If you want a small form factor system today, you have plenty of options. If you want to still have the ability to upgrade your CPU in the future though, there’s only so small you can go. That limit has just become a tad smaller though, as several manufactures debuted new motherboards in the mini-STX standard at this year’s CES.
To give you some idea of how small form factor this new standard is, it’s a little smaller than your average mini-ITX build. That older standard measures in at 6.7 inch by 6.7 inches. In comparison, a mini-STX measures 5.5 inches by 5.8 inches. It’s not a massive difference in scale, but it’s enough that home users can essentially build upgradeable systems not much bigger than your average Intel NUC.
Although detailed teardowns and reviews of the new hardware haven’t yet surfaced, Liliputing has it that the ECS and ASRock motherboards sport an LGA 1151 socket, so will support most of the 6th generation Skylake CPUs, all the way up to some of the Core i7 chips, as long as they fit within a TDP of less than 65 watt.
Beyond the upgradeable CPU socket, the ASRock board comes with two DDR4 2,133MHz SODIMM slots and has support for an M.2 SATA III SSD, as well as a second M.2 slot for a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module. Hardwired connections include HDMI, VGA, a trio of USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a single Type-C, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a Gigabyte Ethernet socket.
The only real difference with the ECS motherboard in the same form factor, is that its USB Type-C port is also USB 3.1 spec.
While any system build with either of these motherboards is unlikely to be a powerhouse, it will be interesting to see what they can do if Intel releases a compatible socketed CPU with Iris Pro graphics.