Happy belated New Year everyone!
My apologies for the late update this month. Shenzhen, China, where I am located and where our manufacturing is located, experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this month. We stocked up on goods and supplies in the event of a city-wide lockdown as has been done recently in other cities in China after only a few cases have been detected. We have been through multiple rounds of city-wide testing the past few weeks. Thankfully, the team is safe and have been communicating with our suppliers while at home to see how this will affect our timeline. Some of our manufacturers have informed us that they will be shutting down earlier than usual for the Chinese New Year holiday. Most of China takes a holiday from January 25th to around February 11th. Our team will continue to work during this time to minimize the down time.
We are planning on including a USB wall charger and USB 3.1 USB-C to USB-C cable with Pocket P.C. in the box. In addition, we will be including a USB-C to USB-A adapter and a passive USB-C to 3.5mm Audio Jack. Our supplier will not be able to start production of our cables and accessories until after the holiday is over.
According to all our manufacturers, their plan is to start mass production of the PCBs after the Chinese New Year and begin shipping in late March. The reason for this is outlined below in our discussion of the voltage regulator heat issue.
Pocket P.C. Demo
In December, we created a short demo of us trying a few commands on Pocket P.C. and running a GPU benchmark test. Unfortunately, it may be hard to see the screen because we did not have a macro lens and the screen has a high resolution.
FCC Testing Results
Good news! We passed our FCC and CE Emissions and Conduction test on Christmas Eve. We had one small hiccup with the USB charger we were using as it was causing us to fail emissions. Luckily, we had another charger on hand which allowed us to be under the emissions limit. The original charger was labeled as FCC and CE compliant but after we checked with the manufacturer again and after showing them the test results, they told us it was in fact not compliant. They said we would instead have to purchase their more expensive charger. We will not be sourcing chargers from them again. The charger we had on hand was supplied by a middleman, and while it passed EMI testing, we would rather purchase directly from the manufacturer so that we can inspect the production and the facilities where they are made.
You can find our certification reports on our wiki here:
Thankfully, our certification and testing company recommended a few USB wall charger suppliers that have gone through the certification process at their facility.
Earlier this month, we visited a few of those suppliers who vary from small shops to big factories. We first visited a small shop that built nothing but a few different models of chargers. We were concerned during the factory tour for the welfare of some of the workers. At one stage, there was an ultrasonic welding machine that emits a high frequency noise while it is sealing the two charger plastic halves. It hurt our ears just standing there for a few moments and we realized that the worker who was using the machine all day was not wearing ear protection. We told the supplier that this was creating an unhealthy condition for the worker. We will not be sourcing chargers from that supplier.
The next USB charger company we visited was a much larger enterprise. They prided themselves on being a part of the “Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad” program and selling MFi cables and accessories. They had a wall of certifications including some from Electrical Testing Labs (ETL) and even a few from the certification testing company we used for FCC and CE EMI tests. We were happy to see the operators of the ultrasonic welding machine wearing ear protection. We inspected the testing equipment and found that they tested every single cable they made, one-by-one by hand.
We left that factory satisfied that we found the right supplier which has the production capacity to meet our needs while ensuring the safety and welfare of their workers.
Voltage Regulator Heat Issue
We received reports from Christopher Morgan that our Original Popcorn was getting hot to the touch under certain circumstances. The step-down voltage regulator was found to be the culprit. It would get hot while under load and operating with a 5V input. We used the same regulator circuit on Pocket P.C. and noticed under the same conditions the section behind the LCD screen where the voltage regulator is would also get hot. This could lead to the LCD screen being damaged in that section over time.
Further, in dead battery conditions where the device is only powered by a 5V 3A charger, Pocket P.C. would brownout and shut off when it came to the point in the boot process where it would turn on the backlight. This meant that the voltage would drop below the under-voltage lockout (UVLO) setting in the Power Management Unit under higher loads thus turning off.
We spoke to our DFM engineer and he suggested that instead of a “step-down” regulator, known as a buck regulator, that we replace it with a regulator that can “step-up” and “step-down” the voltage, known as a buck/boost regulator. This gives us the advantage that even if the charger or cable we are using can not supply the appropriate voltage under load but can still provide the current necessary, then Pocket P.C. will not shut off if the battery is not attached or dead.
We wanted to be sure that Pocket P.C. will 1) not get unnecessarily hot and 2) will work when no battery is attached. We’ve heard stories of iPads expanding in walls in homes when used as a home control interface and always plugged into power. We want Pocket P.C. to be able to be used without a battery if the user is using it in an application where it is constantly powered-on and plugged-in or when the battery has no power.
The safety of the device we build and the safety of the user (you) is our highest priority.
Great work from Martijn getting JumpDrive working on Pocket P.C.
This is exciting news because JumpDrive allows you to boot into a simple environment where you can connect your Pocket P.C. to your computer and flash an OS image directly to the eMMC storage memory.
You can see Martijn’s patch that makes this work on GitHub:
Despite the pandemic and hardware and software issues, which are expected in creating and producing a new product, with the tireless efforts of our team and help and advice from members of our loyal community, we are nearing production of Pocket P.C.
We are as eager as you are to get Pocket P.C. into your hands.
Our current estimate for commencing final production is in early March. Barring any further delays or complications, we now estimate that we will be able to ship in late March.