Intel has officially unveiled its Compute Cards at Computex 2017, giving us our first look at the super-slim, fully functioning PCs. Along with a selection of differently specced processors, they all come with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of onboard PCI Express, solid-state (SSD) storage. Intel has already secured a number of partners in this venture, so we can expect Compute Card enabled products to arrive before the end of the year.
Taking microcomputing in a more powerful direction than the Rasbperry Pi and its contemporaries, Intel’s Compute Cards are designed as a spiritual successor to the Compute Stick. Slim and entirely self-contained, they will offer powerful, fully capable computing functions for modular systems. In the future, upgrading your laptop or smart appliance could be as simple as removing the old card and plugging in the new.
As well as not being marketed to bedroom hackers like many credit card-sized systems, Intel’s Compute Cards are much more capable.
Besides the RAM and storage mentioned, Compute Cards offer quad core and dual core processors ranging from the sixth-generation Celeron N3450 and Pentium N4200, to the seventh-generation M3-7Y30 and i5-7Y57. With up to 3.3GHz with onboard Intel HD graphics, the chips consume no more than 4.5 watts of power, making them very efficient and capable of performing in such a small space without overheating.
Storage options include 64GB of eMMC flash storage with the older, Apollo Lake CPUs, while the more modern Kaby Lake options come with 128GB of PCIExpress SSD storage.
One area where the Compute Card is a little different from more traditional micro-PCs is in connectivity. They have a standardized, bespoke connector which allows it to be used in a docking system for consumer usage, or slotted into smart appliances and other devices to make connectivity easier for third party manufacturers.
Along with the announcement at Computex 2017, Intel detailed some of the partnerships it had already formed to support the Compute Card. LG and Lehui will be using it for the creation of new smart monitors, while Mo-Bit Electronics and TabletKiosk will use them to create tablets for consumers and the medical field.
We’re also told that Dell, Lenovo and HP will have supporting Compute Card products in the future, though they have yet to make any product announcements. As the largest PC manufacturers in the world, it wouldn’t be too speculative to suggest that they will likely make laptops built around the Compute Card system.
Other products that Intel suggests the Compute Card could be used in include smart mirrors, digital signs, robotics systems, smart vehicle infotainment, and virtual reality headsets.
The rumored pricing for a stand-alone Compute Card ranges from $150 for the low-end models, up to $500 for the more expensive options. Intel has slated their release for August this year, so we should see compatible products launching alongside and shortly after.
Updated on 05-30-2017 by Jon Martindale: Confirmed details from Intel announcement and added partner and shipping information.