CES 2017: Intel Unveils a Credit Card-Sized Computer

Posted on January 6, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware with 29 Comments

CES 2017: Intel Unveils a Credit Card-Sized Computer

Intel is well-known for its PC microprocessors, but it deserves a bit of credit for its work on actual PCs as well. And now, in addition to its innovate stick and NUC designs, Intel has unveiled a new credit card-sized PC too.

It’s called the Intel Compute Card. And Intel, and a range of partners, will bolster this intriguing and versatile modular device with various add-ons that can transform its use cases.

The Intel Compute Card is tiny, the size of a few stacked credit cards, and just a bit longer. And it will be configurable with a variety of Intel processors depending on the need. Device makers can build compatible products, based on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, that can be transformed by the addition or integration of a Compute Card. Or enthusiasts can build a full-featured PC with one, by configuring it with a full-powered 7th generation Intel Core processor.

Regardless of which processor type you choose, the Compute Card will come with RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity on the card, and it provides a USB-C Plus extension connector for USB, PCIe, HDMI, DisplayPort, and other PC capabilities.

As for the partners, Intel has announced a few familiar PC names—Dell, HP, and Lenovo—plus Sharp and a handful of regional suppliers. But there’s no word yet on how these companies will use and expand on the Compute Card design.

The Intel Compute Card will become available in mid-2017, and as such, we don’t know the pricing. But as a fan of mini PCs, in particular Intel’s NUC designs, this was immediately intriguing to me. And it has emerged as one of the most interesting things we saw announced this week at CES. I’ll be following up on this one.

You can learn more about the Compute Card from the Intel website.


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Comments (29)

29 responses to “CES 2017: Intel Unveils a Credit Card-Sized Computer”

  1. 54

    It seems like a nice tiny device, but they need to move away from that horrible eMMC storage. I wonder if they could actually build the storage more like an onboard SSD? That would be a better option.

    • 7191

      In reply to c.hucklebridge:

      Cell phones have UFS 2.0, so that could certainly fit in a device this size. It's really just a matter of cost. I don't get why people hate on eMMC so much; even a slow eMMC is still 10 times faster than the spinning hard drives that still ship in most laptops, at least when it comes to random reads and writes.

    • 5234

      In reply to c.hucklebridge:

      Probably not.  They put eMMC storage in because they can integrate the eMMC storage controller directly into the SoC.  SSD controllers for NAND Flash are considerably more complicated and need discrete controllers because they haven't been able to shrink the die size down on them yet, to accommodate the size restrictions of todays SoC's.

      Also, Intel's own SSD controllers are made at a separate division from their processor division, so until they merge divisions, don't expect these things to be integrated.

  2. 241

    Definitely interesting to me as well. This, along with Win10 on ARM, has me paying attention.

  3. 1129

    Well, Intel is taking a stab at this again, are they? In 2000, Intel developed a strategic relationship with a joint venture of Panasonic and Fujitsu called Cell Computing.  Intel sold this venture die rather than packaged CPUs and they were incorporated into credit card sized packages.  In Japan these were used for factory automation systems. Hot swappable, these were  ideal for high value applications. Our mandate was to develop the market for communications and other embedded applications in NA.  The use cases were limited, not by the constrained I/O so much as the unit cost of the card vs a roll your own approach using any number of form factors. In 2001 Intel at IDF announced an initiative to have a consumer based "compute module" so that consumers could swap out a CPU in their smart TV, etc. Sound familiar? The problem with this "solution" is that the only entity it helps is.....Intel.  Why would a TV, Fridge, etc. manufacturer want an upgrade CPU? They want to sell a new TV. The costs are too high and the value proposition is at the wrong end of the chain. DOA. Again.

  4. 5553

    Well I did my part ..haven't had a console since 2011 when I had a 360 slim.

    Got a One S !!! Damn this thing is nice !!!

    DL my free BF1 right now.

    It's white and built so well. So quiet.

    Played a BRD on it already.

    Woo hoo..can't wait to game again.

    Anyone know the benefits of Live Gold despite gaming ? Do I need it to use certain apps ?

    Redeemed my 14 free days so far.


  5. 7063

    One step closer to a SELMA unit.

  6. 5724

    What sense does x86 make on IoT? If it's not relevant on phones, how do they think it's going to be relevant on everyday devices?

  7. 5394

    Tiny, but not mobile. Intel. 

  8. 1792

    So it's a lot like continuum. Add keyboard, mouse, connector and monitor. Then its a PC.

  9. 217

    Without a portable display this is useless. Intel should spend more time worrying about its CPUs or ARM will eat its lunch in 2017

    • 5027

      In reply to dcdevito:

      Or Intel should consider making ARM chips....why not , it is after all something they can do, it is open to "anyone" to make under license.. Qualcomm does not own ARM after all and is not the only one making them, they are just one of the best at it .:)   If I was AMD  I would for instance consider it as a way to stick it to Intel, and I don't understand why Intel is not making ARM chips as well 

      But I do agree, this seems rather pointless

  10. 4892

    I think this is like next generation of Project ARA modular phone. This has potential to truly bring IoT to the masses. Now it's possible for oems to make comput card hot swappable in phones,  tablets, laptop like clamshells, Multi Convertibles, Amazon echo like devices and IoT devices.  Amazing. 

  11. 6525

    Nice innovation although we need to wait for SSD, thunderbolt and fanless combined in such a form factor.

      • 4949

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        The card itself does not... but the card itself is not complete.  There is no CPU or power source on board, so this card will need to plug into a larger chassis of some sort, and may need a fan in order to operate properly.

        or at least that is my understanding of it after reading a few articles.  I could be mistaken, but I think this is essentially a blade you would plug into a device that essentially provides ram, storage, and controller I/O.  The PSU, physical IO, CPU and/or GPU would have to be on separate cards somehow.

      • 6525

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        We do not know yet (and for all models). USB or HDMI PC sticks can have fans. The problem of small devices is that there is little space for cooling. The chassis might be the passive cooling, or might be insufficient for that purpose. We need to be told.

  12. 442

    I'm thinking of this making a perfect Bitcoin farm device...

  13. 399

    If it supports PCIe over the USB connector, does this mean that are going to be something similar to drive caddies but for PCIe cards?

    • 5234

      In reply to maethorechannen:

      There is no such thing as "PCIe over USB".  You might be thinking of Thunderbolt 3 using a USB Type-C connector, but it isn't going through the USB bus.  Quite the opposite, in fact: it's USB going through the Thunderbolt bus.


      Don't expect anything like that on a credit card-sized computer though, since it would only have minimal PCIe lanes, and almost all of them would be used for internal component interconnects.


      More than likely, this will only have low-bandwidth external busses for things like GPIO and I2C, since it will clearly be based on an Intel SoC, and not a full processor with discrete chipset.

  14. 639

    I would love to see this as the brains for a smart TV. 

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