Ever wish your PC was more portable? Like tuck it in your pocket portable? If you owned a Tango PC, that’s exactly what you’d be able to do with it. There would, however, be a few tradeoffs.
Let’s look at what Tango is first. The team behind it is hoping to raise money through crowdfunding to create a computing module that’s roughly the same size as a 2.5-inch external hard drive. Pretty small by PC standards, even compared to something like Intel’s NUC (the smallest of which measures 4″ x 4″ x 2″). The portable module houses the critical computing bits — processor, RAM, and SSD. On its own, you can’t do anything with it. Pop it into a Tango dock, and it turns into a full-fledged PC with DisplayPort and HDMI output, USB ports, and more.
What kind of internals can you fit into a box this small? Pretty decent ones, it turns out: a 2GHz AMD A6-5200 quad-core with Radeon HD8400 graphics, 2GB to 8GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of internal storage. Those specs were introduced at the time of Tango’s IndieGoGo campaign a few months ago.
It’s a neat enough idea. Instead of lugging a laptop back and forth to work, you could just slide the inconspicuous tango into your coat. You’d barely even notice it there, and it’s not the kind of thing anyone would ever be likely to try to steal from you. It certainly doesn’t look like a computer, so it’s not going to attract the kind of attention a smartphone, tablet, or laptop would.
On IndieGoGo, a pledge of $279 got you a barebones Tango PC and one dock. If you didn’t feel like adding RAM or storage on your own, then you would have had to up that pledge to $449. That included 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Extra docks cost $89 during the first round of pledges.
There’s talk of ‘space age’ cooling with the Tango, though few technical details are given. From what’s posted, it looks like the compute module is encased in a conductive material (likely aluminum) which makes contact with both the internal components and the conductive material of the dock (again, likely aluminum), which also sports a fan to dissipate heat.
Is Tango worth $449? Sure, you’re getting a very slick, super-portable computer — provided you have a dock at the other end of your trip and don’t need to take a dock along with you, too. With that second dock, the pledge price climbed to $537. At that price, the A6 isn’t exactly a screamer by today’s standards. Its CPUmark score is roughly on par with a not-exactly-current Intel Core2 Duo E8600. The AMD graphics do give the Tango a bit more gaming muscle, however.
There are a few Core i3 Windows tablets out there that would cost slightly less or a tad more than the entry-level price for the Tango. And as a bonus, you’d actually be able to do things with the portable unit itself since it’s got a built in touchscreen and a rechargeable battery. Peripherals could be connected to USB ports and HDMI or DisplayPort connectors if you needed to do some desktop computing. There are plenty of good $500 laptops out there, too.
Tango is an ambitious product that seeks to fill an odd niche at a time when the computing world is very much in flux. It probably won’t be long before we’re able to pocket a smartphone that packs this kind of power — just look at what NVidia’s beastly Jetson dev board can do. Nevertheless, products that offer something different and arrive at the right time can be quite successful.
Will Tango be one of those products? Curiously, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions when another round of crowdfunding wraps up. In spite of the fact that Tango PC already raised more than $300,000 on IndieGoGo, they’re now getting ready to pass the collection plate again on Kickstarter… In hopes of raising enough funds to go from a product for hobbyists to one that’s distributed in retail stores. They sold 311 systems last time. How many will they manage this time around?