Recompute cardboard PC in the fleshSee all photos
For those of you unfamiliar with headless desktop computers, we'll walk you through the process real quick:
- You take the PC out of the box.
- You find the power cable.
- You plug one end of the power cable into the wall and the other end into your PC.
- You plug a "monitor" (that's like an iMac but without the built-in computer) into the PC.
- You turn on the power supply.
- You push the boot button.
Unfortunately, we uncovered our only -- and non-trivial -- problem with this computer while following step three of our above instructions. While pushing the plug into the Recompute's power supply we heard the distinct crackle of tearing velcro or loosening adhesive. Somehow the simple act of plugging the computer in seemed to be ripping the computer apart internally. In fact, we noticed that the other plugs coming off the motherboard -- USB, DVI, etc. -- were separating from the metal grid of labels that are attached to a different external layer of cardboard.
Fragility and sound fitting seem like natural issues for a computer built out of cardboard, which is why we would've thought they would've been the first things Recompute would've solved when building this thing. Perhaps we're just abnormally strong, but we find the way the motherboard assembly (which is nicely bolted to some structural material inside) and the power supply seem to be separate from this rear panel of cardboard is just a little disconcerting. Of course, it's nice that you can actually flip open the whole real panel and get at the internals, but it's still a bad first impression.
Otherwise we actually find there to be something reassuring by the cardboard build -- we wouldn't do a drop test or anything, but thanks to the sort of padded structure, it seems pretty likely that the machine could live through decent smack against concrete. Also, while there's the typical fan noise from the computer's power supply, the sound seems slightly deadened (or at least lowered in pitch) by the enclosure, and happily the air flowing out stays nice and cool.
We can't comment authoritatively on the "green" aspects of the computer: Recompute claims to be addressing the entire life cycle of the machine, and we don't have any reason to refute those claims. There's certainly a bit of a premium cost here for what you're getting: you can get a Linux-based 2.2GHz Athlon X2 for $500 (about double what you might pay for a regular version of these specs), or a 2.8GHz Athlon II Quad Core-based Windows 7 system for $1,000 (again, about double), or you can go for the $200 DIY kit with a 400W power supply. Still, you can't argue with the aesthetic statement and the "greener than thou" cachet.