What will the computer of tomorrow look like? Will we all use tablets? Will our phones be the primary computers we plug into a monitor and keyboard? Sometimes it feels like companies are throwing all possible concepts at the wall to see what sticks.
The mini PC, a more portable computer you could take to a different office set-up if needed, hasn’t taken over the industry but isn’t too outlandish either. The most famous is probably Apple’s Mac Mini but there are far more portable options available now including USB sticks that are computers. A mini PC is essentially a portable box with ports to connect to a monitor and peripherals. It’s a standalone PC with memory, storage, a processor, and wireless connectivity. The weirdest one we’ve seen recently is also a keyboard.
The PiPO KB1 and KB2 are full Windows 10 PCs in the form of keyboards. Notebook Italia were playing around with them at Global Sources Electronics Trade Shows 2016 and they actually look kind of cool:
The KB1 looks like the better mini PC. Being a bit larger it has more room for hardware and extra ports. It also has a trackpad built-in, meaning you don’t need to carry or find a mouse to use your PC. It uses an Intel Atom processor, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64 GB of storage. On the back you can see ports for USB, ethernet, VGA, HDMI, audio, and there’s even an in-built battery. It’s like other mini PCs but you don’t need to carry about a keyboard and mouse. It is a keyboard and mouse.
The smaller KB2 doesn’t have the trackpad but it folds away for better portability. It looks pretty thin for any keyboard, let alone one that’s hiding a Windows 10 PC inside. As a computer it’s the same as the original KB1 with an Intel Atom processor but the port arrangement is different. It loses the VGA but fortunately keeps the HDMI port. An addition is that it uses WiFi for wireless monitor connection if available. Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity means it shouldn’t need too many USB ports but still has a few.
The PiPO keyboard computers aren’t available in stores here yet. The KB1 is available in China and the KB2 will soon launch in Japan. The PiPO mini PCs aren’t the first to take the form of a keyboard but these are smaller, more powerful, and definitely more portable than others. If you’re going to carry a full keyboard on your back you might as well have a laptop. But a tiny little box that unfolds into a keyboard/PC? That’s quite cool. Practical though? It will likely depend on the user. For someone with a monitor and everything else ready at home and the office, a portable PC could be a great idea.
The concept of carrying your PC with you will probably catch on but we’re doubtful that keyboards will be the form factor that brings them into the mainstream. It’s an extra thing to carry. Smartphones make the most sense because most people already carry them and they’re becoming increasingly powerful. Imagine you could sit down at any monitor in a cafe, at an office, or at home, and start using your PC and its local files just by wirelessly connecting the monitor to your phone. It could happen but there will always be a place for dedicated desktops when power is more important than portability.
Main image © Notebook Italia