Intel ships Joule 550x computer, but initial units overpriced

The Joule 550x is available for $349 at Mouser and $291 at Newegg

Intel's Joule 550x development board

Intel is shipping a new single-board computer, the Joule 550x, that will challenge the dominance of the Raspberry Pi.

The board was announced in August but didn't ship right away. The Joule 550x is a full-fledged computer on a small circuit board, and it packs more horsepower and graphics capabilities than the Raspberry Pi 3.

Intel's recommended price for the Joule 550x is $149 to $159, and online retailer Mouser is selling it for $179, a sizable markup.

At prices of up to $349, the Joule 550x development kit, with extra components, is more than double the price of Microsoft and Seeed Studio's Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit called Seeed IoT Grove Kit for Windows, which sells for $149 and includes a 5-inch LCD screen. The kit is now available from online retailer Mouser and from Newegg for $291. 

The Joule 550x will provide ample computing power to people building powerful robots, drones or electronics. Using boards available before the retail release, some Joule-based robots and devices, like Microsoft's voice recognizing Bamboo robot, have already been made, and others like bartending robots are on the way.

The board also has the computing power to be used as a Linux PC, and it has integrated graphics, memory, storage and Wi-Fi on board. A virtual reality headset can also be built with the Joule 550x.

The Joule 550x is a watered down version of Intel's Joule 570x board, which has a faster processor and more memory.

The Intel board beats Raspberry Pi 3 on features. The Joule 550x has a quad-core Atom T5500 processor based on the Broxton chip architecture, 8GB of storage, 3GB of LPDDR4 memory, two USB 3.0 ports, dual-antenna 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It also has the usual interfaces like I2S, GPIO, and UART found on popular development boards.

The computer can be used to make IoT devices and supports major operating systems like embedded Linux and Windows 10 IoT Core. Raspberry Pi 3 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 410c also support major OSes.

While consumer-focused robots are trendy, Intel hopes the usage of Joule expands in the enterprise. Powerful graphics capabilities are needed for tasks like product inspection. The processing capabilities of such a board could also automate engineering tasks.

Intel ultimately hopes to increase shipments of IoT chips after abandoning Atom chips in the mobile and tablet markets.

Correction: The headline and subhead, as well as paragraphs three and four, have been changed to reflect corrected prices.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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