BEFORE ORDERING please read this link: keeping your quadra cool and amateur radio operators: potential adapter interference
We are currently shipping to US & Canada addresses only, but if you live elsewhere, you may be able to build your own.
August 28, 2022

How Inovato came to be

Can you build a full computer, except monitor and keyboard/mouse, for under $30? That's the question that led to us starting Inovato.

We have long been disappointed by the high net price of the Raspberry Pi and similar SBCs. Sure, $70+ doesn't sound like much by the time you have it all built out for what you get. But for a lot of people and schools, that simply isn't affordable, especially at scale.

One day we asked ourselves if it would be possible to build and sell an under-$30 computer that includes everything except a display and keyboard/mouse. This would enable use in places like classrooms, computer labs and new applications limited by much more expensive options.

At some point, we began playing with TV boxes, which are essentially the same hardware (with some compromises) but come with all the extras. We played with several models and settled on one called "T95 Mini" due to its relatively fast processor (1.7ghz) and our ability to get Linux working reliably on it.

Another stumbling block is that while Armbian is a fantastic open source project (really!), its focus is on a base Linux operating system for many SBCs, not the sort of stuff users care about every day. So we built on top of it, adding many of the most common apps and wrapped it up in a user interface that is easy and familiar to most people.

At this point, we had largely solved the technical and price issues, but one big problem remained: It is really hard to buy these TV boxes and get what you think you are buying as the manufacturers will often change components. We bought several during the testing phase, only to discover that they changed the flash to something (NAND vs eMMC) that can't be used. Another common swap is the WiFi module. They are even known to change out the entire board, essentially just keeping the model name. Plus, buying these one off from China can be expensive and/or slow with shipping.

So we knew we needed to buy these in bulk and control the components used to make sure they would actually work. That meant finding suppliers who understood what we are doing and that we could trust.

Since these come as Android boxes, we knew we needed to flash them before shipping. As a user, buying SD cards to flash them isn't inexpensive and FIRST you have to "flash" the SD card (so your computer has to have an SD slot somewhere) BEFORE you can flash the Quadra. We also wondered if we could automate this so that we could flash them "just in time" when shipping. This meant we had to build an automated flash system that would let them flash themselves while also testing the hardware. So even though we buy in bulk, you get our latest firmware, not something that has been sitting on a shelf for a year.

Like Raspberry Pi, we sell for just a couple dollars over our cost. While we want it to be elegant, we also want it to be affordable. So our price is less than the price of the same model TV box on Amazon - that you'd still have to flash yourself. But if you want to buy and flash one from there, we'll even show you how (see the projects link at the top of the page). Our goal is make this available to those that can benefit from it, not to make money.

With Quadra, you get the best of using a TV box without the uncertainty and cost of buying it from China and flashing it yourself.

We hope you enjoy the experience!