Xi3 modular computer hits Kickstarter

The idea that PCs aren’t upgradable may come as news to long-time tech enthusiasts who are used to building and modding their own rigs.

Then again, the average computer user likely finds the notion of upgrading somewhat difficult, aside from popping in a new video card or more RAM, of course.

Recently, a modular computer known as the Xi3 surfacesd on Kickstarter seeking $250,000 in funding. So far, the project has only 37 backers yet has managed to raise $17,139 with 26 days to go to meet its funding goal. The computer is very small at roughly the size of a grapefruit measuring 4.27 x 3.65 x 3.65-inches.

The little device uses a patented tri-board architecture that replaces the standard computer motherboard allowing the machine to be modular and easily upgraded or repaired. The company plans to offer upgraded I/O boards in the future with new components and connectors to expand the performance capability of the machine. The company claims the modular nature of the computer will facilitate a lifetime of 6 to 10 years – rather than the standard 3-5 years for a traditional PC.

One iteration of the Xi3 modular computer, which is currently available on Newegg, is powered by a dual-core 64-bit processor operating at 1.8 GHz. The machine features 2 GB of RAM,  can be fitted with 16 GB -1 TB of solid-state storage, supports dual monitors and boasts six USB 2.0 ports along with a pair of eSATA ports. The computer is also very green – requiring only 20 W of power operate.

The new entry-level rig on Kickstarter is loaded with s a 1.65GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of SSD storage. Meanwhile, the faster X7A sports a quad-core 64-bit x86 based processor running at 3.2 GHz. The machine is also equipped with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and is capable of supporting up to three high definition displays. This iteration of the Xi3 machine also has four USB 3.0/2.0 ports, four eSATA ports, ethernet, and one terabyte of SSD storage. This machine consumes 40 W of power at full load and can be pre-ordered with an $1103 pledge.

If you like the idea of a modular upgrade path, a pledge of $499 or more will get you one of the initial offerings of the model X5A-5342 Xi3 PC. As noted above, if you want the faster X7A gaming version of the modular computer, you’ll need to pledge at least $1103.

This is an interesting project that seems to be aimed at the non-DIY type or people wanting a small PC. Frankly, any DIY computer you build would be easier and possibly cheaper to upgrade because the Xi3 appears to use proprietary hardware. If you built your own computer – as long as the latest processor supported the same socket your mainboard uses – you can directly upgrade in the vast majority of cases. Then again, there aren’t a whole lot of options out there in terms of building a DIY PC as small as the Xi3.