Building your own computer is starting to come back in style thanks to initiatives like Phonebloks and Google's Project Ara, and now Acer is bringing that idea to the desktop. It's introducing a new PC today called the Revo Build Series, which starts as a small core block and can then be built upon by adding new bricks on top of it. Imagine having a vertical tower of Lego pieces, only with every piece you add, the tower gains a new ability.
Blocks include speakers, a projector, and a wireless charging dock
Acer calls these add-ons "blocks." It'll initially be offering blocks with a 500GB hard drive, a 1TB hard drive, a wireless charging dock, a speaker unit, a GPU, a projector, and a microphone. Additional blocks will be "rolled out gradually," but Acer doesn't say how often or what's coming next. It doesn't even say the price of these blocks yet.
People have always been able upgrade their own computers, but it's always required a bit of know-how and daring to open up a PC case and risk breaking something. Acer's Revo Build Series offers that kind of upgradability, but in a way that ought to be much easier than cracking open a PC. The downside is that you're highly limited by what it offers. And what Acer offers is limited right from the start.
This is a tiny PC — it begins as a 4.92-inch by 4.92-inch brick that's 2.2 inches tall — and perhaps that's part of why it doesn't go all out on power. It includes either an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor, so this isn't going to be a particularly capable machine no matter how you upgrade it. It maxes out at 8GB of RAM, and it isn't stated how powerful that graphics block is going to be. That base also includes three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, an SD card reader, and a headphone / microphone jack.
Acer isn't the first to come up with the idea of a modular PC, but it might have the first high-profile, consumer-focused one to market. Razer announced similar ambitions with a concept called Project Christine, but it isn't clear if it's going anywhere yet. However, the Revo Build Series' first core unit, the M1-601, will go on sale starting this October. It'll initially be available in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with prices starting at €199; then in December, it'll arrive in China with prices beginning at ¥1,999. It's supposed to head to the US eventually, too. Acer seems to suggest that more powerful core blocks could arrive in the future, but this machine seems to be designed for emerging markets where an affordable and easily upgradable computer could take off.
A bunch of laptops and an all-in-one are being announced today, too
In addition to the Revo Build Series, Acer is introducing one other desktop PC and a number of laptops and convertibles. Called the Aspire U5-710, the desktop is a 23.8-inch all-in-one with a 1080p touchscreen display, a Core i5 or i7 processor, and up to 16GB of RAM. It's a pretty nice looking, vaguely futuristic machine, although it doesn't appear to be nearly as slim or be built nearly as well as the iMac. It'll also include a RealSense 3D camera. The Aspire U5-710 will go on sale in October for €999, and it too doesn't have a North American launch date yet.
Several Acer laptops are headed for North America soon, however. Acer's lineup of Windows 10 machines is toplined by the Aspire V Nitro series, which includes 15-inch and 17-inch models. Both sizes have a baseline 1366 x 768 resolution and some type of Core i5 processor from Intel's new Skylake line, but they can be upgraded to become far more powerful. They top out with specs like an Ultra HD display, a Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, a GeForce graphics card, and a RealSense camera.
Connectivity isn't usually a highlight feature on a laptop, but it is here. For one, the V Nitro series includes a USB Type-C port, which isn't too useful at the moment but is quickly taking off. On a more powerful version of the laptops, which are being called the Black Editions, those ports also support the Thunderbolt 3 standard, so they can be used to transfer data at speeds up to 40Gbps. All models in the V Nitro series will also include 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi with multiuser MIMO — a tech that allows it to more efficiently transfer data — all of which should allow it to transfer data at up to three times the speeds of earlier products with 802.11ac, according to Acer.
So many Windows 10 machines
A lower-end laptop is being introduced too. The Aspire V 13 starts with a 1366 x 768 display and an i3 processor. It can be upgraded to include a 1080p touchscreen and 16GB of RAM. It also includes a USB Type-C port and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with multiuser MIMO. The laptop is supposed to get up to 8 hours of battery life, whereas the more powerful models are between 5 hours and 8 hours. This model sells for much cheaper, beginning at $599. The V Nitro series begins at $999 for the 15-inch model and at $1,099 for the 17-inch model. All three will be available in North America beginning this October.
In addition to its Aspire V laptops, Acer is introducing several new Windows 10 machines with more interesting form factors. The Aspire R 13 is a convertible with a display that can be flipped over the keyboard so that it can be used like a tablet. It has a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, a 1080p or Quad HD display, and up to 8GB of RAM. The R 13 also includes the same connectivity features as the Aspire V machines. Additionally, there's the Aspire Switch 10 V and 10 E, two convertible Windows 10 machines that can work as a laptop or break free from their keyboard to become a tablet. These are low-power systems with 10-inch displays, Atom processors, and 2GB of RAM. The R 13 will go on sale in October for $899, but Acer gave no pricing or availability for the Switch line.
Finally, Acer is announcing a pair of notebooks as part of its Predator gaming line, but you can read about those in another article.