Intel unveils ultra-compact 5x5 motherboard standard
August 24, 2015 // 11:47 a.m.
Intel has formally unveiled a new entry in its micro-PC line-up, designed to offer greater upgradeability than its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) form factor: the Intel 5x5.
At this year's Intel Developer Forum (IDF), the chip giant offered the first glimpse at a new standard for socketed motherboards it dubbed 5x5. Claimed to be the smallest socketed board layout around, the new standard measures just 140mm x 147mm - 5.5" by 5.8", hence its name - or 29 per cent smaller in footprint than the already-compact mini-ITX standard.
Despite its svelte dimensions, Intel's 5x5 standard offers a wealth of features: a socket for land grid array (LGA) processors allows users to upgrade the chip or build their own system, something the company's NUC and its soldered-down ball grid array (BGA) chips can't offer. Two laptop-style SODIMM slots offer memory expandability over two channels, while users have the choice of adding 2.5" SATA or M.2 solid-state storage devices. Models will be available, Intel has indicated, with a choice of wired and wireless networking options.
Each entry in the 5x5 family will offer support for chips from the company's entry-level Celeron range right up to the high-end Core i7, with a maximum thermal design profile (TDP) support of 65W. Using these chips on a 5x5 motherboard, the company claims, would allow for sub-1L volume PCs which nevertheless offer the same CPU upgradeability as a full-size desktop system - albeit without full-size PCI Express slots. The standard also requires that the CPU is always located in the same position on the motherboard, making it easier for designers to build cases with integrated cooling systems for the platform.
Sadly, Intel has been quiet on when the device will reach market and even if it is something that will see a retail release with hints that it may be offered to OEM partners only as a quick means to build small form factor devices.