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Mini-ITX boards step up to Intel’s 4th Generation Core

Jun 13, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Six vendors announced embedded Linux-ready Mini-ITX single board computers (SBCs) supporting Intel’s newly announced 4th Generation “Haswell” Core i7, i5, and i3 processors. The Aaeon EMB-QM87A, BCM MX87QD and MX81H, DFI HM100-QM87 and HD100-H81D, iBase MI980, Kontron KTQ87/mITX, and Portwell WADE-8015 are equipped with Intel QM87, Q87, or H81 chipsets.

Intel’s announcement of its 4th Generation Core (aka “Haswell”) processors last week was quickly followed by partner announcements in a variety of form-factors. This post focuses on six Mini-ITX boards that support Haswell; for a run-down on newly announced COM Express modules based on Haswell, read our detailed report here.



Haswell mobile and desktop architecture
(click images to enlarge)

 

The Haswell generation uses the same 22nm fabrication and Tri-Gate 3D technology as the previous Ivy Bridge Core processors, so performance improvements are relatively modest, averaging about 15 percent faster, according to Intel. Most of the performance enhancements come with graphics, thanks to a new generation of Iris and Iris Pro GPUs, offered in five different models. The new GPUs are said to offer double the typical graphics performance in Ultrabooks, and deliver up to 75 percent faster graphics in some applications.



Haswell’s performance enhancements
(click images to enlarge)

 

The big news for embedded is that power consumption has been reduced by as much as 50 percent. For example, a quad-core Core i7 offers 15W TDP power consumption, down from 20W on similar Ivy Bridge processors. The full list of processors, many of which have to yet ship, may be found at Intel 4th Gen product pages for Core i7, as well as Core i5 and Core i3. Three of the i7 and two of the i5 are listed as having embedded support options.
 

Haswell Mini-ITX roundup

The following eight Mini-ITX SBCs — from six vendors — integrate the 4th Generation Core processors into the 6.7 x 6.7-inch (170 x 170mm) Mini-ITX form-factor. One differentiator here is the choice of chipset available. Note that this is independent of the GPU, which, since it’s integrated into the processor chip, varies according to particular Core processor selected for the design.

Most use the Intel Q87 or mobile QM87 chipset (aka I/O controller hub), which are fairly similar. They differ from the available H86 and HM86 chipsets in that the QM87 supports six SATA ports as opposed to four for HM86, and of the 14 available USB ports, it supports four to six USB 3.0 ports vs. two to four USB 3.0 ports. The QM87 also adds Intel VPro support.

All eight Mini-ITX boards below support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory via dual 1333/1600 SODIMMs. Among other common features not listed below include dual gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as audio and PS/2 ports. Note that we list all ports equally, although in many cases some of the COM and USB ports are available via headers rather than as real-world ports. Links to datasheets are available from each description.

  • Aaeon EMB-QM87A

    Aaeon EMB-QM87A
    (click to enlarge)

    The EMB-QM87A can integrate any 4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5 processor, and incorporates the mobile Intel QM87 Express chipset. Three independent displays are supported when using the VGA and HDMI ports, and you can run dual displays when using the LVDS connection.

    Aaeon supplies five COM ports and six SATA ports, four of them supporting 6.0Gb/s transfer speeds. Six of the 10 available USB ports run USB 3.0. Expansion options include a PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot and a Mini-PCIe slot. A TPM module is said to be optional.

  • BCM MX87QD and MX81H

    BCM’s two Mini-ITX boards offer different graphics chipsets and I/O. Both models support Core i3 processors (due to launch in the third quarter) in addition to i5 and i7 models. Common features include four COM ports.


    BCM MX87QD
    (click to enlarge)

    The high-end BCM MX87QD uses the Intel Q87 chipset, and is touted for operating with wide-range DC power. The SBC supports three independent displays via dual DisplayPorts, as well as LVDS, DVI, and VGA connections. The MX87QD supplies 10 USB ports (four of them 3.0), and four SATA 3 ports. BCM provides PCIe x16, Mini-PCIe, and half-sized Mini-PCIe slots, as well as Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) 9.0 and optional TPM 1.2.


    BCM MX81H
    (click to enlarge)

    The BCM MX81H board instead adopts the H81 PCH Express chipset, and is designed for entry-level industrial applications for retail, gaming, transportation, and medical market segments. It supports dual displays via its two DisplayPorts, VGA port, and optional LVDS, but it lacks its sibling’s DVI connection. The SBC provides eight USB ports (two of them 3.0), and offers SATA 3 on two of its four SATA ports. Dual Mini-PCIe slots are available, but there’s no PCIe slot.

  • DFI HM100-QM87 and HD100-H81D

    DFI HM100-QM87
    (click to enlarge)

    Like BCM, DFI is fielding both a QM87- and H81-based Mini-ITX board, but in this case, both have similar, rather modestly appointed I/O. Common features on the HM100-QM87 and HD100-H81D include HDMI, DVI-I, and LVDS display ports, dual gigabit Ethernet ports, eight USB ports (two of them 3.0), and two COM ports.

    Only two SATA ports are available, but both are SATA 3, and you get PCIe x16 and Mini-PCIe expansion slots. Other features include 8-bit DIO, AMT 9.0, and optional TPM 1.2.
     

  • iBase MI980

    iBase MI980
    (click to enlarge)

    The MI980 gives customers a choice of Intel QM87 and HM86 Express chipsets, and supports 4th Gen Core i7 and i5 processors. Video connections include DVI-I, DVI-D, LVDS/eDP, and DisplayPort, and expansion capabilities include PCIe x16 and dual Mini-PCIe slots, one of which is used for mSATA.

    The MI980 supplies 10 USB ports, four of which are USB 3.0, and the six COM ports include a jumperless selectable RS422/485 port. Additional specs include a generous six SATA ports, with four of them designated as SATA 3. AMT 9.0, optional TPM 1.2, and Intel vPro technologies are also available.
     

  • Kontron KTQ87/mITX

    Kontron KTQ87/mITX
    (click to enlarge)

    Kontron’s KTQ87/mITX supports 4th Gen Core i7/i5/i3 processors combined with the Intel Q87 chipset, and is supported with long term availability. The board goes cutting edge with three DisplayPorts featuring triple independent display ports, but there are no legacy options.

    The KTQ87/mITX offers 14 USB ports including four USB 3.0 ports. Five SATA 6Gbit/s and dual COM ports are provided, as are PCIe x16, Mini-PCIe, and mSATA expansion slots. AMT 9.0 and TPM 1.2 support are provided, as well as a Kontron embedded feature connector with “ADC, DAC up to 160 GPIO.”
     

  • Portwell WADE-8015

    Portwell WADE-8015
    (click to enlarge)

    The Portwell WADE-8015 combines the Q87 chipset with Core i7 and i5 processors in an LGA1150 socket. Instead of using a riser card to add ports or PCIe/PCI slots, the Portwell WADE-8015 integrates an extension board equipped with a gold finger that bridges PCIe signals. This might enable two-slot-added FlexATX or three-slot-added Micro ATX motherboard configurations, says the company. The board ships with a PCIe x16 Gen. 3, an mSATA ready Mini-PCIe, and a PCIe gold finger offering dual PCIe x1 capability.

    The WADE-8015 supports triple displays using its VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections. Other major features include 10 USB ports (4x USB 3.0), four SATA ports (two of them SATA 3), and six COM ports.

Further information on Haswell

For more background on Intel’s 4th Generation Core processors (aka Haswell), read LinuxGizmos.com’s detailed Haswell report.
 

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