Hey, it's April Fools!
If you were old enough to remember 2006, you would have remembered the time when IBM sold its entire PC division over to Lenovo. To this day, Lenovo owns all the rights to their desktop lines and the ThinkPad lines. Today, that changes – IBM is returning to the PC market. And we have a glimpse into the future of IBM PCs, as we at Haverzine have managed to get one of the new prototype units.
The new range, codenamed “Personal System/2” is a line of desktops and all-in-ones designed to be some of the highest-performing PCs out there. What we have appears to be a very early prototype unit of the all-in-one system, so there’s plenty of room for design improvement which will be useful as the lines gets closer to shipping.
Enough rambling; let’s start tearing this thing open. Check after the break if you’d like to see more of this new PC.
As you will notice, the system looks unlike any all-in-one on the market today. It features front-facing drives bays, hardware brightness and contrast controls and a power switch that makes a nice click when you turn the system on or off.
The front-facing drive bays are an unusual location in all-in-ones – every single all-in-one currently on the market features its drives off to the side to help save space. Not so with the Personal System/2; it is very long and there actually is no room on the inside of the machine to mount the drives sideways. This length is caused by a few things, which starts with the screen technology.
The screen is one of the contributing factors to the length of the system. Instead of being a traditional LCD, this system uses an unusual all-glass construction which not only makes it very long, but also very heavy. We’re hoping that like the system, the screen is a prototype and will be made shorter and lighter as time goes on.
Around back, the strangeness continues. The only standard external port on this system is the Ethernet port which is installed in one of the two expansion slots. There is no USB, no eSATA, no HDMI, no VGA, no DVI – nothing, minus the Ethernet, is standard on this machine. We don’t know what any of the ports do, nor would we have any devices that plug into them. It doesn’t help that none of the ports are labeled, either.
When you open the system, you get to see just how much work on this system is still prototype work – actually, everything is. There are so many chips on the mainboard, and all of them appear to be discreet logic or FPGAs. We can find no trace of any of the main computer components such as the CPU, RAM and GPU. You will also notice there are no heatsinks or fans on the mainboard. This system runs very cool, although there is a single fan mounted in the screen area, presumably to keep the prototype display cool.
This system once again departs from all-in-one standards by adding two expansion slots, both of which are currently filled with prototype hardware. After some research, we discovered that the technology used here is known as “ISA Port” and appears to be a relatively new technology. Upon contacting IBM, we were told that later versions of the Personal System/2 would feature another new technology called “Microchannel,” a high-speed, 32-bit, parallel bus.
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at the hardware, let’s take a look at the software, which is easier said than done. When we tried setting the system up, all we got was a power cable. The system, as you can see in the picture, requires a keyboard in order for it to turn on. As mentioned earlier, none of the ports on the system are standard so we couldn’t use a USB keyboard nor did our wireless Bluetooth keyboards work. Until we can get a keyboard, this is as far as we can go.
In conclusion, the Personal System/2 is… interesting, to say the least. In its prototype state, it is a very large, clunky and heavy all-in-one unit with complete disregard to industry standards. Typical IBM, I suppose. This lack of standard connections has made it impossible for us to properly review, so we can’t tell you important things like how high-resolution the screen is and if it’s a touchscreen, how big the hard drive is, how much RAM is installed, etc.
If IBM adds at least USB and Bluetooth to the Personal System/2, reduces its weight and size, and makes the design more appealing, we’re sure that the Personal System/2 will be a hit with whatever market they choose to pursue with it – most likely the business market. After all, IBM has been known for many years for high-quality products and it still shows here even in the prototype stage.