Last week we received some pre-production DFI-ACP CR100-CRM motherboards for validation. This board will likely be the first Ivy Bridge Mobile board available at Logic Supply, with an expected arrival of mass-production stock in mid-August.
We’re pretty excited about this board, as it is the first IPC board we’ve carried that can support three independent displays (depending on the CPU), thanks to the new Intel HD 4000 graphics.
We’re also excited because it combines a bunch of new high-speed interfaces, including PCI Express 3.0, USB 3.0, and SATA III. These have been common for consumer products for a while now, but this is one of the first industrial boards to bring all these features together for a truly cutting edge platform. While the CR100 forges into the future, it doesn’t forget the past, with a 6-pin mini-DIN for PS/2 keyboard/mouse, 6x RS-232 ports, and 8-bit DIO. We’re not so crazy about the proprietary riser card needed to utilize the PCI Express lanes available via the golden fingers on the side of the board or the extra-tall audio stack. Both of these features limit case compatibility, especially in 1U rackmounts.
A few weeks ago I discussed Jetway’s daughter card expansion system, and lamented the fact that they have never had a high-performance socketed board with this feature. Well, it looks like that’s about to change – check out the NF9G-QM77 on page 40 in their latest online catalog. This looks to be one of the most versatile boards ever, and is pretty much perfect in my opinion: QM77 chipset dual Intel GbE, PCI Express x16 (unclear if it’s 2.x or 3.0), 2x SATA III connectors and 4x SATA II connectors (suppporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10), 2x USB 3.0 ports, 4x RS-232 ports (one on the back panel, three via headers), and 2x PCI Express Mini Cards, one of which can be configured as an mSATA port via a jumper. Add to all that the daughter card expansion, which appears to now be based on PCI Express for faster bus speeds, and this board can do pretty much anything.
There are a few other QM77/HM76 boards in the works, including the DFI CR101 and the imaginatively named MSI QM77, but these are more or less just a generation refresh; they’re great boards, but don’t really bring anything new to the table. On the whole, Ivy Bridge hasn’t been that exciting for the IPC market; the performance gains over Sandy Bridge haven’t been dramatic like they were from Arrandale to Sandy Bridge, and without long-lifecycle ULV PGA988B processors we’re not seeing the high-performance fanless systems we were hoping for. We are seeing some ULV embedded processors being used by Supermicro and a few others, but they are expensive and rather limited. It would be great to see Intel release ULV socketed processors, but since that product line is primarily driven by Ultrabooks, which don’t have room for the increased z-height of a socket, it’s unlikely that we’ll see this option any time soon.