Mini PC cottage industry, is dead at 6

The Mini PC cottage industry began life in 2001 with the birth of Mini-ITX lived a modest life in certain niche markets, died this year by commoditization.  It was 6 years old.

The Mini PC cottage industry began life in 2001 with the birth of Mini-ITX lived a modest life in certain niche markets, died this year by commoditization.  It was 6 years old.

*

Because of the boutique status of Mini PCs, they commanded hefty premiums over their larger and more capable cousins and sold for twice the money while having only 1/4 the capabilities.  Prices ranged from $500 to $1000 for a silent low-power Mini PC.  But tragedy struck with commoditization this year when Intel launched an all-out price war on Mini-ITX motherboard/CPU market with a new product line geared after the "next billion PC" emerging markets.

The Intel D201GLY is a PC motherboard that's referred to as a MicroATX when it fact it's the same size as Via's popular Mini-ITX motherboard.  The product comes with a "Celeron" Model 215 1.33 GHz CPU with 27 watt TDP (Thermal Design Power) based on a single core version of the "Yonah" processor which is slightly better than a Pentium 4 2 GHz processor.  The processors code-named Yonah because the original Core Duo and Core Solo processors used in laptops and even some servers 10 months before Intel launched its new Core 2 Duo line of processors.

I stopped by Fry's last night and picked up one of these boxes for $69.99 (same price at here) and it was sitting next to a Mini-ITX Motherboard and Via CPU box with slightly better capabilities because of an integrated Firewire port.  One major difference was the fact that the Via product had an extra 1 in front of the price tag selling at $169.99 which was what it usually went for in the glory days of the Mini PC cottage industry.

At IDF this week, Intel showed a newer model called the D201GLY2 with an extra 2 SATA ports in addition to the existing PATA IDE port and it comes with a new Intel "Celeron" Model 220 1.2 GHz processor that can be cooled completely passively.  That would seem to indicate that the new processor is probably in the 10W to 15W TDP range if it can be cooled without an active fan on top of the CPU.  Pricing is expected to be similar to the slightly older D201GLY and should be available soon.

The heat on Via is on and it will undoubtedly force them to drop their prices once these Intel combos costing 2.4 times less begins to really sell in bulk.  Farewell to the days of premium prices for Mini PCs and I can't really say I'll miss them.

* Note that the Mini PC picture shown is actually one of the cheap commodity fanless PCs from eWay from Justin James' review and tutorial.  It's a photo that CNET Networks owns the rights to so it was used as a model for the Mini PC.

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