusBasic. In its mission statement, the firm says the AbacusBasic is "truly designed to make the world better," which is bold for a Cherry Trail powered home computer which some users will naively configure with specs as low as 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage and hope to run Windows 11 on. 

Elsewhere in its visionary collection of verbiage, Pentaform talks about the AbacusBasic putting a halt to the gadget replacement cycle, making computing accessible to everyone, and democratizing computing through reducing user carbon footprints, extensive use of recycled materials, and consuming very little power.

Whether the mission is worthy or will actually be achievable, we will let you decide. Now it is time to delve onto some hardware specs, which is a firmer and more familiar territory.

AbacusBasic

CPU

Intel Atom x5-Z8350 Cherry Trail  Quad-core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.84 GHz (Turbo) with Intel Gen8 HD graphics @ 500 MHz

RAM

64bit dual channel LPDDR3-1866, with 2GB/4GB/8GB options

Storage

eMMC module (Optional industrial compatible high performance eMMC module, 16GB-128GB available), micro SD card slot (supports up to 512 GB)

Wireless

WI-FI 802.11 ac 2.5 GHz / 5 GHz and Bluetooth 4.2

Ports

HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0 OTG X1, USB 2.0 HOST X2, GbE LAN, USB-C with PD support, Qualcomm Quick Charge

GPIO

40-pin expansion header, 2 x UART, 2 x SPI bus, 2 x I2C bus, 1 x PCM/I2S, 1 x SPDIF, 2 x PWM, 1 x ADC, 6 x GPIO, 2 x 5V DC power in, 2 x 3.3V DC power in

OS support

Windows 7, 10 and 11, any x86 Linux

In addition to its purported green credentials, and accessible pricing, you can see from the above specs the AbacusBasic has broad connectivity and I/O options, as well as all the features afforded by the 40-pin expansion header. Is the GPIO compatible with the best Raspberry Pi HATs? We shall have to wait and see. Elsewhere in its blurb, it is mentioned that this keyboard PC consumes just 3W. However, Pentaform neglect to mention that the average 43-inch FHD TV uses nearly 50W. Bigger, higher resolution TVs will typically use more power.

In some pictures above you will see the AbacusBasic with what looks like a blank plastic section on either side of the keyboard deck. The right side area is the touchpad, which works just like the one on a laptop. However, the left side portion is basically a dock, featuring all those ports in the specs list. When undocked the keyboard/touchpad section communicates with the dock connected to your TV via "InfiniteConnect," which is Pentaform's term for a 2.4 GHz wireless keyboard connection. No advice is given regarding the 280mAh battery's stamina, but it should be not too worrisome, as Logitech's 2.4 GHz connected  keyboards can squeeze two years out of twin AAA batteries.

An obvious modern computer comparison, with a similar form factor is against the Arm-powered Raspberry Pi 400 which has an MSRP of $70. We reviewed the Pi 400 in Nov 2020, when it gained four out of five stars, with the only negatives being the awkward GPIO access and lack of built-in camera and display. If you are a Raspberry Pi enthusiast or hanker to join the club, we don't need to tell you where to spend your budget keyboard-is-a-computer money. 

AbacusBasic is set to retail for £120 (likely to be $120)  and will be available later this month. At the time of writing, the makers will furnish you with a 20% discount if you subscribe to their newsletter. If you like this form factor, and you want an x86-based machine, it may make a reasonable choice.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • Findecanor
    Windows 11 requires 4GB RAM, 64 GB storage and the CPU is not in Microsoft's list of supported Intel processors.

    The CPU is also less powerful than the one in a Raspberry Pi 400. (counting Geekbench scores)

    And that keyboard looks like it would be horrible to type on. Hasn't got a UK layout despite supposedly being from a UK company...
    I'm starting to suspect that this could be some older product from China that is getting rebadged.

    Edit:
    So all in all, if it wasn't for the Raspberry Pi 400 lacking eMMC support, I would think most people would find the Pi to be more attractive as a keyboard-PC: You can even install Windows for ARM on it.
    Reply
  • rluker5
    Findecanor said:
    Windows 11 requires 4GB RAM, 64 GB storage and the CPU is not in Microsoft's list of supported Intel processors.

    The CPU is also less powerful than the one in a Raspberry Pi 400. (counting Geekbench scores)

    And that keyboard looks like it would be horrible to type on. Hasn't got a UK layout despite supposedly being from a UK company...
    I'm starting to suspect that this could be some older product from China that is getting rebadged.
    The ones with W11 will need to have that 4GB ram and 64GB os drive. That list of cpus is optional. So is TPM 2.0. You can have TPM 1.2. I've been running unsupported cpus on W11 since before it was released. You can install it, just not do an in OS upgrade.

    The cpu is more than powerful enough to run the OS as Cherry Trails have been since it was released. They perform comparably to phones running android. Not well, but good enough for web browsing, 1080p video playback/ streaming, light office and mobile type games. If you have windows updating, or a virus scan it can take quite a while, but for regular tasks it takes about as long as a similarly clocked Phenom2 x4 like the Phenom 2 p960.
    I've had similar ones in fanless tablets, pc sticks and even an 8 core Cherry Trail in a Leagoo T5c emulating android faster than what the midrange ARM cpus could at the time while consuming the same amount of power. Check the reviews for that phone, they are out there. The cpu didn't even have a heatsink, just that black coating they put on low end ram ICs.
    Reply
  • mmic0019
    The site listing and everything very unprofessional and its either a scam or else very bad marketing. Quite disappointed that its getting so much press.

    I am not an atom hater just the opposite however windows 11 will not be supported on this processor and even if you can install Microsoft confirmed they will be blocking updates in the future, its very very clear.

    Also the cpu boost frequency is not correct.

    The cpu does not support dual channel memory and on the site its miraculously supporting dual channel.

    The frequency of the ram is listed as 1866Mb/s

    And you trust such people to deliver if they cannot even get their facts right?
    Reply
  • DotNetMaster777
    Good idea but CPU is not very good ! ? ! ?
    Reply