Intel continues its push to shrink desktop PCs smaller and smaller. Given the popularity of the Intel NUC and its clones, the GIGABYTE BRIX, Zotac C-Series, and ASRock Beebox, consumers have adopted the small-is-beautiful mentality. With the launch of the Intel Compute Stick, we saw how a device the size of a USB thumb drive could turn any digital display into a fully operational Windows computer.
Now we have the Intel 5×5 motherboard standard.Think of a computer built on a 5×5 board as fitting between a NUC and a mini-ITX system in terms of size and power.
Measuring 5.5-by-5.8-inches (hence the name), the 5×5 motherboard is larger than a NUC. But unlike a NUC it comes without the chips soldered in—it has an open LGA socket that supports Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs with standard cooler mounting holes and 65 watt TDPs rating. Memory and storage are attached via SODIMM modules (like a NUC), and support M.2 storage or 2.5-inch SATA drives.
The Intel 5×5 is about an inch smaller on either side than a Mini-ITX motherboard. Unlike a Mini-ITX, it operates directly on DC power rather than a SFX PSU. The 5×5 cannot support a PCIe module which rules out adding a discrete graphics card to a 5×5 system.
Intel says the Intel 5×5 has rich I/O options and can connect to the Internet via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
The goal with the 5×5 is to offer users a compact and powerful barebones system. It should be interesting to see how OEMs will configure this technology in their builds. I expect to see 5x5s making a home for Intel’s Broadwell Iris Pro CPUs. Measures to keep these CPUs cool probably will need fleshing out in case designs.
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Due to graphics card limitations, an Intel 5×5 system probably would not have adequate clout to make it a veritable gaming machine. It would be better suited for mainstream office computing, especially in work areas where space is at a premium. It will likely have home theater and kiosk display uses as well. According to the original report by Liliputing, Intel has not yet disclosed pricing or launch date information for the 5×5 motherboard standard.