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Intel Sees Big Future in Tiny PCs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 23 comments

Mini and tiny PCs are taking over the enterprise space. Will they find a place in your home?

From Intel's event today, we've learned that all-in-ones are a big focal point, but not the only new form factor that the company is targeting for the future. Born from the NUC effort, the mini or tiny PC is set for a record year and is in Intel's eye a "reinvention of the tower."

Intel VP and GM of Desktop Client Platforms Group, Lisa Graff, expressed confidence in this new segment, saying, "This is growing incredibly fast. What we're seeing here is over 1 million units shipped last year – growing from essentially nothing from 2012 – and we expect more than 50 percent growth this year in 2014."

Small form factors are nothing new, of course. So what is it about this new wave that's making them so successful?

"It's so small, it almost disappears," explains Graff. The small size means that it can be placed out of the way in a convenient spot in unconventional places. Intel uses the example of a mini PC being used for navigation on a boat.

It's another classic tale of miniaturization enabling new use cases for existing technology. Intel used the words "easy embedded" to describe some of these use cases.

Story updated with photos.

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Add your comment Display 23 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    none12345 , March 19, 2014 7:39 PM
    Tired of the small movement. As long as its not larger then a file cabinet, i don't care how big it is. The only thing that matters is power. Who cares if its small if its gutless. Gimme power! I miss the old days of hardware doubling ever 6-12 months or so. Now we get 10% every 1-2 years. Boring!
  • 10 Hide
    bak0n , March 19, 2014 7:04 PM
    Can't wait to throw a high powered GPU in it! Oh wait...
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    K2N hater , March 19, 2014 6:45 PM
    Hmmmm these small devices need a new magic name so we can keep singing the "PCs are dead" mantra.
  • 10 Hide
    bak0n , March 19, 2014 7:04 PM
    Can't wait to throw a high powered GPU in it! Oh wait...
  • 11 Hide
    none12345 , March 19, 2014 7:39 PM
    Tired of the small movement. As long as its not larger then a file cabinet, i don't care how big it is. The only thing that matters is power. Who cares if its small if its gutless. Gimme power! I miss the old days of hardware doubling ever 6-12 months or so. Now we get 10% every 1-2 years. Boring!
  • 1 Hide
    ferooxidan , March 19, 2014 9:17 PM
    A PC as small as Gigabyte Brix or Asrock Vision X 420D, with the new Nvidia Maxwell GPU and a portable monitor such as ASUS MB168b+. My life is complete.
  • 0 Hide
    KosherGrimace , March 19, 2014 9:37 PM
    They should just make a form factor that's somewhat flat, long, and deep. Like some DVD/BR players.Devices this small remind me of the abuse my GameCube suffered.
  • 1 Hide
    bloodroses75 , March 20, 2014 4:49 AM
    Quote:
    They should just make a form factor that's somewhat flat, long, and deep. Like some DVD/BR players.Devices this small remind me of the abuse my GameCube suffered.
    They do in Mini-ITX. Here is one example: http://www.silverstonetek.com/raven/products/index.php?model=RVZ01&area=en&top=C
  • 0 Hide
    Haravikk , March 20, 2014 6:25 AM
    Quote:
    Can't wait to throw a high powered GPU in it! Oh wait...
    Irrelevant; gamers are only a fraction of the desktop market, and even then not all gamers need cutting edge graphics either. For the majority of desktop users, including offices and educational establishments, a small footprint and tiny power consumption makes a lot of sense, especially when they wouldn't be using even a fraction of the internal space of a tower anyway.Even for gamers it's not like you need a full-sized tower anymore; in fact for most people Mini ITX is plenty as it gives you ample room for a good CPU, and the single PCIe slot you need for a good GPU, as one good GPU is usually a lot easier (and often more reliable) than multi-GPU setups anyway. In fact I think the sweet spot for small gaming rigs is going to be a discrete GPU paired with an CPU that has its own integrated GPU, which can be used to offload things like physics. This will be fairly easy to fit in a smaller tower, or even a console-sized device. Even then, integrated graphics are coming on in leaps and bounds; while it may still be a while yet till they're truly competing with discrete graphics, for a modest console a good AMD APU or a Haswell CPU with Iris Pro makes for a pretty decent lightweight gaming machine.To give an example, my current main work machine is a previous generation Mac Pro, and it's a massive, power-hungry workstation tower. But other than four hard-drives I don't have much need for internal space at all, so a lot of it is a waste. Even more so when you consider that these days a quad-core Mac Mini has about the same CPU power (more in many use-cases) as my 8-core (no hyper-threading) machine. If Apple gets a move on and switches the Mac Mini to Haswell or Broadwell then the GPU performance will be about the same too, and I can just swap for the much smaller, much cheaper to run machine. Of course I need to move my hard-drives somewhere, but I can shove those anywhere a Thunderbolt cable can reach.
  • 1 Hide
    GreaseMonkey_62 , March 20, 2014 6:52 AM
    Thanks to many improved things such as mSATA, better CPU's and better integrated graphics small computers don't take as much of a performance hit these days as they did a few years ago.
  • 1 Hide
    GreaseMonkey_62 , March 20, 2014 6:53 AM
    Quote:
    A PC as small as Gigabyte Brix or Asrock Vision X 420D, with the new Nvidia Maxwell GPU and a portable monitor such as ASUS MB168b+. My life is complete.

    The Gigabyte Brix is pretty sweet. Hoping to get my hands on one soon to replace the family computer.
  • 3 Hide
    acadia11 , March 20, 2014 6:54 AM
    10 years ago I bought a mac mini. Today intel revolutionizes the PC market!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    Haravikk , March 20, 2014 7:15 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The Gigabyte Brix is pretty sweet. Hoping to get my hands on one soon to replace the family computer.
    Quote:

    I initially thought the same, but a look at the pricing leaves me less convinced, especially the international pricing. I'm now much more interested in Sapphire's 4" x 4" motherboards, and any devices that will use them, as AMD's APUs are IMO much better value for money for tiny devices like that. In fact I think some actual units were announced on this site not that long ago but I can't remember who was making them so I can't find a link.
  • 1 Hide
    doomtomb , March 20, 2014 7:36 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    They should just make a form factor that's somewhat flat, long, and deep. Like some DVD/BR players.Devices this small remind me of the abuse my GameCube suffered.
    They do in Mini-ITX. Here is one example: http://www.silverstonetek.com/raven/products/index.php?model=RVZ01&area=en&top=C
    I was excited by the Raven until I realized it's over 14 Liters. That's literally 9 times the size of a slim blu-ray player and 3 times the size of an old VHS player.
    Quote:
    Tired of the small movement. As long as its not larger then a file cabinet, i don't care how big it is. The only thing that matters is power. Who cares if its small if its gutless. Gimme power! I miss the old days of hardware doubling ever 6-12 months or so. Now we get 10% every 1-2 years. Boring!
    Unfortunately, you are in the minority. Wanna know what I am tired of? Huge towers. Towers that sit under your desk because they take up too much space. "Knee breakers" as I call em because you'll break your knees on em. If your PC tower weighs more than 15 lbs it's oversized. It's like somebody that's overweight. If you can build all this in a Silverstone SG05 Mini-ITX and still liquid cool it with in AIO. why would you opt for anything else. It's like an anchor that ties you down from LANing or ever seeing anybody else when you game. The days of doubling performance every 12 months are long gone and it's time to accept the fact. Moore's law is fading because of the laws of Quantum physics. If we ever make quantum computers reliably and affordably, that will be the future.
  • 0 Hide
    red77star , March 20, 2014 10:04 AM
    I see no future in tiny PC because it will never have power Desktop has therefore Intel you are wasting your time.
  • 0 Hide
    Bondfc11 , March 20, 2014 10:53 AM
    the Xi3 Piston lineup is cool. All the comments about how this won't catch on, etc etc are silly. There is room in the market for all kinds. From the largest Mountain Mods Case Labs cases to the smallest form factor cases. I have a Piston and use it for LAN parties since it is attached to the back of the monitor I take. Easy peasy.
  • 0 Hide
    David Dewis , March 20, 2014 11:03 AM
    i Can just about run my MSI 4G 290 in my elite 130. I cant see it fitting in a box any smaller. That's not to mention smaller cases are going to have issues with heat dissipation
  • 0 Hide
    qlum , March 20, 2014 12:12 PM
    As long as building tower pc's is cheaper at work I will still build towers, if for some reason that ever changes I would be glad to switch because honestly the space a pc takes isn't that much anyway. Also considering you can only throw one monitor on there is kind of a big thing.At work we throw in 2 at least, for the people that need more we use 3 or 4 in my and the programmer's case.
  • 0 Hide
    Menigmand , March 20, 2014 1:58 PM
    It's not so much the box that takes space, it's the whole arrangement with monitor, cable spaghetti, mouse, speakers... the total area needed for a desktop.
  • 0 Hide
    Duckhunt , March 22, 2014 3:57 AM
    The problem we have here is that the small foot print means a slower pc. A desktop pc has the advantage of not having to be mobile. We need desktop pcs that are not tiny but we need them to take advantage of the computer case. Hopefully AMD now has a break because intel want to shrink down the motherboards and live in MinTX land. Hopefully AMD uses the space of larger motherboards to use less power because they need less cooling then the cramped quarters of miniTx.
  • 0 Hide
    GreaseMonkey_62 , April 8, 2014 11:53 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The Gigabyte Brix is pretty sweet. Hoping to get my hands on one soon to replace the family computer.
    Quote:

    I initially thought the same, but a look at the pricing leaves me less convinced, especially the international pricing. I'm now much more interested in Sapphire's 4" x 4" motherboards, and any devices that will use them, as AMD's APUs are IMO much better value for money for tiny devices like that. In fact I think some actual units were announced on this site not that long ago but I can't remember who was making them so I can't find a link.
    Quote:

    There is an AMD APU version of the Brix that I'm definitely interested in.

  • 0 Hide
    Matt087_48 , April 15, 2014 4:47 PM
    We are approaching the point of diminishing returns i'm afraid at least for a while
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