In terms of processor specs, the Rπ is built around a Broadcom BCM2835 32-bit system-on-chip clocked at 700MHz, a VideoCore IV GPU running at 250MHz – hence the 1080p full HD support – and 256MB of LPDDR memory shared between them.
The RAM split is determined at startup with an appropriate armX_start.elf file, so for different splits you need to reboot the Rπ. For those into their bare metal, there's also a config.txt file that allows you adjust the settings to overclock the CPU, GPU, and memory. Some brave souls out there are claiming to run it at over 900MHz, but we only have the one board to test, so good luck with that...
The Rπ ships as just a circuit board, although the proposed Autumn Educational release promises a case for the same money. But either way, you'll still need to cough up for a list of peripherals. How much extra are you going to need to spend? At a minimum you're looking at a mouse, keyboard, HDMI cable or RF cable, a power supply, and an SD card.
Capable of playing Blu-ray streams and a match for Apple TV perhaps?
The supply is from a USB cable, so you need a decent powered hub, or USB charging socket. In testing I found that an iPhone or even a Kindle charger did a fine job, and once I could prise my kiddiewinks away from CBBC, the 22in family LCD telly was perfectly adequate.
Admittedly for most households these days it should be a 5-minute job to scrounge up what's needed, and it may seem nit-picking to go on about the cost of peripherals. But given that the most important fact about the Rπ is that it's priced at $25. OK, so in UK it'll be nearer £29 with delivery and VAT, but who's counting? Still, it's instructive to realise that the board itself may cost less than splashing out on the power supply & cabling.
And yes, sorry, must stop calling it a board; it really is a PC. Indeed the Rπ Foundation could rightfully claim the title of cheapest bare-bones PC on the market. There are other contenders that can at least see the ballpark, but none actually within reach of the target markets' spending limit. Or as it's more commonly known, pocket money.
Next page: Soft options
Re: Linux computer?
It runs an ARM11 chip, which (confusingly) uses the ARMv6 instruction set, as opposed to the ARMv7 more commonly found in your garden variety smartphone, so support for the chips isn't that widespread. In theory it'll run any OS you can compile to run on ARM11, but you'll quickly find that that list of OSes quickly degenerates to just Linux, and once you start considering usability that list degenerates even quicker to pretty much just Debian (for now, anyway). It's quite a step from common arm chips and a far cry from your typical x86 beast, so whatever OS you want needs to be one that is supported by a broad community of active and talented developers.
Aside from Linux, RISC OS is the one that's already been mentioned, and you should have no bother running Android on the thing, but after that you're out of luck. There'll be no chance of Windows on Arm because the RPF aren't a windows partner (plus MS aren't selling licenses to end users, just OEMs per device). But really, it begs the question, given the nature of the device; a low cost, educational/hobbyist PC/embedded electronics platform, why would you want to run anything but linux on it?
And another thing...
It's pretty disappointing that a lot of comments on El Reg about the RPi show that the spirit of doing something for and by yourself - even thinking - is so degraded, while the expectation to get things handed out on plates is strong. The fact that the Pi /can/ be used as a desktop PC is amazing, not that is /should/ be used as such.
Myself, I'm planning to use them as cheap experiment platforms for a rural wireless grid, where low power is crucial (no mains on the top of a mountain) and the ability to add local intelligence to a node should be good. For example, a local node can provide a little web server that has localised info to its won area without needing to use backhaul bandwidth, remote cameras or weather stations can be set up, nodes can be used as points in e-orienteering - all kinds of things are possible. But, and this is what the "I want it on a plate" brigade will miss, we'll have to think of the ideas and make them work all by ourselves, something the Pi makes possible. We may fail, but we'll have fun finding out. And I'd rather fail having spent £30 than £300 or £3000.
Not sure how developing something like the above using something like a Pi as ONE component, albeit a crucial one, squares with commentard 1's assumption of lock-in though. If I've done 95% of the work myself, I doubt I'l lock myself in.
Come on guys, I've still got some popcorn left.
I know it's ridiculous. I would have thought 640K ought to be enough for anyone.
Re: too much of a salesman
Considering the fact you bought a netbook to run 1080p video you're probably too dumb to bother with this device anyway. If you think all it's good for is embedded electronics you're just plain silly.