Intel's 5.5-inch Socketed Motherboard is 28% Smaller than Mini-ITX

Subject: Motherboards | January 17, 2015 - 10:22 PM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel

Bay Trail-M has been at the heart of several interesting micro-PC products in the past few months, but the limitations of the SoC have thus far kept these ultra-low power devices from becoming serious PC contenders. New products with AMD APUs look promising, and we will see how they perform once they become available. Meanwhile, Intel might be changing the mini-PC landcape soon with a new motherboard form-factor.


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Intel's 5.5" motherboard (Image credit: SemiAccurate)

It doesn't have a name but the 5.5" square board looks like a smaller version of a thin mini-ITX design, with flush mounted DIMM slots and support for M.2 SSD storage. SemiAccurate is reporting that "it will support up to 16GB of DDR3L, an M.2 SSD and 2.5″ HD, 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, GbE, audio, and Wi-Fi". A mini-ITX board on the other hand, though slightly larger at 6.7" x 6.7", has the advantage of supporting full-size GPUs (except the thin-mini variant). But when size and power consumption are the primary concern the lack of PCIe expansion is less important, and this sub-ITX board offers socketed CPU support rather than a soldered BGA solution, permitting customization and potentially offering a more desktop-like upgrade path.

No word on availability of the prototype board from Intel, which the report said was seen at this year's CES. It would make sense that Intel has learned from their experience with the NUC and created a smaller form-factor, but it remains to be seen whether such a product will enter the retail channel or become an OEM part.

Source: SemiAccurate

January 17, 2015 | 11:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I hope it's for Broadwell and not Haswell.

January 18, 2015 | 01:35 AM - Posted by collie

I think they are creating a new form-factor, not a specific product.

January 18, 2015 | 03:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

give it dual gigabit lan and i'll get one

January 18, 2015 | 05:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

what would dual gigabit possibly contribute to something like this, you cant run a file server of any reasonable size off it due to the lack of expansion. I cant think of any reason to need that much bandwidth on something that would inherently be so limited

January 18, 2015 | 05:32 AM - Posted by Dood (not verified)

The only thing I can think of is turn it into a router.

January 19, 2015 | 10:47 AM - Posted by MC Mikey Mike (not verified)

Or run something like a drobo via iSCSI.

January 18, 2015 | 06:23 AM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

My first thought would be that dual gig-E would make this a good platform for something like pfsense or running any other router os on. As far as being too small for a server there are people running servers on raspberry pi's. You could even run a NAS off of this but I sure wouldn't recommend it seeing as how you'd be attaching most of your storage off of USB.

January 18, 2015 | 03:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The HP EliteDesk 800 Desktop Mini, has had a similar motherboard in it, and it was released more than a year ago, maybe having such a motherboard is not so new, its been in OEM products for some time. The HP product will take a desktop SKU, unlike the Apple MAC Mini. This below Mini-ITX Form factor is going to become very popular, and there are others besides HP, that will be producing systems around this size. I like the small form factor, even if it need a fan, because it is very portable, and can be brought along in a laptop bag, and there are plenty of USB portable LCD displays that can be brought along, key boards also. Now if they could only come up with a small enough PCI based slot to install a low TDP discrete GPU, then that would be something, Intel's GPUs are not there yet for graphics. I think Dell has something similar to the HP mini but having a small form factor motherboard for the home system builders is great. I hope the third party motherboard OEM take notice, and begin producing their own products.

January 18, 2015 | 04:15 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)


Yea-yea, I get it, "even smaller HTPC and kiosk" blah-blah-blah, but seriously - you can already build a very small AND very decently performing HTPC or a kiosk system on a standard mini-ITX base (if you have straight hands and a brain, that is).

I can see AMD having a quality SFF system on this, because AMD has good enough APU to embed, but Intel's iGPU sucks just way too much at the current moment (still waaaaay behind even the weakest solutions from AMD) and it really won't get any much better anytime soon, so you'd have to be quite stupid to actually buy/spend your money on this when you're having options of either building a more powerful SFF based on APU products from AMD or a making a similar (but much better performing) mini-ITX setup. To put it out simply: I think this is rather useless, pointless.

January 18, 2015 | 04:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For sure, AMD's graphics is better, and AMD will be making competing socketed products, similar in size to this motherboard. AMD will offer something similar, and it's the portability, I'm thinking of systems like this replacing laptops for some uses, and there are plenty of portable LCD screens, and Keyboards, and the whole mini desktop(with a true desktop SOC) could be brought along while traveling, and offer a little more flexibility than a laptop, and even let the user get a higher resolution LCD, than normally comes with a laptop, they are making some great portable LCD products.

That Fitlet system mentioned previously, is a start, and small powerful systems like that could very well be fitted into a laptop style case, the Raspberry PI laptop style case comes to mind, but even the fitlet form factor could fit nicely into a laptop bag along with a portable LCD, and Keyboard, so yes the Intel motherboard has promise, if just to push motherboard OEM's to begin to develop more small socketed solutions for both AMD, and Intel SOCs.
Nvidia based systems using the X1, will be popular, and I hope that the Denver cores will be used again, in a more powerful quad core SOC, with more GPU cores, specifically made for this size form factor. Late 2015, and 2016, are going to be great for the uber mini form factor devices market, with AMDs K12 custom ARMv8 APUs arriving, along with the new Zen x86 microarchitecture.

January 18, 2015 | 06:03 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

But you're forgetting one small thing here, which I purposely didn't mention: AMD always cheaper.

As for "AMD making similar motherboard"...dude, it's a new form factor and not a "new, Intel socket-proprietary motherboard". Back when ITX craze only started the only decent motherboards were Intel socket-based, yes, but sometime not so later AMD has stepped up and APU/FX-based AMD socket ITX boards started flooding in, which actually made Intel-based ITX boards almost irrelevant simply because AMD's ITX boards cost MUCH less AND perform just as well while not really lacking in any features that form-factor allows.
If this one flies, you can bet that AMD would dominate in this segment yet once again, because you seriously really just CAN'T compete with AMD in SFF factor - their rule is absolute and undisputed in this particular segment.

P.S. I laughed hard when you actually in all seriousness mentioned Raspberry Pi. I've awaited it, seriously.

January 18, 2015 | 03:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, and AMD graphics is always better, at that lower price. I did mention the form factor is what is appealing for the motherboard that Intel made, so AMD and the third party OEM motherboard makers will take notice of what Intel is doing. I would like an AMD APU powered solution, with something this size, or the entire industry to adopt a small form factor of this size, so products can begin appearing with different feature sets, I really hope that AMD considers taking its Skybridge Dual SOC/ISA project in the direction of this small form factor motherboard, so end users could utilize AMD's upcoming APUs be it ARMv8, or x86, and give the home systems and HTPC/Other systems builders even more flexibility.

I mentioning the Raspberry PI, laptop case/enclosure, and it's high time that the companies that are producing these Fitlet/NUC types of devices, and motherboards, start introducing laptop like enclosures, so one or more of these device motherboards could be placed inside the Laptop enclosure, including the circuitry/board to control an LCD. It's when you start talking about maybe making these little devices stackable, and maybe having a PCI based slot that connects these devices when they are stacked, and having the Linux Mint OS/or any OS, plug and play style, thinking that and additional unit plugged in is just another connected processor so these little devices could be easily provide more computing power without the user jumping through to many networking hoops.

The fitlet type of systems for the education market, specifically for development of computing cluster software, and networking systems, will be popular, the Fitlet-X more so, and I do hope that the Adapteva people make a FACET based Parallella board to plug into the Fitlet-X, the colleges would buy the Fitlet-X, and a FACET based Parallella , and have an UBER low cost cluster platform to produce code for cluster computing. People have done this with a Raspberry PI, but that 4 core AMD APU, and a FACET board with a Parallella board and its ARM cores, and Epiphany IV 64-core Chip, that would be something.

January 18, 2015 | 07:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

All we need now is an M.2 graphics card

January 18, 2015 | 03:32 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

oh boy can't wait to pay MORE for smaller parts!!!

January 18, 2015 | 04:49 PM - Posted by dj_aris (not verified)

Well, don't forget that dome Skylake LLGA1151 CPUs (socketed) will come with nice Iris Pro graphics (Haswell Iris Pro is already beating all AMD APUs). Sure, it's a ridiculous load of money for what you're getting but it's also very compact and will sip little power compared with anything that comes with a discrete GPU. So, why not have this option as well.

What would REALLY be interesting though is to have thin-mini-ITX boards with mxm slots. Wibtek makes some of those for Haswell CPUs but they a re rare and probably sold as OEM products only.

January 18, 2015 | 06:24 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

>Nice Iris Pro graphics



January 19, 2015 | 07:00 AM - Posted by dj_aris (not verified)

Sorry but that only leaked today!

Until today we knew that: Intel HD4600 < AMD Kaveri graphics < Intel Iris Pro with L4 cache (in terms of gaming).

Now this changes everything, but even if we believe it (I mean, same nm, same power but x2 performance?), it remains to been seen what's Iris Pro gen 2 like. But for the sake of the arguement I'm with you in this one, I don't care about the vendor, we're talking about the form factor here!

Cause, thing is, current Kaveri or Iris Pro graphics are OKish for 720p gaming in medium-high settings. If the next gen is OKish for 1080p I don't see any reason why not to build a ultra-mini ITX (or whatever they call these 5.5 mobos) system with a 50-65w CPU and enjoy some light gaming on it.

January 19, 2015 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

Are you high?
Even the Trinity A10 5800K is already absolutely "OKish" for quality 1080p gaming on medium/medium-high settings. And Richland/Kaveri is even better - you can easily max out some of the games with them, in 1080p. Sure, you won't get "minimum 60 FPS", but you won't get anywhere lower than 40 also, which is absolutely playable.
Also, for APU it always depends much more on frequency of your memory rather than on the APU itself. Even Trinity can fly with 2133+MHz memory kit with low enough (below 11-11-11) timings, not even mentioning truly HUEG benefits Richland gets from this.

January 19, 2015 | 06:28 PM - Posted by dj_aris (not verified)

I don't know, am I?

Whether you like it or not, Iris Pro runs games faster than Kaveri (and actually quite a bit faster at the same TDP) while at the same time completely trashes it in cpu power. Still, I never said that Iris pro is a good buy, because it's almost 3X the price of Kaveri and for that kind of money you have plenty of options. What I am saying though, is that Iris Pro is a remarkable engineering feat, offering excellent performance in a very small package and relatively low power usage.

So, for the price of a BGA "R" Iris Pro cpu you could get any AMD cpu and a decent discrete GPU and completely destroy it; however, all these won't fit in a 5.5x5.5" motherboard. That's my point. Some (read: most) aim for value for money, others care about noise and build fanless systems, I happen to be a person who values size more than other aspects.

January 20, 2015 | 08:47 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

I take it back. You're not high. Just plain stupid.

January 20, 2015 | 09:20 AM - Posted by dj_aris (not verified)

Is this an article about an new, smaller form factor or not? You AMD fans always have to turn everything into a fight...

I couldn't care any less about the logo on any piece in my computer as long as it suits my needs. And since my needs right now are "reduced size", it has to be the Iris Pro and not the Kaveri that I'd like to see socketed in this new motherboard.

But, am I not paid from Intel or AMD to promote their products and if Carrizo proves to be better in the future, I would gladly pick that one instead. Now, if you are also not paid by them, but still support one of them so fanatically that you flame post defending them in an irrelevant article about a new form-factor, then check again who might be stupid after all.

January 18, 2015 | 09:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Intel's GPUs have do not have the shader/other resources that the AMD's, and Nvidia's GPUs have, try doing any high polygon mesh modeling/editing with Intel's sub par product, sure it can perform adequately for some games, but not for graphics work. Intel's graphics need more execution/shader/other resources, that AMD and Nvidia offer standard in their SOC products. Intel's Skylake will be priced so high that Abdul Jabbar could not reach those prices with a skyhook!

How Intel thinks that its SOCs are about gaming, just try pulling out the AMD, or Nvidia discrete GPU from a gaming rig, and just try and play that game on the same settings, for high end gaming at the same high resolution settings. Intel's graphics separating the fools from their money, with such crappy graphics, I'll stick with AMD, or Nvidia discrete solutions. Intel need to stick with CPUs, and let others do the GPU work.

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