Mini-ITX-Micro-ATX-NEEWhat are the pros and cons for Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX for embedded and industrial applications?

For consumer desktop and enterprise applications, it’s almost a no brainer to go for a Micro-ATX or ATX. In embedded applications, things tend to lean more to the Mini-ITX side of things. Let’s take a look at why that may be.

The Case for Mini-ITX

For industrial and embedded applications, this is pretty much the workhorse of the motherboards. They are in the highest demand and as a result there is a large selection to choose from.

Some of the benefits of the Mini-ITX:

  • Higher variety of product
  • Higher demand makes for a longer lifecycle by embedded manufacturers
  • The small form factor is very convenient for a lot of embedded applications
  • Because they are more “strictly embedded” it is easier to find Mini-ITX boards with fanless and rugged specifications.

For more info on Mini-ITX boards, check out our blog on “Selecting a Mini-ITX Board

The Case for Micro-ATX

Micro-ATX is reasonably popular in the consumer desktop market. It allows for most of the benefits of an ATX board, with a few concessions to save for space. In the embedded market they are in less demand than the Mini-ITX. But the main benefit, by far, is the amount of space available by the form factor.

Some benefits of the Micro-ATX:

  • Greater expansion
  • If you have the space, its larger surface area and case can allow for more airflow
  • Ideal for high powered processors

Mini-ITX vs. Micro-ATX: The Verdict

The case for use of a mini-itx vs. a micro-itx is a balanced, however the main things to consider are the following:

When to choose a Micro-ATX:

If the space restrictions aren’t too strict, and there are no features specific to the mini-ITX form factor that you need, then the Micro ATX seems a sure bet, with its higher power and more expansion.

When to choose a Mini-ITX:

For applications with space or power restrictions, a fanless Mini-ITX board with an Atom processor should be your board of choice.

New Era Electronics Brian LuckmanBrian Luckman is the President of New Era Electronics. He has worked in the industrial OEM market for over 25 years, serving a variety of different industries, gaining a strong reputation for his expertise and a thorough understanding of how to properly service OEM customers. In 2000 he began New Era Electronics and the company continues to grow. He’s a husband and father and enjoys exploring the outdoors.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to New Era Electronics and a clickable link back to this page.

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embedded system
In a recent blog, we posed the question “What is the real difference between an embedded system and a regular consumer system?”. The most important difference that was highlighted in that blog was that embedded systems have long lifecycles ranging from 3-7 years. Explaining why that was necessary for many embedded applications. This isn’t the only difference between “embedded” and “consumer” but this was the focus because it is such a broad and important difference that applies in practically every situation, and is a very sought after quality when choosing between embedded and consumer systems. Continue Reading…

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embedded system-consumer systIf you’ve worked in the industrial computing industry for any length of time, there is one question that is bound to have come up at one point. “What is an embedded system?” And more importantly, “what is the difference between an embedded system and an ordinary consumer system?”

It’s likely that you’ve even been in a situation where you have had the option to go with a consumer system and an embedded system, both of which had the same I/O, and were left scratching your head as to why the embedded system had the larger price tag. Despite the similarities, there are a few big differences beneath the appearances. And depending on your needs, you may or may not require an embedded system. Continue Reading…

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The Typical Embedded Board

When selecting an embedded board to fit a task, or when asked by a customer for an embedded board, 9 times out of 10 it is going to be a Mini-ITX board. There is plenty of reasoning as to why this is the case.

First and foremost is the subject of “real estate”, or space constraints. In many embedded industrial applications there is a limited amount of real estate, and the addition of extraneous size and weight in an embedded system can have a negative impact on the efficiency, feasibility and usability of that industrial design. However, going too small can have the opposite issues of heat and a general lack of onboard functionality. The goal is to have as much functionality as possible, while keeping the “real estate” relatively manageable and the Mini-ITX usually winds up being the best option to achieve that. While the consumer market seems to constantly be pushing things smaller and smaller, the industrial embedded market still seems to have a high demand for what Mini-ITX offers, and that is expected to remain the case, for some time.Industrial mini itx board

This brings us to the second point. Above, we determined that there is a lot of demand for the Mini-ITX. This results in a lot of product variants being available on the market to fill that demand, which draws even more people in to use the Mini-ITX form factor. This creates a sort of a vicious circle, which essentially results in there being an enormous library of boards to choose from, which reduces the chance that you will need to design a custom board or undergo the expense of purchasing expansions that are not already available onboard.

Continue Reading…

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Pico - ITX  board The Pico-ITX board is a small sized x86 embedded motherboard that is 10 cm by 7.2 cm. This board carries the processor, cache, memory, a variety of video interfaces and several different I/O. These boards were introduced by VIA Technologies in 2007. Developed by VIA to be up to 75% smaller than the previous mini-ITX platform, it is smaller than the mini-ITX and the nano-ITX form factor which drives the ability to deliver embedded system designs that pave the way for compact applications.

What do Pico – ITX boards mean to you?

The Pico – ITX board form factor allows for the development of devices that are smaller, more functional and even lighter than those containing larger embedded boards. As processor technology continues to move forward, we will see these embedded boards with support the new generations of single and multi core processors, which aim to lower TDP, which can be the cause of heat problems and short battery life which can plague smaller systems. This small form factor offers support for connectors to such devices as microSD, external drives and interfaces for WiFi, Ethernet and Bluetooth. This technology offers the opportunity to deliver more powerful and enhanced compact designs in the fields of infotainment, digital advertising, telephony, security and the ever growing fields surrounding the medical practice and automotive markets. Continue Reading…

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panel PCThere’s a continuing push in the field of technology for smaller and more specialized computing. The personal computer has remained a constant platform for a few decades and will be around for some time to come, but users have started to understand that for particular use cases a more specialized type of machine should be considered. The universality of the PC platform can mean scalability in the system that can spec up or pare down, depending on the needs of the client. Ultimately, usability and need drive the industry, especially within the industrial field.

When it comes to these markets, embedded systems should push for ease of use and all-in-one capabilities. These kinds of computers are built to serve the specific purposes beyond the usual implementations and fit the challenging environments that need them. Luckily, the panel PC standard offers a versatile platform to be utilized effectively throughout the industrial field and integrated into an array of industrial equipment.

What Separates a Panel PC from An Embedded System?

A panel PC has a number of features and characteristics that differentiate it from the average embedded pc with Continue Reading…

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wide-temperature motherboardsThe industrial computing world has to react to the needs of its customers, buyers who range from high level database creators to manufacturing designers. Such varying kinds of use-cases can mean wildly different environments that must be endured by devices that need to keep operating as long and as effectively as possible. Typical commercial products may be able to live up to the less intensive tasks, but when it comes to the demands made of most industrial computers, a more rugged alternative is key.

This is where a wide-temperature motherboard can save the day. Much like its RAM counterpart, this industrial component fills a particular niche of a full featured motherboard that works in a rugged environment. Understanding this component’s capability and how to utilize its strengths is important in determining who most needs this product.

What Do Wide-Temperature Motherboards Provide?

A wide-temperature motherboard gives designers the peace of mind that no matter what load the use-case brings, it will Continue Reading…

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mini-itx casesIn the industrial computing world, the topic of heat output comes up with such regularity because of the challenges it can bring to a build. Unless a designer is willing to include expensive cooling systems, dissipation remains one of the main issues; plenty of factors come into play when considering the heating issue.

Device size almost always presents interesting design issues. Companies providing an overall design need to take into account how large the machine has to be, which in turn necessitates a certain casing. Mini-ITX cases provide a compact solution, but putting heat generating elements in a small space makes for a precarious situation. However, there are ways to deal with this issue to ensure that this mini-ITX build can adequately dissipate heat while being powerful enough for the buyer.

What Components “Fit” a Mini-ITX Case?

What generates heat in a mini-ITX case are the components that make up the system. A high speed processor, a mechanical Continue Reading…

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embedded computingPicture this: a military company is trying to create a new system to put into the field. It will be used in a mobile communication platform operating in Afghanistan. Within these parameters, naturally there are a number of aspects that the designers need to take into account. Two of the highest ones on the list will be:

  • Heat dissipation: Ensuring that this piece of equipment can retain functionality under the extreme heat of the region
  • Dust and sand proof enclosure: Sand can be a real destroyer for embedded hardware, so manufacturers work diligently to use enclosures rated for airtight protection

While these factors should unquestionably have their place at the forefront, there is still a particularly troublesome issue of embedded computing that should be focused on to a greater extent.

Embedded Computing and How Vibration Hurts

In general, industrial computers have to deal with rough environments and are subject to a great deal of movement throughout Continue Reading…

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industrial RAMCan you put your mind in the same space as an engineer? Not only do people in this profession have to complete many years of schooling, but they are constantly thrown into problematic situations requiring ingenuity to solve. It’s essentially a vocation filled with problem solvers; people who look at an issue and use their knowledge and the technology available to them to come up with a new way forward. In the industrial world, the main focus of the technology is often efficiency in the harshest environments. Resolving this issue presents an interesting problem for makers of embedded systems.

When it comes to embedded systems, using optimal components is absolutely necessary to creating a functional machine. There are numerous off-the-shelf components within the commercial market that could theoretically be used. A CPU that powers a consumer PC can certainly be used within industrial computers; however, it may not be able to function at its peak efficiency because of the environment in which it is placed. Even more importantly, it likely won’t be supported for the full lifecycle of Continue Reading…

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