Desktop PCs have fallen off in popularity against laptops, but there are still lots of us that use them. The advantage of a desktop PC is that it is always there waiting for you. Odds of it getting lost or stolen are relatively low; it is naturally more secure (because it is less likely to be hitting rogue Wi-Fi access points, and it is less likely to catch on fire because it isn’t charging and recharging a Lithium-Ion battery. Oh, and for a given price, you generally get more performance.
Typically there are two types of desktop computers: the all-in-one that weds the screen and PC into one unit, and the stand-alone design, which leaves the PC part of the solution separate. But these two formats force an ugly decision: If you want a clean desktop, you go with an all-in-one, but you give up flexibility in terms of being able to uncouple the replacement cycle for a monitor (up to 8 years) and the PC (typically 3-5 years), and if you have a failure you have to replace the whole thing. And a standalone desktop is less attractive, more prone to dust and damage (because it generally lives on the floor), and can make your desktop a wiring mess.
But what if someone designed a variant that gave you the best of both worlds? Well, they did, and that is the Dell 7070 Ultra modular desktop computer.
We’ve been messing around with the concept since IBM first surfaced it in the late 1990s for a laptop/desktop configuration. The problem was you had to come up with a common laptop shell, which was both difficult and expensive, and the module had to be small which hurt performance.
But the benefit of separating the performance part of a PC, the drive, processor, and memory, from the rest of the machine gave you a ton of flexibility and provided additional advantages in terms of easy service over a non-modular offering. But if you focus on the desktop a lot of these problems go away. You can make the central processing component bigger, you don’t need to worry about battery life, and you can use lower-cost components because you can more easily deal with weight and heat.
That’s what Dell did with the OptiPlex 7070 Ultra.
The Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra
This product is a very different take on the modular computer. The Central computing component fits in the monitor base so that the result looks like a stand-alone monitor or a stealth all-in-one. The monitor can both receive the graphics signal and power through a USB-C cable, and the product can come with a wireless keyboard and mouse removing the cables from the desktop. Also, it has the option of a Wi-Fi 6 access point. This high-speed Wi-Fi connection means you get wired level performance from the wireless connection if it has access to a Wi-Fi 6 access point.
Assembly only takes slightly longer than plugging in a more typical all-in-one because you have to nest the PC component in the custom monitor stand for it before you plug it in, but that should take under 2 minutes with just a little practice. (It took me around 4 minutes because I didn’t realize the unit nested in the cover and not on the base).
Once in if you want a bigger monitor, you can easily upgrade to one; if you need to upgrade the computing unit, it is just one switch and a cable change. (I should add that with the current version of Windows Ten migrating to a new PC is pretty painless and certainly way easier than the day I used to take doing this a decade ago).
The result is something that looks as good as an all-in-one and has the flexibility of a tower design. It is one of the most innovative desktop designs I’ve ever seen.
Wrapping Up: The Cloud Future
As we begin to shift from traditional end-point computing to cloud computing I expect we’ll need to shift our PCs to something more similar to Microsoft and Qualcomm’s ARM-based Always Connected configuration. To do that with a typical solution would generally mean discarding the entire PC and replacing it with something new. With the Wi-Fi 6 option you are less likely to need to replace the processing component and, even if you did, you’d only have to replace the PC module, not the monitor or stand effectively making this arguably the best desktop PC to bridge from the present to the future in the segment.
You could also see that module integrated into other things like a desk, wall, or counter for custom implementations. Dell, with the OptiPlex 7070 ultra has come up with one of the most innovative desktop designs I have yet seen; it is worth checking it out as it could be a bridge to the coming Cloud future.