Ever since Intel announced their 5x5 platform (that’s 5-inch by 5-inch), we have had several requests from users saying ‘when?’. At the time of the announcement, it was difficult where Intel was trying to place the platform – the goal seemed to show something for embedded platforms that also had a socketed processor. This would allow customers to choose how much processing power they needed up to 91W if it is built for it, or potentially upgrade later down the line. This is compared to the NUC, which runs mobile processors in an even smaller form factor. Despite the interest from end-users, it has always come across as a non-consumer play. ASRock’s showcase at CES pushes it further into that B2B market with specific verticals in mind.

We learned that 5x5 now has an ‘official’ name in Mini-STX, similar to mini-ITX which is 6.7-inch square. But on display from ASRock were a singular motherboard, the H110M-STX, and a prebuilt system called the H110M-STX Mini PC.

As the H110 name implies, this system is for Skylake processors and built on the H110 chipset. The motherboard uses a three-phase power delivery, rated at 65W, and memory comes via two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 (we wouldn’t really expect anything higher than 2133 in this form factor anyway). The socket area pushes right up against what would be the rear IO panel because of space, and the ports here have a low z-height to ensure cooler compatibility.

Storage comes via an M.2 2280 slot supporting SATA 6 Gbps – the specifications say it also has two SATA 6 Gbps ports, but unless they’re available through a breakout cable I can’t see the traditional way to connect these to a motherboard. Network connectivity is through the Intel I219-V NIC as well as an M.2 2230 slot for WiFi and BT. Video output is designed to come through the processor (so Intel HD Gen 9) and the rear IO has a VGA, HDMI and DP port for use. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the back as well as one on the front, two USB 2.0 headers, and a custom USB-C header for the H110M-STX Mini-PC. Audio comes via a Realtek ALC283 codec using the onboard header. TPM 2.0 is also included.

As for the Mini-PC system ASRock showed, this is designed specifically for this motherboard only and comes in at 1.92 liters (155 x 155 x 80 mm). It will be boxed with the Intel stock fan, and come with a 2.5-inch drive bay as well as a Kensington Lock. Separate SIs will have to decide what CPUs, DRAM and WiFi modules to use, as well as the M.2 slot for storage. Power for the system is provided by a DC-In port on the rear of the system, and given that the socket is designed for up to 65W in this case, I’d imagine that the power brick should be in the 90W range. It is also worth noting that to use the VGA connector, there seems to be a long cable from that odd port next to the DRAM to the VGA connector on the rear.

We saw a few other 5x5 systems on display at CES, although they all pretty much aim for the same business crowd – either verticals such as education or digital signage/gambling, which is essentially what a lot of NUCs end up in. 5x5 is clearly a play for more performance, attempting to reduce costs, but it seems Intel is letting its partners get the first bite of the cherry – we did see a 5x5 from ECS, who plays a big part in Intel’s NUC production. Then on the other side we have people like Zotac, who end up doing their own custom designs anyway.

But for now, it seems ASRock is keeping this as a B2B play and testing the water. We’ve not heard if this is going to be worldwide or a specific market play, but as a result pricing will be relative to the market and interest, meaning interested parties should contact their local ASRock sales offices.

Source: ASRock

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  • nos024 - Friday, January 22, 2016 - link

    So...what is the point of this? Just buy a NUC/Brix/Zotac/Beebox? Reply
  • jardows2 - Friday, January 22, 2016 - link

    Did you not read the article? NUC is mobile parts, and soldered in CPU. This offers a socketed processor with the flexibility for integrators to easily offer a scaled product line.

    As for the other devices, I don't think Gigabyte or Zotac will be too willing to let Asrock build a Brix or a Z-Box. Beebox is just another NUC.
    Reply
  • Samus - Saturday, January 23, 2016 - link

    I'm always excited for smaller platforms. ITX was just a breakthrough in microcomputing when it was introduced, and considering ASRock even made an X99 ITX board, creativity for the platform never ceases to amaze me.

    Which is just the problem. What real benefits does shrinking the motherboard 1.7" have over ITX? Is there really a need for something to fit in between the NUC and the ITX standards? STX losses PCIe x16, full-size DIMMS and a variety of other expansion to shave off less than 2".

    This almost seems like a move for Intel to push their IGP's harder by limiting graphics expansion, but that'd be a hell of a conspiracy.

    I guess what I'm saying is, why not just make low-profile ITX boards if that's what STX is trying to accomplish with the embedded market.
    Reply
  • HL King - Saturday, January 30, 2016 - link

    To those who cannot see a reason for this new board, I submit a paragraph from G. K. Chesterton's 'The Thing':

    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
    Reply
  • piasabird - Saturday, June 11, 2016 - link

    So cant you just use something like a Thin Mini-ITX which is only slightly smaller and do the same thing? How come that did not sell like hot cakes? http://b2b.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx... You could buy something like an Intel NUC but maybe people dont like those weak underclocked mobile CPU's they keep trying to sell. Reply
  • piasabird - Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - link

    One of the biggest drawbacks with MINI-ITX was the space taken up by the power supply. Plus if you want to do gaming you need a big powerful video card. Thin Mini ITX seemed to be kept hidden and unavailable to most people. Reply

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