Xi3 Shows Off Beautiful Modular Computers at CES 2013

Although Xi3 made CES headlines for other things this week, the company has some tasty wares to show off in the form of its unique modular computers, and we got a firsthand look.

There are just a handful of models in the lineup thus far, but despite their small size, these machines pack a wallop. The X7A is the highest end unit in the group and should offer dual- or quad-core APUs (up to the 3.2GHz R-464L) with up to HD 7660G graphics (supporting a max resolution of 4096x2160) and 384 programmable cores.

What sets Xi3’s computers apart is the modularity of the devices. Essentially, the motherboard is split into three smaller boards, each with a different purpose and set of chips. For example, one will hold the APU and heatsink; one will handle primarily graphics I/O, sporting connectors such as HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, mSATA, and power; and the other has all the primary I/O ports including eSATA and USB and also has the storage SSDs. (Their monikers are the “processor board”, “secondary I/O board”, and “primary I/O board”, respectively.

Xi3 booth
Xi3's booth at CES 2013

The two I/O modules snap into the processor board at right angles. If and when the time comes to update or upgrade components (including the APU), users can simply buy new board modules directly from Xi3 and just pop them in.

X5A's modules

 The computers can also be mounted just about anywhere, allowing users to put them in servers racks, embed them in systems, or attach them to just about any surface you wish to use. To expand the storage capabilities of an Xi3 box, you can add an external hard drive (called the SLID3) as another sort of module.

Xi3 X5A   Xi3 X5A   Xi3 X5A
Xi3's X5A, and with external SLID3 

Despite the fact that technically Xi3’s computers are small form factor affairs, the company isn’t trying to find a niche in the adorable computing market here; instead, these are designed primarily for high performance (be it gaming or workstation applications), power efficiency, and flexibility.

SLID3 external hard drive

Also, as you may have noticed, they’re definitely eye candy.