Datasheet Directories

Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX SBCs

Written by Jeff Child

Single Board Success

Products based on the small-sized versions of the ITX form factor—Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX—provide system developers with complete PC-functionality and advanced graphics. These boards exemplify the idea of “single-board computer” in its purest sense.

  • What’s new in Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX technology?

  • Advantech’s AIMB-218

  • American Portwell’s GMI-6300

  • ASRock Industrial Computer’s
    IMB-V2000

  • EMX-H310P from Avalue
    Technology

  • Axiomtek’s MANO522

  • LP-179 from Commell

  • Congatec’s Conga-PA7

  • AL05P from DFI

  • IEI’s tKINO-ULT6

  • Kontron’s pITX-iMX8M

  • MB-50050 from WIN Enterprises

  • ITX-P-C444 from WINSYSTEMS

We’ve moved long past the days when large slot-card based form factors were the only choices for embedded systems. Today, a complete computing solution can be designed into a small form factor embedded motherboard. Among these so-called bus-less embedded form factors are the various spinoffs of the ITX form factor, including Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX. They offer a more complete SBC approach, integrating most or all of the typical desktop PC kinds of functions. Because they are designed to operate by themselves, and not in a chassis with other boards, they are essentially today’s purest form a single-board computer (SBC).

Mini-ITX is a 170mm × 170mm (or 6.7″ × 6.7″) low-power motherboard form factor developed by VIA Technologies in 2001. A more recent variant is Thin Mini-ITX, a version of Mini-ITX that is only 22mm in height, a thinner port cluster and horizontally stacked SO-DIMM memory slots. Pico-ITX, meanwhile, is a PC motherboard form factor announced by VIA Technologies in January 2007. The Pico-ITX form factor specifications call for the board to be 100mm × 72mm (3.9″ × 2.8″), 75% smaller than the Mini-ITX form factor.

As the gallery of representative boards in this article shows, Mini-ITX SBCs are the dominate type over the last 12 months, though Pico-ITX boards have a solid showing. Most of the boards shown are based on the latest Intel processors, but AMD’s Ryzen Embedded processors and NXP’s iMX8M chips power a couple of products each.

The Mini-ITX form factor was the favorite when the Ecurie Aix team at RWTH Aachen University needed an industrial motherboard for their driverless racing car (Figure 1). In autonomous driving, the software works a lot with optimization processes. Everything should be calculated in real time if possible. “If only one calculation loop is added to the improvement, this leads to a significantly higher requirement of performance power,” says Sebastian Lossen, Technical Team Leader Driverless at Ecurie Aix. His team decided to build a modular system as the basis for the software for the 2019 model of their racing car. The operating system is the hardware-related programmable Ubuntu. Compact design and performance efficiency were the basic requirements when selecting the hardware. With that in mind, the Ecurie Aix team chose Kontron’s Mini-ITX industrial motherboard mITX-CFL-S because it offered the required flexibility in terms of CPU and RAM. It also has a large number of interfaces, including three Ethernet ports, four RS232 ports and many USB ports.

Figure 1
The Mini-ITX form factor was the favorite when the Ecurie Aix team at RWTH Aachen University needed an industrial motherboard for their driverless racing car. Kontron’s Mini‑ITX mITX-CFL-S offered the needed flexibility in terms of CPU and RAM.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • APRIL 2021 #369 – Get a PDF of the issue


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Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.

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Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX SBCs

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min