Do you want an imp under your desk? If it runs Ubuntu?

I might.

This is a preliminary look, based just on the web site and some tweets with the developer, of the imp (all lower case), a small computer somewhere in technology and power, perhaps, between a Raspberry pi (which is mainly a hobbiest toy) and the Intel Nuk (which is sort of a non-Mac Mac Mini). It is called by its makers "The Open Source Computer: Made for consumers." It is a Linux-installed device, as is your smart phone and, well, the entire Internet. So the technology is well tested at that level.

The imp team describes it this way:

imp is a small, yet powerful computer designed for the post-PC era. It’s your desktop, your wireless media center, and your mobile content hub. imp brings the single-board PC concept from geeks to consumers, and is 100% open source.

It does not exist yet, but launch is imminent, probably November, according to the makers. Here are the hardware specs:

Powered by Odroid U3 by HardKernel
1.7 GHz, ARM V9, Quad Core
2GB RAM
3X USB 2.0 + Micro USB
Mini HDMI
8GB on-device storage
(Optional) Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad
(Optional) Wireless HDMI (DLNA, Airplay and Miracast)
Height: 1.22 inch (31 mm)
Width: 3.82 inches (97 mm)
Depth: 3.82 inches (97 mm)

An Odroid U3 HardKernel is a hardware development platform for Linux/Android with these specs:

* 1.7GHz Quad-Core processor and 2GByte RAM
* 10/100Mbps Ethernet with RJ-45 LAN Jack
* 3 x High speed USB2.0 Host ports
* Audio codec with headphone jack on board
* GPIO/UART/I2C ports
* XUbuntu 13.10 or Android 4.x Operating System
* Size : 83 x 48 mm, Weight : 48g including heat sink
* Package includes the main board and the heat sink

The software specs for imp are:

Powered by Ubuntu 14.04 & Cinnamon
Browsers: Chrome, Firefox
Mail: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo
Office: Word, Excel, Powerpoint Online, Google Docs, Apple iCloud
Media: Picasa, Last.FM, Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu
Social: Facebook, Twitter
Storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, SkyDrive, Sugarsync
Supports media casting (Chromecast; Miracast or any DLNA device)

The Microsoft software is optional. Perhaps other aspects of the installed software are also optional as well. I assume you can install your own system or modify the software at will.

The box, with no monitor, keyboard, or mouse, will be about $150, subject to revision (could be less for early adopters). The Nuk costs about $350.

The imp is designed to interact with your other devices, including other computers, phones (both iPhones and Android), and your TV. It can serve media via wireless HDMI. According to the designers, you can "manage all your family mobile content wirelessly from your desktop. No more USB cables or installation of unnecessary apps; imp supports full continuity. Now you can pick up any task you were doing, or the movie you’re watching on mobile, and continue it from your desktop or TV." And, it is a desktop computer, if you add a screen, keyboard, mouse, etc.

I would probably use this as a headless file and media server. Just in time, perhaps. I was just trying to decide if I should use my Raspberry Pie to make a cli-only gaming center for 4-year-old Huxley, or to make a low energy demand cloud server, which would really mainly be for file sharing and printing. This looks like it would be a step up and already comes in a box.

I am doing to do a more detailed review later on. Feel free to shoot me questions and I'll see if I can run them down. Stay tuned.

The imp web site is here.

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You can get a NUC (Next Unit of Computing) with an i3 CPU for only about $280. And most users who've run both side-by-side say they can't really tell the difference, performance-wise. (You get an HD5000 GPU in the i5 model vs an HD4400 in the i3 version.)

In addition to having the i3/i5 CPU options, the NUCs can take up to 16 GB of RAM and have a case option that allows you to add a 2.5" drive in addition to being able to install an mSATA drive that both provide for. A wifi card is also optional; the antenna comes built-in.

The NUCs don't come with an OS, RAM, mSATA, or wifi (unless you buy a bundle), and no KVM -- all that would push the price up to/past the $350 range for an i3 model.

I'm not sure about running on an ARM... Is Ubuntu for ARM really ready? My impression is that it isn't. I've run Ubuntu on an i3 NUC and it's surprisingly fast -- no issues. Getting Windows going on it was a pain -- W7 doesn't have the drivers for the NIC, USB3, and couple of other HW elements.

I suppose either of these would make a nice server or HTPC, or even a desktop for "normal" PC stuff (i.e., not for gaming). They bolt onto/velcro onto the back of large monitors (the NUC has a bracket for this).

In either case, if someone were considering one of these, I'd read up on reviews and user forums... I'm interested in hearing more about your experiences with the Imp, Greg...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 14 Oct 2014 #permalink

Oops, I meant "run the i3 NUC model side-by-side with the i5 NUC", not with the Imp...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 14 Oct 2014 #permalink

Ubuntu runs on arm without any issues.

With an imp under my desk, I'd get the BFG or the chainsaw as fast as possible...

hobbiest ==> HOBBYIST

By spelling police (not verified) on 16 Oct 2014 #permalink

You know, I was wondering about that!

There are quite a number of devices along these lines available, with varying degrees of user customizablilty and varying degrees of geekiness required. This looks like a nice addition to the options.

The one thing that stood out to me is the mention of Chrome and therefore Netflix availability. I've never seen Chrome for Linux ARM before. So either we're hearing about a recent development (though the possibility is not surprising since the open source branch, Chromium, is available for ARM) or else there is some way for this to run Android software. I'd be interested in clarification of this.

By CFWhitman (not verified) on 16 Oct 2014 #permalink

I'd rather run Ubuntu on x86 hardware like the MinnowboardMax so that I could use Open Source graphics drivers and not the proprietary binary blobs needed for the Odroid ARM devices.

After a sloppy and abrupt exit from IndieGoGo, the imp found a new home on a new crowd funding site, Crowded Rocket. As of today, 12/30/2014, they have only 7 pledges and $757 raised. With IndieGoGo, they had 110 backers with $12,092 raised in less time.

But alas, we backers were suddenly tossed out in the cold with only mysterious promises of better things to come. I'm not holding my breathe. Word of advice, look somewhere else.