Newsletter Product News Tech News

Tiger Lake Thin Mini-ITX SBC and COMe Module Roll

Written by Eric Brown

DFI announced a “TGU” line of embedded boards and systems built around Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake UP3 processors with 15-28W TDPs, starting with a thin mini-ITX board and COM Express Compact Type 6 and Mini Type 10 modules. The Mini-ITX form-factor TGU171/TGU173, Compact Type 6 TGU968, and Mini Type 10 TGU9A2 boards support Linux and Win 10 IoT. Other Intel-based DFI SBCs announced this year include the 3.5-inch, Coffee Lake powered CS551 and 2.5-inch, Whiskey Lake-based WL051.

TGU171/TGU173 (left) and TGU968
(click images to enlarge)

The two COM Express modules list both embedded “E” and industrial “GRE” variants of Tiger Lake-U Core i7, i5, and i3 processors. There is also a Celeron 6305RE, which like the i3 models is dual, rather than quad-core.

The GRE parts add Intel Time Coordinated Computing (Intel TCC) and Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) networking features along with Intel Safety Island functional safety (FuSa). DFI is supporting the GRE models with optional ECC RAM support. No specific models are listed for the TGU171/TGU173 Mini-ITX board.

Like many embedded product vendors, DFI is promoting the 10nm Tiger Lake platform for its advanced Iris Xe graphics, as well as its Deep Learning Boost (DL Boost) and Vector Neural Network Instruction Set (VNNI). These AI accelerators were previously available only on Xeon processors. The DFI products offer 15-year CPU lifecycle support.


The TGU171/TGU173 follows Tiger Lake based thin Mini-ITX boards from ASRock (IMB-1224) and IEI (tKINO-UL6). Like the ASRock and IEI boards, DFI’s entry supports up to 64GB of DDR4-3200 and up to 4x simultaneous 4K HDR displays.

TGU171/TGU173, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The specs list a single DP++/HDMI auto-detecting interface, which as the detail view shows, defaults to dual DP++ ports. There is also a 4K-ready eDP, an HD-ready LVDS, and a USB 3.2 Gen2 based USB Type-C port. The Type-C lacks the USB 4.0 support of the IEI model, but it provides some USB 4 like technology with its “3-in-1 Transfer Design,” which supports simultaneous DP 1.4, power input, and USB data transfer at once. The latter could be a USB hub, Ethernet port, or an SSD.

The TGU171/TGU173 is unique among the three boards in providing 3x Ethernet ports: 2x GbE and a 2.5GbE. (The IEI board offers dual 2.5GbE and the ASRock dual 1GbE.) The board also supplies 4x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports. Internal interfaces include 4x USB 2.0, 4x COM, 2x SATA III with power, 8-bit DIO with power, and audio, among others.

Expansion I/O includes a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface and an M.2 M-key 2242/2280 slot that supports NVMe and Intel Optane. You can also load an unexplained “proprietary expansion module.”

TGU171/TGU173 detail views and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Additional expansion features include an M.2 B-key 2242/3042/3052 socket with SATA, USB 3.1 Gen1, and PCIe Gen1 support. With the help of a Nano-SIM slot, you can add a 4G or 5G module. There is said to be option to for PCIe Gen x2, although it is unclear if this would replace the Gen1 support or if it swaps out the M.2 B-key for a dedicated PCIe slot. Finally, you get an M.2 E-key 2230 (PCIe Gen3 x1 and USB 2.0) for WiFi/BT, including an Intel CNVi module with Intel vPro support.

The TGU171/TGU173 has a -5 to 65°C operating range with 5 to 90% RH tolerance. Other features include an RTC with coincell, a watchdog, a heatsink, SATA and COM cables, and optional TPM 2.0. The only difference we can see between the two models is that the TGU171 has a 12VDC input while the TGU173 has a 9-36VDC input.


The TGU968 follows other Tiger lake-U based Compact Type 6 modules such as Adlink’s cExpress-TL. The 95 x 95mm module supports up to 64GB DDR4 and offers an on-request option for an on-module NVMe SSD up to 1TB.

TGU968 rear view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The TGU968 provides a single 2.5GbE and 2x SATA 3.0 controllers, both of which are optionally available on request with a colay for PCIe x1. Standard display features include 3x DDI, VGA, and LVDS. On request, you can instead receive eDP and 4x DDI. HD Audio is also available.

Expansion features include PCIe Gen4 x4 and 5x PCIe Gen3, which can be replaced with 8x PCIe Gen3 on request. There is support for 4x USB 3.2 Gen.2, 8x USB 2.0, 8-bit DIO, and other I/Os, as see in the block diagram.

The TGU968 has an 8.5-20V input plus 0 to 60°C or -40 to 85°C support, which is available only on the GRE models. A watchdog is standard and TPM is on request.


No image was available for the TGU9A2, which has a reduced feature set compared to the TGU968 in consideration of its smaller 84 x 55mm COM Express Mini Type 10 footprint. This is only the second Mini Type 10 module with Tiger Lake we have seen, after Advantech’s SOM-7583.

TGU9A2 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The TGU9A2 has 16GB of soldered LPDDR4x at 4266MHz, and like the TGU968, you can add an up to 1TB NVMe SSD on request. The module has 2.5GbE and dual SATA III controllers plus a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface.

Dual displays are supported via DDI and eDP. You also get 2x USB 3.2 Gen2, 8x USB 2.0 and other I/O as seen in the block diagram. There is a 4.75-20V, a watchdog, and a -5 to 65°C operating range.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the TGU series products. The TGU171/TGU173, TGU968, and TGU9A2 are all listed as preliminary. More information may be found in DFI’s announcement and TGU product page, as well as product pages for the TGU171/TGU173TGU968, and TGU9A2.

This article originally appeared on on October 11, 2021.


Keep up-to-date with our FREE Weekly Newsletter!

Don't miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar.

Note: We’ve made the Dec 2022 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

Would you like to write for Circuit Cellar? We are always accepting articles/posts from the technical community. Get in touch with us and let's discuss your ideas.

Supporting Companies

Upcoming Events

Copyright © KCK Media Corp.
All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2024 KCK Media Corp.

Tiger Lake Thin Mini-ITX SBC and COMe Module Roll

by Eric Brown time to read: 4 min