Acer last week announced the latest in its family of Revo small-form-factor PCs at the IFA 2015 trade show in Berlin. The Revo Build M1-601 consists of a cuboid base unit with a footprint measuring about 5 inches square and a set of easily attachable modules.
There are two versions — one with an Intel Pentium processor and the other with an Intel Celeron CPU. Both have integrated Intel HD graphics and up to 8 GB of DDR4 RAM.
Acer plans to launch the Revo Build in Europe in October and in China December. It has not indicated when it will be available in the United States.
Pricing reportedly will be about US$220 in Europe and about $315 in China.
Easy to Build
Modular blocks for the Revo Build connect through pogo pins with magnetic modules. The blocks can work independently or with other PCs.
A 500 GB/1 TB hot-swappable portable hard drive module will be available at launch.
Acer eventually will roll out a power bank for wireless charging, an audio block that will incorporate speakers and microphones, and other expansion blocks.
Been There, Done That
“IBM has tried to build a modular PC at least twice that I know of, and neither made it to market,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“Toshiba actually did create a modular desktop for business, but that went so badly they exited desktop PCs altogether,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Enderle participated as a board member about a year ago, when IBM made its last attempt to revise the IBM modular computer.
“They wanted me as CEO, but I’m not that nuts,” he said. “You have to figure out a way around the economics.”
Acer has a line of Revo products, available at Amazon, eBay, NewEgg and elsewhere, though none is modular.
Will Acer’s Revo Build Fly?
The Revo Build has had a mixed reception so far. Some people like it, while others aren’t sure where they stand. Several people have likened it to Google’s Project Ara.
“It’s innovative, but the glory days for the desktop PC are gone,” observed Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
Most businesses “won’t like the idea of having a PC in pieces, and consumers have a plethora of other options — and it’s hard to beat something that’s mobile,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Processors in the high-end smartphones will probably offer similar or better performance and connectivity,” he suggested. “Who needs a larger hard drive when you can connect to the Internet anywhere, any time?”
Modular Computing’s Godzilla
There are other modular computers on the market, however.
There’s Razer’s Project Christine, which has a PCI Express architecture and lets consumers choose modules on the fly, in any combination, and plug them in.
The modules are sealed and self-contained, and they offer active liquid cooling and noise cancellation. Components can be overclocked without voiding warranties.
Xi3 offers the X7A, which consists of a three-board system that can handle three independent monitors. The X7A runs on 30 watts. Old I/O and processor boards can be swapped out for new ones.
The X7A has a quad-core AMD Trinity Series processor of up to 3.2 GHz, a Radeon HD 7660G GPU with 384 programmable cores, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, an mSATA SSD of 64 GB to 1 TB capacity, two Mini DisplayPorts, one combination HDMI/DisplayPort, and 12 other ports — four each of eSATAp-III ports (which also support USB 2.0), USB 2.0 ports and USB 3.0 ports. It also has one 1-GB Ethernet port.
The X7A measures 4.3 x 3.6 x 3.6 inches. It comes with a three-year warranty and runs Windows 7 Pro, which costs $137 extra, or openSuse.
The chassis is priced at $100 to $600, depending on the internal storage.