[Step 1] A big step for a small computer

#1

Hey community,

It’s finally time to begin the last of the four projects we’ll be introducing this month, and that is of course the Eve mini-PC! After all, if a whole modern computer can fit inside of your laptop, why does your desktop still need such a big tower? We were surprised by the support for this category, but we think that together with you we can create an awesome product to grace your desk. Or will it be in your living room, or stuck to the back of your Eve monitor? Let’s discuss and find out as we go along!

Setting the scope

Of course, there’s mini, and then there’s mini. So before we start, let’s have a look and see what we’ll be creating here!

Because the shapes of computers differ, we’ll use liters to express their volume in the following examples. As it’s the product of their height, width and depth it’ll allow us to quickly summarize the total amount of space they take up regardless of their actual shape.

“This PC is too small,” said Goldilocks.

On one end of the spectrum we have tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi 3. With a total volume of less than 0.2 liters, it definitely is tiny. And though it packs a quad-core processor, wired and wireless networking, and a nice selection of IO, it is also limited to a single gigabyte of RAM and doesn’t have any storage other than the option to add a micro-SD card.

Though it can --and indeed is-- used for a wide range of purposes, we can’t really consider it a modern desktop PC experience. Amazing as these tiny PCs are, the ubiquitous Pi is already a very affordable product that gets the job done, and so we do not see Eve entering that particular market.

“And this PC is too big…”

On the other end of the spectrum are the smallest of the big computers: computers built using mini-ITX mainboards, that still offer room for powerful graphics cards and a host of storage options. The smallest one we were able to find in this category clocked in just short of 7.5 liters in volume. At this size though, it still fits a variety of performance components and can measure up against its bigger peers, even though it’s only a sixth the size of the ‘mid-sized’ computer on my desk right now!

That is certainly impressive. But as they use standard components, every configuration imaginable is already available for the price of the parts – or a little more if you want it built for you by a boutique builder. That makes it very hard for Eve to add something unique to the market, and so we’ll also not be aiming for a product in this category.

“…but this one is just right!

In between those two lies a very interesting area. Increasing the size a bit from the Pi we can make a computer that can deliver a premium modern desktop PC experience, and leaving out some of the more space-hogging expansion options lets us shrink the computer significantly. The end result is more in line with what we’ve set as the examples for the category in our survey: the Intel NUC and Mac mini.

With volumes of only 0.5 and 1.4 liters respectively, these are complete computers with modern processors and the capacity for plenty of RAM and fast storage. Now, NUCs are barebone systems and require additional components and some end-user know-how to get them set up. The Mac mini is ready to go out of the box, but isn’t a Windows device (unless the end user installs it through Bootcamp) and carries the Apple tax.

We think that if we work with you, our community, we can come up with an amazing mini-PC in the 1–2.5 liter range that most desktop users would be proud to have on their desk!

What this means

At this size, we won’t have room for a full-fat graphics card. That doesn’t just save us a lot of space that would be taken up by the card itself, but also additional space for airflow, cabling, and a beefier power supply. The trade-off is that the Eve mini-PC won’t be a gaming beast that tears through triple-A gaming titles at maxed out settings. It does potentially leave room for a dedicated graphics processor, so if that’s what you guys decide on that option will still be on the table.

Another big space-hog that we’ll have to do without is a 3.5" desktop-grade hard drive. That means that the Eve mini-PC won’t be a server for massive amounts of data. If you guys opt for including room for a 2.5" bay though, that leaves room for a notebook-grade hard drive – and those are currently available with capacities of up to 5TB!

Then of course there is Thunderbolt 3! If we include that in our selection of IO, you’ll be able to connect lightning-fast external storage, or an external GPU. Something to keep in mind for when you really need that extra power…

So what kind of performance or upgradability will there be? We’ll dive deeper into that in Step 2. But before we decide on what we need, we’ll need to determine what we need it for. Time to dive into the use case!

Let’s get this process started!

This is where the fun really starts. It’s time to get this show on the road!

:fire: What is the HEAVIEST task that you will use your Eve mini-PC for?

The following options are roughly arranged in order of the resource requirement from your computer. A computer suited for any of these tasks will generally be able to handle any off the tasks above it as well. Because of that we do not want to know what you’ll use it for most often, but the most demanding task you’ll put it to. So from all the tasks you intend to use your mini-PC for, pick the one farthest down the list!

  • Light office work
    (internet browsing, e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations)
  • Media playback
    (high-definition audio or video)
  • Heavy office work
    (extreme spreadsheets, complex presentations with animations)
  • Sound editing
    (sound mixing, music production)
  • Image editing
    (retouching or editing photos, digital drawing and painting)
  • Gaming
    (e-sports games, older games, maybe newer games on low settings)
  • Video editing
    (cutting and editing movies, transcoding video files)
  • Other, I’ll leave a comment

0 voters

:fire: Why would you choose a mini-PC over a traditional desktop PC?

  • A mini-PC takes up less space on my desk
  • A mini-PC is easier to stow away out of sight
  • A mini-PC just looks better
  • A mini-PC is easier to carry around so I can use it in different locations
  • Other, I’ll leave a comment

0 voters

:fire: What do you think is wrong with the mini-PCs currently on the market?

  • They’re too expensive
  • They’re too ugly
  • They’re not powerful enough for my use case
  • They’re not small enough
  • They’re lacking in IO
  • They’re not modular or upgradable enough
  • They’re not running my desired OS
  • Other, I’ll leave a comment

0 voters

Conclusion

That’s all for now! In the next step we’ll take a deeper dive into size, modularity and upgradability, performance, and price. We’re excited to see your thoughts on the project!

P.S. Code name ideas for this project? Comment below! :star_struck:

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Tell us what you think about mini-PCs
Ideas needed: Pluto, Genie, Spectrum? Project names & communities you follow!
[Step 2] Size doesn't matter?
#2

My recommendation for the project codename?

Project: Genie

phenomenal-cosmic-power-gif-10
Because it fits phenomenal cosmic powers …into an itty bitty living space!

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#6

I’m quite happy with my NUC8I7BEH. It has enough Power (i7 up to 4.5 ghz) and Iris Plus Graphic, is very small and has on I/O what I need and want (Thunderbolt3, USB-C, at least 4 USB-A).
What it lacks is a better cooling system. I would trade in some space for just a bit beefier Cooler in a second. It doesn’t need to be passiv (there are competitors but it’s expensive to build a small computer passiv). But just a tad more Copper and a little bigger fan would make such a huge difference. You would produce less noice and get even more out of the cpu (no throttling).
So from my point of view, my perfect little computer is indeed a little bigger than a nuc, because of the coolingsystem but without being more expensive.
Oh and of course, even I don’t need it at the moment, more I/O ports are always welcome!

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#7

(Topic updated to reflect @ToreS’ superior knowledge of mathematical terminology to mine :slight_smile:)

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#8

I’m mainly looking for a real competitor to the Nvidia Shield, which is running dated hardware but still is top class when it comes to android TV boxes.

Android TV basically has everything I’d need from a mini PC. I’m to much of an power user to use mini PC’s for anything else than a media server. And even that isn’t really my intended use. I prefer to have a dedicated full-tower/rack server for my media concerns, as well as possible gaming servers. I am curious about what people use their mini-pc’s for though.

Creating VESA holes in it, with XL screws would be something interesting though, that way you can stick it to nearly any monitor and create a AIO.

And here is the mandatory idiotic idea; Optional watercooling quick connects on the outside, so I can make a custom watercooling radiator/pump stowed away somewhere even away from the mini PC.

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#9

:blush: :blush::blush::blush:

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#10

Mainly looking for a mini-pc that has a powerful CPU and good cooling. Integrated graphics or a cheap discreet GPU would be fine as long as there is a thunderbolt port since I already have an eGPU.

I would love to get a premium NUC or some of mini-pcs that are out there but they are so costly even before buying the additional components. I believe that Eve can do it without having to compromise the features to heavily in order to keep the cost lower than the competition.

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#11

I’m looking for a better price point and modularity, modularity, modularity! I think that all of the different things we want (power, upgradability cooling, etc.) become achievable through modularity.

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#12

maybe I am too old-fashioned but I still need a CD drive - so I guess I am out here other than getting a multimedia hub for the living room. Last year I bought a Shuttle SH370R6 http://global.shuttle.com/main/productsDetail?productId=2265 - for me a perfect choice…

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#13

Maybe there could be a module for that or just a Sata bay chassis addon that you can put the drive of your choice in.

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#14

I want a desktop counterpart to my V. My V can’t handle heavy-load tasks (gaming) that I can on my desktop, but I’d prefer something smaller than a massive case for my “main” PC that does light-to-moderate gaming (MMOs, only 1080p gaming), but is smaller, and still has enough “oomph” in the graphics department.

And power consumption. That’s always a plus if it sips the watts.

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#15

Like others, I am quite happy with the Intel NUC but wouldn’t mind a little bigger for better ventilation. I will be using it as a small development sever and thus, Linux compatibility would be crucial. Expecting to use the TB3 under Linux for expanding the capacity or capability (I am assuming it is available).

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#16

Like some of the others I have been using a NUC i5 for a few years, mainly used as a video editing machine with SSD. Looking for something that with more TB3 ports 2+ and with Iris Graphics or better and can support two 4K monitors without issues and minimum memory support of 32Gb with an 8th Gen i7 3.5Ghz+.

One other additions, it would be great if I could dual boot with macOS (Hackintosh) :wink:

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#17

I would LOVE to have a modern day Android TV box that had built in blu-ray and hardware 4k decoding for streaming.

Alternatively as far as pc is concerned, anything that beats the Hades canyon without sacrifice is a good bar to jump for.

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#18

For android TV box without a bluray but with just about everything under the hood including 4K … check out nVidia’s shield

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#19

Exactly this for me 2020

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#20

One warning I have for a mini PC of this size is that the smaller we go, the more custom PCBs and form factors we will be working with which translates to less user upgradeability of anything except the RAM and storage. With that said, if we used a full size desktop CPU socket on a custom ultra small motherboard, and a laptop max-q form factor graphics card, I think we are on to something, especially if Eve offered these max-q gpus as a sort of plug in module on the side. Much smaller than an actual e-gpu enclosure.

1 Like

#21

For me I just want something powerful enough to do run some decent emulation of older consoles run Microsoft office and Firefox. I don’t think that anyone buying a mini pc is going to care that much about really hardware intensive applications. Stuff like gaming and rendering are never going to be able to perform great without a gpu, and definitely will throttle without some amazing engineering wizardry. Also, if that’s important to a person they probably already have a full size pc more powerful than what a mini pc can reasonably offer. Given the hefty price of the Mac mini and to a lesser extent the Nuc, the Eve mini pc will probably find more success in the lower end market as something that’s very portable for people who travel, and as a home theater device much more powerful than something like the amazon fire stick or any android tv device.
Also if it was hackintoshable that would be nice. Of course Eve couldn’t officially do that, though if the components just so happened to compatible, it would definitely be convenient.

Also maybe the Eve Nano? I think that something with an inverted orange “V” as a logo would look very cool and keep up with the previous branding

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#22

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#23

So I meant this to reply to the other topic on mini-PCs, but I was a day late. (been quite busy lately with work!) I think it fits here as well, so here it goes:


  • Describe yourself as a user. What do you use your mini-PC for?

  • I would use it as my main desktop computer. I usually use this to keep tabs on monthly expenses, run iTunes, Firefox, and sometimes use it for video editing.



  • What mini-PC are you using now? What made you choose this one?

  • I do not currently use a mini-PC but I have been watching them from afar for the past 8 months because my laptop I bought in college is nearly 6 years old and is showing its age. I do not want to replace it with another laptop because I don’t even use the current machine as a laptop anymore - it has become a desktop. I want to regain some desk space by replacing the machine with another monitor and a mini-desktop.



  • If you were to buy a new mini-PC today, which one would you choose and why?

  • I would go with an Intel NUC because I’ve heard good things about the quality, and it’s somewhat customizeable. It also is a brand I trust, and there are few PC makers I trust anymore, and even fewer that make mini-PCs.



  • What do you think are the common shortcomings for mini-PCs currently on the market, and is there a unique value or innovation that Eve & the community could bring?

  • Not enough ports on some of the current machines. That’s one more reason I like the NUC as opposed to other desktops I’ve seen.
  • NEARLY ALL the current mini-desktops are underpowered! They run some form of mobile processor instead of a full-blown desktop processor. I understand there can be heat dissipation issues, but many of the mini-desktops run worse processors than a Microsoft Surface. In a desktop computer, I would expect much better than that.
  • As for innovations, I think it would be nice to see one with a couple of USB-C ports that worked as thunderbolt/display hookups, so items like monitors could be daisy-chained off of one port. Not sure entirely how that works, but would be nice. It would also be greatly appreciated to be able to support 2-3 monitors - I would not buy a desktop that can’t support at least 2 monitors these days.
  • For Value, I would hope it could come in at the sub-$500 price point for a base model, and maybe even sub-$300 if it was running a Core i3 processor. Personally though, buying a machine like this, I’d only want an i5 or better processor (again, at least as powerful as what’s inside an Intel NUC or Microsoft Surface).




  • Recommendations for project code name?
  • Project mini™️
  • Project micro
  • Project Tater Tot [haha, because it’s small]
  • Project Diamond [strong, powerful item in a small, beautiful package]
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