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What is Pico-ITX?
Pico-ITX signifies a particular form factor for motherboards. It was originally designed by VIA Technologies in January 2007 and is available in different versions. It is small in size, measuring just 10 cm by 7.2 cm.
- The Pico-ITX boards are smaller than Mini-ITX and the Nano-ITX form factors, the two other members of the ITX family.
- The benefits offered by this specific form factor include low power consumption, lightweight, and reliability.
- Apart from the regular Pico-ITX form factor, you will also get the Pico-ITXe version, which offers more memory and other features.
- The design and performance benefits offered by this small form factor allow it to be used in different fields and embedded applications.
Understanding Pico-ITX (Form Factor)
The Pico-ITX is the form factor in the series developed by Very Innovative Architecture Technologies, a Taiwanese company.
It is actually a member of the form factor of the ITX family, with the other standards including Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX.
The Pico-ITX is a small x86 embedded motherboard, but it offers enough space to hold several components, such as:
- The processor
- The memory
- Cache and
- Many different I/O and video interfaces.
This particular form factor comes in different variants as mentioned hereunder.
The first version of the motherboard belonging to this family is the EPIA PX10000G. It measured 10 cm by 7.2 cm or 3.9 inches by 2.8 inches.
It is 10 layers deep and its operating temperature ranges between 0°C and about 50°C.
The relative and non-condensing operating humidity level of the system ranges between 0% and about 95%.
The other features of it include:
- A 1 GHz VIA C7-M processor
- A VIA VX700 chipset
- Onboard VGA video
- RoHS Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment or EU rules compliance
- UDMA 33/66/100/133 44-pin ATA (1x)
- VIA VT6106S 10/100 8P8C Ethernet
- USB 2.0
- DVI and LVDS video-out
- SATA (1x) I/O
- PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard connectivity
- HD 5.1 channel audio and
- Add-on modules and I/O pin headers support.
Available in different forms from different vendors on a single board, it also supports different operating systems such as Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, major and older versions of Linux distributions, and Ubuntu.
The PX5000 model is another version of it and is very much the same as the above model. It is available in two versions namely PX5000G with a fan-assisted heatsink, and PX5000EG with a fanless heatsink. However, it uses the 500 MHz VIA Eden ULV processor.
This second version of the Pico-ITX motherboard series is an improved version of the PX10000G series.
It offers Gigabit Ethernet with VIA VT6122 chipset or a 10/100 Ethernet adapter with the VIA VT6107.
The power adapter is integrated, which allows direct +12V DC-In. This, in turn, enables it to power SATA directly.
It also offers optional Ethernet and VGA ports with a P700-A daughter card.
Though Pico-ITX is a VIA product, there are also a few Intel-based and ARM architecture based products available.
Pico-ITX boards from VIA are available in two specific series, such as the VAB series and the EPIA series.
The boards belonging to the VAB series offer a lot of benefits, such as:
- Better I/O connectivity
- Very low power consumption
- Cost efficiency and
- Higher reliability.
The three models of the VAB Pico-ITX boards are:
- VAB 1000 with 1 GHz VIA Elite E1000 Cortex-A9 SoC, 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM, 1 GLAN Ethernet, 2 COM, 2 USB 2.0, 1 Mini USB 2.0 ports and 1 Mini HDMI or High-Definition Multimedia Interface and 1 LVDS or Low Voltage Differential Signaling output
- VAB 820 with 1 GHz NXP i.MX 6 Quad Plus Cortex-A9 or 1GHz NXP i.MX 6 Quad Cortex-A9 SoC, 1 GB DDR3 SDRAM, 1 GLAN Ethernet, 2 COM, 4 USB 2.0, 1 Micro USB 2.0 ports and 1 HDMI and
- VAB 600 with an 800 MHz VIA Cortex-A9 SoC, 1 GB DDR3 SDRAM, 1 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 2 COM, 1 USB 2.0, 2 Mini USB 2.0 ports, and 1 Mini HDMI and 1 LVDS output.
The EPIA Pico-ITX boards also offer higher power efficiency and better thermal management, along with feature integration.
This board offers reliable performance along with almost everything that a user wants, in spite of its smaller form factor, such as:
- Core logic
- Multimedia and
- Storage technologies.
The EPIA-P910 Pico-ITX board leverages the energy and performance efficiency of the 1.2 GHz Eden X4 CPU along with the VX11H chipset and supports 1 GLAN Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0 and 6 USB 2.0 port, an 1 Mini HDMI, 1 VGA, and 1 LVDS connectivity for display.
The users of this small form factor will also be able to connect other devices such as external drives, microSD, and interfaces for Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
The major components, such as the processor, are integrated on the motherboard and cannot be removed or replaced.
The utility of the Pico-ITX form factor resulted in its further development, and an updated Pico-ITXe version was released in 2008.
This specific version offered much more memory and other enhanced capabilities while preserving the small footprint of its earlier Pico-ITX form factor.
The notable features and upgrades of the Pico-ITXe version include:
- An upgraded VX800 chipset
- Upgraded GPU to VIA Chrome9 HC3 and
- SUMIT, or Stackable Unified Module Interconnect Technology support.
Another prominent addition to it was the extra two layers in its thickness, increasing it from 10 to 12 layers.
What is It Used for?
Since the Pico-ITX motherboards are much smaller in size, these are most suitable for use in car computers, desktop computers, small home servers, and even custom media center computers.
The design and features added to it allow using it in other applications as well, such as M2M or Machine to Machine applications. It also enhanced embedded IoT and other design possibilities.
The compact design and reliable performance of the VAB series Pico-ITX boards and others can be used in different embedded applications and several other fields such as:
- Digital advertising
- Digital signage
- Thin clients
- Industrial automation
- TV set-top boxes
- Gaming systems
- Video recognition
- Consumer products
- Point Of Sale or POS
- HMI or Human Machine Interface applications
- Ticket sales and
- Monitoring and validation.
It can also be used in the ever growing field of medicine and medical practices, all due to its self-contained capabilities.
And the other chips in these systems support video playback, which makes them a popular choice for use in small home theater PCs or HTPCs.
What is Its Size?
The Pico-ITX motherboards are about 75% smaller in size in comparison to the Mini ITX form factor, measuring just 3.94 inches by 2.83 inches or 100 mm by 72 mm. In fact, a computer with Pico-ITX is so small that it can be placed on your hand. The board, in fact, occupies just half of the space of the Nano-ITX motherboard.
The Pico-ITX form factor is much smaller in size than the Mini ITX variant and is designed by VIA following the ‘Small is Beautiful’ strategy.
It is most suitable for use in lighter and smaller devices and in several other fields and embedded applications.