Intel introduces the concept of modular computer to the world of technology with Element

Intel introduces the concept of modular computer to the world of technology with Element

Intel introduces the concept of modular computer to the world of technology with Element

In the 2014 CES exhibition, the CEO of Razer introduced a concept design of a personal computer that was considered a revolution in the industry. His design had a base section and the user could modularly add GPU, CPU, power supply components, storage and any other parts to it. Now, after nearly 6 years, it seems Intel has a serious approach to turn the mentioned idea into reality.

Ed Barquisen from Intel Corporation in A small event in London unveiled a new product called Element. The said product included the central processor and DRAM and storage drive, which was located in a PCIe card with two slots. The Intel product is equipped with Thunderbolt, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB ports that connect to the main part with multiple PCIe slots. In addition, central processors and other processing accelerators are also located in the same section. The idea of ​​razer was introduced in 2014 under the name of Christine, and experts say that Intel’s new design will bring it to life.

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Element product, made by Intel

Intel’s new and conceptual product actually doesn’t have a full name yet. The media asked the Intel manager about the initial name of the new product, and he suggested the term Element. Intel’s new product acts as an add-on to the Next Unit of Computing or NUC family of devices. Element can be considered a product of the same family in Intel. The internal System Product Group is responsible for the design and development of a huge part of small form factor devices at Intel, which proposed Element with the aim of deconstructing the iterative design cycle and expects a revolutionary approach from it.

What in Intel’s recent event unveiled a working prototype of a card equipped with two PCIe slots that housed a BGA Xeon processor. In the said card, there were two M.2 slots, two slots for SO-DIMM LPDDR4 memory, a cooler and Wi-Fi controllers, Ethernet ports, four USB ports, HDMI video output from the Xeon internal graphics and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The M.2 and SO-DIMM slots are available to the consumer and can be used by just removing a few screws from the front panel. Of course, the current design is definitely not considered as the final design and it should only be considered as a functional prototype. The cooling system, design, and even the name of the new Intel product have nothing in common with a commercial product, but still, it has a regular and functional structure.

Element uses a BGA Xeon processor and it is not yet known whether it will use consumer-specific processors. Considering the current family of NUC products, the Element will probably use mobile processors instead of BGA versions of desktop processors. In addition, the use of Thunderbolt ports suggests that the 10th generation Icelake processors may be used in the final product. Finally, Intel says that any choice of processor for the Element will be possible.

Experts believe that the PCIe slot in the Element is of the PCIe 3.0 type. Considering this possibility, if Intel turns the mentioned product into a new family among its products, it will probably use newer PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 5.0 / CXL ports at the same time as other products. The manufacturer has decided to offer the element as a card along with the original base piece to business partners. In fact, they provide partners with a PCB with multiple PCIe slots. One of the slots acts as the primary slot and the CPU/DRAM/Storage combination is connected to the other slot. Discrete GPUs, professional GPUs, FPGAs or RAID controllers are examples of cards that can be used in other slots. goes

In the above possible configurations, in any case the CPU processing card acts as a host and not as an add-on device. Intel also offers devices called CPUs-on-a-card-as-a-device, which are also known as the company’s Visual Compute Accelerator or VCA. The mentioned product is combined with three Xeon E3 processors and will be installed in the secondary card. In response to the media’s question about using the Element as a secondary card in the said configuration, the Intel manager said that there is no specific program with that purpose. A PSU input is included in this section, delivering 75W of power to each PCIe slot. In addition, power distribution to any other part such as cooling fans or additional controllers in the main part is also done through this input. As mentioned, power must be supplied via the PSU or a 19V input. The choice of power supply will depend on the system configuration.

The Element prototype introduced at the Intel event was also equipped with an additional eight-pin PCIe power interface. As a result, it can be claimed that it is possible to use an additional 150 watt input for the card. If such a configuration is implemented, 225 watts of power will be available for the processor, DRAM and storage. Such a power supply raises the question of whether the said card is capable of supporting a processor such as the Core i9-9900KS?

OEM manufacturers will be one of the main buyers of the element

The giant of the Intel processor world plans to Make seamless system updates easier. Customers can keep the original case, basic system settings, and basic components and gain access to the highest processing power and efficiency by only changing the element card. This approach was the ultimate goal that Razer had in mind in the Christine project, and it can certainly be developed further. . To update a system in such a design, it will be necessary to replace the drives, which is considered a practical limitation. Of course, if one of the PCIe slots is used for M.2 drives or the drives are installed directly in the main part (backplane), there will not be much problem in the storage sector. OEM manufacturers announced the first quarter of 2020. In fact, the commercial product will probably be ready by the end of that season. The selection of the main processor and system configuration is not yet clear, and as a result, the pricing is also in an aura of uncertainty. In addition, the final name of the product has not been chosen. Other unclear parts include the final packaging and supply or not to the consumer or OEM.

Since Intel’s new product is included in the NUC family, it is likely that the process of releasing it to the market will have a similar process to other members of the family. Some experts believe that if Intel makes the new form factor a standard and cooperates with major motherboard manufacturers, it will have a bright future. In addition, it is likely that in the not too distant future we will see copies of Intel’s product that will be marketed like copies of other members of the NUC family.

Intel says that it has a specific roadmap for Element in mind. Their intended plan will probably lead to the development of different generations of the current product. For example, we can expect products with three slots or the Xe graphics processor.

In the last question, the media asked an Intel representative about the use of RGB lighting in the Element, which he answered with a smile. They faced him. However, Intel can offer the final product as a professional and add-on piece, or by adding such designs, it can also attract mid-range users of the market. However, there is still no specific time for the final release and even the prototypes that can be tested. Users and experts should wait for the release of official news from the company for a more in-depth review of Intel’s modular product.

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