I wonder if it would be possible to hack Unix on to an Apple TV box. The A-12 is pretty potent, and the device is cheap. I know a team is getting Unix on to the M1 and M2 Macs.I really wouldn't mind having something based on a previous generation of mobile phone SOC with different firmware tuning. There are SOCs that are still in production for low end phones that serve less developed countries that have compelling specs, are produced in enough volume to be cheap(ish) and provide a decent amount of I/O. Something with at least a pair of A75+ cores and a quad of a53+ LP cores could be put to decent use with sufficiently open driver stacks.
My problem with the ecosystem is that I can get the same or similar performance for similar money in the tiny uSFF form factor celeron and pentium boxes for sale all over the place. Once you pass the $200 mark, you're in i3-1115g4 spec laptops that will run rings around any Pi. The tinyness of the box isn't important to me. Power levels on a laptop running with the lid closed and a low power plan aren't a deal breaker level of different from Pi setups for me.