Enthusiasts of embedded computing seem to be spoiled for choices nowadays.
A Chinese-made computer that's slightly larger than a typical thumbdrive can now be purchased online for just $74.
The MK802 is similar to the Cotton Candy computer-on-a-stick. Both are powered by ARM processors and support Android or other ARM-compatible Linux operating systems. It comes with a Mali 400 GPU that enables it to output 1080p video through HDMI.
Despite its small size (it weighs just about 7 ounces), the MK802 has a microSD card slot to add to its built-in 4GB flash storage, together with a full-size USB port and a micro-USB version. Wi-Fi is also supported.
The more expensive $199 Cotton Candy does have better hardware, including a dual-core ARM chip compared with the single-core version on the MK802. The Cotton Candy can also be plugged directly into an HDMI port, while the MK802 requires an HDMI cable.
The low cost of ARM processors coupled with the popularity of Android appear to have led to more embedded computing solutions for hobbyists. The $35 Raspberry Pi is another inexpensive mini computer that seems to be popular among enthusiasts for tasks like programming and video streaming. These devices could also serve as educational tools for children in less developed countries, especially when installed with the right applications.