Maker/Development
Novena gives hackers the portable, customizable PC of their dreams

The Premise. In some circles, it’s become increasingly commonplace to want to build  a computer rather than buy a ready-made model. Even when building, however, buyers are at the mercy of multiple manufacturers who may or may not want to add things like unwanted programs or trackers to prevent any tampering with the hardware.

The Product. Going far beyond lower-end hacker hardware like the Raspberry Pi, The Novena Open Laptop is a device designed by two men with a passion for open-source, flexible computers made to be hacked and played with. Developed entirely in-house from the ground up, from motherboard to operating system, the Novena is meant to be a powerful computing option for people who want their machine to do a lot, and who want to do a lot to their machine. With a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 4GB microSD card, and onboard Wi-Fi, Novena is built to crunch some serious code.

The Pitch. From the get-go, the passion of Novena founders Andrew “bunnie” Huang and Sean “xobs” Cross regarding open-source and hacking is apparent. That passion translates to every aspect of the Novena system, from the easy-open case to the extensive documentation for the boards that makes the hardware (relatively) easy to tailor for any need. Novena wants to raise $250,000 to bring this openly designed laptop to market, mostly to handle manufacturing and finalization of the firmware.

The Perks. Hardware junkie DIY builders can receive just the Novena board and build their own case for $500. The pre-built “desktop” model is available for $1,195, the laptop for $1,995, and for those that are obsessed with style, a hand-crafted wood and aluminum case laptop is available for $5,000. The boards are expected to ship in November, with each higher tier launching in subsequent months.

The Potential. Let’s be clear, for everything the Novena can do, it is certainly not going to be a mass-market, user-friendly option. What it can do is give hardcore tech lovers a device that is flexible and accessible to any need or hypothesis that can be tested. Because everything is open and accessible, some professional knowledge of usage and safety is required, but for those who have that knowledge, this is a compact, modifiable solution for any kind of software or hardware development needs.

Michael Radon is a full-time writer who resides in New Mexico and is currently working as Editor-in-Chief on an upcoming magazine about retro video games.