back to article This credit card-sized PC board can use an Intel Core i7

There's something satisfying about fitting a decent processor in a small form factor, and the latest example is a credit card-sized single-board computer that uses an 11th-gen Intel Core part. The single-board PC is from Aaeon, the industrial-computer-focused subsidiary of Asus, and it's being made alongside another board of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this one of those machines...

    ...that we'll be taking pictures of in 10 years time blue screening with Windows 7 on in a train station?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Is this one of those machines...

      I think the manufacturers of those often like to take all the parts from a board like this and solder them to a board of their own making so that, when something fails, you can't fix it without getting a replacement from them. The hardware's likely the same though, and since Raspberry Pis became so popular with signage companies, maybe it will end up being more common than I predicted.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmmm.

    Can't say I'm particularly impressed. That's quite a lot of power consumption for such a small board, and the I/O looks distinctly underwhelming for something aimed at industrial processing. Also, I'm not convinced hyperthreading is a good idea in anything that's time critical.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm.

      My thought too. If it's intended for robotics and the like, where is the GPIO connection? Surely they can't imagine that the obvious way to design this in is with a second party IO adaptor via (e.g.) USB?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm.

        Specs say there's an 8 bit GPIO header.

        Full list of inny outty shake it all abouty stuff:

        USB – 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 x2 Type-A ports, 4x USB 2.0 interfaces via header

        Serial – 2x RS232/422/485 via header

        Expansion

        M2 M-Key 2280 socket (PCIe x2, PCIe x4 Gen3 (by FPC))

        8-bit GPIO header

        optional SMBus/I2C

        Storage – SATA III port, M.2 socket for NVMe SSD (See Expansion section)

        Display

        HDMI 1.4b up to 4Kp30

        eDP up to 3840×2160 resolution

        Up to 2 independent displays

        Networking

        2.5GbE RJ45 port via Intel i225LM controller

        Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port via Intel i219LM (Tiger Lake) or Realtek RTL8111H (AMD Ryzen) controller

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm.

          Ah! This wasn't at all clear from the article.

          P.S. I was up early this morning ::

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Hmmm.

            Notably absent from the article was the SATA and M.2 sockets. You're pretty close to bare metal if you don't have any means of adding storage via anything other than USB.

            1. badflorist

              Re: Hmmm.

              M2 M-Key 2280. That is the desired form for cheap, large storage in smaller form factors.

              I'd still rather have the soon to be released ARM based Orange Pi and run x86/64 through a VM. With the specs of this Intel board, the Orange might be all around better (and surely cheaper).

          2. elaar

            Re: Hmmm.

            You're not going to get anything serious done with an 8bit GPIO though.

            I'm assuming you'd offload the GPIO tasks to a seperate gpio usb/i2c/spi extender, as you wouldn't want to risk harming the (probably very expensive) main board.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hmmm.

      The market is for those already using embedded x86 devices. Power consumption and size make it a non-starter for anything that isn't dependent upon the x86 stack.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm.

        Those already using an x86 stack for this kind of application should surely be looking to move elsewhere with reasonable urgency?

  3. bpfh Silver badge

    As a raspberry pi alternative…

    I’m interested. But I’m guessing that we are not in the same price universe.

    1. pluraquanta

      Re: As a raspberry pi alternative…

      The power consumption alone would render it kinda pointless for Pi-type use cases. There have been a couple of RISC-V boards (VisionFive, Beagle HiFive) at competitive prices (~$100) though they get discontinued as quickly as they're released. It'll be a few years before they mature as real alternatives to the Pi.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: As a raspberry pi alternative…

        I suppose that depends on your use case for the Pi. It's certainly going to use more power, but still below desktop-level power. If the Pi doesn't run fast enough for what you're doing, this might be useful. Since the Pi's power usage already basically prevents it working well with a battery (unless you want to carry around a battery that's a lot bigger and heavier than the computer it's powering), the likely setup for powering the boards will look similar. If speed is important, an extra 10-20 watts might be acceptable to users.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          battery weight

          My first laptop had a battery which was as heavy as the device. It also started to fade after a few months so I was carrying the laptop, the battery and charger. In the end I completely dispensed with the battery as it only gave me an hours usage anyway.

          1. EricB123 Bronze badge

            Re: battery weight

            How I miss the good old days of Ni-Cad batteries!

  4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Cooling? Heatsink?

    I am not sure they will remain as small as those photos if using any sort of typical PC processor and want to last more than a second or two.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Have another coffee! According to the article, the TDP for the available i7 is 15W, for the top AMD chip 25W. So, not the hottest CPUs around.

      Industrial PCs commonly use their case as a large heatsink (to avoid dust ingress). These boards aren't being pitched at consumers, but at engineers who will integrate them (and their cooling requirements) into a larger system.

      Also, from the article:

      >And the system will become even thicker if you apply the board's specially designed heatsink and fan assembly, which seems to double the board's depth

    2. Tom66

      Credit card sized but requiring a heatsink and fan about the same size as the module.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Actually, it's a bit bigger- I had a look at the source article, which has a picture of the heatsink and fan. Kind of comical if you've never seen something like that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Also nice it's removable

          So you can mod it if your thermal envelope permits/requires.

          Seems like an ok core for a hand built router/gateway/firewall. As others have said, mostly useful for people who want to run existing x86 code and need more grunt. No reason to think these will be Pi cheap, but may still be competitive with other embedded PC boards, and the size will be a selling point for those that are building it into something.

          The layout is very sensible. I applaud them putting M.2 on it, that's a platform to back going forward. Small efficient and cheap, and it only took 70 years :-) (https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/storage/storage_350.html)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Also nice it's removable

            "Seems like an ok core for a hand built router/gateway/firewall."

            The moment I read "two Ethernet ports", that thought flashed through my mind. I'd quite like something much smaller as my router/gateway/firewall but it seems most solutions are either fiddly (single Ethernet + a USB adaptor) or just expensive enough that I keep putting it off since the old PC with one onboard NIC and PCI NIC is doing just fine.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Two Ethernet ports

              Set the wayback machine to 2010 or maybe even earlier.

              Intel had acquired a System on Chip vendor and the associated chips and designs and people.

              See e.g. IXP422 description in various places.

              Two ethernet ports, targeted at low power consumption mainly-Linux application environments.

              ARM-based, though, and hence Intel couldn't keep the product range in house.

              Found for a while in products such as the Moxa UC-7420.

              Enjoy.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      I'm guessing the sort of chips you would put in it are closer to Y-series than K-series?

      1. iron Silver badge

        Why guess? If you read the article it tells you exactly which chips the board takes.

        Or is that too old fashioned and boring for you?

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Old fashioned and boring like common courtesy and the adage "if you've nothing nice to say..."

  5. druck Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Fahrenheit?

    FFS!

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Fahrenheit?

      Fahrenheit For Sure?

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Fahrenheit?

        Fahrenheit For Sure? Shame!

        FTFY

      2. Horridbloke

        Re: Fahrenheit?

        Freedom Fermal Scale

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Fahrenheit?

      Not only that... but when did theregister.co.uk become .com?

      But yeah, surely converting Fahrenheit to Celsius for the benefit of most human beings is the sort of rule-based job that a simple macro (or a sub-editor) can be used for?

      We lost a Mars probe because of this.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Conversion

        It was written and edited in the US and scheduled for the UK morning. We just wanted to go home, TBH, so didn't do the conversion. I've added it now seeing as I'm up late working.

        C.

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Conversion

          We just wanted to go home,...

          Here is the problem.

          See, this newfangled time is called the "Era of Online". You are not supposed to go "home". The Online world is active and running 24/365. You are supposed to follow suit and accommodate and love the new continuous labour, where ever you are and when ever we please.

          Please, for your readership, don't take a break(see icon).

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Conversion

            We can come to a compromise; we'll El Reg's Vultures go to the pub as long as they don't stop working. The articles will probably be hilarious :-)

          2. TeeCee Gold badge
            Joke

            Re: Conversion

            FFS! Don't feed into it, even in jest.

            You'll have all the people here whingeing about "work/life balance" and taking time off due to stress, just like the lusers do.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Conversion

          > It was written and edited in the US and scheduled for the UK morning

          Oh! So it wasn't out of consideration for your Liberian readership?

          (one of two countries in the world that, officially, use Fahrenheit, though in practice the Liberians stick to °C like everyone else. Yes I've been there)

        3. Oh Matron!

          Re: Conversion

          If you can't do F - 30 divide by 2 in a couple of seconds then you are Jacob Rees Mogg AICMFP

          1. Def Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Conversion

            Did you mean subtract 32, multiply by five, and divide by nine?

          2. iron Silver badge

            Re: Conversion

            I can do plenty of arithmetic in my head however I don't know the formulas for converting from my dad's dinosaur units into sensible modern units. And I was born in the early 70s so this shit shouldn't be an issue by now.

            1. JDX Gold badge

              Re: Conversion

              I was born a decade later and these units were in common use even then in the UK. Methinks you are being deliberately dumb like those Americans who refuse to learn Metric because "it's too complicated".

              1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                Angel

                Re: Conversion One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

                The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated.

                Icon for Sir Pterry.

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                  Re: Conversion One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

                  There's a lot to be said for some of the old systems in day to day life because of the use of fractions and we've kept sexagesimal for angles because of this. But we didn't have common systems throughout. Money had 12d to a shilling and 20 shilling to the pound, weight is a combination of base 16 and base 14 and let's not get started on distance! But in many situations you work with a multiple or a simple fraction of a known amount. You don't have as much of this in metric but calculations are easier because of the consistency.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Conversion One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

                    "You don't have as much of this in metric but calculations are easier because of the consistency."

                    Fractions work with decimals, just not as conveniently in some cases. 1/3rd of a metre is a bit imprecise, but half a metre or a quarter metre works fine. Just that almost no one uses them. On the other hand, half a litre is a common usage in speech, but always labelled in print as 0.5l. The usual argument trotted out is "yeah but 12" foot can easily and conveniently be spit into 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/8 etc, etc, etc.". My response is if you are working with those sorts of fractions, then millimetres will get you where you need to be just as easily. You might not be able to convert precisely between, say 1/3rd" and mm, but so what? If you'll be using metric, then you'll measure 8mm because 1/3" isn't what you want. You want something about that size, ie something that will fit into the other part of the same size, ie 8mm. If you need more significant figures, it's just as easy to drill a hole 8.4 or 8.46mm if you need that level of accuracy, but again, there is no need to mix different measuring scales. The only people with problems are those thinking in the old scale and converting in their head to the new scale. All of us above an age have been through that. Some of us still do for some things. I still do my height in feet/inches and my weight in St/lbs (none of this US lbs only malarky!)

                    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                      Re: Conversion One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

                      Fractions work with decimals, just not as conveniently in some cases.

                      Agreed, but for day to day work, fractions (and multiples) are very convenient; we're not as clever as we think we are. Hence, 2ft instead of 2/3 yard and thirds are very common. Of course, this only matters where you don't have accurate rulers, scales, etc. As I said, engineering switched very quickly to metric even though you'll still come across people happy to talk about "thous".

                      Oh, and aviation and shipping remain holdouts for some old-style measurements.

                2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Conversion One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

                  "The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated."

                  Sir PTerry was mis-quoting for humorous effect. The process of converting en masse was going to be expensive and complicated. Not the actual usage, once that giant step was taken.

              2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                Re: Conversion

                The UK transitioned to metric over the 1980s and by the early nineties metric was predominant, especially in medicine and engineering. Though in true British contrariness contradictions abounded: weights and measures remained imperal when being served but were metric for packaged products.

                I can do a lot of the conversions in my head but find °C to °F tricky because of the offset, even though it's "easy". Both scales also have their pros and cons: you needed pretty pure water for Celsius but its also arguable that Fahreinheit's larger scale matches our experience of temperature better. But Fahreinheit is unsuited for anything other than the weather for the similar reasons: boiling points, freezing points, etc. are all for elements in their natural state.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Conversion

            "If you can't do F - 30 divide by 2 in a couple of seconds then you are Jacob Rees Mogg AICMFP"

            Using that same logic (but using the correct numbers) surely it makes more sense to use the units the entire world uses and leave it the USA to convert to F if they choose to be the outliers.

        4. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Conversion

          Hey, it's all good - it was meant in jest, hence the nod to XKCD. No explanation is required, but thank you. Cheers!

          From the linked CNS news site:

          Temperature Range – Operating: 0°C to 60°C, storage: -40°C to 80°C

          Humidity – 0% ~ 90% relative humidity, non-condensing

        5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Conversion

          "as I'm up late working."

          Thank you :-)

          Question though. Is El Reg becoming more US based? I've noticed over recent months that there are fewer new stories published in the morning UK time than there used to be and more new stories still appearing late into the evening UK time which used to be quite rare. Is El Reg scheduling more stuff around USA time these days or are more of the authors in the US office now? Is this a result of the last ownership change?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fahrenheit?

      I can't be arsed to go to the computer and open a recent US tech sheet, but my recollection is that they use °C. Must have been the PR department that thought it would be helpful to do the conversion?

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: Fahrenheit?

        The US uses both SAE and metric. We have no issue using either. Being officially SAE, like most things in the US, only matters to folks who pay attention to such things, which really isn't many people at all. Most of us do it for fun. I, for example, will fight to the ends of the Earth to keep the US as an SAE nation, but only because it's amusing. In practical matters I can use either system.

        If anything, staying SAE has advantages over the metric system as it's far more precise. People raised using SAE can use both because metric is intuitive and less complicated, but people raised using metric have a hard time with SAE.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Re: Fahrenheit? More Precise?

          We have decimal places for when we want to be precise. There's no need to convert out to an odd-shaped unit with an offset baseline.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fahrenheit? More Precise?

            There's no need to convert out to an odd-shaped unit with an offset baseline.

            Technically, the Celsius scale itself has an offset, though admittedly you'd be quite the nerd to go around complaining about the weather in Kelvin.

            1. Kristian Walsh

              Re: Fahrenheit? More Precise?

              True, although once we’re being technical, I’m sure you remember that water actually freezes at its triple-point, which is 0.01 ºC (273.16 K), not zero, and that the boiling point is only 100 ºC at 1013.25 hectopascals of air pressure (= 1 atmosphere); in a hard vacuum, pure water has no liquid state, and so boils at any temperature over its triple-point, and freezes at any temperature below.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Fahrenheit?

          "If anything, staying SAE has advantages over the metric system as it's far more precise."

          I need to drill a hole precisely 5mm in diameter. What's that in inches? I have a 5mm drill bit. Sadly I can't find one that is 0.19685" in my old set of imperial bits

          1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            Re: Fahrenheit?

            Yes, and if I needed a 5mm hole drilled, I'd use a 5mm drill bit. If I needed a 9/64 hole, I'd use a 9/64 bit while you'd use your nonexistent 3.571875mm bit. Advantage, SAE nation.

            Mind you downthumbers, I'm not making a superiority claim for SAE, just saying that being SAE has advantages, as we have access to and use both.

          2. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Fahrenheit?

            13/64" would be the closest but not precisely 5mm.

            But what has that to do with which system is more precise. Lets reverse the conversion.

            I need to drill a hole precisely 13/64" in diameter. What's that in millimeters? I have a 13/64" drill bit. Sadly I can't find one that is 5.1594mm in my new set of metric bits.

            Neither system is more precise than the other, precision is limited by the smallest division of a measuring device. When I started comprehensive predecimalisation we were still imperial outside of science. By the time I left most subjects used metric an exception was metalwork the lathe was imperial down to a thou.

            So my 1 foot rule (1/32" smallest increment) became 30cm rule (1mm smallest increment). That does not mean imperial is more precise.(1/32" smaller than 1mm). In metalwork the Vernier gauges and Vernier micrometers measured to a thou, but the metric Vernier micrometers we used measured to 0.001m. That does not mean metric was more precise.

            The problem with imperial is the inconsistent number base. Just look at the distance from yards base 3, 12, then 2 for a while (1/2", 1/4" ... 1/64"), and then they give up and decimalise to a thou (1/1000"). Sure can I use feet and inches but it is a lot easier to use metric.

          3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Fahrenheit?

            If you're drilling a hole, the fact that you're working in the physical universe means that difference between sizes is smaller than the margin of error resulting from using real physical materials.

    4. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Fahrenheit?

      Rankine scale or bust!

      Mostly for the added confusion value for unit conversions, particularly where people don't label them correctly.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Fahrenheit?

        GIVE ME KELVIN OR GIVE ME... something. :D

        Clearly I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Re: Fahrenheit?

          ... OR GIVE ME CLYDE ?

  6. Jan 0
    Boffin

    Hiltons

    For those of us who don't understand Fahrenheit, thats -2 to +4 Hn.

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    M2

    I wish Apple had released M2 CPU to the general public. Anything that Intel or AMD makes now looks like legacy technology.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: M2

      Try compiling an Android application on that M2 chip. You'll be back 10 minutes later (I kid you not) begging for an x86 chip that can do the job in 1/10th the time.

      That's just one example I know of but there are more. Apple's chips, like their computers, are fine for writing your screenplay in Starbucks that will make you rich & famous but not much use for actual work.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: M2

        That's interesting. But sounds more like an user error - these things happen if you don't have enough memory so it has to swap and the performance gains are gone.

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: M2

        Well @iron wins a prize for the most arrogantly ignorant post I've read today. The M1/2 chips smoke benchmarks for real-world, hugely demanding tasks such as video editing and music production. They are incredible.

        That your compiler doesn't perform well on them might be down to the compiler. Has it been optimised or is it running through an x86 translator for example?

        So disappointing when developers display such obvious illogical bias and fundamental technological ingorance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: M2

          As I recall (and I have no skin in this) the increase in performance on common consumer tasks is because the architecture has specialisations precisely to deal with whatever consumers do with a computer (presumably browsing, shopping and watching porn). Pretty sure there was an article in El Reg that went into some detail on this.

          It's certainly a valid approach, and what the mobile phone manufacturers have been doing for years, just not necessarily what you want when you're doing computation intensive tasks of a kind for which the architecture has not been designed or optimised for.

      3. FIA Silver badge

        Re: M2

        Try compiling an Android application on that M2 chip. You'll be back 10 minutes later (I kid you not) begging for an x86 chip that can do the job in 1/10th the time.

        I've just installed the latest android studio on an M1 mini and an AMD zen3 12 core.

        Downloaded the owncloud app, open in studio and let things settle.... then did a 'Rebuild project'.

        It takes 1:12 to compile on the mac, and 1:27 on the AMD.

        I then tried fenrir, did: build, clean, build. (To take the dependency install out of the equation), the M1 took 1:32, the AMD 2:04.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: M2

          Also nobody mentions that M2 can match and exceed the speed of newest Intel laptops not only fanless, but also in low power mode.

          Anyone who cannot stand the noise and heat of Intel laptops and experiencing M2 can say it's life changing.

  8. gryphon

    These are also nice

    https://addc.com/product/biodigitalpc-12x/

    Earlier generation of Core i7 and require a dock for desktop use or can do a cluster in a modified peli case.

  9. Swarthy Silver badge

    C'mon Lian Li

    I would love to see what this could be like in a Small Form Factor Case.

    Imagine the creative insanity behind Lian Li's yacht or train case, with something this small removing the need to design around the mini-ITX form factor.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    De Next

    De zNuts?

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: De Next

      You get an upvote just for that joke.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: De Next

        It was puerile. But I could not resist.

  11. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Surprising DC power input

    A module fitted inside and running industrial machinery is usually powered by said machinery, not a DC jack on the outside.

    It doesn't look like there are any internal power bus options, and it's very close to the USB ports. Will interfere with quite a few USB devices.

    It looks more like a set-top-box form factor. Which is odd, as you'll usually find ARM there.

    At least it's a locking DC jack, I suppose.

  12. Ian 55

    Call me old

    "When people read single-board computer, they may think of the Raspberry Pi"

    Erm, I think of the Apple 1 and Nascom-1 and...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Call me old

      ...or pretty much any microcomputer before the IBM PC came along. The IBM PC was one of, if not the first mass produced computer to be pretty much unusable as a bare board with no add-ons. Yes, there were other, earlier ones eg S100 based card rack systems, but they weren't really mass produced and certainly not aimed at consumers.

  13. Lordrobot

    All you need for this is a MINI-Air conditioner...

    Another X-86 hot brick.... I pass. Give me a RISC-V chip PC that can be set up as a virtual machine. Then the rest of it will take care of itself...

  14. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Aren’t credit cards a bit thinner?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depends how much money you have.

  15. arachnoid2

    Ribbon cables?

    Would it have not been thinner if the external ports hdmi,usb etc ran from a ribbon cable to a choice of user selectable peripheral ports rather than being mounted on board?

    After all in industrial use surely these ports would usually be connected with a lead to wherever the designer wanted them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ribbon cables?

      Yeah a bit concerned about durability in high vibration environments.

      Though to be fair things seem to work better in practice than in theory these days.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we?

    We need a way to convert excess generated heat into light energy sequestered in a crystal. Then offloaded later. Not a bulky heat sink.

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