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.
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.
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • APRIL 2021 #369 – Get a PDF of the issue
Mini-ITX Board Sports Elkhart Lake SoC
Advantech's AIMB-218 is a low-profile fanless industrial-grade Mini-ITX motherboard featuring Intel Atom x6000E, Intel Pentium and Celeron N and J Series processors. Based on low-power 10nm technology (6W-12W TDP), AIMB-218 supports up to 4 cores with 3.0GHz turbo frequency and up to
850MHz of Gen 11 Graphics, yielding a 50% improvement in CPU performance and doubling its graphics processing capabilities.
• Supports Intel Pentium/Celeron processor N6211/J6413/J6426/x6413E
• 32GB DDR4 3200MHz SDRAM
• Supports, DP++, HDMI, eDP (or LVDS)
• Supports 1x M.2 (B-Key) and 1x M.2 E-Key (or 1x PCIe), 6x COMs, 3x USB 3.2 Gen2 and 5x USB 2.0, dual LAN
• DC12V support and onboard TPM2.0 (optional) amplifier (optional)
Ryzen V1000/R1000 Powers Mini-ITX SBC
American Portwell's GMI-6300 supports four displays output with V1605B chipset in V1000 family, with the platform scalability to the Ryzen Embedded V1000. The SoC can power up to three independent displays in brilliant 4K resolution. A wide range of performance expectation can be fulfilled by Portwell’s GMS-6310, which makes it well suited fit for embedded applications in the gaming field.
• AMD V1000 / R1000 family
• Up to 32GB ECC DDR4 DRAM
• Quad/triple display with DP 1.2 / HDMI 2.0 / HDIM 1.4
• 8x DI, 8x DO, 8x intrusion inputs and HW ID
• Supports M.2 2242 / 2280 SATA / NVME
• Supports M.2 2230 Wi-Fi
• Operating temperature: 0°C to 60°C
Mini-ITX SBC Serves Up Ryzen Embedded V2000
ASRock Industrial Computer's IMB-V2000 is a Mini-ITX motherboard powered by AMD Ryzen Embedded V2000 Series processors. Featuring quad-displays with AMD multi-display Eyefinity technology, IMB-V2000 supports ECC memory, dual LAN ports up to 2.5GbE along with Dash and Teaming function as well as longevity support. It is well suited for applications such as video walls, digital signage and more.
• AMD Ryzen Embedded V2000 SoC processors
• SO-DIMM DDR4 3200 MHz, up to 64GB
• 4x USB 3.2 Gen1, 4x USB 2.0, 1x M.2 Key E
• 1x M.2 Key M, 1x M.2 Key B, 1x PCIe x8, 5x COM, 2x SATA3
• 1x Realtek 1x Gbit LAN (Support DASH), 1x Realtek 2.5 Gbit LAN
• Supports quad display, 1x LVDS, 1x eDP, 3x DP 1.2, 1x DP 1.4
• TPM header
• Support DASH, Teaming function
• 12V-28V DC-In (lockable DC jack)/ ATX PWR
Mini-ITX Features 8th/9th-Gen Core Processors
The EMX-H310P from Avalue Technology is a Mini-ITX board with 8th/9th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7, Pentium or Celeron SoC processor. This quad Gigabit LAN industrial motherboard is suitable for applications such as network devices, NAS Servers, media centers, industrial control systems and other embedded applications.
• Intel 8th/9th gen. Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron/Processor
• Intel H310 chipset
• 2x DDR4 SO-DIMM sockets, supports up to 64GB
• 1x Intel I219LM Gbit Ethernet PHY
• 3x Intel I210AT PCI-e Gbit Ethernet
• VGA, HDMI, DP++, Dual-CH LVDS
• 6x USB3.1 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0,
• 2x USB 2.0 at I/O, 2x USB2.0 by pin header
• 3x SATA III
Coffee Lake Mini-ITX SBC Supports HDMI, VGA and LVDS
Axiomtek's MANO522 Mini-ITX SBC is powered by the LGA1151 socket 9th/8th generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processor (code name: Coffee Lake) with the Intel H310 chipset. With a small form factor of 17cm × 17cm, this industrial motherboard is well suited for space-constrained environments. This industrial motherboard is integrated with Intel integrated Gfx graphics engine with UHD resolution.
• LGA1151 9th/8th gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processor
• Intel H310 chipset
• 2x DDR4 SO-DIMM for up to 64GB of memory
• VGA, HDMI and LVDS
• 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 and 2x USB 2.0
• 6x COM ports
• 2x SATA-600 and 1x mSATA
• PCIe x16 and M.2 Key E
Pico-ITX SBC Sports Tiger Lake UP3 Processor
The LP-179 from Commell is a Pico-ITX motherboard designed for the Intel Tiger Lake UP3 processor and supports one DDR4 SO-DIMM up to 32GB and running 3200MHz, no ECC function. The platform is based on Intel Iris Xe Graphics Technology that provides high-end media and graphics capabilities for devices that display videos, 2D/3D graphics and interactive content.
• Intel Tiger Lake UP3 Processor, FCBGA1449 package
• DDR4 3200 SO-DIMM up to 32GB
• Intel Iris Xe graphics
• Onboard DisplayPort, HDMI and LVDS/VGA
• 1x SATA3 with 600MB/s transfer rate
• 1x Intel i219-LM Gbit PHY LAN
• 1x Intel i225-LM Gbit LAN (up to 2.5GbE).
• 2x USB2.0, 2x USB 3.2 Gen2
• DC input 12V ± 5%
Intel Atom x6000E Processor Rides Pico ITX
Congatec's Linux-ready Conga-PA7 is a Pico-ITX SBC with Intel’s new Atom x6000E SoCs with up to 16GB LPDDR4-4267 and 512GB UFS 2.0 flash, triple 4K display support, 2x GbE with TSN and OOB and 2x USB 3.1. Conga-PA7 supports all the Atom models except the two “FE” versions of the Atom x6000E, which offer Intel Safety Island functional safety (FuSa) features.
• Intel Atom x6000E, Pentium and Celeron J processor series
• Intel UHD Graphics (Gen11)
• Options for industrial temperature range -40°C to 85°C
• 2x LAN Gbit /100Mbit/10Mbit with TSN
• 1x DisplayPort DP++, 2x LAN RJ45
• 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type C, 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A
• 1x DC-In (external input)
• eMMC 5.1 onboard flash up to 64GB
• Up to 4.267MT/s memory support with Inband ECC
Apollo Lake Pico-ITX SBC Provides PoE
The AL05P is DFI’s PoE (Power over Ethernet) powered Pico-ITX SBC board. With PoE, the board can receive power and data simultaneously through Ethernet to effectively reduce wiring cables for space constrained applications. Its powerful Intel Atom Processor E3900 Series features enhanced processing power, wide temperature and PoE isolation up to 500V.
• Intel Pentium/Celeron/Intel Atom Processor E3900
• Supports LPDDR4 memory soldered-down up to 4GB
• 1x LAN, 1x COM, 2x USB 3.0,
2x USB 2.0
• 1x Mini PCIe, 1x SMBus, 1x eMMC
• PoE single board solution support PoE PD 48VDC
• 15-Year CPU life cycle support until Q4' 31
Thin Mini-ITX SBC with Tiger Lake and dual 2.5GbE
IEI's tKINO-ULT6 is a Thin Mini-ITX SBC that supports 11th Gen. Intel Core processor family (Tiger Lake-UP3), 9V-36V DC input, quadruple independent display, SATA 6Gb/s, Dual Intel® 2.5GbE, USB4, M.2, HD audio and RoHS. Tiger Lake is Intel's codename for the 11th gen Intel Core mobile processors using Intel's third-generation 10 nm process node.
• Thin Mini-ITX form factor
• 11th gen Intel Tiger Lake-UP3 processor
• Support DDR4-3200 memory
• Wide range 9~36V DC Input
• Support quadruple independent displays (HDMI, DP, eDP/LVDS, USB4)
• Dual Intel 2.5GbE LAN
• M.2 A key for Wi-Fi + Bluetooth (PCIe x1/USB 2.0)
• M.2 M key for storage (PCIe x2/SATA)
• PCIe x8 Gen 4.0 slot (x4 signal)
Pico-ITX SBC Serves Up Arm-Based NXP iMX8M
Kontron’s pITX-iMX8M motherboard features NXP’s dual or quad core CPUs based on the Arm Cortex-A53 architecture with up to 1.5GHz. The Cortex M4 coprocessor and full 4K UltraHD resolution make the board the perfect foundation for sophisticated applications. It offers enhanced connectivity through two Gbit Ethernet interfaces as well as advanced graphics performance.
• Video quality with full 4K UltraHD resolution and HDR
• TPM2.0 and built in Hardware Security Device
• M.2 Half Size Slot (2242)
• uSD/uSIM Card Combo
• 4GB LPDDR4 Memory soldered down
• mini DP + HDMI as front connector
• eMMC 5.1 (Up to 128GB MLC / 64GB pSLC)
IoT Gateway Mini-ITX Board has 8th/9th Gen Intel Core
The MB-50050 from WIN Enterprises is a Mini-ITX SBC that can serve as the basis for a flexible, general-purpose IoT gateway or factory process-monitoring work station. The board features an 8th/9th gen Intel Core processor for high performance, factory-process visualization support and communications from factory line to Cloud. Additional expandability for device and sensor support is also provided.
• 8th/9th gen Intel Core processor
• 2x DDR4 2666MHz SODIMM up to 32GB
• Dual independent displays: DP++, HDMI, LVDS/eDP, HDMI
• DP++ resolution supports up to 4096x2304 at 60Hz
• 2x SATA 3.0
• 1x PCIe x4 Gen 3, 1x mSATA, 1x M.2 2280 M Key, 1x M.2 2230 E Key
• 2x Intel GbE, 4x COM, 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0
Pico-ITX SBC Features NXP i.MX8M, Dual Ethernet
The ITX-P-C444 from WINSYSTEMS is an industrial Pico-ITX SBC based upon NXP’s i.MX8M application processor and packed with dual Ethernet, industrial I/O and expansion options. The processor supports industry-leading video processing along with M4 microcontroller for real-time subsystems.
• NXP. i.MX8M Industrial Processor at 1.3GHz
• Up to 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
• -40°C to +85°C operating temperature range
• Pico-ITX form factor (102mm × 73mm)
• Wide range power input (9V to 36V DC)
• 2x GbE, 1x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 3x USB 2.0
• 2x RS-232/422/485 serial ports
• 6x GPIO), 1x MIPI-CSI (4-Lanes),
1x SPI bus, 1x I2C
• HD Audio Interface
• HDMI output with 4K UltraHD
Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.