Home>Posts>Technology>What is the PCIe Mini Card & Why Now?

What is the PCIe Mini Card & Why Now?

By ·Categories: Technology·Published On: October 16th, 2007·2.8 min read·

UPDATE (2/25/20): Looking for the latest info about PCIe? Check out our new article about PCIe 4.0, which walks through the latest updates to the standard, including speed upgrades and a preview of PCIe 5.0.

PCI Express (PCIe) Mini Card slots have begun cropping up on Mini-ITX mainboards (learn more about Mini-ITX here) ever since the Santa Rosa platform made its debut. However, the PCIe Mini Card has been kicking around for quite some time, being used in custom-ordered laptops as wireless devices. Most of the documentation I have read about these cards dates back to 2005, which, in the technology industry, seems like a lifetime ago. So, why is it making its entrance into the Mini-ITX arena now?

What is the PCIe Mini Card?

Logic Supply mini pcie card

The PCIe Mini Card is a replacement for the Mini PCI card found on many Mini-ITX mainboards. It is half the size of a Mini PCI card, measuring 30 mm x 51 mm. It has a 52-pin edge connector as opposed to the 100-pin stacking connector of  Mini PCI Type I & II cards and the 124-pin edge connector of Mini PCI Type III. The new card is modeled after the Mini PCI Type III, but is sans side retaining clips.

The slot on a mainboard must support both an x1 PCI Express link and a USB 2.0 link because the PCIe Mini Card can utilize PCI Express and/or USB 2.0 connectivity. This PCIe Card has a 2.5Gb/s serial bus, providing a significant improvement in connectivity.

Why now?

As I mentioned above, this card is not new news. So, why the introduction now? From what I can tell, it appears that it has something to do with getting the most from Windows Vista.  Intel Turbo Memory (code-named Robson) is a flash memory add-on component for the PCIe Mini Card slot. Without having to become too technical here (which is certainly not one of my strengths), the Turbo Memory can perform two jobs (ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive—caching features of Windows Vista) in one small, internal package.

So, now that we have Mini-ITX mainboards boasting full Vista Premium support, it makes sense that these same boards also would provide PCIe Mini Card slots. There could very well be other reasons, as in the fact that Mini PCI is being phased out by the PCIe Mini Card standard; this is really due to PCIe replacing PCI.

ML350 industrial computer with PCIe Mini Card slots

Our ML350 packs two PCIe Mini Card slots and one MSATA slot in a compact form factor.

Our ML350 industrial fanless computer also packs two PCIe Mini Card slots and one mSATA slot in a compact formfactor.

Mini PCIe cards & Industrial Computers

At OnLogic, we integrate Mini PCIe Cards to offer more configuration options & functionality. Thanks to mPCIe, we can enable CANbusWi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G in many of our small form factor computers.

One of the main drawbacks for Industrial Computers & Mini PCIe cards are the limitations due to the motherboard adaptation to Mini PCIe cards. Luckily, there are brackets available that will convert your Mini PCIe card into a full-height card so you can adapt your system to bigger hardware needs. This way, more technology in your computer can be enabled regardless of the form-factor and motherboard layout.

Find Your Computer Here

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About the Author: Kristina Bond

Kristina Bond was the Marketing Director for Logic Supply from 2007 to 2012. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia with an M.F.A. in photography and a B.F.A in photography and communication from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. While technology and Logic Supply remain close to her heart, she moved on from the company in June 2012 to do marketing for the restaurant industry. To get in touch with Kristina, please contact kristina@kristinadrobny.com.
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15 Comments

  1. Andrew P October 17, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Any chance of offering an adapter/flex-riser to attach regular x1 PCI Express cards to the PCIe Mini slot(s)? That could open up some more options to use the GM965 or MP965-DR instead of the older 945GM2.

  2. Kristina October 18, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    It seems that there are no current solutions out there to attach a PCIe card to the PCIe Mini slot.
    However, the MSI GM965 offers both a PCI (32-bit) slot and a PCIe x16 slot for people to choose which device best suits their application. The AOpen MP965-DR only has PCIe Mini Card slots, so you are somewhat limited there.

  3. Joe December 12, 2007 at 6:16 am

    What I want to know is if you can plug a mini PCIe card into a x1 slot like on a full sized motherboard.

  4. Kristina December 12, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Joe,
    To be honest, I don’t know. I checked around with some of the engineers and build team and they all don’t have a solid answer.

    The PCIe Mini Card is x1, but it doesn’t have the edge connectors that secure PCIe cards into the slots. Not to mention, it is positioned a little differently on the board and is mounted differently in the case. So, even if does work in a PCIe slot on the mainboard, it might not be as secured as you would like. This has to do with the position of the screw holes on the card and what the card is being secured to.

    I did notice that some sites have PCIe Mini Card to PCIe adapters. So, it seems that that might be required. Also, the connector pins could be different, too.

    I apologize that I can’t give you a straight answer. If I find out more, I’ll keep you informed.

  5. Intel pre N draft 2.0 July 29, 2008 at 3:31 am
  6. Mike Hanssen October 16, 2008 at 3:55 am

    We only have High Speed USB, can we interface to a PCI Express Mini Card such as Intel WiFi 4965AGN or do we have to have PCIe ? Reading the datasheets on various PCI Express Mini Cards, none indicate if you need PCIe and/or USB, and yet the standard indicates this.

  7. Forest October 17, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Hi Mike,

    It sounds like you’d like to be able to use PCIe Mini Cards connected to a standard USB 2.0 port via some sort of adapter. I’m not sure if such an adapter exists, but if it does, you’d have to be sure that the device you are using does not require any of the other signals that the PCIe Mini Card standard includes. This includes PCI Express signals, as well as SMBus, SIM, and 1.5V and 3V power lines (plus a few more less important signals).

    It doesn’t surprise me that device data sheets don’t always specify which of the PCIe Mini Card signals they require. Standards exist so that manufacturers have a concise way of saying what their devices require. Adapting devices designed for one standard to another one is probably not a use-case the manufacturer had in mind.

    If all you have is USB 2.0, I’d recommend looking for an equivalent USB device. There are plenty of USB 2.0 WiFi modules available.

  8. salvatore December 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

    come si configura?

  9. adrian March 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    for thinkpad x240 Lenovo proposes an optional 16GB SSD memory, but this replaces the mini-PCle. can someone make me understand what is the trade off?

  10. jaimin January 6, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Hi, Can any one tell me if the PCIe mini card can be used to send trigger to external devices.

  11. Darek Fanton January 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Hi Jaimin, would you be able to give us more information about what you’re trying to do? There are PCIe mini cards built for a wide range of uses, the capability will depend on what you’re hoping to accomplish and the specific card you choose.

  12. Bill May 6, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Do some motherboard manufactures NOT implement the FULL mini PCIe pin set? I ask because I have an HP Compaq 8300 Elite Ultra-Slim PC with a single mini PCIe slot. I inserted a AzureWave AW-CE123H combo WiFi+BT card. The wifi works fine (as expected on mini PCIe x1) however the Bluetooth is never recognized by Windows. Bluetooth on this combo card is dependent on the mini PCIe x1 implementing USB 2.0 on pins 36,38. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  13. Hugo May 20, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    I have the same problem as Bill, but with an HP 8000 Elite USDT. I searched and did not find the specifications in forums and HP sites on the motherboard (SP 536885-001) to know the specifications of the mPCIe port (see why the USB line of the PCIe interface does not work, maybe you would have to configure something in the BIOS)
    Any help would be appreciated!

  14. Jose June 21, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Bill, do you know something new about your last commend posted a year ago? I am in the same situation. The combo Wifi+BT is never recognized in Windows. I have a Vaio CR21S with GM965 Express chipset.

    Thanks in advance.

  15. Sarah Lavoie (OnLogic) June 25, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I checked with our engineering team to answer questions about some other systems (whose names we won’t mention ;-) that won’t recognize a combined WiFi/Bluetooth card. Here is the answer: Although the PCIe minicard standard is defined and includes a USB connection – not all motherboard manufacturers decide to route these pins to the minicard. Some example reasons could be:
    – A limitation on available USB root ports available on the platform.
    – Routing constraints on the motherboard.

    We would recommend reaching out to the manufacturer and asking for the pinout on the connector.

    Hope that helps!!!

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