We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries regarding the availability of motherboards and systems with support for Intel’s mobile Core series of CPUs. Believe me; we’re anxious for them to arrive too—Arrandale represents one of the largest jumps in mobile computing performance, and effectively narrows the gap between mobile and desktop performance, while reducing peak power consumption by up to 40% over the Montevina platform.
Unfortunately, the industrial PC (IPC) market is typically 3-6 months behind the consumer market due to the additional R&D, testing, and certifications required to ensure the functionality and reliability of industrial products. Also, because IPC customers are typically slower to adopt new technology (stability is usually more important than outright performance) the launch timing is far less critical than it is for consumer products. I suspect that, due to the poor economy, many manufacturers cut their R&D budgets significantly last year, which has further delayed the development cycle by another six months or more.
So, here’s an update on where we currently stand with our motherboard partners:
MSI was slow to get rolling on development this year, and won’t have anything available until late Q1 2011. Frankly, I think it might be too late to launch an Arrandale product, and they should simply leapfrog to the next-gen Sandy Bridge platform (QM67, HM65) and have that ready to launch immediately when Intel releases the mobile Sandy Bridge CPUs.
Jetway has gone through some major design changes from the preliminary specs we saw at Computex back in June, which has delayed mass production by several months. We are hoping to see stock before the end of the year—keep your fingers crossed.
Quanmax has the QDSP-2050 but they have been slow to promote it, and it is not a very flexible platform. Instead, we’ll be waiting for their next-gen QM67-based Mini-ITX board, which should be available in early Q1. Based on the preliminary specs, it will have the best I/O, expandability, and overall feature set I’ve seen on a board to date, making it one of the most flexible, versatile boards available. Fitting all these features on a single platform, however, will surely bump the price close to $300. Regardless of the cost, I can’t wait to see this board.
AOpen has had the MP55 XC Mini available for a while, but the industrial Digital Engine version, the DE57, continues to be delayed. It was originally going to launch in September, but we have yet to see an engineering sample.
We are also working on an update to our PT-9WC1 with the QM57 chip and a choice of i7-620M, i5-520M, or P4500 processors. It will have a familiar look and feel, but there will be some key differences. The external CompactFlash slot will be replaced with a SATA-based CFast slot which will bring R/W speeds up to 100/50 MB/s. This isn’t a massive improvement over current industrial CF cards yet, but it’s only the first generation of controllers. I expect CFast to rival SSD speeds in the future. There will also be a SIM card slot behind the CFast cover, and we’ve switched to Intel network chips for better communications options. The biggest difference, however, will be the long-awaited upgrade from PCI to PCIe—in fact, this system will have a full x16 slot and a second x1 slot for improved expandability when adding I/O, networking, or video capture cards. Due to the fanless nature of the system, however, high performance graphics cards are not recommended at this time.
The initial offering will have a -20°C to 55°C operating temperature rating, rather than the PT’s -40°C to 70°C. An extreme environment version will be following sometime in early 2011.
Despite being a bit late to market, I think these new products will be worth the wait, ushering in a new era in performance-per-watt capabilities, enabling high performance systems to become smaller, cooler, and more reliable.