With Project Ara, Google and Motorola introduced the concept of building your own custom smartphone from interchangeable parts. Need a bigger battery? Just add one. A higher-resolution camera? Add that, too.
Now, the same concept is coming to the desktop with Acer’s Revo Build, a small computer that can be expanded by stacking additional parts on top of it. Acer unveiled the Revo Build at the Ifa technology conference in Berlin on Wednesday.
The core computer, a small unit about 5 inches by 5 inches by 2 inches, contains an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor and 8 GB of RAM and will cost about $300. It can then be upgraded by stacking additional modules on top of it.
Acer said customers will be able to add a 500 GB or 1 TB hard drive, a battery bank to run the PC when it’s not plugged in or charge mobile devices wirelessly, a block with speakers and a microphone (which doubles as an audio player on its own), and a graphics processor for gaming or other visually intensive applications.
Besides the base unit, Acer hasn’t said when any of the modules will be available or how much they’ll cost.
Traditional desktop PCs can be upgraded, but the process requires opening a case and digging through wires to install or remove parts. Acer’s approach uses pins on the top and bottom of each module to connect it to the others, so a new piece can be added simply by stacking it on top of the existing computer. There’s less risk of breaking something while performing an upgrade if you’re just adding a block to a tower, the company says.
That said, the Revo Build may be better suited for emerging markets than for gamers looking for a high-end, upgradeable rig. The base processor doesn’t use Intel’s Core series of processors, so it isn’t particularly powerful, and 8 GB of RAM isn’t a very high ceiling. Acer also hasn’t given any details about the graphics module, so there’s no way of telling how powerful it will be.
Acer hopes there's demand in parts of the world for an affordable core computer that can be upgraded without fuss, which explains why the company is releasing the Revo Build initially in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, then offering it in China at the end of the year. It’ll be available in the US later on, the company says.