TAIWAN: CHIPMAKER Intel took to the Computex trade show in Taipei this week to show off its credit card-sized PC - the 'Compute Card' - announcing that it would finally make it into the hands of users this August.
Aimed at those looking to upgrade Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the device was announced at CES this year and follows on from the not-quite-as-small Intel Compute Stick. It still, however, has all of the components that you'd expect to find in a PC including an integrated system-on-chip (SoC), RAM, storage and wireless connectivity.
Lucky, we were in town so were able to meet Intel for an exclusive briefing to see the Compute card in action across a range of OEM's prototype devices as well as find out a little more about the specs and its applications in upcoming designs.
Compute Card in the flesh
Intel's credit-card shaped computer looks and feels exactly like it sounds. It is literally the same size as a bank card but obviously a fair bit fatter, measuring in at around 3.7inx2.2in, and just 5mm thick. It's super light, and would easily fit in a trouser or shirt pocket with ease and without being too noticeable.
It's aluminium finish gives it a very clean and simple look, and in our time testing it out in several OEM's prototype devices, it proved more than satisfying to use. The modular device pops in and out of cases, for example, with 2-in-1s devices of the future that are powered by the Compute Card, you wouldn't have to throw away the case or the screen once the specs have become outdated.
The modular design enables users to simply update the card and keep the rest of the device. And vice versa if the screen or keyboard were to break for instance through water damage; you don't need to replace the whole product, as the Compute is kept separate thanks to the card's slot in functionality.
Before Computex, we didn't know the processor skews or any tailed specifications about the Intel Compute Card. But now we know that the first generation device will come with four different processor options to offer users a variety depending on needs: the Celeron N3450, the Pentium N4200, the Core M3 7th-gen 7Y30 or the 'Kaby Lake" Core i5 7th-gen vPro 7Y57.
While the first two will come bundled with 4GB of DDR 3RAM and 64GB eMMC memory, the more powerful latter options will boast 4GB DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD storage. All options will offer Intel 802.11ac connectivity with Bluetooth 4.2.
In our brief hands-on, we found that across the range of devices on display, the Compute card performed just like any other Windows 10 laptop or desktop device, appearing smooth and powering all the standard apps you'd expect to see on Windows with ease. The Compute Card is aimed at developers and businesses looking to integrate a computer with an Intel processor into smart devices, such as interactive refrigerators, smart kiosks, security cameras and IoT gateways.
In the briefing we attended with Intel, we were able to see the Compute Card being implemented in a variety of prototype machines and references designs from diferent OEMs. Each have used compute card slots in their devices, showing different ways of incorporating it. Sharp, for example, was showing off digital signage while Seneca and Foxconn were using the Compute Card in mini PCs. There was also a docking system to use the card with existing monitors or devices.
LG had a monitor on display where the Compute Card slots in the side to turn it into an all-in-one desktop, and Smart Tech, who are looking to boost the education sector, are using the card in 2-in-1 laptops - so when the shell breaks they don't need to replace the compute aspect - we well as interactive whiteboards.
Device makers simply design a standard Intel Compute Card slot into their device and then utilise the best Intel Compute Card for their performance and price needs. Intel said this is favourable as it reduces the time and resources needed to design and validate the compute block and helps speed up innovation to bring the power of intelligence into an ever wider range of devices.
Intel says it's already working with hardware partners including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sharp, InFocus and a number of others.
The Intel Compute Stick will be available from August this year, although pricing details remain under wraps for now. µ