Intel is dipping a tentative toe into the barebones waters with an innovative ‘pico-PC’ design slated for sale through its distributor channel next month.
Officially called “the Next Unit of Computing”, but dubbed the ‘4x4’ for the 4 square inch dimensions of the motherboard, Intel expects an assembled baseline system to sell for US$399 with a Core i3 mobile processor, 2GB of RAM, 40-50GB solid state drive and wireless networking card.
The company is quick to point out that it’s not about to release an Intel-branded PC.
“Intel is not getting into the PC box game,” says John Deatherage, Intel’s Director of Product marketing, who demonstrated the pint-sized system to APC during the second day of the Intel Developer Forum.
The 4x4 won’t be sold direct to consumer, although Deatherage expressed little doubt that hobbyists with a DIY bent would track down the systems to cook up a homebrew media centre or a similar bespoke box.
“We’ll sell this through the normal channel model, just like we will Intel motherboards to distributors and system integrators,” Deatherage told APC.
What sets the 4x4 apart from other Intel motherboards, aside from its diminutive form factor, is that the chipmaker will also offer a choice of two boxes.
Identical in size and designed around the 4x4’s footprint, there’s a red chassis designed for consumer use with a full-size HDMI port and Thunderbolt connector, while the black box sports a Gigabit Ethernet jack and two HDMI ports. Both boxes come with three USB 2.0 ports.
“This barebones configuration has the motherboard, chassis and powerbrick – that’s kind of new for Intel,” Deatherage says.
The 4x4 board comes with a 3rd-generation Core i3 processor, a pair of SO-DIMM slots which can support 16GB of RAM each, and two mini PCI slots which would typically be used for a mobile SSD unit and the other for a Wi-Fi card.
“We’d like integrators to be able to sell the whole system from a price point starting at US$399 for a basic configuration with everything but the operating system. It’s for somebody who needs horsepower in a very small space.”
Deatherage sees typical applications including digital signage, embedded systems, point of sale, kiosks, surveillance and security.
David Flynn is attending the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco as a guest of Intel.