Acer unveils 'building block' Revo computer

By Leo Kelion
Technology desk editor

Image source, Acer
Image caption,
Acer unveiled its new computer at Berlin's Ifa tech show

Acer has unveiled a desktop PC whose parts are designed to be fitted together like building blocks.

The idea behind the Revo Build is to make it easy to customise a computer without having to unscrew parts of its body to install new components or connect it to other kit via cables.

A series of pins at the top and bottom of each part allows them to be stacked and connected together.

The concept echoes an approach others are taking to mobiles.

"Various companies have modular phones in the works that will allow you to snap on extra features," commented Chris Green, at tech consultant at Davies Murphy Group.

Image source, Acer
Image caption,
Acer has invited members of the public to suggest new blocks

"Google has Project Ara and there's some interesting start-ups as well.

"It's logical to extend the idea to desktop PCs. A modular PC for a gamer would be perfect as it would let them add in extra capabilities without having to get their hands dirty.

"They currently have to crack open the case and fiddle around with cables and wires."

Mr Green noted, however, that the introductory base units had relatively limited processing power - they initial choice will be between Intel's Celeron and Pentium processors rather than its Core family of chips - which might limit their appeal to gaming enthusiasts.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Google has delayed sales of Project Ara smartphones until at least 2016

Swappable parts

Acer unveiled the machine at Berlin's Ifa tech show.

The Taiwanese firm said that when the product goes on sale in October, the cheapest base unit - containing a processor and eight gigabytes of RAM - would cost £199.

Initially, the only add-on part will be a 500GB or one terabyte portable hard drive.

But over the following months the firm plans to release:

  • A Power Bank, that can be used to run the PC when it is not plugged in or charge compatible mobile phones
  • An Audio Block, adding speakers and a microphone. The firm said this could also work as a portable music player when detached from the unit
  • A Graphics Block, to improve the quality of video games and handling of other image-intensive processes

It said each of the blocks was designed to work independently or with other PCs.

The company's chief executive Jason Chen also invited users to suggest ideas for new modules to Acer.

Image source, Acer
Image caption,
The computer parts use a pogo pins system to connect together

"It's easy for users to add things as they need them, [it provides] flexibility and a sense of empowerment that they can build a system themselves," commented Intel's Kirk Skaugen, who was invited on stage for the launch.

Although the pricing of the add-on blocks has yet to be announced, users are likely to pay a premium for the freedom to easily swap parts in and out.

That investment might only make sense if Acer remains committed to developing the new ecosystem over the long-term, and there is no way of knowing whether this will be the case.

"Two to three months down the line, customers should have no problems customising their machine, but obviously three to four years on it could be a different matter," noted Mr Green.

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