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.
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.
Selecting the Right Mini-ITX Board
Having such a large selection to choose from can make for a tricky selection process. You obviously have your board specs in mind, first and foremost, and if you can help it you are going to reduce any onboard wiring an expansion. This is not always possible but you can dream, right?
It’s good to have a basic starting point when searching for a board to fit your needs. Following our suggested steps below can help you do just that.
1) Figuring out what chipset and processor that you need.
2) You can use the various databases and search functions available on the web (such as the Motherboard Selector) to locate all of the available motherboards that have that chipset or processor. This will usually narrow down the search to about 5-15 boards, depending on how new or old the chipset or processor is.
3) Once you have done this, it just becomes a matter of quickly reviewing the specs of each board to see if it has the I/O and expansion that fits your requirement and getting a sample for testing!
Brian 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.
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