Clockwork Pi Reveals uConsole Portable Computer

The uConsole from Clockwork Pi
(Image credit: Clockwork Pi)

Clockwork Pi, maker of the 1980s inpsired DevTerm (opens in new tab) retro computer with a thermal printer module, has revealed its next project: the uConsole (opens in new tab). Described by the firm’s founder as a “fantasy console”, it takes the same core modules as the DevTerm, meaning you have a choice between Raspberry Pi (opens in new tab), Arm, or RISC-V (opens in new tab) innards.

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Looking rather like the offspring of a graphing calculator and a BlackBerry in a chunky retro casing, the uConsole features a five-inch IPS screen with a 720p resolution. There's a 74-key backlit QWERTY keyboard, which includes gamepad-style direction and face buttons plus a mini trackball, and a new ClockworkPi v3.14 revision 5 mainboard which connects to an array of ports on the side including USB 2.0, USB-C for charging, Micro SD, Micro HDMI, and a headset socket. There's a 40-pin GPIO, a MIPI screen interface, and a Mini PCI-E connector for an extension module. There's integrated Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 too.

Like the DevTerm, the uConsole is built around a series of modules that plug into the Core board. The Core board features a SO-DIMM port compatible with Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3 and Compute Module 4 via an adapter. Just like DevTerm there are alternative processor choices for the Core board. These alternatives take the form of Clockwork’s own Arm-based modules (the A-04, with a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, a Mali GPU, and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, or the A-06 which adds a dual-core Cortex-A72 for a total of six cores, upgrades the GPU, and uses 4GB of DDR4 RAM). Then there's the RISC-V module, the R-01, which only has one core, no GPU, and 1GB of DDR3. This last module is described as not being for beginners.

The extension module that optionally sits in the Mini PCIe socket is a 4G/LTE communication board, which can download at up to 50Mbps depending on the signal strength and availability in your location. It has a standard SIM card slot, its own headphone jack, and an interface for dual speakers.

The uConsole uses two rechargeable 18650 LiPo batteries that aren’t included in the package. Software support is impressive, as not only does it tie in to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, but Clockwork Pi has its own Clockwork OS based on Debian Buster, and it has been tested with Debian and Ubuntu too.

The mini computer is available for pre-order (opens in new tab) on the Clockwork Pi site, starting at $139 for one with an R-01 module, up to $209 for the more powerful (and useful) A-06 package. You can also buy the uConsole without a core module, though we suspect you won’t get a satisfactory computing experience from it. Alternatively, you can make your own casing through 3D printing, as the necessary files will be made available on GitHub under the GPL v3 license.

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.