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Expansion-minded Mini-ITX runs Linux on Apollo Lake

Jun 6, 2017 — by Eric Brown 796 views

DFI’s “AL17x” industrial Apollo Lake Mini-ITX offers triple displays plus PCIe, mini-PCIe, M.2, and serial expansion, and optional 15-36V and -40 to 85°C.

DFI’s AL171 and AL173 boards, which provide 12V and 15-36V power supplies, respectively, build on Intel’s latest Apollo Lake Atom, Celeron, and Pentium system-on-chips. The 170 x 170mm AL17x boards, which otherwise appear to be identical, follow earlier DFI Mini-ITX models such as the Bay Trail Atom E3800 based BT160. Like that board, the AL17x would appear to qualify as a “thin” Mini-ITX board, although the company does not use the term.

AL173, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The AL17x supports Ubuntu 15.10 and Fedora 24, both of which ship with Intel graphics drivers, as well as Yocto Project Linux and Windows 10. It joins other thin Apollo Lake mini-ITX boards including Aaeon’s EMB-APL, Adlink’s AmITX-AL-I, Advantech’s AIMB-217, Congatec’s Conga-IA5, and Kontron’s mITX-APL.

The AL17x supports Intel’s quad-core, 1.6GHz/2GHz Atom E3950, 1.6GHz/1.8GHz Atom E3940, and 1.1GHz/2.5GHz Pentium N4200 Apollo Lake models. (DFI erroneously lists the latter as a Celeron.) The board is also available with the dual-core 1.3GHz/1.8GHz Atom E3930 and 1.1/2.4GHz Celeron N3350. The SoCs offer Intel HD Graphics GT Series graphics, and support OpenGL 5.0, DirectX 12, and OpenCL 2.1.

AL173 (left) and AL171/AL173 block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The AL17x supports up to 16GB DDR3L (1867MHz) via dual channels, and offers a SATA 3.0 connection and dual GbE ports with a choice of Intel I210AT or I211AT controllers. Other coastline ports include 4x USB 3.0, an audio out jack (Realtek ALC262-VC2-GR), and HDMI and VGA ports, both of which can be swapped out for DisplayPort++. Triple display support is enabled with the help of LVDS interface, which can be exchanged for an optional eDP. The eDP port matches DP++ for the highest 4096 x 2160 @ 60Hz resolution.

Al173 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Internal connections include five USB 2.0 interfaces, analog and S/PDIF interfaces, 8-bit DIO, LPC, SMBus, and panel connectors. There are also 4x RS-232 and 2x RS-232/422/485 interfaces with optional extension modules that use the LPC connection to deliver 4x RS-232 or 4x RS-485 real-world DB-9 ports (see diagram below).

Serial expansion options for Ali171/Ali173
(click image to enlarge)

Other expansion technologies include a full-sized mini-PCIe slot, an M.2 slot with SATA 3.0 support, and a PCIe Gen 2 interface. The board is further equipped with a watchdog, system fan connectors, an RTC with battery, and 7-year CPU lifecycle support. Options include a SIM card slot and a TPM security chip. Both the AL171 and wide-range power AL173 are available in 0 to 60°C and -40 to 85°C models.


Further information

The AL171 and wide-range power AL173 Mini-ITX boards are listed as “coming soon.” More information may be found at DFI’s AL171/AL173 product page.

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