In case you hadn't noticed, modularity in enterprise computing is all the rage right now despite some TechRadar Pro editor's thoughts on it. The latest to join the craze is HP with its Elite Slice at IFA 2016.
Capitalizing on the utter lack of a new Mac mini for the past two years, the Elite Slice is a modular mini PC that can serve several different functions in the office at the drop of a hat. That's thanks to a clever, modular design that uses "slices" to provide those different functions.
A sliced-and-diced-up design
The Elite Slice comes first as a mini PC (similar to a NUC) about the same size as Apple's long-neglected machine, measuring 6.5 x 1.38 x 6.5 inches. This unit houses all of the core components of any PC, which we'll get into in a moment, but actually comes in two flavors.
There's the straight-up HP Elite Slice, with its slick and stylish matte plastic chassis adorned by a gold-colored chromium HP logo on the lid, like that on the HP Spectre. Beneath that lid is a series of vents that wrap around the device to dissipate heat.
And no, that isn't real copper, we asked. (Of course, copper is used inside to best transport heat up and away from the unit.)
The Slice offers two USB-C ports (one of which is for power that can pass through for any USB-C monitor), one DisplayPort (so that it can power two 4K displays at once), HDMI, an RJ-45 port and a headphone-out/microphone-in combo port.
None of that changes with the second version of the PC, dubbed the HP Elite Slice for Meeting Rooms. This version simply sports capacitive touch buttons for "call", "mute", "volume up and down," and "hang up."
We're told that these buttons are compatible with common Windows 10 web chat applications, namely Skype for Business.
However, to make that possible, you'll need the Bang & Olufsen-powered HP Audio module. This module serves up 360-degree sound tuned for voice with a dual-array microphone setup that features noise cancellation and can pick up voice from 5 meters away.
Then, if you want an optical drive, you'll have to slap on HP's ODD module, which basically does what it says on the tin with support for dual-layer DVDs.
Finally, if you want extra security for your fleet of Slice PCs, you'll want the HP Vesa Plate, which can be bolted into a desk and then lock the rest of the "slices", supported by a daisy chain Kensington lock system.
During our time checking out the Elite Slice on the IFA show floor, we were also teased another version of the Slice base system that can wirelessly charge smartphones that support it when placed on the lid. It'll start shipping in early 2017.
All of these modules connect to the base system from the bottom downward through with look to be USB-C ports, but HP dubs them HP Slice module connectors with a USB 3.1 (1st generation) data rate.
(As of this writing, the pricing of the modules hasn't been disclosed.)
What's inside of it?
Being a mini PC, we wouldn't blame you for assuming the Elite Slice uses a mobile processor, but nay. The Slice houses a series of desktop-grade, 35W Intel Core i5 or i7 processors (6th generation) to power the whole thing with Intel's HD Graphics 530.
Supporting that is up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and a range of spinning drive and solid-state storage options from 128GB SATA SSD to 500GB SATA HDD at 7,200 rpm. (M.2 NVMe, SATA TLC and SATA SED options are available, too.)
For your wireless connection, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth come standard. Also, the Slice is said to offer a fingerprint scanner as well, but we didn't see one on the unit showed off here.
Our first take
HP's latest take on both the modular and miniature PC scenes in enterprise is an impressive effort, judging from the brief time we spent with it on the IFA show floor. Swapping out modules was demonstrated to be super fast, and it all looks simply gorgeous.
That's somewhat of a rarity in business computers, so the attention to detail and style is hugely appreciated. However, starting at $699 (about £526, AU$925) for the basic system and a cool $949 (about £715, AU$1,256) for the Slice for Meeting Rooms when they land this September, the latter seems a bit overqualified to sit in a meeting room.
Still, we have to commend HP for a solid attempt at reinvigorating enterprise PCs, and we can't wait to test it out fully in a proper review.
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