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That’s not true, that’s impossible!
Yes Luke, search your feelings, there is indeed an Intel CPU powering AMD’s Project Quantum. It’s specifically a Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip. A lot of AMD FX fan boys will be heart broken to see an Intel CPU inside instead of an AMD PC but there’s no real reason to despair. AMD officials have said from beginning they could have based it on an AMD CPU too. But in the here and now, AMD knows who is in charge and it’s not Charles from the sitcom show.
A specially modified motherboard
The motherboard is indeed off-the-shelf, but if you look at the pictures, it’s been heavily modified. For a point of reference, this image shows an unmodified Asrock Z97E-ITX/ac board. Note those silver blocks near the top.
The shot below shows all those silver blocks (of the rear I/O) removed, leaving just the gigabit port. AMD uses a short dongle that plugs into the ethernet port that goes to the back of the machine. Why? You probably didn’t realize it from looking at the picture of the back of the machine, but AMD actually mounted the motherboard backwards. The back of the board faces the front of the machine. The whole board is also inverted to make contact with the water block.
Here’s a look at the front of the motherboard. The Main Power Connector on the motherboard has been rotated 90 degrees and a small PicoPSU-style power adapter plugs into it.
This is not a DIY build
One thing I’ll say about Project Quantum is that it’s not an easy build by any stretch of the imagination. Just getting out the water block and motherboard was a serious pain. Every tightly packed cable I pulled represented rebuild time, time in my life i'd never get back. Project Quantum, at least in this state, presents best as a completed or nearly completed product.
I did get it back together, but not before sweating bullets. If AMD ever does manage to turn Project Quantum into a commercial product, I’m sure custom cable length cables will be used. Even then, I’d probably want to buy a Project Quantum, then build it from the ground up on my own.
One day, it might actually be sold
Project Quantum is indeed an incredible little PC. It ranks among one of the coolest I’ve seen in a small production run. Yes, I’ve seen modded PC’s that are even more amazing and certainly wired better but those are one-off machines. From nosing around Project Quantum, I can only conclude that AMD actually intends, or at least hopes, to market it.
I make that statement based on the simple fact that there’s no other logical reason for Project Quantum. AMD could have just jammed its new Fury X cards into off-the-shelf, small-form-factor case, or hired a modder to craft a few machines, and called it a day. Why burn engineering time and precious (and dwindling) resources to make it?
So if AMD is intent on making Project Quantum, the question is, what would it be used for? The company isn’t likely to sell directly to consumers. That would just anger PC OEMs, giving them another reason to run into Nvidia’s arms.
Where could AMD sell Project Quantum machines without angering OEMs, and who needs such a crazy-looking and compact water-cooled PC?
The answer: VR.
With VR positioned as a hot tech buzzword with billions at stake, AMD could potentially sell Project Quantum machines packaged up with the VR headset of choice. It could be a turnkey product for Hollywood, universities, and corporations. Project Quantum rigs could run small demo kiosks or even be used to build small VR “theaters."
At least, that’s what I can conclude. Such a use wouldn’t offend its PC partners as much,and it's a context where such a small, cool and powerful box would actually be called for.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. Maybe, just maybe, AMD wanted to spend tens of thousands of dollars and months of work to make a dozen Project Quantum rigs just because it’s friggin’ cool.
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