Subject: Systems | January 10, 2013 - 03:54 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xpc, xpad, xdock, modular computer, ice computer, ces 2013, CES
Engadget caught up with Ice Computer on the CES show floor to check out the progress on its modular xPC system. At Computex last year, the company had a prototype of the xPC, and now at CES Ice Computer has both the xPC and the dockable tablet display to demonstrate.
The xPC is a small plastic chassis containing a full computer sans display or traditional outputs. It weights approximately 50 grams and is similar in form factor to a thick cell phone. It will slide into the xPad tablet dock like a gaming cartridge on a classic (wow, I feel old) console. The xPC can also be docked into a xTop dock which connects to a television or desktop monitor along with a keyboard and mouse.
The xPC in question can use either an Intel Atom, AMD APU, or NVIDIA Tegra processor. It also hosts 2GB of RAM, up to a 64GB SSD, 1.3 or 2 megapixel webcam, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio. It will cost around $200.
The xPad is essentially a tablet chassis, touchscreen display, and IO ports that has a slot where the xPC docks. The xPad gets it’s processing and storage guts from the xPC meaning it cannot be used on its own. The current xPad design has a capacitive touch display with a resolution of 1366 x 768, front facing webcam, and an estimated six to eight hours of battery life. The right side of the tablet is a USB port, SD card slot, and a headphone jack. Along the left edge is the power button and volume rocker, and slot for the xPC to dock. Ice Computer expects the xPad tablet dock to be available around the same time as the xPC for $200.
The xTop will come out sometime after the xPC and xPad with an as-yet-unknown price.
The xPC is somewhat interesting in its goal, but I worry that its execution will be its undoing. Ice Computer wants the xPC to be your only computer, such that you take it everywhere and simply dock it into various devices to get more IO, a larger display, or a physical keyboard. Unfortunately, people are already carrying around a computer everywhere and it has a display and longer battery life all its own: the modern smartphone. Android, and in the future Ubuntu, smartphones can be connected to displays along with physical keyboards and mice to access a full desktop. They can be placed into docks, and in the Asus version can even be docked into a larger slate tablet (the PadPhone). I can’t shake the feeling that the xPC has a noble goal but while it is sitting in development uncertainty (there is scant information online about Ice Computer and while progress is being made, release dates are far in the future, for the tech world anyway) the xPC is being surpassed by the increasingly-popular smartphones. (Even Josh has a smartphone now!)
Further, with systems like the Raspberry Pi, enthusiasts can alreay hack together their own dockable, portable computer (expect maybe the tablet aspect) for less than even the base xPC much less the additional docks needed to make ti work.
With that said, Ice Computer’s xPC has one saving grace and that is to cater to Windows users. It could very well be a decent dockable computer that runs Windows and its plethora of applications and legacy software. The various smartphones and mini ARM-powered PCs cannot run Windows, so the xPC could carve out a niche for itself in that area. Not quite the revolutionary dockable dream, but an area where i could see it being viable.
Here’s hoping it sees the light of day sometime this year and reviewers can see it in action.
What do you think about the xPC and it’s goals?
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
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Xi3, a company owned by ISYS Technologies Inc, has turned to popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter for its latest project. Xi3 is aiming to raise $250,000 by October 28 to produce two new modular computers: the X3A and X7A. Both units measure 4.27" x 3.65" x 3.65" and are slated for release in early 2013.
The X3A Xi3 is a power efficient business and general computing machine. It will pack a dual core processor running at 1.65GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and 32GB of solid state storage. That storage can further be upgraded to up to 1TB. Rear I/O of the X3A includes two USB 3.0 ports, four eSATA ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Xi3 expects the base level model to retail for under $500 and use a mere 18 Watts of power.
The X7A on the other hand is meant to be a workhorse and gaming machine. Specs include a quad core processor running at up to 3.2GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, up to 1TB of solid state storage, and a GPU with at least 384 shaders. This machine will support triple monitor configurations and will use around 40 Watts. Rear I/O includes four USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, four eSATA, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. This machine will allegedly be capable of playing the latest games, including Crysis 2. It has an expected shipping date of early 2013 and with prices starting at $1,000.
Personally, I like the blue colored model.
At time of writing, Xi3 has raised $24,613 from 55 backers – and has 24 days left to reach its goal. I'm interested to see whether or not Xi3 will actually be able to pull off a gaming machine in that small of a form factor. You can find more information about the X3A and X7A modular computers on Kickstarter..