[Step 3] Time to get plugged in

#1


Hey community,

New step, going over what was discussed in the previous step, not as text-heavy as the last one.

Summary of Step 2 results

Like some of the recent project steps, we’ve also shared the questions in a survey outside of the community. Unlike previous results, we were surprised to find only one major difference: almost half the respondents didn’t care about external GPUs, as opposed to only one out of six community voters. It’s nice to see the survey outcomes so similar, as it shows that the community’s opinions reflect those of a wider audience!

Modularity is key

In all categories, the modular options showed a clear win over the soldered options, even when the modular options didn’t offer significant gains in performance. This shows us that a core design consideration for our mini-PC should be the ability to modify, repair, or upgrade. It takes up a little bit of extra space, but it extends the useful life of the product.

  • :+1: That sounds about right
  • :-1: That doesn’t sound right

0 voters

As much performance as we can pack into it

We had expected big support for desktop-grade processing power, but we were surprised by the overwhelming majority that chose a dedicated graphics processor. Even though offering the option of eGPUs through Thunderbolt 3 made some people reconsider the need for built-in graphics horsepower, most people who initially opted for a dedicated GPU stuck with their choice even with this add-on option available. We will focus on finding solutions that offer this combination of power, which will include both CPU+GPU combinations and APUs.

  • :+1: That sounds about right
  • :-1: That doesn’t sound right

0 voters

Fast storage first, extra space later

The solitary 2.5" expansion bay was an unpopular choice in the storage category. Clearly people have embraced using the smaller M.2 form factor for faster solid-state system drives. That said, there is still some support for a 2.5" bay as well as an M.2 slot.

This shows that though people are done with booting from a slow mechanical hard drive, they may still want to add cheap mass storage alongside a fast boot SSD. M.2 is a must, and if we can fit it in, a 2.5" bay is a nice extra.

  • :+1: That sounds about right
  • :-1: That doesn’t sound right

0 voters

Project code name

The most popular name seems to have been ‘Mini-V’, a play on Mini-Me and the V. Though it’s a fun one, we think this name suggests a relation to the V, which is a very different kind of product. To avoid confusion, we’ve had to disqualify it. With the names that didn’t really pick up scrapped as well, that brings us to a shortlist of three names for a final vote!

The original pitches for these names:
  • Project: Genie
  • Project: Quantum
  • Project: Pluto

0 voters

Step 3: What will we be plugging in?

It’s time to talk ports! So far, we’ve been holding up the Intel NUC and Apple Mac mini as the examples of the kind of device we’re trying to create (and improve upon!). So let’s have a look at what they offer in terms of connectivity:

- Intel NUC Apple Mac mini
USB Type C 1x, with support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort 1.2 4x, with support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort
USB Type A 4x, with support for USB3.1 Gen 2 2x, with support for USB3.1 Gen 1
network 1x Gigabit Ethernet, AC WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 1x Gigabit Ethernet, AC WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0
graphics 1x HDMI 2.0a 1x HDMI 2.0
audio 1x 3.5mm output, built-in microphone array 1x 3.5mm in- & output

Overall, they seem to agree on a lot: graphics output through HDMI, wired and wireless networking… until we get to USB ports. This isn’t the first contest between Type A and Type C, and we’re sure it won’t be the last. Even so, the choices these companies made seem to make sense when you take into account the ecosystem in which they are used. For example, a Mac mini user is more likely to use an Apple keyboard and mouse over Bluetooth so there is less need for Type A ports, and there are fewer Thunderbolt accessories aimed at the Windows market so the NUC user would have less need for Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Of course that’s just a guess, and we’re much more interested in hearing what you guys are looking for!

USB

USB Type-A has been in use since the late 90’s, and has been used since to connect just about any peripherals, living up to the ‘universal’ in its name. USB Type-C has recently been making waves, offering a smaller, reversible connector and improved options for speed, power delivery, and the ability to send and receive protocols other than USB, like Power Delivery, Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort. The benefits and drawbacks of the two types of USB port have been discussed vigorously, including in this community. But what ports do you think should be on your mini-PC?

  • My mini-PC should have USB Type-A ports
  • My mini-PC should have USB Type-C ports
  • My mini-PC should have USB Type-C ports with support for Thunderbolt 3
  • My mini-PC should have USB Type-C ports with support for USB-PD output

0 voters

Network

A Gigabit ethernet port is the modern standard for wired networking, though some (particularly those who rely on network shared storage) may be looking at 10 Gigabit networking solutions – expensive as those still are at this time. On the other hand, there will be those who consider any wired network connection so last millennium and feel that the future is wireless. What camp are you in?

  • My mini-PC should have 1Gb ethernet
  • My mini-PC should have WiFi
  • My mini-PC should have Bluetooth
  • My mini-PC should have 10Gb ethernet and am willing to pay a significant premium

0 voters

Graphics

For over a decade, a computer needed a VGA output and you could connect just about any monitor. And in the age of bulky analog CRT screens that made perfect sense. But when your computer generates a digital image signal and your monitor expects a digital image signal to drive the panel, why still convert the signal to analog and back just to send it? As is often the case though, not everyone always agrees when coming up with new standards, and so we’re left with a variety of protocols and connectors to connect screens to a computer.

HDMI is most dominant on TVs and AV equipment, and for a long time DVI was the de-facto digital connector for PC monitors before DisplayPort, a smaller and easier to physically implement connector came along. Finally, USB Type-C can also carry a video signal. How do you connect your screen?

  • My mini-PC should still have a VGA port
  • My mini-PC should have a DVI port
  • My mini-PC should have an HDMI port
  • My mini-PC should have a DisplayPort
  • My mini-PC should have video output over USB-C

0 voters

Legacy

Even though most keyboards and mice are nowadays connected through the ubiquitous USB port, some people still swear by using a PS/2 port, due to the way the signal is processed differently from USB. And though most consumers haven’t had a use for the 9-pin RS-232 serial or ‘COM’ port, industrial automation systems, scientific instruments, and point of sales systems may still rely on these ports, making them a common occurrence still mostly on computers aimed at the business market. Do you still have need of such legacy connectivity?

  • My mini-PC should still have a PS/2 port
  • My mini-PC should still have a COM port

0 voters

Let us know!

Did we miss any important ports that you really need? How many of your chosen ports do you think should be there? As always, keep in mind that space is at a premium in the mini-world, so any port you choose may come at the cost of another!

4 Likes
[Step 2] Size doesn't matter?
#3

What is a ballpark cost of the “significant premium” for 10GB ethernet?

3 Likes
#4

The results sound really nice. I have a last question regarding to the “Graphics”:

“My mini-PC should have video output over USB-C” does this mean that we get an additional USB-C port with DP support or is it the USB-C port with TB3 and DP support?

Edit: Could we get the options that we don’t want the legacy ports?

4 Likes
#5

In the last question, as there is no “my mini-PC should not have any of those legacy ports” option, it looks like everyone wants a PS/2 port. I don’t, but my only option was to not vote at all.

16 Likes
#6

True… no need to either!
I want it small and I want it modern. If I need those I will go for rasperry!

4 Likes
#7

raspberry pi has neither

#8

I haven’t voted either, for this exact reason: i don’t want any COM/PS/2 ports. Maybe this option should be added to the poll!

12 Likes
#9

Having used a NUC for a couple of years now, I love the size (portability), power and the ability to upgrade and add to it.

My only complaint is the fan noise of my particular device.

I only need a good screen and keyboard & mouse (I always carry a mouse) at my destinations to use it.

It occurred to me yesterday that if a small “hi res” projector could be built into a Mini-PC then the portability will be enhanced all the more and you would only need to take a small plastic screen or use a light coloured wall in front of the table.

(And maybe a small folding keyboard or similar. I know their are many small soft or folding keyboards out there now in the market, and these will only make this project stronger and more feasible)

I offer this as target or possibility for this awesome design group forum to try and find a solution.
Then we’d be the best Mini-PC on the market.

4 Likes
#10

this projector thing is something I think about long time… but its a feature which is too expensive to build it into the miniPC. and its always a hard fight against the surrounding light with a mini projector. So nobody gets really lucky with it. Just too much compromises. Another reason not to implement it is the heat a projector is producing. its too much for a miniPC. But as a portable extra device I would like to have one… There’s maybe a chance in the next round…

6 Likes
#11

Having a projector would be really nice. I agree though that as an add-on module would be better. Plus, then you could use it with other devices…like the V.:grin:

2 Likes
#12

Yes, I agree completely.

And projectors are getting smaller and more portable than ever. As a Mini PC separate accessory or module it would ideal.

4 Likes
#13

Someone has to say it, so…
Forget the projector.
:grimacing::blush::heart:

3 Likes
#14

Don’t ruin our fun Ervin! We know it’s a longshot and not on any list of priorities…ok. Let a fellow dream a little! :wink:

2 Likes
#15

My bad, my bad, my GIANT BAD😞

#16

what kind of apu will u be using?
what can be a comparison to the specific APU if it were a dedicated GPU?

#17

Since no specific hardware was chosen yet, you can still add your wishes :slight_smile:

There will be further votes in the future that will go deeper into the topic as soon as Eve knows which hardware they can source and how much space they have

2 Likes
#18

I just want to add that I believe a desktop PC should still have an Ethernet port because there are security scenarios where Wi-Fi may not be used.

I realize this is a consumer product, but if you wanted to market it to companies at some point, having an Ethernet port could be a plus.
I also like it because it’s good for redundancy. Usually wired connections are good for troubleshooting purposes.

5 Likes
#19

I agree, Ethernet is a must. The majority voted for it though, so I see no problems with it not happening :wink:

The PS/2 and COM ports are really outdated by now and would waste space on such a small device imo. If someone still needs them (which should be a minority - I know of lab equiment that still utilizes these) there are adapters.

1 Like
#20

Zotac is planning to release a mini-pc with quite some power. Link for anyone interested.