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3 Tiny, Ultra-Affordable Computing Options for Business

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Over the last few months, you might have heard about something called the Raspberry Pi. First released in the U.K. early last year, this credit card-size Linux-based PC isn't just inexpensive at $25. It has enough brawn to power many business functions, like a bare-bones server, a tech troubleshooting tool or a personal VPN (virtual private network).


It was released in the U.S. last week and sold out in a matter of hours.

If your startup is in need of a small, ultra-inexpensive computing power on-the-go, the Raspberry Pi is far from your only option. Here are three computing tools -- all less than $100:

1. iStick A101

Packing Wi-Fi, a 1 Gh processor and a USB slot, this matchbox-sized computer was designed to drive digital signage. And when connected to a touchscreen display, the iStick A101 can support more than 700,000 apps through its customized Android operating system.

At $49, its price is nearly twice that of Raspberry Pi. But for that cost, users get a more powerful processor and it comes in a simple black shell -- compared to the Raspberry Pi which is a naked circuit board. And don't overlook that spec-bump, because the beefy CPU renders 3-D imagery quickly and clearly.

But without an SD card slot, iStick is more difficult to expand than Raspberry Pi, something savvy users may find limiting.

Related: Gadgets to Make Office Life More Enjoyable

2. Cubieboard

Able to run Android, Ubuntu or Linux operating systems, this $49 system is smaller than a calculator and can do laps around one, too.

With a beefy 1 gigahertz processor, double-to-four-times the memory of Raspberry Pi (depending on configurations) and four gigabytes of storage, the Cutieboard is about as powerful as the first iPhone, at a fraction of the price.

Cubieboard's various ports (ethernet, HDMI, micro SD, and SATA slots, along with two USBs) give the computer near-endless utility. For example, connecting it both to an old SATA hard drive and to your company's ethernet hub, turns Cubieboard into a networked storage device.

3. APC Paper

Google's Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are in high demand, but they're also overpriced -- at least compared to this $99 Android PC.

A full-scale computer packed into an aluminum-lined recycled cardboard casing, the APC Paper is a true "notebook" computer, able to discreetly blend into the background on a shelf or a desktop. (Yes, it's made to look exactly like a small book.)

Under the cover lies a system that's comparable to Raspberry Pi, with an 800 megahertz processor, 512 megabytes of memory, 4 gigabytes of storage, two USB slots, an HDMI output with resolution up to 1080p, an ethernet port, and room for expansion.

By simply connecting a keyboard, mouse and monitor, APC Paper can make a handy, internet-connected workstation.

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