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Which motherboard should I use, and where should I use it? A revealing look at the selection of IPC motherboards

The IPC motherboard includes different form factors such as ATX, Micro-ATX, and MINI-ITX. We will introduce more of the main features and main applications of various sizes of motherboards.

Industrial computer applications are diverse, and equipment engineers may be curious about matching a particular application to the specifications of a standard motherboard such as ATX, Micro-ATX, or MINI-ITX. Our last article introduced the various mainstream size standards and I/O of IPC motherboards on the market. Here we will discuss how to select an IPC motherboard. 


What factors are essential to consider when selecting your motherboard? First and foremost, one must consider the size of the motherboard. Generally speaking, production line equipment in the manufacturing industry, enterprise server rooms, and other places with ample space and high functional requirements will commonly choose the more prominent ATX form factor. However, with the current trend for everything "smart," advanced systems are beginning to be introduced in various areas. The equipment is gaining more functionality, such as AI visual inspection on production lines or AI data analysis in enterprise server rooms. These functions require a larger size board as additional components are required. In addition to the ATX, the Micro-ATX is also a suitable choice as both boards feature expansion capabilities. As for the smallest motherboard, the Mini-ITX is ideal for customer-facing ordering devices and POS systems in the food and drink industry.


When considering the size of the equipment space, the size of the motherboard is only the first step. Next, the developer also needs to consider the environmental characteristics of the application field. Generally speaking, the most significant differences between IPC motherboards are the CPU and the respective I/O interfaces. The CPU is relatively complicated, so it will be explained in-depth in another article. Here, we will discuss the I/O interfaces.


Since the advent of computers, there has been a continuous flow of new peripheral I/O standards. However, IPCs are closely related to the operation of enterprises, and some application fields require much more stability than performance. Therefore, older but relatively mature standards are still being utilized. For example, RS-232 and RS-485 are used in factories. Other applications are exceptions: Digital signage, which needs to attract consumers through high-resolution audio and video, requires high-speed transmission I/O interfaces such as HDMI. Overall, the I/O interface capabilities for IPC motherboards must consider the application requirements, but product development time will be over-extended if these requirements are entirely redesigned. DFI has taken the most significant standard features of motherboards and designed solutions that meet the most frequently seen requirements of various markets. After fine-turning some specifications, customers can start using boards quickly.


Another consideration for choosing an IPC motherboard is the environment of the application field. Application fields of IPCs are diverse, each with its unique characteristics. If equipment cannot be specially designed according to the environment, it will endanger both the stability of the system and the service life of the equipment. For example, the environments in manufacturing lines and car interiors often encounter significant vibrations, and substantial amounts of electromagnetic waves will be generated when nearby motors are engaged. Both vibrations and EM waves kill system stability. Thus, the motherboards in such devices must be equipped with anti-vibration and anti-electromagnetic wave functions to prevent the I/O interface from being shaken off or the motherboard from being affected by EM waves. In addition to the anti-vibration function, IPC motherboards also have unique designs in response to environmental needs, such as wide-temperature tolerances necessary for countries at high latitudes or locations with high temperatures and salt corrosion resistance for marine systems, waterproofing and dust proofing for automotive systems, etc.… All these designs are implemented to strengthen the stability of the equipment.


From such examples, as shown above, it can be seen that the selection of IPC motherboards is quite diverse. Developers should keep in mind that what is needed for IPCs is not "maximization of performance" but "optimization of functions." That is the key to spending limited resources wisely and creating the best price-performance ratio. So—how to choose? The answer is, in addition to self-assessment, you can utilize the professional strengths of the DFI team to discuss specifications and standards that can produce products that meet the needs of users and enhance market competitiveness. If you are interested in learning more about DFI, please visit the official DFI website or contact us directly.