Following my own thread here Why the next project should be an Eve 10" Snapdragon tablet, I stole its template and made another proposal: The Eve Desktop. Or Eve D. (Eve has a D, who knew?) Or whatever, I dont care what you wanna call it.
I personally see one way for the next Eve device: A powerful, upgradeable, but sleek AiO (All-in-One) desktop. This product would be a great companion to those who already own a V, or other laptops.
(translucency for illustration purposes only)
Preliminary poll: Which display would you choose
- 27" 1080p non-touch (+$0)
- 27" 1080p touch (+$100)
- 27" 1080p touch and pen + flexible hinge (+$300)
- 27" 1440p non-touch (+$100)
- 27" 1440p touch (+$200)
- 27" 1440p touch and pen + flexible hinge (+$400)
- 27" 4K non-touch (+$200)
- 27" 4K touch (+$300)
- 27" 4K touch and pen + flexible hinge (+$500)
- 27" 5K non-touch (+$500)
- 27" 5K touch (+$600)
- 27" 5K touch and pen + flexible hinge (+$800)
Reasons: Eve already has the experience and connections for a device of that category. If we went with something different, like a smartphone we’d need completely new connections in a huge area. The main crowd we have here right now also has a good knowledge of the PC technology - so extra points for that.
Now where to go with that device? There are many roads we can go - but I say go for an iMac or Surface Studio-like AiO, but upgradeable using common form factors.
Reasons: In the current desktop PC market, you have the option to build your own PC, which would offer great expandability and price-to-performance, but relatively large and cumbersome. The display is limited to 4K as well due to limitation of DisplayPort and HDMI. Alternatively, you could get an AiO, but they cost a ton more, has limited performance due to pre-selected proprietary-form-factor components, and has little or zero upgradeability.
The point is we are marrying the sleek form factor and integration of AiO, and common cost-effective component form factors of regular PC builds. The best of both worlds! For that, we need a little bit of custom design to connect them together, which certainly wouldn’t be viable for individual PC builders to accomplish.
Size: I’d suggest going with a combination of large, spacious 27"+ display, combined with mini ITX motherboard. The compact size of the motherboard would allow flexible packaging that would allow it to be placed on the desk itself, much like other AiOs, while still being upgradeable.
Screen: The screen needs to have 200 PPI or higher, which means for 27"+, above 4K. The current problem with desktop PC is the lack of higher resolution support from DisplayPort and HDMI, making them choose between either a proprietary solution (iMac 5K, Surface Studio), or simply pick a 4K screen or lower.
We could instead employ the way early 4K monitors work, or this Dell 5K montior: multiple cables. In short, the monitor would expose itself as two 2.5K monitors (in case of 5K). Of course, since its an AiO, the cable is all internal.
If you want high refresh rate as well, you could even use 4 cables like this LG monitor. The monitor could then report itself as four 2560x1440 144 Hz monitors in case of 5K.
CPU: CPU is where things get interesting. We have two options coming this year, 10nm Intel Core and 7nm AMD Ryzen. Since we don’t know anything about their performance, I couldn’t really say a lot here. However, looking at past track record of Intel’s 10nm, maybe we won’t even have a choice here anyway.
GPU: Since this device would need to have wider audience, I would imagine the base model to offer no or basic graphics card such as the AMD Radeon RX 540 (OEM only) or Nvidia GeForce GT 1030, while the range-topping model could offer any GPU could think of.
The graphics card needs to be upgradeable as well, and therefore we would have to use the standard PCIe unit. However, in order to save space, we have to make it single-slot, cutting the volume in half which then requires clever cooling solution. We will get down into that in more detail in the last section.
RAM: Upgradeable DDR4, perhaps SODIMM slot if physical space is an issue.
Microphones: I think the V showed that we can have a damn nice sound quality - let’s go with great microphones again! Just like many PCs, it needs to have both Alexa and Cortana feature.
Ports: Ports is one of the weak points of current AiO desktops, as there is often no USB port in front. I hope we could put a more strategic location for the ports. And of course, we need a lot of USB-C since we are looking forwards at future upgradeability.
Wireless: The device needs to have an integrated, internal antenna, unlike virtually every ITX-based desktops out there with the ugly external antennas.
Windows Hello: Infrared Camera or Fingerprint - one of those 2
Cooling solution: Here is the most interesting part. In order to have relatively small chassis behind the display, while maintaining powerful components, I would imagine to split the device into two boxes, one housing the computer itself, while the other handles the cooling for the powerful components. It is not unlike the AMD Project Quantum except the two chambers are not sitting on top of each other, but rather connected using flexible pipes.
AMD Project Quantum. The bottom half houses the computer itself (CPU, GPU, etc.), while the top part houses the cooling components (radiator, pump, etc.). The box on the right is the power supply. Note in Eve’s case, the power supply would be an SFX unit installed in the “compute unit” box.
In term of layout, it would look like the picture below, with the waterblocks on “compute unit”, and the rest on the “cooling unit”.
Based on preliminary mockup (see top of this post), the volume of the “compute unit” would be just 4.2L (300 x 200 x 70mm, as a comparison Surface Studio’s base is 250 x 220 x 32mm). The “cooling unit” dimensions havent been calculated yet, but if I had to guess, it wont be more than 5L.
Finally, the power supply is an SFX unit installed in the “compute unit” box. The reason is a) it is a common form factor on the market, capable of providing up to 700W which is sufficient for all PCs with single graphics card, b) It is extremely compact, and does not use too much space, and c) the fan does double-duty for providing airflow to the rest of the PC components that arent watercooled (e.g VRM, RAM).
Price: Pricing is also an interesting part since we have a ton of flexibility here. The base model with i3/R3 and basic graphics card won’t even need watercooling at all, and therefore no “cooling unit”. It also has no touchscreen, and with it, fixed hinge. Therefore the AiO is essentially the cost of an i3 computer and 5K display, somewhere in the range of $1000.
The range-topping model would have i9 or R7, GTX 2080, pen input, and Surface Studio-like hinge. That could go upwards of $3000.
Compared to Surface Studio:
- A LOT more powerful
- No shitty Marvell WiFi
Compared to iMac Pro:
- More powerful (Nvidia Turing architecture)
- Touch and pen support
- Flexible hinge
Compared to self-built desktop PC:
- Larger-than-4K resolution
- Surface Studio-like hinge
- Kickass cooling solution, combined with…
- Unique two-piece build
- Probably still cheaper than buying the 5K monitor yourself.
Which components would be custom and off-the-shelf?
Off-the-shelf: LCD, LCD driver (base), CPU, GPU, PCIe riser, motherboard (base), PSU, RAM, SSD, HDD, WiFi card, mouse, keyboard, pen
Custom: LCD driver (high-end), chassis/shell, hinge, glass, motherboard (high-end), and (some components of the) watercooling loop.
As you can see, the base model would omit most of the custom components, which could ease the BOM cost.
i3 and 5K, are you crazy? Low-end CPU and high-end display, are you insane???
Note that the cheapest i3 (Core i3-8100) is still ~15% faster than the i5-6440HQ on the SS1, and only ~10% slower than the i7-7820HQ on the SS2. That’s the difference between desktop and mobile chip.
Even then, not everybody benefits from a faster processor. On some tasks, especially single-threaded CPU load with no GPU load, there won’t be any noticeable difference between an i3 computer and higher-end PC. However, 5K display or good quality display in general would improve the experience when you do just about anything that uses the display, except maybe when you use the CLI/Terminal/Command Prompt
Why not just sell it as an independent monitor?
For the range-topping model, as far as I know most touchscreen uses I2C interface, which isn’t supported on most computers (which is the reason for custom motherboard). In addition to that, it would look weird to see four cables connecting a display and a tower.
It could also be sold as barebones (aka without CPU, RAM, HDD) like some desktop PCs do e.g Intel NUC
I dont think any supplier sells a 5K display with higher than 60 Hz refresh rate
Most monitors are overclockable, but the performance varies from unit to unit. Therefore, we could use binning. All the display coming from the supplier are tested for their maximum overclock capability. Then the base model gets 5K 60 Hz unit (promised specs by the supplier), while higher-end models get the high refresh rate version.
Could the base model have 1080p/1440p/4K display instead of 5K?
Why not? It could reduce the starting price to around $500-600, Id say. If there is enough demand, that would be a great entry for this awesome product.
And finally, the last question would be: If its upgradeable, then everyone would just buy the cheapest model!
Well first of all, the cheapest model wouldn’t have watercooling at all, so you would either limit yourself to aircooling in such a confined space (think i3 stock cooler and single-slot GPU), or build your own custom watercooling loop, which isn’t cheap. Secondly, as we demonstrated with the V, the tier upgrade isn’t a rip-off in the first place.
Thanks for reading!
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