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Raspberry Pi Compute Module becomes Pico-ITX SBC

Jul 10, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 6,428 views

On Kickstarter, Geekroo launched a “CoMo Booster” Pico-ITX baseboard for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module that adds WiFi, audio I/O, and wide-range power.

Raspberry Pi
Compute Module

(click to enlarge)

Last year, Australia-based Geekroo ran a successful Kickstarter project to build a Mini-ITX board called the Fairywren, which extends the I/O and power supply of the Linux-ready Raspberry Pi single board computer. Now, the company hopes to do something similar for the computer-on-module version of the Pi, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module.

The CoMo Booster is a more feature-rich, yet lower cost alternative to the Raspberry Pi Compute Module’s optional, $200 Compute Module IO Board, claims Geekroo on its Kickstarter page. Compared to the standard IO Board, the 100 x 72mm Pico-ITX form-factor Como Booster adds features like an extra USB port, built-in WiFi, a wide-range 6-23V power supply, and a real-time clock (RTC), yet sells for less than half the price.

CoMo Booster
(click image to enlarge)

Geekroo needs to raise $40,000 Australian dollars ($37,556 U.S.) by Aug. 22. Funding packages start at Aus$99 ($93 U.S.) without the Pi Compute Module, or Aus$159 ($149) complete with the module and a case.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module’s standard IO Board baseboard
empty (left); stuffed with the Pi (right)

(click images to enlarge)

The often hilarious and painfully honest Kickstarter description explains that, although “We know it sounds a bit ridiculous,” Geekroo developed the prototype without gaining access to a Pi Compute Module. Not to worry, they say, a module is on the way from a friend in few weeks.

Geekroo also notes that the CoMo Booster “is a very complicated product with a double-sided four-layer PCB, and more than 240 various components. “It took Herman and Wei nearly an entire week to finish the soldering for the first two prototypes,” says Geekroo. “Trust me, it was a horrible job.” As a result of its complexity, none of the 10 Chinese PCB manufacturers contacted by Geekroo would take on the job unless they ordered at least 600 units. Hence, the need to seek Kickstarter funds.

Like the Compute Module’s standard IO Board, which is available from RS or Element14, the CoMo Booster features an HDMI port and dual micro-USB ports. However, it offers two standard USB ports instead of one It also adds a variety of audio interfaces, including optical SPDIF, a 128 x 32-pixel OLED display, and the aforementioned WiFi and RTC modules.

Power-related enhancements on the CoMo Booster include the 6-23V supply, a programmable power management unit, as well as a 3.7V Lithium battery interface. On the other hand, the CoMo Booster has only one CSI and DSI interface apiece, instead of two for the IO Board. It also provides a 26-pin Raspberry Pi expansion connector.

Como Booster front view (left), and rear view showing Compute Module socket
(click images to enlarge)

A DDR2 connector on the reverse side of the board (shown above) lets you plug in the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Like the Raspberry Pi SBC it mimics, the 67.6 x 30mm, SODIMM-style Compute Module is based on a Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip accompanied by 512MB of RAM memory. In place of the SBC’s SD card, however, the COM’s bootloader and OS stack reside in a soldered-on 4GB eMMC flash chip. Other than that, all SoC signals not consumed by on-board memory or other components are expressed on the card’s edgecard fingers.

Summary of specs

Specifications listed for the CoMo Booster include:

  • Processor/memory, etc. — via Raspberry Pi Compute Module (not included)
  • Wireless — WiFi (150Mbps)
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI port
    • 2x USB ports (with overcurrent protection system)
    • 2x micro-USB ports
    • 3.5mm mic jack
    • Analog headphone jack
    • SPDIF audio out
    • CSI connector (camera)
    • DSI connector (display)
    • 26-pin, standard Raspberry Pi GPIO
  • Other features:
    • RTC
    • 128 x 32-pixel OLED display
    • 3-pin, 5V cooling fan interface
    • Temperature monitoring
    • Arduino ATmega32u4 based BIOS
  • Power:
    • 6-23V supply
    • Power jack (5.5 x 2.1mm)
    • 3.7V Lithium battery interface (2-pin)
    • Power switch interface (2-pin)

The Kickstarter project’s video appears below.

CoMo Booster Kickstarter video

Further information

The CoMo Booster is available on Kickstarter through Aug. 22, with funding pledges starting at Aus$99 ($93 U.S.) without the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, or Aus$139 ($130) with the module, or Aus$159 ($149) with the module and an acrylic case. Add to those costs the required Raspberry Pi Compute Module, which is expected to go for $30 (U.S.) at quantity 100.

Assuming funding levels are achieved, products are expected in December. More information may be found at the CoMo Booster Kickstarter page and at the Geekroo website.

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