Embedded Boards

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 BoardContinue Reading…


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…


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…


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…


Embedded CPU-Arm ArchitectureSomething that shouldn’t be underestimated when creating embedded machines is the need for a strong processor. There are a whole suite of components that a developer or OEM needs to concentrate on, but most are not as important as the CPU. Understanding what power demands are allotted for the overall product and what it has to accomplish guides the component types that can be utilized. For many industrial machines, the main requirements of good design are:

  • compact
  • fast processor
  • low power/battery consumption

Finding the right embedded CPU to fulfill all of these demands has been made pretty darn easy, thanks to the ARM architecture. Created in the 80’s, these lines of smaller and smarter processors have taken the commercial world by storm, and have concrete applications for embedded systems. The constant reiteration of its product line ensures great strides in making the ARM architecture more efficient and powerful. They become even more relevant for the industrial market by being extremely compatible across old and new platforms. Their versatility in embedded CPU usage cannot be overlooked by companies and OEMs that are designing small, single board machines. Continue Reading…


full size CPU cardIn retrospect, power can be awe-inspiring. When charting the advancement of technology in the last thirty years, the industry has increased processing power, graphical capability, and storage space by at least thirty fold. Size requirements for supercomputers have shrunk to handheld devices, and the modern cellphone can handle just about every function of a full desktop computer in the 90’s.

Consumer market demands drive manufacturers to create more compact designs; this is mirrored in the industrial market, but there’s also a distinction, because industrial computing still needs workhorses. This computer type has the distinct purpose of processing massive amounts of data quickly or rendering complex images and videos for immediate use. It also doesn’t necessarily need to sacrifice power for a smaller frame. Quite the opposite, in fact.

What drives a data center or server such as this is a number of full size CPU cards plugged into a backplane. These types of embedded boards are built for the sole purpose of processing and storing as much data as possible from a single board. When choosing between different manufacturers for this form factor, an OEM must look at all the angles and figuring out what each full size CPU card provides, including Continue Reading…


mini-ITX motherboardWhen delving into the computing world, trying to develop an embedded system presents companies with a unique problem when considering which direction to go in with their design. What exactly does the device need to achieve? How can they balance the need for computing power with the machine’s overall cost?

The answers to these questions usually come down to the different components that can be put into a system. Furthermore, what governs overall within the machine is the motherboard, the fulcrum point from which all of the directions and commands need to spring. Trying to decide on the best type and standard of motherboard to suit the requirements of the computer and to go with other components comes with a multitude of caveats. But there is definitely one that could be considered “the usual.”

Why a Mini-ITX Motherboard Fits the Standard

A Mini-ITX motherboard fills a “jack of all trades” role within embedded computing for a number of reasons, the first being reflected in its name. While there are smaller form factors when it comes to motherboards, such as the Nano or Continue Reading…


Embedded BoardsCompanies involved in creating industrial computer systems move in one of two directions. Depending on the use case of the buyer, computers will push for the cutting edge of power, which necessitates considerable power and space demands. A range of motherboards fulfill these demands; ranging from Pico-ITX to the almost gargantuan EATX, they utilize the newest processors, graphics cards and additional modules to allow users the most power possible. Technology, and by extension the buyer’s interest, can also move in the opposite direction.

Various sectors, such as the medical or military fields, have a need for low power solutions that can be mobile. Handheld computing or the shrinking of existing systems that allows them be used in the field represents the ultimate goal. The need to push computer systems to a smaller form factor presents a challenge, but manufacturers have essentially solved the issue with computer on modules.

The Popular Embedded Boards

OEMs are in the tough position of deciding which motherboard standard can be used to fit the need for smaller computing. Manufacturers present a number of different types; the two most popular and smallest board standards are Qseven and COM Express. There are a number of differences between the two, most notable is Continue Reading…


When it comes to motherboards, the industrial and commercial sectors do a pretty good job at keeping themselves separate. Even to the point where commercial manufacturers don’t sell industrial motherboards and, conversely, where industrial manufacturers don’t sell commercial motherboards.

Industrial motherboard manufacturers just aren’t set up to compete with the likes of ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte, while still keeping motherboards with lifecycles of 5 years or more on their product roadmap. And simply put, their procedures require a higher overhead and resultantly higher priced motherboard.

Commercial manufacturers on the other hand have the opposite problem of not being able to support a motherboard for 5+ years. They also can’t offer all of the different custom options and small runs of quantities like 50-100 boards, because they are set up to manufacture THOUSANDS of boards at a time. It’s just a matter of the two industries not being economically set up to overlap.

Commercial Manufacturers Making Industrial Motherboards?

However, in recent years, whether due to exponential growth in the industrial motherboard and embedded PC market, or simply because a recent analysis showed it to be a prudent move, commercial manufacturers are now getting involved Continue Reading…


ATX vs. Micro ATXThe “golden egg” for most of technology runs along a very particular line of thought: make your device smaller without sacrificing its ability to process and render the necessary information for the user. The consumer side of technology grasped this mantra and ran with it. The processes that needed a standard sized computer five years ago can now be shrunk to a single embedded board.

With the modern trend of smartphones and tablets, it would seem that there is no longer a need for the outdated and oversized motherboard. But does this apply to the industrial sector? If we can replace them with newer, smaller and sometimes more efficient components, then what is the point of these legacy parts? In selecting between a large ATX vs. Micro ATX board, should the choice always be the latter? This conversation rages on and each side makes compelling arguments. Both standards can coexist because they each play a role. They fit certain needs perfectly, but also have their drawbacks.

ATX vs. Micro ATX: What Can a Few Inches Do?

ATX boards, the big brother of the Micro ATX standard, are considered workhorses in the computing world. They are very versatile motherboards and can be found in a multitude of places, ranging from high powered workstations, database/server architecture and even to communication centers. From an industrial perspective, Continue Reading…