Size counts. If you want proof, just look at the way our society
develops technology, how obsessed everyone seems to be with making
everything smaller and more portable.It's like we've some sort of
inherent drive to shrink everything in our lives down to size. It seems like every other day, there's new research or architecture that lets us make things ever smaller. Hardware begins to take up less and less space as we move towards a future dominated by smartphones and tablets.
Today, we're going to look at some of the systems that have been developed out of these advances. Today, we're going to take a look at some of the smallest computers ever made.
First up is the rather pricy Mac Mini, which comes in at a whopping $599.00 (not terribly surprising - it is an Apple product, after all). Even though it's miniscule as far as desktops are concerned, it's still something of a behemoth compared to the other systems here, at 7.7 inches square and 1.4 inches thick. With that size, however, comes a great deal of power - its specs blow the other systems out of the water. It's equipped with a 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel i5, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics card, a hard drive with up to 1 TB of space, and 4 GB of DDR3 memory.(Get it without the sales tax here at Amazon.)
Measuring in at two inches all across the board and weighing a lightweight 90 grams, the CuBox is an 800 Mhz ARM-based computer equipped with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, an OpenGL graphics engine and a 1080+ video decoder engine. Interface-wise, this little black box is equipped with two USB 2.0 ports, a MicroSD slot with a 4 GB card, a gigabit Ethernet port and an HDMI port. The little guy usually comes with Ubuntu pre-installed, but the distro's entirely customizable. Evidently, it also makes a very good torrent server. If you want to buy your own, it'll run you at $119.99 for the basic model, and $169.99 for the Pro.
The FXI Cotton Candy
To be fair, the FXI Cotton Candy is still technically in beta, and the only model currently available is a development rig. Even so, this unique system has earned a spot on the list for being about the size of a standard USB stick. Billed as an "any screen computer," Cotton Candy serves to take plug-and-play to the next level. So long as you have a monitor or notebook with a USB plug, you can run it with minimal fuss. It's running a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9, and 1 HD of RAM. It's also equipped with a single USB 2.0 port, a Micro USB, and an HDMI port. Oh, and it's WiFi compatible, as well.
Next up, here's one that most of you have probably already heard of. The Raspberry Pi is a fully-functional Linux rig that's literally the size of a credit card. Compared to some of the other entries on this list, the specs are pretty sub-par. It's got either 256 MB or 512 MB SDRAM (depending on what model you purchase), a 712 MHz or 1 GHz processor, and a 250 MHz Broadcom VideoCore IV 250MHz Graphics card. Even so, it beats out the other devices on this list in raw power mostly because of price. Each Raspberry Pi only costs $25-$35 (depending on how much SDRAM you want). They can also be networked together with a bit of tweaking, if you know what you're doing. Because of this, it's actually entirely possible to build your own personal supercomputer for a couple grand. Not bad, eh?
The University of Michigan's Millimeter-Scale System
Last on the list is a device constructed by the University of Michigan; a computer which is smaller than the N on a penny. Sorry folks, this one's not commercially available. This millimeter-scale system can hold up to a week's worth of data, and could, in the future, be used for surveillance and medical purposes. The device was developed by Professor Dennis Sylvester and Professor David Blaauw, who originally set out to construct a system capable of tracking eye pressure in Glaucoma patients. To date, it's the smallest working computer ever made (though I'm sure that in a few years' time, we'll see rigs that are even smaller).