It may be a prototype but consider me intrigued. ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) unveiled its Avalon DIY PC prototype and it puts the culture of custom PCs firmly in the ‘anyone’ can assemble it.
For enthusiasts, there are definite pros, but potential deal breaker cons. New to the DIY PC building scene? ASUS is creating one hell of an easy button. And that can only be considered a step in the right direction.
Unveiled at Computex 2016, the Avalon melds the build-it-yourself culture of gaming PCs with the approachability of off-the-shelf PCs. If you’re a gamer, you know the desire to have the best. Your options are pay for the name or sit on Amazon, Newegg, etc. for the latest component deals.
I opted for the DIY approach for our gaming PC. It saves money, and I’ve been building computers since high school. It’s not an overly complicated process, but I can see where people would see the bundle of wires and start heading for Dell or HP.
Let’s get the pros out of the way. It’s finally a modular PC. And ASUS happily points out its position in the market.
“Unlike the purely aspirational concepts often see in the tech industry, this prototype is a working system built on existing technologies that are viable to put into mass production.”
Tell us how you really feel about Project Christine from Razer.
One of the major advantages the Avalon prototype enjoys is port flexibility. The integrated motherboard (more on that in a few) extends to the front of the case. Ports and indicators can be built into the motherboard and you’re not stringing out connectors or extra cables to hook everything up.
Taking a look at the back, the rear I/O panels are modular components you pick to fit the need of your PC. Want a VR-ready machine? There’s an I/O panel for that, along with a home theater and workstation package.
“VR rigs require additional USB ports to connect headsets and controllers, workstations often need faster networking and redundant ports, and home-theater PCs can benefit from upgraded audio,” says Asus.
Each component connects via PCI-E based edge connectors making it about as plug and play as you get in the DIY market.
On the front, you can see the hot-swappable storage. Changing out an SSD is as easy as popping in an old school floppy disks. That’s right kids; we went old school. The storage resides on a daughter card that connects directly to the motherboard inside the Avalon.
Motherboard and GPU
The con of the system is also a pro. An integrated motherboard. Thankfully, it’s a prototype, and the design decisions can change, but if it released today, the system would be locked into the motherboard.
Why is that a problem? CPU design changes would mean different sockets on the motherboard. Also, third-party seems to be left out in the cold unless they start to conform to the design elements introduced by ASUS. Choice is never a bad thing, and it could be manufacturers like EVGA hop on board with the plug-n-play mentality.
One area that doesn’t ditch the wiring are the high-end graphics cards. Additional power cabling will be required, but the Avalon tucks it into its own compartment into the outer edge for cooling purposes. ASUS has hinted that GPU designs could be changed to function with the edge connectors.
That strikes me as a big maybe on the part of companies like Nvidia and AMD. Not out of the realm of possibility, and the semi-DIY approach ASUS is taking with the Avalon is compelling.
Pricing and Release Date?
Zero information on both fronts. The company is firmly in the prototype stage and looking for feedback from the community. The tight integration of components would appeal to a new generation of semi-DIYers, but the hardware lock-in loses me right now.
It’s close to my dream of a true modular PC and an easy button, but the constraints on hardware choices will limit its adoption by experienced builders. But, we aren’t the Avalon’s market. Beginners and new hobbyists are. What do you think? Pricing will be critical if ASUS hopes to capture the market of gamers who want the right rig, but don’t want to destroy a bank account nor do they want the older console hardware.