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Intel Hardware Technology

Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel's latest effort in this arena is its new "Compute Card," a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity. Intel hasn't given us specific information about the specs and speeds of its first Compute Cards, but you can expect the fastest ones to approach the performance of high-end fanless laptops like Apple's MacBooks. Intel told us that processors with a TDP of up to 6W could fit inside the Compute Cards, which covers both low-power Atom chips like those that powered early versions of Intel's Compute Stick to full Core M and Y-series Core i5 and i7 CPUs like the ones you find in laptops. Intel says that the card uses a variant of the USB-C port called "USB-C plus extension" to connect with the systems it's plugged into. That connector gives devices direct access to the USB and PCIe buses as well as HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so. The issue with the Compute Stick from Intel's perspective is that its input and output ports were unnecessarily limiting -- it could only connect to HDMI ports and could only accept a limited number of USB inputs. The Compute Card can be slid into a wider variety of enclosures that can use all kinds of ports and display interfaces, and Intel says the Card will also offer a large array of performance and storage options, unlike current Compute Sticks.
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Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet

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  • with a NUC that can take 64GB of RAM...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What would you need 64GB in a nuc for? I'm sure native software that takes a fraction of that exists to replace the javascript bloatware you intended to use.

  • Looks like they just took their compute stick and changed the dimensions a bit.
    • Re:New? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @06:36PM (#53613495)

      Looks like they just took their compute stick and changed the dimensions a bit.

      Did you even read the summary? Specifically, where they said:

      The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so. The issue with the Compute Stick from Intel's perspective is that its input and output ports were unnecessarily limiting -- it could only connect to HDMI ports and could only accept a limited number of USB inputs.

      So yes, they did just change the dimensions of the Compute Stick, as well as give it different ports and potentially a wider assortment of CPUs. (I prefer the simplicity of the Compute Sticks myself)

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        They also shaped in more like say a passport or ID card. The ideally corporate ID card, it monitors your speech, your location and any other biometry they are interested in. So how long before carry it or you will be arrested. How long before being require to present it on demand, so they can check you current state, citizen or declared non-citizen for dissent. Then again they can already do that with smart phones.

      • by nwaack ( 3482871 )
        Yes, of course I read the summary. To me this isn't a new product, simply the evolution of the existing compute stick.
  • Binary Blobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2017 @06:12PM (#53613363)

    If you buy this device, Intel still owns it due to the binary blobs that are required to run things. The future will be open hardware; support RISC-V projects, like this one [lowrisc.org].

    • by galabar ( 518411 )
      ...and, coming from a software developer, 99.999% of people don't care.
    • (Shrug) This battle was lost in 1982 when they shipped the 80286 without including the source code to REP MOVS.

    • If you buy this device, Intel still owns it due to the binary blobs that are required to run things. The future will be open hardware; support RISC-V projects, like this one [lowrisc.org].

      What is the OS of choice that Intel uses for this card?

    • If you buy this device, Intel still owns it due to the binary blobs that are required to run things. The future will be open hardware; support RISC-V projects, like this one [lowrisc.org].

      Oh cry me an open source river.

  • For any mass-produced product, this will likely be significantly more expensive than including an ARM processor on a single logic board that controls the other functions of the product, e.g. a TV. People want cheap electronics that look cool, not upgradable ones. Apple understands this, although I personally hate it. I just don't see much potential for this, although it's cool.

  • by ssam ( 2723487 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @06:22PM (#53613423)
    Lets hope it is using the EOMA68 standard.
    • The card complying with an existing standard is about as likely as them coming out with a chip that works in AMD motherboards.

      • Lets hope it is using the EOMA68 standard.

        The card complying with an existing standard is about as likely as them coming out with a chip that works in AMD motherboards.

        Hell, it's about as likely as them coming out with a chip that works in their motherboards... from last year. Intel never met a chip socket they couldn't wait to obsolete. Intel loves standards, that's why they create so many of them.

        • by kav2k ( 1545689 )

          Well they just did, considering Kaby Lake is backwards compatible with Z170 chipset motherboards.

  • by jbwolfe ( 241413 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @06:22PM (#53613425) Homepage
    I have a 1st and 2nd generation stick. Both have issues with Bluetooth and wifi. With such limited capacity for connecting peripherals, that kinda sucks.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet

    So Capital One will now have to upgrade their commercial.

  • How is the USB-C implementation different from Thunderbolt 3? Is it because it natively supports HDMI as well as USB 3, PCIe, and DisplayPort, if that is what "direct access" means?

    If it is the same, why don't they just call it a Thunderbolt 3 port? If Intel has developed a port that has the capabilities of Thunderbolt 3 + native HDMI, since they own Thunderbolt, why don't they just make that port the Thunderbolt spec rather than engineering two different but very similar ports?

  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @06:41PM (#53613509) Homepage

    Cool technology, in search of an application. Why would I want to carry an underpowered PC around with me?

    I could see a $50 version being a cool "WTF it's only $50 so why not" PC to add to a television, I guess?

    • It's not really intended to be carried around, it's intended to be used in embedded applications. Your example of putting one inside a TV is one example, it could certainly be the brains behind a media center.

    • I could see a $50 version being a cool "WTF it's only $50 so why not" PC to add to a television, I guess?

      That's a particularly good application because while it's not mentioned in either the summary or the Fine article, I assume it contains a Kaby Lake CPU. And about the only improvement of Kaby Lake CPUs is the addition of VP9 hardware acceleration. Which YouTube uses.

    • Cool technology, in search of an application.

      Most embedded devices are just that. You wouldn't want to carry an underpowered PC around with you. That doesn't mean that these aren't awesome for many many purposes.

  • http://www.intel.com/content/w... [intel.com]

    A vending machine with HDD's that if it is an drop one likely will damage them and a coin slot so put in $1 $5 $10 $20 $50 $100's in and get back coins in change I hope it has dollar coins in there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Based on my experience with the latest generation of Compute Sticks, the basic problem with these devices is that they are power-limited. Some of the Compute Stick devices have m3- and m5- processors, which would suggest that the devices can do a fair amount of computation. However, the processors can't perform up to their potential because they are power-limited as implemented on the boards. So, until Intel can substantially reduce the amount of power required per compute cycle, they are not all that us

  • by Flytrap ( 939609 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @08:07PM (#53614155)

    Intel hasn't given us specific information about the specs and speeds of its first Compute Cards, but you can expect the fastest ones to approach the performance of high-end fanless laptops like Apple's MacBooks.

    As impressive a feat as this might appear, at first, one must remember that Apple devices running last year's A9X are already faster than the Apple MacBook running Intel's equivalent processor, according to the latest GeekBench numbers - http://wccftech.com/apple-a9xi... [wccftech.com]. So, I fully expect that newer devices running Apple's A10 or Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 (that are slightly larger than a credit card due to some additional features that Intel's compute cards lack, such as a touch screen, gyro, motion, barometric, gps, cdma, gsm, lte, wifi, dsp, hsm, etc.) to already be a lot faster than Intel's fastest Compute Cards (assuming that the MacBook remains the benchmark performance).

    I think that what Intel's Compute Cards will have going for them will be accessibility, programability, price and the ease of interfacing them to custom devices for developers... That is what Intel should be emphasizing. Vending machines, signage displays, self service kiosks, home automation hubs, assembly line robots, etc. do not need lots of computing power... but they need reliability, availability and dependability with minimal human intervention in some of the harshest environments, every single day of the year.

    • The article you link is misleading... The Intel chips being compared with the A9X in that article are Broadwell... 2 generations behind compared to the A9X which is the current chip. The A10X will have to be compete with Cannonlake, not the Skylake chips you see in the current Mac lineup. Assuming the A10X scales from the A10 about the same as the A9X scales from the A9, and Intel IPC generational improvements are about the same as past ones... single core ~6W TDP 2.2 GHz A10X is going to be close to raw si

  • by ( 4621901 )

    Marketing.

    "The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so."

    If they could complete this in a year, they should already be back to the mobile business.

    It would be nice see one, but it's no doubt it's just marketing hype.

  • I am using this setup with current m3 compute stick and lubuntu and it makes a great desktop for productivity apps and 4K video for ridiculously low cost. Hit and miss with Steam though, and VMWare/Wine freeze trying to emulate DirectX for Windows only games. For some reason, Unity introduces more slowdown than pretty much anything else, hence LXDE.

    If they improve GPU performance in next generation, this will be a great replacement for pretty much anything.

  • Imagine an office environment where each desk/meeting room includes a monitor/keyboard/mouse for each user where the monitor passes through all connectivity via USB-C. Each user just carries a tiny lightweight computer that is "theirs" with all associated configuration/application/data, plugs it into the USB-C socket and off they go.

    Not so different from having a laptop, except the devices are smaller, lighter, and cheaper - and with a higher quality screen, keyboard, and mouse. Sure you are constrained t

  • The most intersting small-form-factor board I've seen recently is the new SensorTile [st.com] from ST. It provides a 32bit ARM processor with FPU, bluetooth and microphone in a cm2 headset-scale pcb, with various docking boards for USB, microSD etc development.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday January 06, 2017 @05:05AM (#53615691) Homepage

    i'm the creator and guardian of the EOMA68 standard, and someone just brought the intel compute card to my attention on the mailing list. the intel compute card is *exactly* the same size as EOMA68, which in turn is based on legacy PCMCIA casework and connector re-use: credit-card-sized at: 54 x 86 x 5mm. fortunately, from the BBC video, if you check 30 seconds in the connector is completely different (otherwise intel would have a Certification Mark infringment case on their hands): it looks like it's Mini-PCIe which, if that's true, would be a very sensible choice as it contains USB2, one PCIe lane, some GPIO and power.

    i do wonder if my discussions with intel over the past couple of years, as well as the crowd-funding campaign which i'm here in taiwan presently to fulfil, have spurred them to go "i know! let's make our own computer card standard just like that guy did because he said "NO" when it came to having hardware-level spying capability in the BIOS through the Intel Management Engine, with the resultant *complete* meltdown from a security perspective as outlined here https://libreboot.org/faq/#int... [libreboot.org] "

    i'll be watching this with interest, because standards, i've learned, live and die by whether the designers have enough foresight to design it with upgradeability in mind, as well as have the balls to say NO when it comes to "adding options" that are not backwards-compatible.

  • At half a centimetre thick, I don't think so! Maybe ON TOP OF my wallet...

  • I'm not so concerned about it fitting in my wallet, but I'd really love to see a cross-manufacturer standard replaceable unit for "smart" TVs, because screens last a lot longer than the (secure, updated) usable life of the "smart" components. In not too many years there are going to be a lot of TVs around running the TV equivalent of Froyo or Gingerbread, on hardware that's just as aged as the OS will be.

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