Foxconn's new Nano PC family includes some impressive features, but can it compete with the likes of Intel's NUC and the Raspberry Pi?
Foxconn has formally announced its own-brand Nano PC devices, available from September with the buyer's choice of an Intel or AMD processor.
Constructed in a chassis measuring just 190mm x 135mm and a mere 38mm tall, the Nano PC family is Foxconn's answer to the growing interest in low-power compact computing devices as evidenced by the incredible success of the Raspberry Pi single-board computer and Intel's planned Next Unit of Computing (NUC) project.
First, the commonalities. Both announced models of Nano PC include four USB 3.0 - two front, two rear - and two USB 2.0 connectors along with HDMI and DVI video outputs, a gigabit Ethernet port, and front-facing 3.5mm analogue audio input and output jacks. The front of the devices also includes a memory card reader compatible with Sony MemoryStick, SecureDigital and MultiMediaCard (MMC) formats.
Internally, the devices include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity and room for DDR3 SODIMM memory and a 2.5in storage device. This is where the devices differ: sold as bare-bones systems, the AT-5250 will include an Intel Atom D2550 1.86GHz chip with integrated Intel GMA 3650 graphics; the AT-5600, meanwhile, packs an AMD E-450 Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) with integrated Radeon HD 6320 graphics.
Both devices are designed for the absolute lowest power draw possible, with Foxconn claiming either model hits 15W while idle and 24W under load and features totally passive cooling for a silent computing experience - so long as you pack an SSD rather than a spinning-platter hard disk, of course.
Foxconn's entering an ironically crowded market with the Nano PC devices: small-format bare-bones systems are ten a penny these days, and with Intel looking to capture the performance end of the market with NUC and the Raspberry Pi doing quite nicely where power efficiency is valued over raw performance the Nano PCs could struggle to carve themselves a niche. Foxconn's branding doesn't help, either: the company typically performs original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and original design manufacturer (ODM) services for better-known brands like Apple, and where the Foxconn name is known for anything by the general public it's for a series of harrowing news stories about employee suicides
Both the AT-5250 and the AT-5600 Nano PCs are due to launch in September, and while Foxconn has yet to confirm UK pricing it is setting the bar in the US at $260 and $280 respectively (around £168 and £181 excluding taxes,) with buyers providing their own storage and memory components.