This $150 biodegradable keyboard has an Intel processor inside

In short: A London-based company called Pentaform plans to start selling a biodegradable keyboard that can run Windows 10 for just $150 later this month. It developed the system, branded AbacusBasic, to help people who otherwise could not afford a computer to connect to the Internet.

According to Pentaform, the Abacus is the cheapest computer in the world. It’s a regular office keyboard with a side-mounted trackpad and a quad-core system hidden underneath. It doesn’t have a screen, but it does have an HDMI port.

Part of what makes it special is its eco-friendliness. Pentaform co-founder Joon Sang Lee says the Abacus “views the planet as one of its main beneficiaries.” Its outer casing is made from a biodegradable polymer and its internal components are repairable and recyclable.

According to Pentaform, the Abacus only uses 31 kWh per year, about as much as a light bulb. This makes sense since the 2016 quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 used has an SDP (Scenario Design Power) of just 2W.

Despite its low power consumption, the Atom manages a base clock of 1.44 GHz and a boost clock of 1.84 GHz. It sounds slow, but I’ve used this processor before and, as Pentaform claims, it’s fine for simple tasks like web browsing.

Pentaform pairs it with 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB memory configurations of dual-channel LPDDR3 clocked at 1,866MHz, which is the fastest supported speed. If the memory was DDR4, 4GB would probably be enough, but because it’s so slow it’s probably worth going for 8GB.

However, if it were me, I’d install a lightweight Linux distro right away, and then the hardware wouldn’t matter so much. Words cannot express the difference Linux can make to the speed of a underperforming PC, and the Abacus was never intended for Windows-specific applications like games anyway.

Linux would also be a good fit for the use cases promoted by Abacus, such as “learn to code and tinker”. Also “surf the internet, create and edit documents, watch videos and more”.

If you’re interested in experimenting with the Abacus when it releases in the near future, you only need to spend £120/$150 or less if you take advantage of the early access discount. But as with all new businesses, you should wait for other people to get their orders before handing over your money.

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