Trade event shows such as Computex often feature future thinking designs from hardware players, some of which eventually make it to market while others become an obscure footnote in the history of technology. We hope it's the former category that ASUS ROG's Avalon concept falls into because it's one of the most interesting builds we've seen in a long time.
The Avalon represents what ASUS ROG envisions as the future of cable-free PCs. It embraces the modular nature of building systems along with recent advances in technology, the latter of which has led to a rise in small form factor PCs, particularly mini-ITX builds. Avalon also takes advantage of ASUS ROG's hardware prowess.
"While mini-ITX helps PCs squeeze into tighter spaces, it’s still bound by the same basic principles as larger form factors. One of those is that the motherboard is separate from the chassis, a reality born from the fact that case makers usually don’t manufacture motherboards—and vice versa. ASUS does both, which enables new levels of integration that can make PCs easier to assemble and less expensive to build," ASUS ROG explains.
As presently conceived, the Avalon takes a notebook-like approach to desktop design. There aren't a ton of cables in a laptop, and neither are there here. It starts with creating a closer relationship between the motherboard and chassis—one is part of the other, eliminating the sometimes "tedious process" of connecting a case's buttons, LEDs, and front I/O ports. It also means that all buttons and diagnostic LEDs extend to the front and back of the chassis without needing any cable extenders.
That's the foundation while nearly everything else is modular, including the rear I/O that lives on a separate piece that slides into the back of the case. If your needs change—maybe you're getting into VR gaming that requires additional USB ports—you can swap out the rear I/O for a different one with a completely different arrangement of ports.
All of the various modules plug into the motherboard using edge connectors that can pass information through high-speed PCI Express lanes. There are edge connectors throughout the Avalon concept to eliminate as many wires and cables as possible. Even the power supply slides in and attaches via an edge connector.
The Avalon concept also takes advantage of daughter cards. Up front, how swappable storage devices plug into daughter cards, which in turn routes power and signals to the motherboard. In the initial concept, up to four 2.5-inch drives can be installed, plus there's an additional M.2 slot on the main motherboard and an optional one in the modular I/O bay.
Discrete graphics is the only thing ASUS ROG couldn't work its wireless mojo on. Instead of plugging into an edge connector, the graphics card sits in a separate compartment with ample airflow. While it's not quite as modular as other parts of the Avalon, the graphics card is easy to access, should the need arise.
"Our goal with the Avalon concept was to create something that’s right on the edge of what’s possible. Now that we’ve made, we want to see what our industry partners and the community at large thinks about this direction of DIY PCs," ASUS ROG added.
So do we.