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!
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)
(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
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
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
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!