Technology enthusiasts looking to shoehorn computers into unusual places often turn to the Raspberry Pi. The Pi is inexpensive, with prices of $5 for the Pi Zero and around $35 for the more powerful Pi 3. It also consumes little electricity, has its own Linux distribution, and is backed by an active community. Some tasks are simply too much for even the ARMv8 1.2GHz quad-core atop the Pi 3, though. Israeli PC vendor SolidRun thinks it has the solution for that and announced the MicroSoM, a lineup of Intel Braswell-based system-on-a-module boards (SoM) for use in more demanding applications including medical equipment, drones, and industrial and point-of-sale systems.
The SoM includes a choice of Intel Atom x5-8000 or Pentium N3710 CPUs from the 14-nm Braswell family, some memory, and 4GB eMMC storage on a 40mm x 53mm PCB. The basic option includes an Atom CPU and 2GB RAM, while the higher-end model packs a Pentium CPU and 8GB RAM. As optional accessories, SolidRun offers an aluminum enclosure, a CPU heatsink, and a Micro-USB power supply.
The SoM requires additional hardware in order to be used in the same fashion as the Raspberry Pi, as the base module does not include any of the standard ports PC enthusiasts are familiar with. SolidRun's SolidPC Q4 carrier board adds HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, three USB 3.0 ports, a pair of Ethernet ports, and both analog and digital audio outputs. The Q4 carrier board measures 100mm x 80 mm. For comparison's sake, the Raspberry Pi 3 measures 85mm x 56mm.
Alternative x86-based single board computers from vendors including UDOO, MinnowBoard, Up Board, Gizmosphere, and PC Engines (among others) are in varying stages of development and availability. SolidRun expects the MicroSoM to begin shipping in 4-6 weeks, and is asking $117 for the Atom version and $225 for the Pentium model. The Q4 carrier board goes for $40 when purchased with a MicroSoM module. Finally, the optional aluminum enclosure costs $25, while both the CPU heatsink and Micro-USB charger go for $10.