HackRF Blue: A Lower Cost HackRF

Earlier in the year the HackRF One was released by Micheal Ossmann. It is a transmit and receive capable software defined radio with a 10 MHz to 6 GHz range which currently sells for around $300 USD. Since the HackRF is open source hardware, anyone can make changes to the design and build and sell their own version.

The HackRF Blue is a HackRF clone that aims to sell at a lower cost. By sourcing lower cost parts that still work well in the HackRF circuit, the team behind the HackRF Blue were able to reduce the price of the HackRF down to $200 USD. They claim that the HackRF Blue has the same performance as the HackRF One and is fully compatible with the HackRF software. They are currently seeking funding through an IndieGoGo campaign.

Their main goal through the funding is to help provide underprivileged hackerspaces with a free HackRF.

The HackRF Blue
The HackRF Blue

14 comments

  1. Steve

    I contributed to this one yesterday actually, it looks good to me.

    Some points from their campaign page that explains the cheap price:
    -The components used in our boards come out of the same factories that supply RS components, Mouser, and Digikey but we go straight to the source. None of our components are ‘no-name’
    -Instead of organizing manufacturing from afar, we’re on the ground on the factory floor (this also has the added benefit of preventing the manufacturer from switching components behind our backs, something that is commonplace and even happened to Michael Ossmann himself);
    -We don’t need to make a profit, we just need to cover our costs when giving out free boards;

  2. Gkl296

    Why all the hate? Maybe feeling bad about paying too much and trying to recover a damaged ego?

    These guys contacted me a while ago, I didn’t quite understand what was going on but now it makes sense – they were vetting our hackerspace and we are now getting 2 free HackRFs to support us and support the technology! There’s no way our members could afford one out here, if you don’t like it, well, f you too.

  3. John

    Looks like the same guy who made this (http://garethhayes.net/rtl-sdr-raspberry-pi-image/) rtl-sdr raspberry pi image, which has been featured here before. Just looks like a guy who likes SDR and wants to spread it, good job I say. The haters should ask why Michael Ossmann keeps manufacturing and selling his HackRFs for $100 more without any improvement if there are so many problems. Don’t get me wrong, I love his work, but a rough estimate show’s he’s pulled in about $400k profits so far, and he’s still manufacturing and selling them without adding any improvements himself, so I don’t understand what’s wrong about this guy putting in the work to make them more affordable for everyone else, and giving them away *for free* to hackerspaces so that people who can’t even afford the discount price can use them (has Michael Ossmann done that?).

    • Liam

      Are you seriously complaining about someones profits from selling open-source hardware that they designed themselves? This is a serious criticism that you’re making of Michael? That he hasn’t made improvements on IP that he open-sourced and gave to the community?

      • John

        No, it’s not at all. It’s a response to people complaining that these guys have not improved the design and that increasing the developer base by making it cheaper and giving them away for free is a bad thing. I love Michael Ossmann just as much as everyone else, that’s not my point.

  4. jke

    “The goal of this campaign is to provide underprivileged hackerspaces with free HackRF(s).”

    If it takes a Chinese clone to lower the access barrier to an open source tool, then I am fine with this move. Maybe this will add value to the initial design.

  5. Johnathan Corgan

    Wow, haters gonna hate.

    Someone decided that it would be of value to themselves and perhaps to others to make a lower cost variation of an open hardware design, then actually did the work to bring it into existence. If you disagree with them, just don’t buy it, and it won’t have affected you in any way.

    You are complaining that someone else didn’t do something you wanted, for free.

    It’s true the HackRF has a number of issues that can be improved upon, as you pointed out. So–tell me your plans to bring about those changes?

    Bueller?

  6. Truth

    Taking the HackRF One, changing the PCB to blue, adding a RF shield and a heatsink, and replacing all quality parts with no name equivalents, may well be within the scope of open source hardware, but it is not exactly in the spirit of it, taking something and making it better would be. If they added components for a full simultaneous TX and RX path, or a onboard upconverter, or downconverter or frontend filter banks. All the design balancing problems with the HackRF One (cheap, large frequency range, high bandwidth) are still there “The hardware design has not been improved, aliasing and imaging etc has not been addressed”, they will basically swap out 10 cent parts and replaced them with 1 cent parts. The design is exactly the same, it is just using cheaper (lower quality, shorter lifetime) parts.

    I see it as bringing nothing to the table and devaluing all the hard work that has gone into the HackRF One.

    • G7KUF

      I have to agree. It would have been better to improve on the design, than to find cheaper parts. Where’s the invention in that?

      The single, most effective thing would have been to have installed a tracking filter. The HackRF suffers horribly from aliasing, so much so that you can waste plenty of time chasing signals that just aren’t really there (well, not supposed to be where you are looking) and can ruin another intended signal. Messing about with sampling rates to try to avoid images dumping all over a signal, is no fun, and multiple external band-pass filters add significantly to the overall cost of using a HackRF. None of this however, is a direct criticism of Michael Ossmann, or the HackRF per se, as he intended it to be built upon, but this cheap clone has wasted this opportunity. The “Blue” version is EXACTLY what the Chinese tend to do, to make a cheap copy, rather to than improve the product.

    • Brendan

      It’s spreading the hardware wider and giving it to a bunch of hacker spaces for free which will lead to more development. What exactly have you done to help?

      >replacing all quality parts with no name equivalents
      You’ve obviously never tried to source components for a manufacturing project… as someone who’s had things manufactured before, I can say that they would have put a *lot* of work into this. For them to get the price down this much while keeping the same performance is black magic.

    • Radiophilo

      What the heck???

      Hasn’t the availability of lower-cost hardware triggered a wide movement of development and experimentation thus significantly contributing to the development and widespread knowledge of SDR?
      Should we then ditch our RTL-SDRs and proceed to purchase much finer SDRs?

      If a shop would offer you a 33% discount on your HackRF, or on any product for that matter, would you tell them, “Sorry but for that much lower price you’re only giving me the same performance. Naughty people, you’re not doing your work well, and for that I’d rather pay the regular price somewhere else”?

      Sorry, you’re lost here.

      • Truth

        So given the choice between an aluminum beach chair and one made of Balsa wood one (with steel plates bolted on its feet to stop it from blowing away) for 33% less you would pick the Balsa wood ? There are cheap parts and then there are really cheap parts, there is a hell of a big difference between them (MTBF approaches zero with the latter).

        It is exactly things like this that makes other developers who have probably invented 30,000+ hours of work in firmware and 20,000+ hours in hardware to decide never to release via open source. Overall I see it as a bad thing, I do see the positive side, but I see many more negatives.

        • John

          I’ve ordered one (after doing some digging). They are using components you get anytime you order from RS or Mouser…. You think there are no “no-name” components on the original board? These guys are in the heart of the manufacturing hub right where Ossmann’s boards themselves were made, except that Ossmann was not on the factory floor like these guys are. That probably explains the price difference more than anything else.

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