Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Norhtec's Gecko Surfboard -- a Prototype

Michael Barnes, the owner of Norhtec, was nice enough to forward some pictures of a rough prototype they're working on -- a PC in a keyboard similar to the eeePC Keyboard PC. Whereas the Asus model will run $400-600, the Norhtec one will probably run a more modest $250-300, but with a compact number pad instead of the eeePC's 5" mounted LCD.

The system will be based on the same 1GHz, 1.2 watt system on a chip (SoC) that the Gecko EduBook will be based on (Xcore86 is also owned by Michael Barnes). It's likely to have similar specs, too: 512MB RAM upgradeable to 1GB, with the possibility of Android coming as the installed OS. The EduBook comes with Ubuntu Netbook Remix so we'll see what comes when the final announcement is made. The SoC design means that the system will be fast and energy efficient when compared to other x86 chip/motherboard combos running at the same speed.

Let's look at the model. Keep in mind that it's still obviously doen't have a case (the prototype being sheet metal and having a typo in the name), but the internals aren't likely to change. No, it's not sexy now, but if you look at the Panda, you'll realize that the Surfboard (not to be confused with VIA's reference board by the same name) is probably going to see some design work in the next couple of months. Here's the top view.

Nothing ground-breaking, but it's a full size keyboard and a number pad.(and it kind of reminds me of my first computer, a Tandy Model I -- no offense to Norhtec). Looking at the back will tell us more.

Ports (left to right): USB, 2 SD, mic, audio, s-video, TV(?), VGA, network, DE-RN(?), and 3 USB

You can see from the back that there are four USB ports, with three flush on the right and one of those in the recessed area on the left. I'm going to guess that the recessed USB will be used for an add-on like an additional SD drive or maybe wireless. There are a couple of jacks that confuse me. There's a three-hole "TV" jack in addition to the S-Video. There's also one marked "DE-RN," and Google offers me no help. They both look like XLR3 connections, though.

The Gecko Surfboard looks like it will be a great little affordable computer, and it will probably be targetted toward the thin-client market.

The Panda, below, gives an idea of the level of polish that can be expected from the final Gecko Surfboard.


  1. Jul 20, 2009 07:34 AM

    Why bother with this? Just like the author suggested, it is reminiscent of old Tandy hardware and others of that era.

    Computers in boxes with interchangable parts beat out these things years ago because it is easier to upgrade them, add new features or even just swap out broken stuff. A keyboard is an especially bad thing to build a PC into, what happens when it wears out or gets all gummed up?

    I for one do not want to see computers go back to where they were in the 80s. Proprietary boxes meant to be thrown away in their entirety.

  2. Jul 20, 2009 09:59 AM

    There are places for this style of design, just like for standard desktop boxes. No need to be afraid. :)

    It does remind me of the Commodore and Atari series of computers. Good times, good times...

  3. Jul 20, 2009 07:41 PM

    This kind of form factor really does have a place in factories, thin clients, or all-in-ones. The iMac and laptops have great sales despite being non-upgradeable.


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