Developers, makers, and hobbyists looking for a beefier alternative to Gizmag favorite the Raspberry Pi will be delighted to learn that BeagleBoard.org has taken the wraps off a 1 GHz ARM-based board named the BeagleBone Black. Though it may look like a slightly more expensive outlay, its manufacturer says that by providing everything needed for display, keyboard and network connectivity right out of the box, the Black provides "a lower total cost of ownership than the nearest competitor."

So what do you get for US$45? The 3.4 x 2.1 in (8.6 x 5.3 cm) BeagleBone Black open-source Linux computer comes pre-loaded with the Ångström distro (which is reported to boot in under 10 seconds) and Cloud9 IDE, freeing up the microSD slot for additional storage. It's based on the Sitara 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor from Texas Instruments, including a 3D graphics accelerator. There's 2 GB of integrated eMMC flash storage and 512 MB of DDR3 RAM.

The 46-pin expansion headers sat at two of the unit's edges are currently compatible with over 30 so-called capes, which are plug-in boards that allow the Black to be integrated with 3D printers, a Geiger counter, LCD touchscreens, and a telerobotic submarine, to name but a few of the numerous possibilities. USB (host/client), Ethernet and micro HDMI interfaces also feature, though the reported resolution for the latter maxes out at 1280 x 1024 (compared to the RasPi's 1920 x 1200).

The credit-card-sized computer comes supplied with a USB cable for power, but can also be connected to an external 5-volt DC supply. BeagleBoard.org says that right out of the box, you'll be ready to rock 'n' roll in just over three minutes. There's support from an active online community, and free access to documentation, sample code and kernel support for the likes of Ubuntu, Android and Fedora.

Initial quantities are limited, but BeagleBoard.org expects volume shipping to begin by the end of May.

Have a look at the video below to see the BBB turning a phone dock into a "laptop" computer.

Product page: BeagleBone Black