A Raspberry Pi Zero challenger with Wi-Fi: Just $5 will get you this tiny Onion Omega2 computer

The Wi-Fi connected $5 Linux developer board has already crashed past its funding target on Kickstarter.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The $5 Omega2 could be the engine of your next home automation gadget.

Image: Onion

If you need a cheap board to make gadgets with, the Linux-powered Omega2 could do the trick -- it's priced at just $5.

Onion's Omega2 is the follow up to last year's Omega, a $19 thumb-sized, Arduino-compatible dev board with built-in Wi-Fi that can run a full Linux-based OS.

The Omega2 is roughly the same size as its predecessor but costs less, selling for the same price as the similarly-sized Raspberry Pi Zero. The Pi Zero was about as capable as the original $35 Raspberry Pi Model B.

Onion is releasing two variants of the Omega2. The $5 version has a 580MHz CPU, 64MB memory, 16MB storage, and a USB 2.0 port, while the $9 version offers same specs, but with twice the memory and storage of the $5 model.

For comparison, the Raspberry Pi Zero offers a 1GHz ARM processor, with 512MB memory, no in-built storage, but a microSD card slot. It also has a Mini HDMI and a Micro-USB port.

While the Raspberry Pi Zero appears to win on paper, Onion bills the Omega2 as the simplest dev board on the market, thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi module and flash storage. Onion has also developed a number of services to make the board easier to develop with, with various apps available from its Onion App Store.

It also supports the Node-RED software tool, which allows users to create programs using a drag and drop interface. When it comes to coding, the board supports widely-used programming languages such as Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash.

Finally, Onion offers optional integration with its cloud service so the board can be controlled remotely over the internet. The cloud service can also be used to deploy software updates.

If developers wish to add further connectivity options beyond Wi-Fi, the Omega2 has built in expansions available to support Bluetooth, GPS, 2G/3G, and more. The expansions themselves cost between $5 and $15.

Onion highlights a number of applications for the Omega2 on its Kickstarter page, including a pressure sensor built into a couch that triggers a lamp. It can also be used to control a wall lamp, a Wi-Fi media server, or as a wireless control module for a robotic arm.

The Omega2 is currently available for order through a Kickstarter campaign that launched last week and has attracted more than 10,500 backers, who've pledged over $400,000. When the Omega2 campaign closes on August 23, it will have far exceeded its original target of $15,000.

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