Intel’s Compute Cards are basically tiny PCs stuffed into a case that’s not much larger than a credit card. They’re the spiritual successor to the company’s Compute Stick line of devices… but instead of plugging into the HDMI port of a TV or monitor, the Compute Card is designed for modular systems.

Theoretically you could buy a TV, desktop PC, or laptop shell that comes with a Compute Card. Then you can eject the card and carry it with you or replace it with a different model to change the user experience or upgrade to newer hardware.

First unveiled at CES in January, the first Compute Cards are expected to launch this year. But we hadn’t seen detailed specs for those cards… until now.

Update: Intel has confirmed that Compute Cards will start shipping in August

CNX-Software has published some block diagrams and specs for four different Compute Card models. Two feature Intel Apollo Lake processors, while two have Kaby Lake chips.

All four feature low-power processors. A 15 watt Kaby Lake-U series chip would overheat in such a confined space. But the 4.5 watt Kaby Lake-Y series processors used in the higher-end Compute Card models should offer significantly better performance than the Apollo Lake models, even though they consume less power.

The Kaby Lake models will also likely be more expensive. The last I’d heard, Apollo Lake Compute Cards would probably cost around $150, while top-of-the-line models would be closer to $500. But the cards aren’t really aimed at consumers at this point. They’d most likely be sold to device makers and developers. Keep in min, they don’t have any standard USB or HDMI ports and instead use a special connector for USB and display connectivity.

Anyway, here’s a run-down of what to expect from the first four models:

  • CD1C64GK – Celeron N3450 quad-core CPU/4GB RAM/64GB eMMC storage
  • CD1P64GK – Pentium N4200 quad-core CPU/4GB RAM/64GB eMMC storage
  • CD1M3128MK – Core M3-7Y30 dual-core CPU/4GB RAM/128GB PCIe SSD storage
  • CD1IV128MK – Core i5-7Y57 dual-core CPU/4GB/128GB PCIe SSD storage

Again, these have the guts of a standalone computer, but since they lack standard ports they’re only designed to work with compatible hardware. If you want to use a display, mouse, keyboard, wireless internet, or other hardware you’ll need gadgets that can hook up to the proprietary Compute Card connector.

But at least one company plans to offer a consumer-friendly laptop shell that’s powered by a Compute Card.


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8 replies on “Intel Compute Card specs leaked (Apollo Lake and Kaby Lake models)”

  1. Awesome move. Wish they had stuck with the stick design though. at least the cards are fan less. Hope they release a bare bones dock just for the card.

  2. It’s good to see devices like this with more than 32gb of storage. I considered buying an inexpensive Windows laptop with only 32gb of storage. The properties of the C: drive said it only had 7gb of free space remaining on a brand new laptop. How lame is that? My Chromebook and Android tablet with only 16gb of storage have more free space available than that, even after installing a dozen apps. Just say NO to Windows devices with only 32gb of storage!

  3. Since most port functions are directly integrated into the CPU nowdays, and you can get USB and HDMI functions just attaching a few wires to the corresponding leg to a CPU, all you need is a Chinese manufacturer to make a breakout board that converts this connector a a few USB and an HDMI (+ a DC jack).

  4. I’m surprised that Intel and Microsoft seem bent on completely ignoring the IoT market. I suppose they are satisfied in leaving that to others (ARM and friends) while making repeated abortive half-baked half-efforts like Edison, et al. to appease shareholders that they are Indeed Doing Something.

    1. Because there is no money in IoT for a company as large as Intel. What are they going to do? Sell $30 project boards to a few ten-thousand tinkerers?

      If you already had suitable SoCs and resources ready to go, it would sound worthwhile. ARM chip makers are in that position, Intel is not.

      1. Intel doesn’t have anything bare to the bones for IoT. If you want to read out a few sensors and blink a LED and maybe push some tweet through TCP/IP an x86 chip with gigs of RAM and a full Linux (or windows) distro is way overkill and actually slower than 20 lines of code on an 8bit microcontroller. Even ARM boards are most of the time overkill for a project. The ESP8266 is the sweet spot: as cheap as an 8bit micro, as powerful as an M0, can be used with a number of IDEs, has onboard WiFi and just enough I/O for a small display and a few sensors/buttons.

    2. I think Android Things will be pretty big in IoT actually and Edison is one of their supported hardware platforms. So is Intel Joule.

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