Book-sized Computers: Is Smaller Better?
Book-sized computers offer the same functionality as full-sized PCs. This makes them a popular choice for point of sale VARs working in the retail and hospitality markets that have limited counter space.
Book-sized computers, despite their name, are not defined by any one size. They are smaller than standard PCs, roughly about 12" square by 4" high or smaller. Unlike laptop computers, book-sized computers are not designed for portability. Instead, they're designed for use in spaces where full-sized PCs won't fit.
The small-sized computers are gaining popularity as part of point of sale (POS) systems used in the retail and hospitality markets, says Gary German. He is vice president of sales and marketing for Ultimate Technology (Victor, NY). Ultimate Technology uses book-sized computers in its own business. "They are on desktops as well as on the shop floor," says German. The company, a division of Tridex Corporation, manufactures POS hardware, including book-sized computers. Ultimate Technology's annual sales revenues are approximately $30 million. The company employs 85 people.
Book-sized Computer Pitfalls
While book-sized computers are useful in many applications, German advises VARs to be aware of reliability issues. "Book-sized computers have different environmental tolerances and are more difficult to cool down," says German. These are things VARs don't typically analyze when comparing full-sized PCs. But, it is precisely these types of issues that will affect the performance of the smaller computers.
"The same components that go into a full-sized PC are in the book-sized computer. They must be carefully configured to accommodate a smaller box, with strict attention to air flow," says German. The densely packed components leave little room for heat dissipation or cooling fans. Like their full-sized counterparts, book-sized computers can fail when they overheat. "You can't put a book-sized computer in a closed cabinet if ambient temperatures will exceed 50oC (122oF)," says German.
Size Matters For Different Applications
According to German, book-sized computers may not be appropriate for every application and certain applications don't require them. For example, if you're using a PC as a server in the back room, and space is not an issue, you can choose between using a book-sized or full-sized computer, says German.
In the end, however, it's often the size that matters. "The space-saving aspect and the aesthetic appeal of the book-sized computer may outweigh the technical issues in some applications," says German.
Depending upon the manufacturer, smaller PCs on the market offer USB ports, handle multiple drives, and have built-in 10/100BaseT interfaces. "They're just a smaller version of a full-sized PC," German says.