Five Alternatives to the OUYA

Like 'em, don't like 'em, think it's going to end up as vaporware, or whatever else. You have to sit and look at the stats for the OUYA kickstarter and understand even if the platform they're offering isn't going to be the Savior of Gaming apparently people see something there they want. As of the time of this writing it's raised a bit over Four Million dollars. Think about that for a moment. Four Million Dollars. These guys only wanted a little under one million. They have the better part of a month to go before the kickstarter ends.

The thing of it is, there's already options on the table if you're wanting a set-top box, or a gaming platform, or maybe even a home server. Whether it's the Raspberry Pi, or VIA's APC, or maybe even a lucky find on craigslist options exist Right Now. I'm going to explore a few of them.

Before I begin though let's set down some rules for the search to keep things fair:
No Tablets. 
$99 price cap before tax and shipping.
No Ebay or Crigslist finds. Whatever it is has to be new.

Alright then let's get going.



OUYA
Specs:
Cost: $99
CPU: Tegira Quad Core

1GB RAM
1 USB Port

Bluetooth
802.11 b/g/n
Case: Yes
OS: Android 4.0 Based

Thoughts: This is what I want everyone to compare the other offerings against. I'm not going to compare Software.

VIA's APC
Specs:
Cost: $50
CPU: 800mhz Single Core ARM
512MB RAM

2 Gig internal flash memory.
1 VGA Port
1 Audio out
1 Audio in
4 USB Ports
1 HDMI Port
1 Micro-SD Slot
Power Consumption: 4 Watts idle. 13 Watts In-Use.
Case: No
OS: Android 2.3 based

Thoughts: Weaker specs compared to what's proposed for the OUYA. However there are more hardware ports. Cheaper (offset by the fact you'll probably end up spending more if you want bluetooth and wifi) and you have options if you don't have a TV with HDMI... you luddite (hey don't feel bad. I'm still rocking the old tube too.)

MK802
Specs:
Cost: $74 (Can be bought Here.)
CPU: 1.5Ghz
512MB RAM
1 HDMI Port
1 Micro-SD Slot
1 Micro-USB Port (slave)
1 Full Sized USB Port (Host Capable)

OS: Android 4.0 Based (preloaded)

Thoughts: Unlike the APC above this one is advertised as the user being able to install whatever they want (which, to be fair, is usually just a linux variant.) Also unlike the APC this is advertised as being able to play 1080p video. The downside here is there's no bluetooth or wifi, and unless a splitter is involved there's only one usb port for add-ons (keyboard, mouse, wifi/bluetooth/etc dongles.)

Apple TV
Specs:
Cost: $99
CPU: Apple A4 Chip
1GB RAM
1 HDMI Port
1 Audio out
1 10/100 Ethernet
1 IR port (includes remote)
Case: Yes
OS: iOS Based

Thoughts: OK fine this is more set top box than anything else, and requires a bit of hacking since by default Apple's offering here is pretty locked down. However depending on what you want this may be enough. Plus it's one of the few on this list tht actually has a case and is fairly non-geek friendly.

Gooseberry
Specs:
Cost: $63
CPU: 1Ghz

512 Mhz RAM
802.11 b/g/n
1 Micro-USB Port
1 Micro-SD slot
1 Mini-HDMI Port
1 Headphone Jack
1 SD Card Slot
Case: No
4 GB internal flash storage
OS: Android 4.0

Thoughts: This one, amusingly, came about because somebody was tired of waiting for the Raspberry Pi to come out. There may be GPIO pins in this system's future. May not be, it's essentially still in development even though several prototype boards have already been delivered. I just think it's fairly neat that one guy got aggravated at the long wait time for the Raspberry and decided to do something about it.

Raspberry Pi
Specs (Model B):
Cost: $35
CPU: 700Mhz ARM
256 512MB RAM
2 USB Ports
1 Audio Out (stereo Jack)
1 Audio In

1 Composite Video Out
1 HDMI Port
1 SD Card Slot
1 Eathernet Jack
1 GPIO Pin strip
Case: No
OS: Debian ARM

Thoughts: Hooboy. This is one I'd been waiting on for a couple years to come out. I'ts technically been up for sale since the beginning of last March, but good luck actually finding one since they're literally on backorder for months ahead of each production run. It's made, technically, for the purpose of education and so the Raspberry Pi Foundation is selling them more or less at cost. The proposed OUYA specs blow this thing out of the water. However personally I'd rather have a Pi. I'm sure somebody could port Android 2.3 over (Edit: As of this time Android 4.0 is being worked on and simply lacks audio... and probably hardware acceleration.) Hexxeh has been trying to get Chromium OS ported over. Debian runs on this thing. It can work on either the nice shiny new HDTV flat screen you've got, or the old clunker tube set that's hanging out in the guest room or the attic. I am going to admit right now i have a bias towards this little thing. It's cheap, hackable, and when they stop selling out the moment new ones come in I want one.

Conclusion

Whether or not the OUYA is vaporware, or if there's a plan, or if the thing bombs as soon as it shows up you have to admit the low cost systems do have a preasence in the market. Granted most of the ones that fit within the same price bracket lack features the OUYA has so if it manages to establish itself as more than hype it should be able to grab the attention of people that want something cheap yet flexable to plug into the TV, but don't want ot have to do all the geeky tinkery bits.
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