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Mini-PCIe verses Mini-PCI: What's the difference?

MiniPCI v MiniPCIe

Mini Cards are a convenient, versatile and low cost solution for adding additional interfaces to an embedded system.  Popularised in Laptop computers they now have a home in embedded systems providing very compact expansion. The two common formats are Mini-PCI cards  and Mini-PCIe cards with M.2 rapidly gaining in popularity. Mini cards provide a simple means of adding additional interfaces to a system.

What is a Mini-PCI card?

As its name implies, a Mini-PCI card has a PCI interface which generally feeds into a PCI device on the module. This can provide peripherals such as:

  • Network adapters
  • Serial ports
  • GPS
  • Frame grabber

What is a Mini-PCIe card?

Mini-PCIe or Mini-PCI Express cards were more recently intoduced and replace MiniPCI in newer applications. A MiniPCIe module has a single PCIe lane which provides a simpler yet more powerful interface.  PCIe modules are available in two sizes, full size (length) and half size. Many industrial motherboards offer one, two or even more MiniPCIe slots. Within the specification of MiniPCIe are a number of interface pins that are used for other purposes. For example USB is generally available and is often used for 3/4G modems or GPS.  Other pins are defined for use with a SIM card for the GSM modem.

The range of cards is quite extensive including:-

  • Network adaptors
  • Frame grabbers
  • Video capture and compression
  • 3/4G modems


MiniPCI GPS Module  MiniPCI WiFi module


MiniPCIe Video Capture module  MiniPCIe RS232 module

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Later Developments

More recently the M.2 specification was introduces initially as a replacement for mSATA modules but is now becoming popular in a number of different applications.

The M.2 specification amongst other things provides up to four PCI Express lanes and one logical SATA 3.0 interface.  The possibilities are enormous and we are gradually seeing new products being released.


Expansion Cards


Adapters are available to allow MiniPCI and MiniPCIe cards to be installed in a full size PCI or PCIe slot.



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