Motherboard Mini-STX - here to stay for Ryzen?

alexep7

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I was really excited when the mini-STX form factor was announced because it would mean that people who don't need GPUs would have a smaller and proper socketed option instead of Mini-ITX or NUCs. Now with Ryzen APUs planned to launch somewhere around H2 2017 and said to have big graphical improvements over even the new "silently-released" Bristol Ridge chips, I was wondering about the potential an AM4 mini-STX board could have. We're talking about a powerful computer that would be absolutely tiny and fit the average consumer's needs for a relatively low price and with graphical capabilities that just a few years ago were unthinkable for integrated graphics. Not to mention it would be totally upgradeable, with AM4 set to become the norm for years to come.

But then micro-STX was announced and it seems like the market is bigger for these types of boards, as they're still small but feature the possibility of adding a discrete graphic's card. And suddenly I was thinking "What if everyone ignores mini-STX now in favour of micro-STX?"

And then I thought about the likelihood of manufacturers ever investing in an AM4 mini-STX consumer board anyway, which is probably very low despite looking like a gold mine to me. And let's not forget who first introduced the form factor was...Intel.

So, do you think Mini-STX is here to stay? Or will it die as suddenly as it appeared? Will there ever be any AM4 mini-STX boards? Should I keep praying?
 

Thehack

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Micro STX might live if MXM cards are easily available for a small premium otherwise it'll only be toys for those with more money.

Intel doesn't actually care about the enthusiasts in the SFF community. If they did they would have given us a board standard with an optional reverse horizontal PCIe slot. But at least they killed their last standard, the thin itx.
 
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Aibohphobia

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Intel doesn't actually care about the enthusiasts in the SFF community. If they did they would have given us a board standard with an optional reverse horizontal PCIe slot.

Let's be realistic, that's a very niche product mostly only of interest to OEMs.
 

Thehack

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Let's be realistic, that's a very niche product mostly only of interest to OEMs.

Indeed. But enthusiasts drive a lot of mindshare.

Intel holds the power to create standards, however. Their thin-itx platform never caught on. Intel created the NUC in the expectation of the arrival of "good enough computing" but that actually became tablets/phones. NUC is pretty much dead-end aside from some special use-case. Embedded is cheaper for industrial/oems. Consumers want desktops that are cheap, and enthusiasts care about expandability. Since NUCs do neither well, that never caught on either.

Their STX is a good in between NUC and Mini-ITX but I wonder how it'll hold out long-term. If they asked enthusiasts and builders what they want in a platform, certainly it'll prove a more viable long-term product?
 

Aibohphobia

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If they asked enthusiasts and builders what they want in a platform, certainly it'll prove a more viable long-term product?

There has to be demand though. There's much more hype for Mini-DTX in the SFF community than a PIO-type board with a horizontal PCIe slot and the motherboard manufactures all dismissed the idea when we proposed it to them at CES. And that's a form factor that's backwards compatible with existing cases.
 

Dyson Poindexter

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Jun 25, 2015
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Mini-STX is just a weird concept to me. The only thing I can think if is how Intel loves to overrate their onboard graphics. Sadly they are still not up to snuff for anything but light gaming. STX boards would do well for HTPC use, but the NUCs already have that under control.

Micro-STX is an improvement, but the dearth of decent MXM boards will hurt it. Still, I think the ability to use a unified heatsink for both CPU and GPU will help things greatly on the small-small end. That has been the catch with ITX for a while now, the GPU always ends up facing away from the CPU and thus two discrete heatsinks and fans are normally used.
 
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Thehack

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There has to be demand though. There's much more hype for Mini-DTX in the SFF community than a PIO-type board with a horizontal PCIe slot and the motherboard manufactures all dismissed the idea when we proposed it to them at CES. And that's a form factor that's backwards compatible with existing cases.

You can't create demand without first having the standards though.

Having a horizontal layout standard would create some very interesting cases. I'm sure manufacturers would jump on it creating a case to show off your GPU... Thermaltake View 31 for example.

But that's alright, Asrock is here to save us from intel's meandering. Looking forward to buying an Asrock AM4 ITX mobo.
 
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Thehack

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I'm still confused, what's the difference between mini stx and micro stx??

Micro-STX is kind of an out of the blue standard made by Asrock, it's STX + MXM GPU layout.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/11052...x-using-microstx-motherboard-with-mxm-support

Issue is, MXM GPUs cost double of their desktop versions. Its success depends the availability of MXM GPUs.

I'm over here, praying for a Mini-ITX + horizontal PCIe on the other hand, or a 6x6 board + horizontal PCIe.
 
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Sicaris

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Also very much in the horizontal PCIe board camp, whether it is mITX, thin mITX or mini STX. It jus makes so much sense given the TDP of CPUs and great low profile coolers. Its why I'm hopeful the MSI Trident is successful for them so they might sell the board on its own.
 

K888D

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I'm not sure a Mini STX AM4 board would even be possible, last I heard it was difficult to squeeze the AM4 socket onto an ITX board, let alone STX.

Ive also heard Intel will be licensing some AMD tech for their integrated graphics down the line, so maybe at some point in the future they will have a CPU that can be used with STX with a bit more graphical oomph.
 
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Aibohphobia

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Having a horizontal layout standard would create some very interesting cases. I'm sure manufacturers would jump on it creating a case to show off your GPU... Thermaltake View 31 for example.

It's a chicken and egg problem. DIY builders won't be interested if there aren't cases, case makers won't be interested if there isn't demand. But a company like MSI doesn't need a standard to do something like the Trident.

But if PCIe 4.0 kills the viability of cheaper PCIe extenders, then maybe we'll see more demand for a horizontal slot.
 
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Thehack

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It's a chicken and egg problem. DIY builders won't be interested if there aren't cases, case makers won't be interested if there isn't demand. But a company like MSI doesn't need a standard to do something like the Trident.

But if PCIe 4.0 kills the viability of cheaper PCIe extenders, then maybe we'll see more demand for a horizontal slot.

Build it and they will come. I'm sure Zotac would give us something. They always have wacky SFF things.

If PCIe 4.0 can bring x8 into viability... STX + x8 horizontal PCIe? Man that's a SFF wet dream.
 

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If PCIe 4.0 can bring x8 into viability... STX + x8 horizontal PCIe? Man that's a SFF wet dream.

x8 is already viable. There is just 1-2% reduction in performance going from a x16 to a x8 link. DirectX 12 and Vulkan will help reduce those loses even further by making the CPU-GPU communications more efficient, as well.

The PCI-e 4.0 performance will mostly be noticed by consumers with storage performance. In the enterprise space, they will use the extra bandwidth for networking performance in addition to storage.

But if PCIe 4.0 kills the viability of cheaper PCIe extenders, then maybe we'll see more demand for a horizontal slot.

One thing PCI-e 4.0 will do is kill the stupid multi-extension solutions. The last I saw, PCI-e 4.0 is only able to support two interconnects (i.e. board-to-extender and extender-to-card) before signal integrity becomes an issue. If you want to have more than one, you'll need an active repeater to get any more, which will be cost prohibitive for anything but expensive enterprise solutions.

I did push Raja about Paker/PIO's when we chatted. I pointed out to the SFF pre-built cases they were making and mentioned that those would be a great conduit to bring those types of boards to market.
 

Thehack

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x8 is already viable. There is just 1-2% reduction in performance going from a x16 to a x8 link. DirectX 12 and Vulkan will help reduce those loses even further by making the CPU-GPU communications more efficient, as well.

The PCI-e 4.0 performance will mostly be noticed by consumers with storage performance. In the enterprise space, they will use the extra bandwidth for networking performance in addition to storage.



One thing PCI-e 4.0 will do is kill the stupid multi-extension solutions. The last I saw, PCI-e 4.0 is only able to support two interconnects (i.e. board-to-extender and extender-to-card) before signal integrity becomes an issue. If you want to have more than one, you'll need an active repeater to get any more, which will be cost prohibitive for anything but expensive enterprise solutions.

I did push Raja about Paker/PIO's when we chatted. I pointed out to the SFF pre-built cases they were making and mentioned that those would be a great conduit to bring those types of boards to market.

That is true, however, I feel like x16 is currently more marketable, which is why I mentioned x8+STX with PCIe 4.0. After all, if it offers no performance loss, less traces, smaller components, should be straightforward for board makers.

Speaking of which, hopefully with Vega, we will see a Nano form factor card. All the leaks point out to a high end 200W beast, but I hope we get a 120-150W Nano sized card. Did you also talk to Raja about that?
 

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I gotcha. It shouldn't make much of a performance difference, but if it helps with marketing, then power to it.

No, not even AMD was talking Vega, other than they had demo stuff. We did talk with Raja about ITX GPU's, and apparently sales of those cards for them haven't been that great. That may change in the future, but that is what they saw with the 970 ITX card. The encouraging point about SFF, is that the ITX motherboards seem to always get fantastic reviews and reviewers can't get enough of them. Downside is that it takes two of their teams to put together an ITX board like the Z270I Strix and Impact boards (the Apex board was pretty much one guy, in comparison, because everything on that board is simplified for the sole purpose of overclocking), so they consume a lot of engineering resources. So, there were no plans from them at CES to create an ITX AM4 board, but that could change with demand.
 

Thehack

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I gotcha. It shouldn't make much of a performance difference, but if it helps with marketing, then power to it.

No, not even AMD was talking Vega, other than they had demo stuff. We did talk with Raja about ITX GPU's, and apparently sales of those cards for them haven't been that great. That may change in the future, but that is what they saw with the 970 ITX card. The encouraging point about SFF, is that the ITX motherboards seem to always get fantastic reviews and reviewers can't get enough of them. Downside is that it takes two of their teams to put together an ITX board like the Z270I Strix and Impact boards (the Apex board was pretty much one guy, in comparison, because everything on that board is simplified for the sole purpose of overclocking), so they consume a lot of engineering resources. So, there were no plans from them at CES to create an ITX AM4 board, but that could change with demand.

I see. I was very disappointed there was not an ITX 470.

I hope there will be ITX boards on release. I'm sure they are coming as AMD says X300 was designed for SFF.

The sale issue was that they needed a mainstream SFF option, like zotac/evga's 1060, and a premium dual fan version, and marketed as such. The NANO was too premium.
 

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King of Cable Management
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Drew had some discussions with AMD, and they seem to be really keen on SFF. So I wouldn't be surprised to see another Nano based on Vega. Asus did have the white version of the R9 Nano, but the color change was the only thing different about it. I just wouldn't expect any custom SFF GPUs from Asus anytime soon.

And by AMD having the X300 chipset, it doesn't guarantee any motherboard manufacturers will necessarily use them, they will just be an available component. I was told by AMD that there were two vendors coming out with ITX AM4 boards, and Drew was told there were three. Biostar has come out with two boards, an X370 and B350 ITX board, so I'm not sure if they misspoke to Drew and meant there were three different boards, rather than vendors. Drew had gotten indications from Gigabyte, ASRock, and Asus that they did not have current (at the time) plans to create AM4 boards, leaving MSI, ECS, and Biostar as the remaining board vendors (EVGA and Supermicro are solely Intel boards) to possibly make AM4 ITX boards. I have my fingers crossed for MSI to come out with something...we'll have to wait and see.