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Novena open laptop project exceeds 280 percent of crowd-funding target

Novena, an open laptop platform designed for hackers, has surpassed 280 percent of its crowd-funding target, and the open-hardware computing devices will start shipping in November.


Notebook computers are traditionally designed with closed and proprietary architecture, which leaves most tech-savvy users wanting for modifications. While most notebook designs will require expensive upgrades and components, a crowd-funding project called Novena promises to deliver an “open hardware computing platform” which can be configured as a laptop, desktop or even a standalone board.

Freescale quad-core ARM architecture computer closely coupled with a Xilinx FPGA. It’s designed for users who care about Free Software and open source, and/or want to modify and extend their hardware: all the documentation for the PCBs is open and free to download, the entire OS is buildable from source, and it comes with a variety of features that facilitate rapid prototyping.

The device comes in several configurations, with the basic board-only design priced at $500. The all-in-one desktop configuration costs $1,195, the laptop is $1,995. Meanwhile, the “heirloom laptop” model costs $5,000 as per the crowd-funding campaign on CrowdSupply. That’s certainly no small change, considering you can get notebooks and all-in-one computers from mainstream brands for a fraction of the cost.

But again, the target market is not the average laptop or tablet buyer. Users are encouraged to tweak and modify. Those who have access to a 3D printer could even manufacture their own bezels and speaker-boxes, for instance. And the battery? The user is required to install it.

Novena laptop

The Novena’s internals can easily be accessed without the need for a screwdriver. The creators also promise that everything is open-source, even the chipset firmware.

The heirloom laptop model is certainly expensive, although Novena’s creator, noted hacker Bunnie Huang, says it’s an Omakase experience: “You are buying into the craftsmanship and artistry of [craftsman-designer] Kurt Mottweiler, and trusting him to build a work piece of outstanding quality.”


This is certainly not your run-of-the-mill notebook computer, especially given the price. The crowd-funding campaign reached $708,900 of its $250,000 target, raised from 1,031 backers, and the team is set to start production later this year. Outside of the campaign, interested folks can still pre-order for a nominally higher price ($550 for the board only, $1,315 for the all-in-one, $2,195 for the laptop and still $5,000 for the heirloom piece).

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.

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