It's "Project Ara for PCs" is how the Acer Revo Build is talked about. Here we have a mini PC with a footprint of just 125 x 125mm that can be expanded using magnetic 'blocks' that clip on top of one another. So far, so clever.
Let's take the below as an example. The main segment in the middle with the Acer logo is the core PC – it will ship with an Intel Pentium or Intel Celeron processor and is upgradeable to up to 8GB of RAM. Below is a potential graphics chip upgrade, though this is more of a concept right now and Acer makes no mention of what could be inside.
Above the orange accent is a portable hard drive 'block', followed by an audio unit with built-in speakers, and a wireless charging adapter that could charge your phone is the uppermost block. Acer could, in theory, do all sorts of different things beyond these examples, but these are the ones it's starting out with.
But it's hard to glean much more than this from what Acer has told us. How much will these extra blocks cost, could the expandable graphics make this into a serious gaming machine? For a product that's due to go on sale in Europe in October, there's an awful lot we don't know about the Revo Build.
Still, the core design is ingenious in its simplicity. Removing and adding new blocks couldn't be simpler – each one is secured using magnets with metal contacts forming the data connection back to the core PC.
Those blocks can also work independently of the main PC. So, for example, you could disconnect the hard drive, drop it into your bag and access all your data on the move.
This isn't an expensive idea, either. It'll go on sale for just €199, though I assume – for lack of any other info from Acer – that this will cover just the main PC.
Arguably the biggest problem with the idea is simply the type of PC this is. From Acer's perspective it might be a useful way to sell add-ons, but are people spending so little on a basic PC really looking for those kind of upgrade options?
It's a similar argument with the graphics 'block'. The idea of upgrading a PC simply by clipping on a box is brilliant, but what exactly is the point if it's attached to a PC with a aneamic Pentium or Celeron processor?
There's the beginning of a very good idea here, but I'm not convinced Acer has hit on the right niche yet. This idea could work brilliantly as an Alienware Alpha-style mini gaming PC – something that could live in the living room, under the TV, yet be upgraded with a better graphics card when the need arises.
That's something I would buy, but the Revo Build – as it currently stands – is not. Hopefully, Acer will develop the idea in that direction.